Created: 1/1/1981

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The Iran-Iraq War: Implications for the Arab-Israeli Military Balance

The Iran-Iraq War: Implications for the Arab-Israeli Military Balancej


Theraa Wan

Implication* for

MHMnry Balance |

Ktywar between Iran and Iraq hai clearly widened ihe margin or Israel's

military suptrioriijover its enemiesat* force* (hai could be arrayed against Israel will be sharply reduced as long as tensions remain high around ihe Persian Giitf.| |

Tbe effects of Ihc war hate militarily isotaied Syria. whose armed forces were already qualrtatiwly inferior to Israel's and weakened by commit-menu to keeping peace in Lebanon and maintaining security at home. Most or Iraq's Army and Air Force, ihe principal potential contributor! of expeditionary fores loSynV* Golan Heights from agaimt Israel, will bo lied down against Iran for the duration of ihc war and probably longer, depending on ihc outcome. Jordan would be even less likely than before loront agaimt Israel in view of tbe probable noninvolvemcni of major Iraqi units and the deterioration of Jordaniar^Syran relations.^

The military isolation of Syria is likely to be transient. Conflict wiih Israelentral and unifying issue for Ihc Arab states- As soon as the crisis in the Persian Golf subsides. Iraq and ihc olherpotenualconiitbuioisof force* will again seek ways to renew their commitmenthe fronil I

Nonetheless. Arabability to confront brad militarily probably will not reach the prewar level for several years. The war has fueled domestic turmoil and exacerbated the poor relations among Arabthai have long frustrated ihe effective coordination of their forces against Israel.

The outcome ef th* war will define the timing and extent ofiheof Arabsircngth against IsraeL

An Iraqi victory would pose the greatest eveniaal threat to Israel, but Baghdad would have to pacify ils eastern border and patch up relations with SyTia before moving against IsraeL

A military slakataic or severe political setback for Iraq woald prolong Ihc period of military tension around the Gulfaad tbe cbversioa of Arab military strength away from Israel.

Evenhia legimc that was pro-Iranian and miliiantly ami- Israeli were io replace the present Iraqi Government, Islamic reforms, political purges.


The iran-iraq Win Implications for (he Arab-Israeli Mitttaiy Balance

Tbb RedvclioiArab ThreatOld

Tbcbetween (rana sharply radicesihe Arab forces that could be arrayed againstl. Moil o( Irsq't Army and An Force, the principal potential cortfibulon of expeditionary force* ta thcGolm Hcighu -Jordan Valley front against Israd. will be tied dour, tgarnu Iran for ibe duration of the war and probably longer, depend in* on the

ad embarked on Kit

ind modern! ration program tSai wovid hjvcIbe na and Quality of in contribution loArab-Israeli war well abovehai of ibe two di-

vl :rr- that arrived it tbe fronten before tbewith Iran, Iraej could not hnve committed its entire armed forces agaimi Israel Sccauteof internal end encrnal Kcurjty torn idem tiont and logitiic prob-lerm. Nonclbdew,miming that both Kardtsisn and the Iranian border wcrcooiet. IraqceuM raveeooirib-ii icd ai puny it five ground division ind atons of combat aircraft loaa Arabiban twice the force committed duringJ wtt. Byraq't cipodhioaury forret wouM hivei gh percentage of modern weaponry For eumple. about half ofonij woild hovtnderceni of their SOO arlilkry pieces aoald have been[

In tht near term, the Irnn-lrio war reduce Ibepatiliiv and willingness of oiler stiles lo send forces to fight Israel and leaves Syria militarily isoated.on-Arab slate notipeeled lo tend moretoken forcehe Golan, would be unableommit any retain military units aa long tl fighting continues wmh Iraq. Saadi Arabia aad Kuwait, which might haveew battalionsait, would probablyheir force* al honw given (ha daa-tcroulound ihe Persian Gti If. tardeaSeevtii Ini likely than before ioronr

luael if Iraoj ualii were not going lo join the war In strength. tkoBgh It muht.mall wotrlbaiio* to Syria's (iolsa Htfghu front. The fj Egyptians probably will not fi|hta new -ar because

of their peace treat) >Hh Tel Aviv and iheof their oicratl mililary position relative io thai of Israel. Tht)'would certainly not ret entering' war In which tne fafl weight of Arab power woaU aat be

j'l weach


lib)i. despite both its pail promitcof aid tu Syria and recent ncgoiaUoni with Damascus concerning puliti-eal umficaiiofl.likely to makeergaanlin Syria's military capabilities. Libya he* notVd the rnunaal conamiaascnts it made h> Syria al tbc ItTgta ia Baghdad, aad arsthec coaa-II ippea'i atircsud in evabtnbini morelbya's hmtlcd manpower reaourors, much of as ground force wee pan r> rcnainaLibyan pilots can man leu lhaa half of the country's com bai aircraft Syrian Preiideat Assad

