Mullahs' War

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The Iran-Iraq war offered the mullahs an opportunity to expand the fundamentalism to Iraq
The Iran-Iraq war offered the mullahs an opportunity to expand the fundamentalism to Iraq

Iran - Iraq War

The Iran-Iraq War began in September 1981, when Iraq's air force launched a surprise attack against Iran. The conflict could have ended 20 months later, with satisfactory conditions for Iran, including compensation and Iraq's recognition of the post-1975 border. But Ayatollah Khomeini and the ruling mullahs, to satisfy their messianic ambitions, continued the hostilities.  The conflict dragged on another six years, becoming the longest conventional war in the 20th century and one of the most devastating in terms of casualties and costs.1

At the war's beginning, the People's Mojahedin rushed to the front to defend the Iranian public. But after Iraq withdrew its military forces from Iranian territory and sued for peace the resistance organization opposed the mullahs' continuation of the war.  With Saddam wanting to end the conflict and region countries prepared to help pay compensation to Iran, a just solution was in reach.  Khomeini rejected the overture and thus is responsible for continuing the war at a terrible cost to the Iranian people.

This website details the mullahs' obsession to topple Iraq and install an Islamic republic.  It shows how the mullahs used the war to solidify their power.  It describes the People's Mojahedin's initiatives to end the conflict.  And it recounts the creation of the Liberation Army of Iran (NLA) and its battles against Khomeini's forces to rid the country of the ruthless theocracy and bring democracy to Iran.

 1) "The Longest War; The Iran-Iraq Military Conflict."  Dilip Hiro.  Routledge. 1991.

Iraq Invades Iran

Iraq attacked Iran's airbases on September 22, 1981, then sent ground troops across the border, in a three-prong assault on Khuzestan, an oil-rich province in southwestern Iran. Saddam Hussein sought to take advantage of Iran's domestic turmoil in the wake of the 1979 revolution. He hoped for a quick victory and believed the attack might dislodge Iran's fundamentalist regime, which openly supported the overthrow of his Ba'ath government.

Khomeini holds much blame for provoking Iraq. After returning to Tehran in 1979 and taking credit for ousting the Shah, the Ayatollah declared his next target was Baghdad.1 The mullahs called for an Islamic revolution in Iraq and provided financial support to political groups in the country to achieve this end, violating terms of the 1975 Algiers Agreement. Five days before the invasion, Saddam abrogated the Agreement with Iran and demanded a return to the border demarcation prior to 1975.2

Tehran mounted a fierce retaliation. Its air force attacked Iraqi airbases, oil refineries, petrochemical plants, dams, and other strategic targets. In Khuzestan, fighter jets and helicopter gunships pounded Iraq's armored divisions, slowing their advance.
The People's Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI / MEK) rallied to a call to arms, sending hundreds of fighters to the front to battle the Iraqi invaders. Mojahedin members and supporters "went to the front immediately," a U.S. State Department report said.3 "They were tolerated by the fundamentalists only in the first hectic days of the war, and most were soon expelled."4

People's Mojahedin (PMOI / MEK)

The Mojahedin took the principled position that Iraq's action was an act of aggression, knowing full well the mullahs had antagonized Iraq by meddling in its internal affairs in an effort to overthrow the government and replace it with an Islamic republic.5
In the conflict, a large number of PMOI / MEK members and supporters were killed or taken prisoner by Iraqi troops.

Iraq Retreats

Four months after the war began, Iran initiated a series of successful counterattacks against Iraqi forces.  By March, the fighting had come to a standstill.  Thereafter, territory minimally changed hands until late 1981, when Iran mounted a large-scale assault that forced Iraq's troops to withdraw.  As reported by the Associated Press, "The Iranians began to turn the tide of battle against Iraq in March 1982 and gradually forced the invaders to retreat across the border."6

The months of fighting took a heavy toll on Iraq's military capability.  There were many casualties and its armored divisions and air force were severely weakened.  Although Iraq maintained an advantage in some areas, such as tanks and helicopters, its overall military strength and supplies were insufficient to maintain control of Iranian territory.  

International Opposition

Iran's battlefield successes and its announced intention to replace Saddam with a fundamentalist government were viewed with alarm by many countries.   For the Persian Gulf states, the mullahs' regime was a threat to peace and security and they feared it would destabilize the region. In response, they offered financial support to Iraq to counter the advancement of the mullahs' regime.


