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The Iran–Iraq War
A Military and Strategic History


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  • Date Published: September 2014
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107673922

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About the Authors
  • 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.

    • Provides the first comprehensive military and strategic account of the Iran-Iraq War
    • Draws from previously unseen official government Iraqi records and recordings
    • Will appeal to scholars and students of military history, war studies and Middle Eastern studies
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    • A Choice Outstanding Academic Title 2015

    Reviews & endorsements

    '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, 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, 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, Middle East Journal

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    Product details

    • Date Published: September 2014
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107673922
    • length: 410 pages
    • dimensions: 227 x 152 x 22 mm
    • weight: 0.59kg
    • contains: 11 maps 2 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    2. A context of 'bitterness and anger'
    3. The opponents
    4. 1980: the Iraqi invasion begins
    5. 1981–2: stalemate
    6. Defeat and recovery
    7. 1983–4: a war of attrition
    8. 1985–6: dog days of a long war
    9. 1987–8: an end in sight?
    10. Conclusion

  • Authors

    Williamson Murray, Ohio State University
    Williamson Murray has just completed a two-year stint as a Minerva Fellow at the Naval War College and is at present serving as an adjunct professor at the Marine Corps University. He is also Emeritus of History at Ohio State University. At present he is a defense consultant and commentator on historical and military subjects in Washington, DC. He is co-editor of The Making of Peace (with Jim Lacey), The Past as Prologue (with Richard Hart Sinnreich), The Dynamics of Military Revolution, 1300–2050 (with MacGregor Knox), Military Innovation in the Interwar Period (with Allan R. Millett), and The Making of Strategy (with Alvin Bernstein and MacGregor Knox).

    Kevin M. Woods, Institute for Defense Analyses
    Kevin M. Woods is a historian and defense researcher at the Institute for Defense Analyses. For the last decade, he has led a research project designed to understand the former regime of Saddam Hussein through the analysis of captured regime records and interviews with former senior Iraqi officials. Prior to joining IDA, Dr Woods was a US Army officer with assignments in the US, Europe, and Middle East. A graduate of Auburn University, he also holds a Masters Degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College, and a PhD in History from the University of Leeds. Dr Woods is the lead author of several books and studies on Iraq including: The Iraqi Perspectives Report: Saddam's Senior Leadership on Operation Iraqi Freedom (2006), The Mother of all Battles: Saddam Hussein's Strategic Plan for the Persian Gulf War (2008) and The Saddam Tapes: The Inner Workings of a Tyrant's Regime, 1978–2001 (2011).


    • A Choice Outstanding Academic Title 2015

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