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  • Cited by 18
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
September 2014
Print publication year:
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Book description

The Iran-Iraq War is one of the largest, yet least documented conflicts in the history of the Middle East. Drawing from an extensive cache of captured Iraqi government records, this book is the first comprehensive military and strategic account of the war through the lens of the Iraqi regime and its senior military commanders. It explores the rationale and decision-making processes that drove the Iraqis as they grappled with challenges that, at times, threatened their existence. Beginning with the bizarre lack of planning by the Iraqis in their invasion of Iran, the authors reveal Saddam's desperate attempts to improve the competence of an officer corps that he had purged to safeguard its loyalty to his tyranny, and then to weather the storm of suicidal attacks by Iranian religious revolutionaries. This is a unique and important contribution to our understanding of the history of war and the contemporary Middle East.


A Choice Outstanding Academic Title 2015


'This is a fascinating and revealing history of the Iran-Iraq War which draws on a wealth of captured Iraqi sources to provide a unique picture of Saddam Hussein’s decision-making.'

Nigel Ashton - London School of Economics and Political Science

'Murray and Woods shed new light on the war and its conduct at the highest levels mainly from the Iraqi, but also from the Iranian point of view. The book serves as a valuable contribution to our understanding of the war that has important ramifications to contemporary military thinking. The authors deserve much praise for these new insights.'

Amatzia Baram - University of Haifa, Israel

'With unique access to vital source materials, Williamson Murray and Kevin Woods plumb the depths of the ruthlessness, fanaticism, operational incapacity and incompetence that shaped the eight-year Iran-Iraq War. There are lessons here on success and failure for us all to learn.'

John Gooch - University of Leeds

'This book provides a rich seam of material for anyone studying the period or subsequent Middle Eastern history and provides valuable insights into Saddam’s attitudes; his enthusiasm for chemical weapons makes for particularly chilling reading … this is one of the most important studies to date on the strategic history and military aspects of the Iran-Iraq War … [It] will appeal not only to those interested in the conflict itself but should be essential reading for those studying its aftermath.'

E. R. Hooton Source: The British Journal of Military History

'This is an excellent book. Murray and Woods do not drown readers in the jargon of the subject, and they meticulously explain everything in their well-researched and enormously interesting work. They develop their themes rapidly and cleanly. Fully explained are the incompetence, factors of fear and coercion, useless battles, countless dead, and wholesale destruction, all driven by the leaders' egos on both sides and regardless of the treasures destroyed … a superb book, well written without biases and a breath of fresh air on a difficult subject, without the mist, fog, and haze that usually come with the literature in this field. Mandatory for graduate students. Summing up: highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.'

N. E. Bou-Nacklie Source: Choice

'Williamson Murray and Kevin M. Woods have produced an exceptionally detailed and valuable book on the military dimensions of the Iran-Iraq War. This work has many positive aspects, but its most unique feature is the extensive use of previously unavailable captured Iraq documents … In sum, this book emerges as the definitive work on the Iraqi perspective of the Iran-Iraq war, and is probably the best study on military aspects of the conflict as a whole.'

W. Andrew Terrill Source: Middle East Journal

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