1) "8-Year Gulf War: Victims but no Victors." New York Times. July 25, 1988.
2) "Non-Aligned Peace Commission Takes Message to Iraq." Associated Press. May 11, 1981.
3) "People's Mojahedin of Iran." U.S. Department of State. October 28, 1994.
4) Ibid.
5) "Enemies of the Ayatollahs." Mohammad Mohaddessin. Zed Books, London. New York. 2004.
6) "Iran's Army Remains Potent Despite Losses, Purges." Associated Press. July 19, 1982.

Mullahs' War

On June 17, 1982, Iraq proposed a ceasefire that required the complete withdrawal of its troops within two weeks and a resolution of disputed issues through binding arbitration. Khomeini rejected the offer.2 For the Ayatollah, the war offered an opportunity to expand the Islamic revolution to Iraq, an obsession he had long held, and consolidate power within Iran.3

Three days after the ceasefire proposal, Iraq declared it would unilaterally withdrawal of all forces from Iran within ten days.  This action and Khomeini's refusal to end the conflict turned the tables, making Iran the aggressor force.  From this point onward the conflict became the Mullahs' War.

The People's Mojahedin disagreed with Khomeini's decision.  It declared there was no longer any reason to shed Iranian blood and called for an immediate truce.  A prolongation of hostilities, it said, was unpatriotic and not in the interest of the Iranian people.  Massoud Rajavi, head of the PMOI / MEK, explained that Khomeini was "the only person calling for the continuation of war" because it served to extend his power.4

Conditions in Iran at this time were unbearable.  Mansour Farhang, Iran's first ambassador to the United Nations, described life in Iran as a consequence of the war and the mullahs' oppressive policies:

"Iranian people know that if it wasn't for Khomeini's incompetence, the Iraqis would never have dared to attack us.  Two million refugees.  The largest oil refinery in the world completely ruined.  More than $200 billion in material destruction.  More than 100,000 killed and more than 250,000 wounded.  We have close to 5 million unemployed.  The entire university system is shut down...There are more than 50,000 Iranians in prison and 20,000 executed...inflation is 50 percent, 60 percent.  People have to stand in line to get their bread.  They get meat once a month."5

The mullahs turned their back on the public's suffering and pursued their war against Iraq, regardless of the costs.

Iran's Youth Sent to Their Death

As hostilities dragged on, more and more young Iranians refused to join the army.  To make up for the shortfall in new recruits, Khomeini sent "mullahs and war veterans across the countryside to schools and mosques" to sign up underage boys who were coerced to join the war.  Poor illiterate youths from religious families were the most vulnerable.6

The child soldiers, some as young as nine years old, were given minimal training and then transported to the front lines, wearing red martyr bandannas and metal strips with serial numbers called "keys to paradise" around their necks.7 

The boys were told if they died in battle they would go straight to paradise.  "The regime employed professional actors to play the role of the Hidden Imam, appearing at decisive moments to urge the child soldiers to flood the minefields or jump under enemy tanks to stop them."8

Young Iranians were coerced to join the war, given minimal training, and then transported to the front lines, where they were sent in human waves against fortified Iraqi defenses. An estimated 100,000 boys were killed as a result of the Mullahs' War.


The innocent youths were often sent in human waves in assaults against heavily fortified Iraqi defenses.  In some cases, groups of about 20 children were bound together by ropes to prevent escape before being sent to battle.9
The number of Iranian children killed as a result of the Mullas' War is estimated to be more than 100,000, most between 12-15 years old

Solidifying Power

Khomeini used the conflict with Iraq to solidify his power. Descent of any kind was prohibited because of the war. The mullahs jailed, tortured, and murdered thousands of Iranians who opposed their theocratic regime. 

Under the Shah, there had been about 3,000 political prisoners.  Khomeini imprisoned 150,000 political opponents in the early 1980s.11  His regime executed more than 100,000 people, "mostly on charges that would never stand in a traditional court."12


1) "International News."  Associated Press.  June 20, 1982.

2) "Khomeini Declares Continued War with Iraq."  June 21, 1982.

3) "Enemies of the Ayatollahs." Mohammad Mohaddessin.  Zed Books, London, New York.  2004.

4) "Iraqi Visits Iranian Leftist in Paris."  New York Times.  January 10, 1983.

