International aid to combatants in the Iran–Iraq War

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During the Iran–Iraq War, both Iran and Iraq received large quantities of weapons.


Military support[edit]

Support for Iran was divided. Following the Iranian Revolution, as many as 14,000 military commanders and officers were imprisoned, executed, purged or discharged under charges of being loyal to the deposed Shah and treason for a failed coup to topple the Islamic Republic. Many trained engineers had also either fled the country or were forced to serve in their hometown, which had no use for their expertise. This had massively weakened Iran's army, leaving it incapable of protecting Iran's borders. Around this time, Iraq's leader, Saddam Hussein, decided was the perfect opportunity to launch an all-out invasion against Iran. Iran, therefore, created a new branch of military, called the IRGC, which was initially tasked with fighting and shutting off numerous separatist groups formed and armed around Iran. Following the Iraqi invasion, the IRGC then expanded its field of operations to fighting Saddam's forces. The army, which was equipped with Western weaponry, was not prepared to defend Iran and so much of Iran's Western ammunition and heavy equipment were left unusable as the army was recovering. So the IRGC, tasked its first member, Mohsen Rafighdoost, with purchasing arms from the Eastern Bloc. Rafighdoost contacted and established positive ties with many countries including Syria (under Hafez al-Assad), Libya (under Gaddafi), North Korea (under Kim Il Sung), Bulgaria (under Todor Zhivkov), Poland, Yugoslavia, East Germany, China (under Deng Xiaoping) and eventually the Western Bloc (after Switzerland who indirectly sold Iran western ammunition, Argentina also reached out to Iran proposing arms sales and agreed to also train Iranians in TOW production) to purchase arms for the IRGC. Iran's recovering army, however, had its own logistics support who reached out to Western Bloc countries including the United States and, indirectly, Israel to purchase ammunition and spare parts for their Western-made military equipment. Syria, Libya (who supplied Iran with approximately US$900 million dollars worth of free arms and 30 Scud-B missiles[1] and North Korea (who later supplied Iran with between 200 and 300 Soviet-built Scud-B and Scud-C missiles and transferred missile production technology to Iran)[2] were the first suppliers of arms to Iran. Eastern Bloc followed suit under financial pressures as the Soviet Union no longer had strict policies on sanctioning Iran. Rafighdoost maintains that the equipment Iran received from the United States following the Iran-Contra affair, were non-functional and broken which were made usable after repairs. He was also contacted by a third-party with ties to Switzerland who agreed to provide Iran with Western-made ammunition. Rafighdoost also claims that he was approached by an Israeli arms dealer in his hotel room while he was in Switzerland, and he rejected him.

Iran was also backed by the Kurdish parties of KDP, and PUK, also the Islamist Kurdish Mujahideen in North Iraq, all organizations in fact rebelling against Iraqi Ba'athist government with Iranian support.

Logistic support[edit]

Iran's foreign supporters gradually came to include Syria, Libya and South Yemen, through which it obtained Scud missiles.[citation needed] It purchased large quantities of weaponry from North Korea and China, notably the Silkworm anti-ship missile.[citation needed] It also acquired arms from Portugal,[citation needed] notably after 1984. It also acquired propellants and other weapons related components from Spain and Portugal.[citation needed] The United States also provided covert support for Iran through Israel, although it is debated as to whether U.S. President Ronald Reagan ordered the sale of weapons to Iran. Most of this support included TOW missiles.[3]


Military support[edit]

Iraq was supported by the People's Mujahedin of Iran, an armed group of Iranians opposing the Islamic Republic of Iran.[citation needed]

Logistic support[edit]

Iraq's army was primarily equipped with weaponry it had previously purchased from the Soviet Union and its satellites in the preceding decade. During the war, it also purchased billions of dollars' worth of advanced equipment from France, China, Egypt, Germany and other sources.[4][better source needed] Iraq's three main suppliers of weaponry during the war were the Soviet Union followed by China and then France.[5]

The United States sold Iraq over $200 million in helicopters, which were used by the Iraqi military in the war. These were the only direct U.S.-Iraqi military sales. At the same time, the U.S. provided substantial covert support for Saddam Hussein. The CIA directed non-U.S. origin hardware to Saddam Hussein's armed forces, "to ensure that Iraq had sufficient military weapons, ammunition and vehicles to avoid losing the Iran-Iraq war."[6] And "dual use" technology was transferred from the U.S. to Iraq.