- anats to obtain soiae of Libya's eiceat inventory of aircraft aad tanki.and Libya hai icmircraft to Syria to replace MIG-Jlskast in combat wilh Israel ow Lebanon Nonitheeeat. Syria iLeadt baa more wctponn data .thaetgrafinto tbe elating ergaaiutnna! structure of ine?arpowTrbaiasgaUrly reeding addiiioaal Kaipneni ftrm Ihr USSR Syna'i greatest mititan reaanciaent in case of war with Isead wceU be the prompt arr.val, apedilioaary force:rmy is looimall and too distant to meet Ihii

eduction of military thrmia from sIimi other tkan Syria tips tbe Arab-lsraali balance fromaa already strong Israeli advantage loose of Iwaeuhboagb President Aassd might sealcoaarfer aaoenakmg United> aclma agawMkraelleeeanlomatKattdeeailscalgaM. tbe mks of aweb actiea are now greatly met naiad [

'hiMI li; M>lvrtl tlOmm)ttoiWa unlro al iUlM>r

1 rtlo OHtfratM Iw. Inn

i t-ar. lira el wouldmiiaUined amargin of sisptrioriiy through Ihe

grrorvnii-inii pffeett'encssof tti (oao Thl*

adraniasa "Outd hive been bawd On mcti tetiiieigher gjoBly manpower,aining, trcater moirmton. beiier command and control, and eiedleni orginxatuuil Ikiibihiy.

[(Syria were nc4 reinforced wgnificaailyhe Arab* -on id loseit wmridon


Onefeuiih of Syria'i maneuver brigade* are tied down in Lebanon, and mew of iu special forcci art being uted io xiecreH iweroaln the north* induct, away fron lb* Colin Height) area. Mere-inti, Presidenl Assad recently withdrew over two di-yiiioni from supporting position* behind Ihe frontllnei an the Golan Height* and tent ihetn to aewthern Syriaritaten Jordan. Meat of these uMls subsequently rttarWDd to their oigiml powiww.j

Syria'* effaru ia laanmn in esuiiai, powna without relying on rem fom meats from Iraq and JixrJin "ill fail Bve* before the war between Iraq and Iran, Danuscw* had loaghi toaar la Libya aad the MM Union tom diploma uc iaolaUo*.bu mpciuttan (ran* iiM etayhastened thel of tW SonxSimt treaty cf friendship and mope'alion. Bei.iimg thetr iniWiiytherobably hoped to we Soviet relit icet support iocnai*aiacad* of deter* icncc againstfalls well short

loot-Trn* CoaaeejMnm

Syria's irmed forces ilonc,cmnolThe current military isoUtior. rfSyita is likely to tmugh new weapon to achieve partly with Israel. transient Confl.ct wxh Israeleniril and ant

iiiac tui (Ik Ai.talu. u in lis PcrOin Golf subsides. Iraq sod iheothe* potential cuntnbuHirii of forces wfli age* seeklotheir commitment to ihe frani) |

Nonet heJesv Arab abilityonfront linel mihiariry probably will nol reach ihe greaer level lor aaveral ynr. TW oaieoose of ihe wareflae ihe umiag and eaienl ol ibe rehibJitalioa of Arabsraci.(be war haa abends ttaeobnua iba .aicrnalpopArab aUMian raw tie erkait cooroi-aiie* af iboralas! Israel Aa Irani istsory wentd poae Ibe greatest eveninal threat to larad. ban Baibdad would have lo pacify itaeailern border and patch ap relalioni with Syria before rrmring againstilitaryor severe political ictbart for Iraq woald prolong ihe period of military known around the Gulf and the diversion of Arab military suenglh away from kraal.'

t.i* AV.-imi. Tbe wide range nf Arab re-actus to the Iran-baa warrii< ibat ibe confliei has heightened tcnnicai among the ArabedcspMe Iheir mates! anir-Pmian feelings Libya aad Syria bate gxea tapport aad aaaaunce to Iran, whereas Jordan. Morocco. Seed. Arabia, aad me smaller Gatf nates heva aapcoricde tonflict thee wcewea Syria's relations with Iraq an* Jordan, fanher impedingcoordination amoni lbust Arab trmatt thai aught fight together on the Golan Heights We woald aapcci the Arab Dates to aat aerieewarrveai bfbrah* oui wilh lime, but trttircurTeni differences predude iha peacetime consultslions, planning.and yoiaiei-erclara lhal would be necessary to effectively employ iheir combined strength J-