5) "Mansour Farhang, Top Khomeini Ally Who Fled Iran, Talks to Don Oberdorfer."  Washington Post.  November 28, 1982.

6) "Iran: The Youngest Martyrs."  Newsweek.  March 31, 1983.

7) "New Attack on Basra Stymied, Iraq Says."  The Globe and Mail (Canada).  July 23, 1982.

8) "Iran: The Youngest Martyrs."  Newsweek.  March 31, 1983.

9) "Iran: Five Years of Fanaticism."  New York Times.  February 12, 1984.

10) Ibid.

11) "The Persian Nights: Iran Under the Khomeinist Revolution."  Amir Taheri.  Encounter Books.  2008.

12) Ibid.

NCRI Peace Initiatives

To end the war's misery and destruction, and to stop the regime from using the conflict as an excuse for domestic repression and inability to meet the public's needs, the National Council of Resistance "launched an extensive campaign for peace inside and outside of Iran."1 The fighting could be concluded, Mr. Rajavi said, only by "direct negotiation between the two sides within the framework of the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the two countries.2

The NCRI's first major initiative was the Peace Plan, announced on March 13, 1983.  It called for an "immediate declaration of a ceasefire between all forces," the "withdrawal of forces of both countries behind the frontiers...[based on the] territorial boundaries between Iran and Iraq," and an "exchange of all prisoners of war within a maximum period of three months after the declaration of the ceasefire."  Additionally, the international boundary would return to the demarcation specified in the 1975 Algiers Agreement (the boundary prior to the war).  And damages from the conflict would be arbitrated by the International Court of Justice and its findings would be binding.

The Peace Plan also called for the "drawing up of a definite peace treaty between the two countries, on the basis of full respect for national sovereignty and independence, territorial integrity, non-intervention in each other's internal affairs, good neighborliness and immunity of boundaries to aggression."

The Peace Plan contained the key issues demanded by the mullahs in May 1981 to stop the conflict;  a ceasefire and simultaneous withdrawal of Iraqi forces from occupied Iranian territory, which already had occurred, the restoration of the border with Iraq as defined by the 1975 Algiers Agreement, and an investigation to determine blame in starting the war.3   


Iran's mullahs announced their response to the proposedPeace Plan at a press conference in Tehran.  Iranian President Khamenei "vehemently" rejected the initiative, claiming it was a ruse by Iraq to buy time to rearm and again strike against Iran.4

In truth, the mullahs wanted to continue the war in order to consolidate their power at home.  The conflict allowed them to impose severe measures to block potential opposition.  The mullahs also were determined to overthrow Saddam and install a fundamentalist Islamic republic.  Three months earlier, Khamenei had endorsed he formation of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a government in exile.  It was set up to create a "grassroots movement against the usurping regime of Iraq, to mobilize the people against it, to continue their struggle until the downfall of the present usurping regime and until the establishment of a popular and Islamic order."5 

While Khamenei dismissed the Peace Plan, the initiative was endorsed by Iraq in a formal statement on March 21, 1983.  "We hail the peace initiative expressed in the Council's statement," it said, "and would like to express Iraq's desire to realize peace and to cooperate with the Council or any Iranian to that end, and to establish relations on firm grounds."  Iraq said it was "ready to look into these points and has the true and honest desire to reach a just agreement with the National Council or any competent Iranian authority yearning for peace."6

Many parliamentary members and government leaders also endorsed the NCRI's peace initiative.  In a resolution, the European Parliament expressed:

"support for the movement for peace and freedom spearheaded by the National Council of Resistance of Iran and the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran and for its peace plan involving a cessation of all military hostilities by both Iran and Iraq...."7

The resolution condemned "the continuing violation of human rights by the Khomeini regime" and expressed "revulsion at the torture and execution of political opponents, especially those who have participated in demonstrations in favour of peace and freedom."8

The Peace Plan received the backing of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Resolution No. 849)  as well as numerous political parties, organizations, and personalities.


1) "Enemies of the Ayatollahs."  Mohammad Mohaddessin.  Zed Books, London, New York.  2004.

2) "Iraqi Visits Iranian Leftist in Paris."  New York Times.  January 10, 1983.

3) "Non-Aligned Peace Commission Takes Message to Iraq."  Associated Press.  May 11, 1981.

4) "Iran Rejects Peace Plan."  United Press International.  March 10, 1983.