West Germany and United Kingdom also provided dual use technology that allowed Iraq to expand its missile program and radar defences.

According to an uncensored copy of Iraq's 11,000-page declaration to the U.N., leaked to Die Tageszeitung and reported by The Independent, the know-how and material for developing unconventional weapons were obtained from 150 foreign companies, from countries such as West Germany, the U.S., France, UK and China.[7]

Iraq's main financial backers were the oil-rich Persian Gulf states, most notably Saudi Arabia ($30.9 billion), Kuwait ($8.2 billion) and the United Arab Emirates ($8 billion).[8]

The Iraqgate scandal revealed that branch of Italy's largest bank, Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, in Atlanta, US, relying largely on U.S. taxpayer-guaranteed loans, funneled $5 billion to Iraq from 1985 to 1989.

Countries which supported either combatant[edit]

Country Support to Iraq Support to Iran
 Argentina Sales of uranium, shells for 155mm artillery, rockets, radio equipments, 7,62mm ammunition, anti-tank rockets.
 Austria Construction of munition plant. Sold 200 self-propelled 155mm artillery pieces[9][10] Sold 140 GHN-45 Howitzers along with significant stocks of ammunition. Communications equipment.[11][10]
 Belgium Construction of airfields and delivery of various munitions[10] Sold jet engines for F-4 Phantom aircraft. Delivered artillery shells and other munitions.[11][10]
 Brazil Sale of ammunition, armoured cars, and tactical multiple rocket launcher[12][13] Major supplier (Sold 500 Cascavel and Urutu armored vehicles)[14]: 9 [11]
 Canada Sales of war material[9]
 China Some financial support and military exports[15] Sale of military equipment, including fighter aircraft, surface-to-air missiles, rocket launchers, tanks, and artillery[16]
 Denmark Sales of military equipment[9]
 Egypt Military exports[17]
 Ethiopia Sold 12 F-5 Tiger IIs[11]
 France Sale of high-tech military equipment and uranium[18] Covert sales of large quantities of artillery shells (delivered 500,000 155mm and 203mm shells)[11] Delivery of 60 pieces of 106mm recoilless rifles[10]
 East Germany Sale of chemical weapons and high-tech military equipment[9][19] Sales of spare parts for Soviet-made military equipment taken from Iraqi troops
 West Germany Sale of chemical weapons and high-tech military equipment. $600 million worth of Electronic countermeasure systems. 1500 trucks and spare parts depot. 300 tank recovery and construction vehicles.[20][10][19] Chemical warfare defense equipment[21] Communications equipment, small arms, and munitions[10]
 Greece $119 million worth of armaments and munitions[10]
 Hungary Sales of war materiel[9]
Israel Israel Clandestine support
 Italy Several billion dollars in funding; sale of land and sea mines as well as uranium[18] Sale of land and sea mines[22]
 Japan Engineering equipment such as trucks, caterpillars and bulldozers, etc. Engineering equipment such as trucks, loaders, backhoes, bulldozers, etc. and light trucks and SUVs.
 Jordan Acted as main supply line
 North Korea North Korean support for Iran during the Iran–Iraq war Sold domestically-produced arms; acted as an intermediate for covert sales by the Soviet Union, Soviet satellites, and China.
 South Korea Sold $425 million worth of ammunition, millions of Bangtan Helmet, and other quartermaster supplies[10] Sold communication equipment, ammunition, F-4 Phantom II parts, KH179 155 mm Towed Howitzer, 14,200 K111 Jeep series, and other heavy weapons.[11][23][10]
 Kuwait Financial support and conduit for arms sales[24][25]
 Libya Armaments, munitions and ballistic missiles.
 Netherlands Optical equipment, including night vision devices for ground forces[10] Sales of Chemical Warfare defense equipment.[11]
 Norway Fire and rescue vehicles[10] Fire and rescue vehicles[10]
 Pakistan Sold shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile; unaccountable and covert financial support for Iran by Pakistan
