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Operation Ramadan
Part of Iran-Iraq War
Basra location.PNG
Date early July 1982
Location Al Başrah, south Iraq
Result Strategically indecisive, Tactical Iranian victory
Iran captures small amounts of territory
 Iraq  Iran
60,000-80,000 100,000
Casualties and losses
80,000 KIA
200,000 WIA
45,000 POW

Operation Ramadan was an offensive in the Iran-Iraq War. It was launched by Iran in July 1982 near Basra and featured the use of human wave attacks in one of the largest land battles since World War II. The engagement was a part of the overall stalemate.



By the middle of 1982, Iraq was mostly expelled from Iranian territory, having lost all the gains they made during the invasion in 1980. Saddam Hussein used the Israeli invasion of Lebanon as an excuse to seek an end to the war and send the Palestinians aid. Tehran rejected peace offers from Baghdad and began preparing to expand into Iraq.

Initially, some in Tehran rejected the idea of invasion, claiming that such a move would undermine Iran's moral standing and diminish the sympathy gained by Muslim countries as the result of Saddam's invasion. These individuals were backed by Iranian military officers. However, these voices were shut out by pro-war voices in Tehran, who claimed that Baghdad could be defeated with the use of zealous fighters and invoking anti-government sentiment amongst Iraq's Shia. At the time, the Iranian population experienced a euphoria of victory. Thus, plans for invasion included both the silencing of Iraqi artillery that was shelling civilian border towns, destroying the Iraqi Third Corps, and the seizure of the Shat al-Arab. Given that the first day of the operation coincided with the holy month of Ramadan, it was given the name as suited.


Iraq suffered enormously from the loss. A third of Iraq's air force was in flying condition, but the remaining forces stayed on the alert, even as Iran amassed a number of its troops north of Basra. In the years prior, Saddam Hussein took the precautions for an Iranian invasion by amassing a large number of forces along the borders. Though severely demoralized, the armies of Iraq enjoyed the luxury of better supplies, training, and information than their Iranian counterparts. The Iraqis also constructed a detailed plan of earthworks and trenches, followed by mine-fields with machine gun and artillery positions.

The Iranians' main objective was to destroy the Iraqi 3rd Corps west of the Shatt al-Arab. Since tanks would be confronted on the battlefield, the Iranians made use of RPG teams, who carried three grenades and were disciplined in anti-tank warfare.

The battle

The battle was preceded by two days of heavy artillery exchanges along the front lines. Then, on July 13, the following code was broadcast on radio frequencies along Iranian lines.

Ya Saheb ez-Zaman! Ya Saheb ez-Zaman! (Thou absent Imam!)

Over 100,000 Pasdaran and Basij forces charged towards the Iraqi lines. Supporting these forces were at least six regular army divisions, though they were badly understrength. Among the regular formations were the 16th, 88th, and 92nd Armoured Divisions, and the 21st and 77th Infantry Divisions. Some of the Pasdaran and Basij forces were mainly used to detonate minefields in the wake of Iranian Chieftain tanks[1]. The combatants came so close to one another that Iranians were able to board Iraqi tanks and throw grenades inside the hulls. By the eighth day, the Iranians had gained ten miles inside Iraq and took a number of bridges.

However, the attack came to a halt with Iranians digging in for defensive measures. Seeing this, Iraq used their Mi-25s along with French-built Aérospatiale Gazelles armed with Euromissile HOT against columns of Iranian Mechanized infantry and tanks. These "hunter-killer" teams of helicopters, which had been formed with the help of East German advisors, proved to be very costly for Iranians during this operation. The battle was also notable for aerial dogfights between Iraqi Migs and Iranian F-4 Phantoms.[2]

On July 16, Iran tried again further north and managed to push the Iraqis back. But the poorly equipped Iranian forces soon found themselves face to face with machine gun and tank fire from the Iraqi lines. Only eight miles from Basra, they were surrounded on three sides by heavy weaponry used by the Iraqis. Some were captured while many were killed. Three more similar attacks occurred around the Khorramshar-Baghdad road area towards the end of the month, but none were significantly successful.

Iraq had concentrated three armoured divisions, the 3rd, 9th, and 10th, as a counterattack force to attack any penetrations. They were successful in defeating the Iranian breakthroughs, but suffered heavy losses. The 9th Armoured Division in particular had to be disbanded, and was never reformed. (Pollack, Arabs at War, 2002, p.204-5)


The operation was the first of many disastrous offensives which cost thousands of lives on both sides. This one in general boosted the casualty limit up to 80,000 killed, 200,000 wounded, and 45,000 captured. In retrospect, the Iranians lacked effective command and control, air support, and logistics to sustain an attack in the first place. Saddam Hussein offered several ceasefire attempts in the following years, none of which were accepted by the Revolutionary regime.[citation needed]


  • The Persian Puzzle by Kenneth Pollack, Random House, 2004
  • In The Rose Garden Of The Martyrs: A Memoir Of Iran, by Christopher de Bellaigue, HarperCollins, 2005
  • Essential Histories: Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988, by Efraim Karsh, Osprey Publishing
  • A Quest For Vengeance, by William E. Smith, TIME Magazine, July 26, 1982
  • The Longest War, by Dilip Hiro, Routlage Chapman & Hall, 1991.


External sources



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