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The Iran–Iraq War 1980–1988

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The Iran-Iraq War, which ended in August 1988, one month short of its eighth anniversary, was one of the longest, bloodiest and costliest Third World armed conflicts in the twentieth century. Professor Karsh addresses the causes of the Iran-Iraq War, unpacking the objectives of the two belligerents and examining how far objectives were matched by strategy. He assesses the The Iran-Iraq War, which ended in August 1988, one month short of its eighth anniversary, was one of the longest, bloodiest and costliest Third World armed conflicts in the twentieth century. Professor Karsh addresses the causes of the Iran-Iraq War, unpacking the objectives of the two belligerents and examining how far objectives were matched by strategy. He assesses the war's military lessons regarding such key areas as strategy, tactics and escalation and in particular the use of non-conventional weapons, Finally, he examines the utility of armed force as an instrument of foreign policy.


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The Iran-Iraq War, which ended in August 1988, one month short of its eighth anniversary, was one of the longest, bloodiest and costliest Third World armed conflicts in the twentieth century. Professor Karsh addresses the causes of the Iran-Iraq War, unpacking the objectives of the two belligerents and examining how far objectives were matched by strategy. He assesses the The Iran-Iraq War, which ended in August 1988, one month short of its eighth anniversary, was one of the longest, bloodiest and costliest Third World armed conflicts in the twentieth century. Professor Karsh addresses the causes of the Iran-Iraq War, unpacking the objectives of the two belligerents and examining how far objectives were matched by strategy. He assesses the war's military lessons regarding such key areas as strategy, tactics and escalation and in particular the use of non-conventional weapons, Finally, he examines the utility of armed force as an instrument of foreign policy.

30 review for The Iran–Iraq War 1980–1988

  1. 4 out of 5

    AC

    The Osprey Essential Histories series (which I'd never heard of) consists of very small (100 pages) descriptive and analytical accounts, some by quite competent historians, of (mostly) minor and often forgetten wars -- some of which, however, are hardly of small significance. The Iran-Iraq War was one of those events that I had paid little attention to -- I was in graduate school at the time -- and which I remembered, when I saw this volume, that I knew nothing about apart from those images of The Osprey Essential Histories series (which I'd never heard of) consists of very small (100 pages) descriptive and analytical accounts, some by quite competent historians, of (mostly) minor and often forgetten wars -- some of which, however, are hardly of small significance. The Iran-Iraq War was one of those events that I had paid little attention to -- I was in graduate school at the time -- and which I remembered, when I saw this volume, that I knew nothing about apart from those images of Iranian children walking into machine gun fire. It turns out that it was hardly a minor war, as it led *directly* to Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, and thus to the first (and so, to the second) Gulf/Iraqi war. The book is pretty good. I'm now reading one from the Osprey series on the Soviet-Afghan War... Another nice thing, apart from their brevity and general sobriety, is that they sell for only $1.49 on Kindle. So ignore the prices in the list below. Here is the full list: https://ospreypublishing.com/store/mi...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Interesting overview of a very long and hard war. Would have enjoyed more detail in some places but the briefness is to be expected given the publication. Some interesting first hand accounts and interviews were provided (particularly the Kurdish survivor and 2 different Iranian 'Boy Soldiers'). An interesting thought was raised in the form of Iraq's use of gas on both military and civilian targets, the West didnt seem to mind all that much when it benefited them and their aims. I suppose they Interesting overview of a very long and hard war. Would have enjoyed more detail in some places but the briefness is to be expected given the publication. Some interesting first hand accounts and interviews were provided (particularly the Kurdish survivor and 2 different Iranian 'Boy Soldiers'). An interesting thought was raised in the form of Iraq's use of gas on both military and civilian targets, the West didnt seem to mind all that much when it benefited them and their aims. I suppose they viewed the use of gas as the lesser evil when compared to radical Islam.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sham Al-Ghazali

    Really enjoyed reading it, I loved that it has no bias and even mentioned that some historians believe the conflict goes even as deep as the Arab vs Persians conflict which has existed far before the drawing of the nations. Woop.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Albright

