Glimpses of Epic of 8-Year Holy Defense (69)
Val-Fajr8 operation was so astounding that the Iraqi army first rejected the possibility of such an operation in Faw peninsula.
The documents gained after the operation showed that the Ba'athist intelligence units, with what they had received from satellites, had come to the conclusion that a massive attack was under way by Iranian forces in Faw and Rasul Bisheh region.
Militarily speaking, the commanders of the Iraqi army thought it impossible to cross the Arvand River to launch a massive invasion without constructing multiple bridges on the river. They evaluated the launching of such operations as a suicidal mistake for Iran.
A few days before Val-Fajr 8 operation, a number of senior commanders of the Ba'athist army visited Faw region and after observing Iran's engineering activities and the conditions of Arvand River, they concluded that it would be impossible for Iran to launch an immense offensive due to the existence of myriads of barriers and problems in the region. During the first days of the operation, the Iraqi army thought that the main operation would be on the wetland and Majnun Islands, and considered Faw operation was a deceptive one. Consequently, 3 days after the start of Val-Fajr 8 operation, the Iraqi air strikes were focused on Majnun Islands and the wetland. After the Faw operation, Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Azis claimed that the satellite photos taken by the US displayed Abadan Island and the palm trees surrounding Arvand River as a dark area, so the concentration of the Iranian forces and the likelihood of an operation could not be assessed.
One of the documents found after the capture of the headquarters of the Ba'athist army 26th division during Val-Fajr 8 operation was a letter from the commander of the 111th brigade to the commander of the 7th corps, in which the former reports that 400 Iranian loaders, bulldozers and trucks are engaged in engineering activities inside palm trees around Arvand River. He had concluded that the Iranians wanted to do operation here. But Maher Abdul Rasheed, commander of the 7th corps, wrote in his response that "The Iranians want to deceive us in Abadan and Faw areas; so, you should not scare the Iraqi forces as we know better where Iran wants to do operations."
After the capture of Faw, Iraqi commanders intended to push the Iranian combatants back to the previous positions before they could be stationed at the captured positions and consolidated their defensive lines. On the fourth day of the operation, the division of presidential guard was brought into the area unaware of the new conditions. The presidential guard, as the strongest and most formidable military unit, facing Iranian combatants on their defensive lines, suffered heavy casualties.
The high casualties and confusion forced the presidential guard to pull back after a futile clash in the morning. The Iraqi commanders ordered to launch a chemical bullet, but this time the chemical bullet exploded between two brigades of the guard. After this blunder, the Iraqi presidential guard corps kept asking for help in a perplexed manner. But no help was possible as they were besieged. The only help by the 7th corps was to send the brigade 433, which also escaped after annihilation of one of its battalions.
The opening of colossal artillery fire on Iraqis was very effective during this operation. The commander of the 4th brigade of the presidential guard reported on the power of the Iranian artillery fire, "We are in a very dire and tough condition. Artillery fire is very effective on us and casualties are increasing every minute. At the moment we resist in our positions but reach out to us. We are surrounded by enemies in every direction. We need an armored brigade to open the road. It is necessary to do this fast. Tell the commander of division 26 to send a mechanized battalion and artillery battalion to support us. You should send an auxiliary force via the coastline for brigades 3 and 4, no matter the cost." The commander of the presidential guard corps responded, "Take yourself out through fighting, because the news of the siege has reached Baghdad. Buy your reputation and come back if you can, we cannot do anything."
Thus, remnants of the presidential guard were disappointed, after 16 hours of confrontation, only a small number of forces managed to escape and the strategic road was covered with the dead bodies and burnt tanks.
One of the Iranian commanders operating in those days, says, "When we reached the enemy, we detected the places of the enemy's concentration via their spotlights and thus infiltrated them and stationed a part of a battalion for each of the concentrations, that was relaxing behind tanks with no entrenchment."
As the Iraqi forces were resting till the next morning to attack the positions of the Iranian combatants, but, to their bewilderment, at 1 a.m. an offensive began on three axes against the presidential guard by the brave Iranian forces. The attack was so unexpected that the Iraqi side failed to show the slightest reaction. The destruction of the Iraqi presidential guard corps was so worrisome among the Western media, that the US-based daily Washington Post, wrote in a report: "Western observers who analyzed Iraq-Iran war for five and a half years believe the Iraqi army has sustained more than 10,000 dead and injured in a ground, naval and air strike against Faw, and a heavy defeat has been inflicted on the special forces of the presidential guard that is the strongest unit of the Iraqi army."
The arrival of the Iranian forces in Faw made Saddam's regime more shaky and exposed the serious weakness of the Ba'athist army. The new situation was not something that the Ba'athist enemy could ignore. Thus, the imminent pressures of the Iraqi army in the air and on the ground were predictable. In addition, as Umm al-Qasr port was under serious threat from Iran, Saddam regime faced fresh problems; so, he had to take an appropriate measure to preserve it. However, the casualties inflicted on the Ba'athist army, as well as the manner of deployment of Iranian combatants forced the Iraqi regime to take several steps for retaking Faw. These steps made Val-Fajr 8 operation the longest operation throughout the 8-year holy defense as the Islamic Republic tried to stabilize the captured areas. The bombing of the front and the destruction of bridges was one of the first steps. Given that providing the Iranian troops and brigades with ammunitions and various requirements was difficult due to the conditions of Arvand River, Saddam thought that, by focusing fire onto the back of Iranian forces, Iraq could defeat Iran's defense lines and force them to retreat. The second act was the heavy and continuous counter-attacks used to make Iranian forces withdraw. Saddam's third attempt to retake Faw was the broad use of chemical weapons which will be discussed in the next episode.