 Poland Sales of military materiel[9]
 Portugal Sale of uranium and arms[18] Sale of ammunition and explosives[14]: 8 
 Qatar Initial support,[26] though not openly[27]
 Romania Sales of military materiel[9]
 Saudi Arabia $20 billion in funding
 Singapore Provided chemical warfare precursors; acted as a transshipment point for weapons; was manufacturing site of foreign-designed weapons
 South Africa Sale of military armament (200 G5 155mm Artillery systems)[28] 30 G5 155mm Artillery systems[11]
 Soviet Union Military equipment and advisors Covert military equipment sales
 Spain Sale of conventional and chemical weapons, especially ammunition and explosives[29] Sale of weapons, especially ammunition and explosives[14]: 8 [29] Delivered 200 106mm recoilless rifles[10]
 Sudan Sent a small contingent of troops to fight alongside Iraqi troops[30]
 Sweden Covert sales of RBS-70 surface-to-air missile system, facilities/equipment/explosives/materiel for local weapons manufacturing, and fast-attack boats.[11]
  Switzerland Sales of war material and Sales of chemical warfare equipment, also delivered 30 Bravo and Pilatus trainer aircraft[9][10] Chemical Warfare defense equipment[21] Delivered 15 PC-6 propeller utility aircraft and 47 PC-7 propeller training aircraft, as well as Cryptology equipment, large quantities of ammunition, and electronic components for radars.[11]
 Syria Armaments, munitions and ballistic missiles.
 Turkey Sold armaments
 United Arab Emirates Financial aid[24][31]
 United Kingdom Weapons-related equipment and 'sodium cyanide for chemical weapons and plutonium and gas spectrometers' Sales of Chemical Warfare defense equipment.[11] Chieftain tank engines and artillery shells[10]
 United States Several billion dollars worth of economic aid; the sale of dual-use technology and non-U.S. origin weaponry; military intelligence; Special Operations training Secret arms sales (Iran-Contra affair)
 Vietnam Sold American-produced arms and equipment captured from South Vietnam.[32]
 North Yemen Political support and volunteers
 South Yemen Financial and military support.[33][34][35]
 Yugoslavia Weapons sales (more than $2 billion worth),[36] construction of five large airbases with hardened underground aircraft shelters by the Yugoslav construction company Energoprojekt.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Iranian Missile Threat: CIA Archive
  2. ^ North Korea-Iran Missile Cooperation
  3. ^ "REAGAN CALLS ISRAEL PRIME MOVER IN IRAN-CONTRA". The Washington Post. 1990-11-05. Archived from the original on 2018-08-09. Retrieved 2018-08-08.
  4. ^ Timmerman, Kenneth R. The Death Lobby: How the West Armed Iraq. New York, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991.
  5. ^ "Sources used in compiling the database". Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Archived from the original on 2007-07-14.
  6. ^ "Statement by former NSC official Howard Teicher to the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida. [ Plain text version]" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2012-05-26. Retrieved 16 July 2017. {{cite web}}: External link in |title= (help)
  7. ^ Paterson, Tony. Leaked Report Says German and US Firms Supplied Arms to Saddam Archived 2008-12-11 at the Wayback Machine The Independent. 18 December 2002.
  8. ^ "Iraq debt: non-Paris Club creditors". Archived from the original on 2017-10-12. Retrieved 16 July 2017.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h "Armstrade" (PDF). 1 June 2004. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 June 2004. Retrieved 16 July 2017.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2017-01-22. Retrieved 2019-11-01.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Razoux, Pierre (3 November 2015). The Iran-Iraq War. ISBN 9780674915718. Archived from the original on 2017-09-15. Retrieved 2017-09-15.
