Remember When Iran Took Out Saddam Hussein’s Navy In One Day—With American-Made Jets?

Key Point: In Operation Morvarid (“Pearl”) not only did they hope to take the Iraqi radars out of the picture but also Baghdad’s vital oil infrastructure. They also hoped to destroy the Iraqi Navy in the process.

On September 22, 1980 Saddam Hussein launched Iraq into a full-scale invasion of Iran—hoping to capitalize on Iran’s instability due to the Iranian Revolution.

Khorramshahr and Abadan, two major Iranian port cities just across and downstream the Shatt-al-Arab river from the major Iraqi oil-exporting port of Basra, were priority targets. The Shatt-al-Arab ran into the Persian Gulf and its lucrative oil shipping lanes.

Iraqi forces were supported by two oil rigs at Mina al-Bakr (today, al-Basrah Oilt Terminal) and Khor al-Omayah, both on the tip of the al-Faw peninsula. These mounted early-warning radars that kept the Iraqi Air Force alerted to Iranian air operations. They also supported raids by Iraq’s Soviet-built missile and torpedo boats on Iranian shipping.

The Iranian Navy’s mission was clear cut: take out both oil rigs.

The Iran-Iraq War by Pierre Razoux and Iran at War: 1500-1988, Dr. Kaveh Farrokh provide some of the few Western accounts of one of the most intense air-naval battles since World War II.

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