    The second book I have read by the author (review forthcoming), this is the first book that I have ever seen in a library relating to this war.  Although the Iran-Iraq war was an immensely destructive war that helped to cement the rivalry between Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims over control of the Middle East, the author notes correctly that no one goes to this war looking for either tactical or strategic lessons on how to fight.  Indeed, neither side of this war comes off looking particularly good.  The second book I have read by the author (review forthcoming), this is the first book that I have ever seen in a library relating to this war.  Although the Iran-Iraq war was an immensely destructive war that helped to cement the rivalry between Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims over control of the Middle East, the author notes correctly that no one goes to this war looking for either tactical or strategic lessons on how to fight.  Indeed, neither side of this war comes off looking particularly good.  Despite having a far stronger demographic position, Iran's attempts to purge its army of the Shah's adherents on the eve of war gave it an appearance of weakness that provoked the opportunistic attacks of one of the 20th century's less successful military dictators in Saddam Hussein.  Moreover, once the Iranians went on the attack and attempted to knock the Iraqis out of the war, their unimaginative human wave frontal assaults killed tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of their youth and jeopardized the survival of the Iranian revolutionary regime, leading to a status quo antebellum that left both sides far worse off than if they had managed to make peace at the beginning. This particular book does a good job of providing a worthwhile account of a pointless and immensely destructive war.  Beginning with the background to war in the recent struggles between Iran and Iraq over control of Iraq's only outlet to the sea, the author moves on to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each side in the run-up to the conflict.  The author looks at the outbreak of war in the surprise Iraqi invasion and the limited objectives that Iraq had from the war before looking at the delicate balance of incompetence that marked the war throughout.  The author gives a portrait of a prisoner of war, one of Iran's child soldiers, and later provides a portrait of the destruction of a village by Iraqi barbarity.  There are discussions of the effects of the war on other nations, and the poisoned chalice that the ceasefire that ended the war represented to Iranians who believed that they would crush Iraq and demonstrate the strength of their regime and its religious worldview, while pointing out the utter futility of the war in terms of its conclusion and consequences, making this book a remarkably downbeat part of a series on modern warfare. And it is that futility that marks the most obvious takeaway from the book.  By all rights, the war should never have begun in the first place.  Had Iraq been aware of and conscious of its demographic limitations, it would never have provoked war, and if Iran had been aware of the stark limitations of its tactical strength in battle, it would not have been so quick to reject Iraq's calls for ceasefire as soon as Iraq's armies were pushed out.  Instead of having a short and sharp war of the kind that made the 18th century somewhat infamous among military historians or that marked the warfare of the Italian city-states of the Renaissance, what we got instead was a war that provoked a great degree of death and destruction on the level of modern warfare, with a 'total war' approach to oil, a recourse to chemical warfare against both foreign and domestic enemies on the side of Iraq, all for the nonexistent gains that marked the warfare of the period between the Thirty Years' war and the Napoleonic Wars.  Suffice it to say that neither side got anything worthwhile out of the war, and the destruction suffered by both has continued to affect their political and geopolitical standing to this day.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Chip Hunter

    This book does a fine job of explaining the reasons behind the war (bizarre though they were) and the general progression, key moments, and outcomes of the war. Karsh writes clearly and concisely, and this volume would be ideal for any looking for a brief overview of why the war was fought, when/where it was fought, and the political situations around the world during the time of the war. However, if you're expecting the same sort of detailed analyses and in-depth examinations of military This book does a fine job of explaining the reasons behind the war (bizarre though they were) and the general progression, key moments, and outcomes of the war. Karsh writes clearly and concisely, and this volume would be ideal for any looking for a brief overview of why the war was fought, when/where it was fought, and the political situations around the world during the time of the war. However, if you're expecting the same sort of detailed analyses and in-depth examinations of military decisions and individual battles, this volume will disappoint. Either due to lack of space or a different focus, Karsh breezes by most of the important battles here, providing very little detail or analyses of the armies or their leaders. This book does highlight the brutality and horror of this war, probably more so than other Essential Histories. From a section on the use of children soldiers by Iran to the gassing of Iraqi Kurds by Saddam, there are some hard to believe, incredibly awful accountings here. These include pictures of dead soldiers and even one of a dead Kurdish baby.. Troubling to say the least, and brings the reality of war into focus. Neither side here acted like the "good guys", but more like stubborn and power-hungry psychopaths with no regard for the lives they ruined. All in all, a very sad excerpt from our world's history. This book serves its role, but lacks in the level of detail on military action that is expected from Essential Histories.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Wissam Raji

    A brief yet concise book about the Iran-Iraq war with a motivating background to what led to it. One interesting fact is that Iran received military assistance from Israel during the weapon embargo in order to counter the Iraqi military might at that time. The author ends his book with a motivation to the first gulf war and how the economic frustration of Saddam Hussein led to his invasion to Kuwait. Recommended read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Joe Collins

    Osprey's Essential Histories line is a very good line for a someone who just wants to the basics of historical conflict or to be used as a primer to have a working knowledge of a conflict before reading a more detailed book about it. This one holds up to that design.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Venatici

    Concise and informative account of the longest Third World conflict of the 20th Century.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Sanfilippo

    A good overview/intro to the topic Very to the point and concise as far as the war itself is concerned. Also provides insight into other topic of the war like child soldiers and the persecution of the Kurds. I think a little bit more background information regarding the lead up to the war would have been nice, otherwise a great read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Declan Waters

    Another good edition in the Essential Histories series by Osprey. The Iran-Iraq war clearly can't be covered in 100 pages in full detail but this shows the major movements involved and some of the political and social aspects around the war. Very interesting indeed.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Bruinrefugee

    A clear synopsis of a conflict that has on-going ramifications throughout the Middle East

  12. 5 out of 5

    Steven

    Good read. Like the quick coverage format by Osprey. Good primer.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Dеnnis

    More complicated than I supposed after talks with my Iranian pals.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Haitham Ali

    Very interesting book with lots details about the war and what both regimes were thinking at that time.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Rafayel N

  16. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  17. 4 out of 5

    Greatredwarrior

  18. 4 out of 5

    Noah

  19. 5 out of 5

    Amir Khosroshahi

  20. 5 out of 5

    Russell

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kash

  22. 5 out of 5

    Bernard

  23. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dave Scott

  25. 5 out of 5

    Bryan Reo

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jodi

  27. 5 out of 5

    John Rydenbark

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kaiser

  29. 4 out of 5

    Megaharrison

  30. 4 out of 5

    Todd Purifoy

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