Differences between Syria tad Jordan over King Hws-iasa'1 support of Iraq were among the factors that hrd Damascus lo send avorc ihea rwe aeriwoaa io Syria ito three tea Jcesbyn TW caoaiogoth cooetrves to dvert farces from tbesr from wilh Israel and placed fartherto futan mitnary cooperation between Ammo* ai IU

w. gataJM gtaaaaM a* ibi oawas-aa


Ci ii* viae- ImmI. ihn (BfNM tHcuntribulcdimlilary lien between Iraq and JordanKing llisaseinimely and bay roleArab supporl for Iraq. Bagbdad hasthe King, offered, aadpcliiical relations Increased financialIraqiad Other ArebsmieaeoahS enable Jordanmore aopaaslKaied au-ipmeai for itssmall Army beaeaer.uniiedabsorb new cam pan ant lacreaaeel onoperaiionIraq and Jar Onoand increase (hearm ecaraiioari agaaaa bract bat Jarebaa wilrehjeuni to Jureily Israeli

Detplie rti .accesses than far. Ibt Iraqi miliury probably cannot apply enough pressurechieve Baghdad's ambilhwi strategiche near falare. TheMObnatrvee ate Iranian recognition of Iraqi (Mm so border larrlinriea and ihe Shalt al Arab waterway, an Iranian pledgs to refrainrab affairs, aad ibe return of three Gulf rtbtnds toArabraasfol| |

Baghdad bas already rcaagaed itselfar of atiry-tioak whirs) Ihe Iraq* behave tbeyataaly a*aeteasfal gaeiralaaei ie Klancaua. cwtiidc asuttancc for Iran, or an Jraeiia rcfvaalaoloit wouldprobably etlend IhraysdifficaJI for Baghdad to coeiroli-

r no nrrmSy cBVwttnn faamWt-

niieiy.even if the Soviet Uswn enaiinuet to withhold major military caaipmtel and spare parts, but Ihe lack of full Soviei iiipport atll inhibit bit Iraqi deaoon to increase the intensity of rcavbni or to advance fanher. Iran, on ibe other hand, hai an acute need of spare parts llevere detlina in its air capabilities, white could ceuy ba arrested aftar nrveral racethsof aaaUiaaalaalrveeyeruS aaiaa aaa re parts]

The Irooe are enhhetyajor we- ceTtnsM vott Kbaasstaa metal they faelare Abadan and the salieclof Ahm lianun irownd forcessoon reverse Ihe coarse of the war byaajor ccamtcrattech. but lraa probably will seek lo fratiraie any furtber Iraqi advaaces by reinforcing tbe threatened ciliea at Kharesiin ailh Revolutionary


biniag lanoll uniti from ic**ral divinum Thef ForceajwMf >if aiisctinq Irani prirufeuaa-refhuag capability for many rwontha.a at rak of caircme dcnscuic hardship [

uapa the Calf tor ikr am. increase Iraq*nd delay 'one improvement tnpiaiibiag would x'ukopreu-ue lotMB .hdadany, liaq's KsrdvShis.anii-Sr lam Beilhl*is,IrMioruiimaddi-tonal military unit* aieethnaaes.f-

htti Dtf'i'. If linqia stubborn Iranian resistancesomehow toolitical defeii for Iraq, enhanced Israeli military superiority' would be ontutodooter periccl. Politically, the IraaJam could win aif Iraqi forces werein IheIrani President Saddamwere to bo toppled or discredited in Ihe Arab world after his forces became bogged down in Iran]

Such an IranianwouJd eniurc enhanced lirieli mdilary lapcriortty ova* lha Arabs for at least the nest fire years. Iran would lac* lha capability f.g the war to send more than token form to the Goran Hdefttse* southern Lebanon,and |rj|'a foeeea might need suhuaatialever* ad hurt fur Iraq would dram ill military atrangth and would increase Shaaraq. Sana* Arabia, and the Gulf sums.

