Glimpses of Epic of 8-Year Holy Defense (68)
In the previous episode, we talked about the operational region of Val-Fajr 8, as one of the most successful and complicated operations during the 8-year imposed war. The Iranian forces had to cross the roaring Arvand River to enter the strategic Faw city.
The great Arvand River is formed at the confluence of the two rivers Tigris and Euphrates. Then the large Karoun River also joins it and ultimately flows into the Persian Gulf. The large river's width varies from 400 to 1600 meters and has very high tides.
In addition to the strategic and military importance, Faw port on the shores of the Arvand River had a great economic value for Saddam's regime. So that it was known as the Bride of the Sea. Vast palm-groves, huge oil installations, the connection line of al-Bakr and al-Amiya piers, and exorbitance of several products such as henna and salt had given exceptional value to Faw. In other words, Faw city could be introduced as the city of dates, salt and oil. Another feature of Val-Fajr major operation was asymmetric warfare between Iran and Saddam's Ba'athist regime. The military ability of the Iraqi army had been enhanced manifold with the support of scores of countries from both western and eastern blocs as compared to the time when Saddam initiated the illegal invasion.
According to the US military expert Anthony Kordesman, in 1983-1985, Iraq bought 18-billion-dollar worth of weapons and military equipment. Kordesman estimated the total military forces of the Iraqi army in 1985 to amount to 750 thousand and the forces of Jeish al Sha'bi to be nearly 650 thousand. He declared the main capacity of the Iraqi army in 1985 as follows: 4820 tanks, 3200 armored vehicles, 3000 heavy artillery shells, over 400 anti-air defense, 580 operational aircraft and 380 helicopters. In the 6th year of the imposed war, the Ba'athist army had 550 infantry battalions and 300 battalions to deal with anti-air operations while the IRGC, as the main force of Val-Fajr 8 operation, had only 80 battalions in the 7th year of the war.
Val-Fajr 8 operation began at 22:10 p.m. on February 9, 1986. The Iranian forces started their massive attack by hearing the operation codename. With the start of the operation, the divers, who had already passed through Arvand ambushed near the enemy's bunkers, tried to to break the enemy line and embarked on setting the ground for boatmen. The divers had to open passageways for boatmen so that they could enter the shores of the enemy and clear up the area to fix the bridge.
Before the start of the IRGC operation, intensive engineering activities and complete camouflage were carried out, while some 500 artillery units, anti-air defense systems and tanks were properly stationed in positions in the general area of Abadan Island and among the palm trees. The move enabled the Khatam-ol-Anbia headquarters to attack the Ba'athist enemy from a distance of almost 100 kilometers. This was done by the army and IRGC units on their way to the connection roads of the region. Meanwhile, the heavy fog and rain helped the divers to perform better. The petrified Iraqis had no choice but to run in fear or to surrender. Within a couple of hours, the conversations over the wireless revealed the bewilderment of the Iraqi commanders who were trying to evade their responsibility and asked for help from top brass. One of the commanders wrote to Saddam, "Iran is pushing forward like a flood with a boat and returns. If we do not take action, they are likely to take Om al-Qasr. We are in a very bad situation." Saddam, in response to the report, said, "Resist, we will send three armored divisions and defeat the Iranians."
The operation started in the conditions that, due to continuous surprise and the cloudy air, the enemy did not find the chance for any ground or air reaction. Due to several months of preparation and identification of the operational area while trying to keep the enemy in dark, as well as launching of deceptive operations in the axis of Om al-Rasas, no notable response was seen on the side of the Ba'athist enemy. In fact, the forces returning from leave, or the units responsible for logistics, unaware of the presence of Iranian combatants in Faw, entered the operational area, sustaining heavy casualties. The Iraqi air force did not have significant activity on the first day.
The advance of the Iranian combatants alarmed the fall of Basra and Iraq was forced to prevent Iranian forces at any cost. In a few days, the two sides were engaged in tough encounter, but the situation was escalated alongside Khur Abdullah and a region called the Salt Factory. However, Iraq was no longer able to return to its former defensive lines in the region and admitted its defeat in the city of Faw.
For nearly two months, the region was under heavy fire, counterattacks and terrible chemical bombing until the situation slowed down and the anti-air defense lines stabilized. Meanwhile the artillery of the Islamic Republic of Iran, with ceaseless efforts, tried to support as many line-based combatants as possible. During Val-Fajr 8 operation, about 800 square kilometers of Iraqi soil were seized and heavy losses and casualties were inflicted on the enemy. In this operation, Iraq sustained 52 thousand dead, injured and captives and among the dead there were one army commander and 5 commanders of brigade and among the captives there were several colonels, lieutenant colonels, major generals and officers of the aircraft and hovercraft. A total of 10 infantry brigades, commando and special forces and 2 armored brigades, 4 anti-aircraft battalions, 10 battalions of Jaish al-Sha'bi and 5 battalions of enemy artillery were destroyed 100%. Plus, 74 planes, 11 hovercrafts, 600 tanks and personnel carriers, 500 military vehicles, 20 artillery units, 55 anti-air artillery, two missile launchers and 5 engineering systems of the Ba'athist enemy were destroyed and 140 tanks and personnel carriers, 250 vehicles, 35 artilleries, 150 anti-air artillery shells and 3 missile radars and engineering systems of the Iraqi army were taken as booty by the Iranian combatants.