  12. ^ Schmidt, Rachel (1991). "Global Arms Exports to Iraq, 1960–1990" (PDF). Santa Monica, CA: RAND's National Defense Research Institute. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2013-05-14. Retrieved 2013-08-21. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  13. ^ "Astros II Artillery Saturation Rocket System". Army Technology. Net Resources International. Archived from the original on 2013-08-31. Retrieved 2013-08-21.
  14. ^ a b c "The Combination of Iraqi offensives and Western intervention force Iran to accept a cease-fire: September 1987 to March 1989". The Lessons of Modern War – Volume II: Iran-Iraq War (PDF). Center for Strategic and International Studies. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2013-06-07. Retrieved 2013-08-21.
  15. ^ Bahadori, Mazi (2 May 2005). "The History and Politics of the Iran-Iraq War" (DOC). p. 25. Archived from the original on 2013-09-27. Retrieved 2013-08-21. University of California, Berkeley Department of History{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: postscript (link)
  16. ^ Garver, John W. (2006). China and Iran: Ancient Partners In A Post-Imperial World. Seattle: University of Washington Press. pp. 72, 80–81. ISBN 9780295986319.
  17. ^ Hendelman-Baavur, Liora (20 May 2009). "Iran-Egypt Relations". Iran Almanac. Archived from the original on 2016-10-09. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
  18. ^ a b c The Research Unit for Political Economy. "The Iran-Iraq War: Serving American Interests". History of Iran. Iran Chamber Society. Archived from the original on 2013-01-03. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
  19. ^ a b "Iraqi Scientist Reports on German, Other Help for Iraq Chemical Weapons Program". Retrieved 2021-03-16.
  20. ^ Timmerman, Kenneth R. (1992). The Death Lobby: How the West Armed Iraq. London: Fourth Estate. ISBN 978-1857020311.
  21. ^ a b "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2013-06-07. Retrieved 2013-08-21.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  22. ^ "Italy". Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor. International Campaign to Ban Mines. Archived from the original on 2012-08-06. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
  23. ^ "군용차수출 제2황금기 구가". NAVER Newslibrary. Retrieved 2023-09-09.
  24. ^ a b Pike, John (ed.). "Iraq debt: Non-Paris Club Creditors". Archived from the original on 2006-11-22. Retrieved 2007-02-01.
  25. ^ Anthony, John Duke; Ochsenwald, William L.; Crystal, Jill Ann. "Kuwait". Encyclopædia Britannica. Archived from the original on 2013-10-12. Retrieved 2013-08-21.
  26. ^ "Brief History of Qatar". Heritage of Qatar. Archived from the original on 24 October 2012. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
  27. ^ Vatanka, Alex (22 March 2012). "The Odd Couple". The Majalla. Saudi Research and Publishing Company. Archived from the original on 2014-11-29. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
  28. ^ Rajaee, Farhang (1997). Iranian perspectives on the Iran-Iraq war. Gainesville, Florida: University Press of Florida. ISBN 9780813014760.
  29. ^ a b El camino de la libertad: la democracia año a año (1986) [The Path of Liberty: Democracy Year to Year] (in Spanish). El Mundo. pp. 27–32.
  30. ^ Berridge, W. J. "Civil Uprisings in Modern Sudan: The 'Khartoum Springs' of 1964 and 1985", p. 136. Bloomsbury Academic, 2015
  31. ^ "United Arab Emirates". Encyclopedia of the Nations. Archived from the original on 2013-06-16. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
  32. ^ "The Conventional Military". 6 October 2010.
  33. ^ Karsh, Efraim (1989). The Iran–Iraq War: Impact and Implications. Springer. ISBN 978-1349200504.
  34. ^ El-Azhary, M. S. (23 May 2012). The Iran–Iraq War (RLE Iran A). Routledge. ISBN 978-1136841750.
  35. ^ Razoux, Pierre (2015). The Iran–Iraq War. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0674088634.
  36. ^ "Yugoslavia Arms Sales". Environmental News and Information. Archived from the original on 2013-08-07. Retrieved 7 November 2012.

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