Iraq's influence and strategic positionbe greatly enhanced il*ecisive vxsory over Tehran. If the Iraqis were lo succeed in prompting the overthrow of Ayaiotlsh Khomrani. they

Irons thndasc-se wwh laraet. tanpieaaaseryaacreaseia aaamaM Arab rlartorsc If Ibe trwacntaar-*rwed In Baghdad, ri wound sua Tehran ai the aaaia ibrcM and probably asuuid Mt be inclined lo cm Van the laraaMa until Ih* seer* with Iran wasro-Iranian. Shi*eplace ine presentM. lalaaaae reforms, noincii purees, internal turmoil, poor discipline, and erratic leadership would reduce ihe tn dine si. cffcciiueacis, and probably tha aire of Iraqi forces for several yean

aMaallj' regi'dlesathey had attained their wrrtsotsal goals.thai,ufficuntli irionac the Irinars

Army and Air Force lo permit Biabdad to vol iduon the Shall si Arab and thaa* part* of Kharestan crii<atl ao Im ml cnocny Tan wuuld lnera>cmiktafy and ccoaumc manure en Tehran to agreeruce andiW eapabihiy of lino, forces toaajajj a*

After aend so the war. Iraq aoutd prohublr

Accelerate the cngenng modern-ration and caps avion of lis mill lary andcnnoiny.enlic-mg item* Vast in the war and correcting wai-revealed deficienciet rn adefenseorce perlnrmiiice.Um atsenhancodautitnt looncourage other Arab tul rmduceri to spend more of their wealth and influence to promoif military andaction agalnai IsraelAttempt loeitcnrl wartime coopcalion unh Jordan into closer mlliiaty *nd political iici between ihetiao ccunincn.j |

Th* aftermath of ih* war. however, would continue to hinit ih* site of ihc force lhal Iraq could send agnssi Israel. Virtually ad of Iraq's Army would continueM be stationed either along th*orderc*ur* ttacurftMCcnaVt-ar between the Arab stales and brael. Iraq would pndhsbly at tewspt to move acme of thai* (ones to Ih*ghtida* VaiUy. wanna Us. if Ih* aoc-drr wiih Iran were quiethru aer* usyua* lb* riaha against Israel. Nonet henna, Baghdad, evuuuw drr iht hunt ofaa. wwdd awrsty atainaaerc forces facrug Iran wad Ihr Kurd*eak) banc before ihc war wnu Ira* Fan* if the preteal Iraana toadershapoauaihiown aad rephicBdfavorabs* so Iran, or if Iran daaaMcgraitdroup of srrnUrr stales, or if Iraq dccistvety defeated Irani regular armed foreaa. Ihe border are* probaNy uwsrid remain rata tile and rocruire the continued garrison m|eot force*.]

Moreover, the performance of the Iraqi forces

Iran suggests thai Ibey would perfcrm poorly againil

the far more formidable Israelii. Baihdad Su gamed

valjaoic cincricncc in com Oil im in punning and controlling large-scale operation) that could imprm; iu performanceuture mnflM Nunclhrlct*.operating under fiivoratfc geographicnh the mimi andebiliiaied foe the Iraqis nw'id loo timidly tn eaploit their advantages i'll'. chose to advancein part tom louts while affording Tehran npnoriuntly to negotiate Such cautioushesitant military tactics, a* well as Iraqiin airM be quickly exploited by Ihe fallible and epportuniMk larad De-feme Fixers.

R tic (km to Ibe War

The Israelii hare been caalkui in their appraisals of the long-term implications of thelaitial Israeli commentary on the war waiwith th* probability thnt Iraq would emerge victor'oiii and

ckurr la in objective oi damn ill ngorld.

[(OrtrTiCt irUy

pcrsisTst varying level* ofi-initree'rorying up much of Iraq'* military ttrength. Israeli press cor reicondenu and diplomats hoc drawn particular attention to their perception that tbe war haa parti.-'ty diverted attention from Ihe Palestinian Baue and deu-omtrated iKii the Arab-Israeli disputenot the only source of dangerous instability in ihe Middle East.

Israeli spotcimon have also expressed concern lhal ihc war. together wiih the Soviet initio" nf Afginnistin and the recently iiaaed Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation tut-on th* USSR aad Syria,crconed Savinia the Middle Fast andnewor Mowce* Seme Israel*pect the*nrlral pontonhr coafttca ao that they canffer so anecb-ate. Forme Foreign Minnie' Di;m. lor eaamplc. beltoeilueeeitfii mediation eTTar! by Moscow "would pal Ihe Soviets inAfghaaisian. Iran. Iraq, and Syria" aad further reduce US nfluenoe In th* region.

Original document.

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