US embassy cable - 88BAGHDAD2144

IRAQI OPERATION TO RECAPTURE FAO:"WE SHOWED THE SOVIETS"

Identifier: 88BAGHDAD2144
Wikileaks: View 88BAGHDAD2144 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Baghdad
Created: 1988-04-19 12:52:00
Classification: SECRET
Tags: PREL MOPS IZ
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
O 191252Z APR 88
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6898
INFO GULF WAR COLLECTIVE PRIORITY 0316
USCINCCENT MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY 0138
DIA WASHDC PRIORITY 0086
S E C R E T BAGHDAD 02144 
 
E.O. 12356: DECL:OADR 
TAGS:  PREL, MOPS, IZ 
SUBJ:  IRAQI OPERATION TO RECAPTURE FAO:"WE SHOWED 
THE SOVIETS" 
 
1.  (SECRET-ENTIRE TEXT) 
 
2.  IN A MEETING WITH THE AMBASSADOR MAY 19, MFA 
INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS DIRECTOR QAYSI DISCUSSED 
THE BRIEFING ON FAO GIVEN BY FONMIN AZIZ TO HIS 
SENIOR STAFF THAT MORNING. 
 
3.  AZIZ TOLD HIS PEOPLE THAT THE DECISION TO 
RETAKE FAO WAS MADE LAST FALL UNDER ELABORATE 
SECRECY WHEN THE IRAQI LEADERSHIP CONCLUDED THAT 
THE 598 PROCESS WOULD NOT GO ANYWHERE UNLESS IRAQ 
GAVE IT A PUSH BY GAINING SOME MILITARY VICTORY. 
(THE DECISION TO PRESS AHEAD WITH STOCKPILING 
"HUSSEIN" MISSILES FOR MASSIVE USE WAS PROBABLY 
RELATED.).  IRAQ THEN ENGAGED IN A CAREFUL DECEPTION 
OPERATION, BUT AT THE SAME TIME IT CREATED A FULL- 
SCALE MODEL OF THE FAO SALT PANS FOR DETAILED 
PRACTICE OPERATIONS BY ITS UNITS.  WHEN THE TIME 
FOR THE OPERATION WAS NEAR, SADDAM, MINDEF 
KHAIRALLAH AND THE CHIEF OF STAFF MADE A WELL- 
PUBLISIZED VISITTO THE NORTH, BUT THEN SECRETLY 
JETTED IMMEDIATELY TO BASRA.  PREVIOUSLY SOME 
UNNEEDED ARMY UNITS IN THE SOUTH (WE RECALL REPORT- 
ING ON A FULL DIVISION) WERE MOVED NORTH IN DAYLIGHT 
TO DECEIVE THE IRANIANS FURTHER. 
 
4.  IRAQI TROOPS JUMPED OFF AT 0625 MAY 17 ACCORDING 
TO AZIZ, AFTER DAWN WHEN IRANIAN UNITS WOULD HAVE 
BEGUN TO RELAX.  (AN ORDER TO LAUNCH THE ATTACK AT 
2200 THE PREVIOUS NIGHT WAS PART OF THE DECEPTION). 
IRAQI UNITS ACHIEVED COMPLETE SURPRISE AND PENE- 
TRATED THE ENTIRE IRANIAN DEFENSES IN THE SALT PANS 
IN A GUDERIAN-STYLE OPERATION, LEAVING IT TO 
FOLLOWING UNITS TO MOP UP RESISTANCE WHILE THE TWO 
PINCERS OF THE REPUBLICAN GUARD AND THE SEVENTH 
CORPS JOINED ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE OBSTACLE. 
IRAQI UNITS THEN ENTERED FAO THE MORNING OF MAY 18. 
AZIZ SAID THAT IRAQI CASUALTIES HAD BEEN MORE THAN 
REASONABLE FOR SUCH AN OPERATION AND CONSIDERABLY 
LESS THAN PLANNERS HAD ANTICIPATED.  AZIZ DID NOT 
GIVE  ANY IRANIAN CASUALTY FIGURES OR COMMENT HOW 
MANY MIGHT HAVE ESCAPED. 
 
5.  QAYSI SAID THAT HE AND HIS COLLEAGUES WERE 
ELATED BY THE NEWS WHICH HE AGREED WAS IRAQ'S 
GREATEST MILITARY SUCCESS SINCE 1980-81.  HE RECALLED 
A MEETING HE ATTENDED OF AZIZ WITH SHEVARDNADZE IN 
THE SUMMER OF 1986 IN MOSCOW AFTER THE FAO DEBACLE 
WHEN  THE SOVIET, TREATING AZIZ HUMILIATINGLY LIKE 
THE REPRESENTATIVE OF A DEFEATED NATION, URGED HIM 
TO AGREE TO HALT THE WAR ON THE BASIS OF A 
CEASEFIRE IN PLACE.  AZIZ TOLD SHEVARDNADZE THAT 
IRAQ WOULD NEVER SETTLE FOR LESS THAN A COMPREHENSIVE 
PEACE WITH FULL WITHDRAWAL AND AN EXCHANGE OF 
PRISONERS, BUT THE SOVIET FONMIN OBVIOUSLY DISMISSED 
THIS POSITION AS PURE PROPAGANDA.  NOW IRAQ WAS 
VINDICATED, QAYSI SAID WITH PRIDE, AND HAD SHOWN 
THAT IT ALWAYS MEANT WHAT IT SAID. 
 
6.  IN A FINAL PURELY PERSONAL COMMENT, QAYSI 
GUESSED THAT IRAQ, FLUSHED WITH SUCCESS, MIGHT NOT BE 
FINISHED HITTING THE IRANIANS.  HE WOULD NOT BE 
SURPRISED, HE SAID, TO SEE A SIMILAR OPERATION IN 
THE FUTURE EAST OF BASRA.  THE AMBASSADOR COMMENTED 
THAT SUCH AN OPERATION STRAIGHT TOWARDS IRAN COULD 
BE EVEN TOUGHER THAN FAO. 
 
 
NEWTON 

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