Battle Analysis Iran / Iraq War
9-28 January 1987
By 1987, The Iran- Iraq War had been fought to a bloody stalemate after seven years. Both nations were looking for a final victory that would secure regional dominance when the war ended. Iran, which enjoyed a 3-1 population advantage over the Baathists, had shocked Iraqi commanders by their use of "human wave" offensives to breach minefields and swarm positions. The religious furor of the Shias seemed to be a substitute for inferior weapons, equipment, training, and logistics. Iraqi units, however, were hardly defenseless. The use of chemical munitions and armor tactics by Iraqi units, as well as their use of rehearsal techniques often gave them decisive advantages over the numerically superior Iranians. Casualties had mounted on both sides, and Tehran was looking for a place to make a final stand. That place was to be in southern Iraq, near the city of Basra.
II. Strategic and Operational setting
Basra was Iraq's key port, and the area around the city had valuable oil resources. Many of the battles in the Iran-Iraq war were Iranian incursions into Iraq. Because of the population imbalance, Iraqis tended to respond to these attacks (overwhelmingly light infantry armed with RPGs, occasionally motorized) with their very strong tank force. With over 2,200 tanks, backed up by APCs and Artillery (all Soviet made and supplied) the Iraqi army could mete out serious damage on an unsupported Iranian infantry unit in open terrain. By 1987, however, Iranians had learned to pick the sites of their incursions. They chose mountainous or swampy terrain, and used their fanatical light infantry forces to mount anti-armor ambushes, effectively mitigating the advantages of the Iraqi mechanized forces.
At the outset of the Battle of Karbala V, The Iranian high command (led by religious leaders, not generals like the Baathists) deemed that Basra had to fall. If they could breach the defenses