5) "Iranian President on the War and Political Power Structure."  BBC Summary of World Broadcasts.  November 27, 1982.

6) "Iraqi Official Welcomes Iranian Resistance Peace Initiative."  Baghdad Observer.  March 31, 1983.  See "Enemies of the Ayatollahs."  Mohammad Mohaddessin.  Zed Books, London, New York.  2004.

7) "Written Declaration of Peace and Human Rights in Iran."  Resolution No. 849.  European Parliament. July 8, 1985.

8) Ibid.


Iran's mullahs directed their surrogates in Lebanon to kidnap westerners in order to blackmail their governments and extract concessions.  Political leaders came under tremendous public pressure to gain the release of the hostages.1

In 1986, when Jacques Chirac was appointed Prime Minister of France, he announced as his first urgent task the release of seven French hostages that had been held captive for more than a year in Lebanon.2  French officials believed the Iranian mullahs exercised a "decisive influence over the groups holding the hostages."3  

As the first step to obtaining assistance from the mullahs, Chirac called for the normalization of relations with Iran.  A high-level delegation from Tehran subsequently traveled to Paris to confer with French officials.  At a meeting, the Iranians stipulated three conditions for improving relations and gaining their support to free the hostages.

One, the French government had to repay $1.3 billion that the Shah had spent for the construction of a nuclear reprocessing plant, yet to be completed; two, pledge not to sign new military equipment contracts with Iraq and; three, extradite Iranian dissidents - i.e. the People's Mojahedin - living in France.

The blackmail ploy had earlier been attempted without success.  In 1984, America had demanded Iran extradite four hijackers who commandeered a jetliner to Tehran.  Iran's Prime Minister Hussein Musavi said the hijackers would be turned over to the U.S. after it handed to them "the terrorists - People's Mojahedin - who have martyred hundreds inside Iran and who are now continuing their activities with the support of the Americans and French."4

Chirac was determined to make a deal with Iran.  The French government signaled its new position toward the NCRI and People's Mojahedin when it withdrew police protection for their headquarters outside of Paris. Weeks later a bomb exploded near Mr. Rajavi's residence.

On May 23, 1986, the NCRI voted to relocate its headquarters to an region along the Iran-Iraq border and then reorganize its military forces.  Weeks later, Massoud Rajavi and about 1,000 People's Mojahedin were welcomed in Baghdad by high-ranking officials.

In July, two French hostages were released and the following November France transferred $330 million to Iran as a partial repayment for the reprocessing plant.5  France may also have sold arms to Iran.6


1) Most of the hostages were kidnapped by the Islamic Jihad, a special security group within Hezbollah, controlled by Iran, according to Robert Baer, a former CIA officer.

2) "Terrorism, Hostage Problems Urgent for Chirac's New Government."  Associated Press.  March 21, 1986.

3) "France Set to Press Iran on Hostages in Lebanon."  New York Times.  April 20, 1986.

4) "Iran Indicates It Won't hand Over Hijackers."  Associated Press.  December 12, 1984.

5) "France Expelling Iranian Opponents of Khomeini."  New York Times.  December 8, 1987.

6) "Behind French-Iranian Feud: An Iraqi Bond."  New York Times.  July 22, 

National Liberation Army

Iran's mullahs wanted France to extradite Mr. Rajavi and other members of the People's Mojahedin to Iran so they could be imprisoned or killed.  It must have come as a great shock to them when instead the resistance organization established their new headquarters in Iraq, near Iran's border.

The location offered important strategic advantages and sparked a renewed hope for a popular uprising against the mullahs to put an end to the war and to replace the corrupt theocracy with real democracy and freedom.

The Mojahedin relocated to Iraq because it was the only place at the time where it could continue its resistance against the mullahs' regime.  The French government, after making a deal with Tehran, made it clear to Mr. Rajavi that his continued stay in France was not possible.   The mullahs also threatened additional kidnappings and terrorist acts against other European countries if they offered sanctuary to Mr. Rajavi.

The NCRI and its members were welcomed to Iraq due to their popularity, their peace initiatives to end the war, and respect for their struggle against the extremist mullahs.  The move to Iraq sent a strong message to the Iranian people and, in particular, to patriotic members of the Iranian Army that there was no legitimacy in continuing the war.  Many members of the Iranian Army subsequently joined the PMOI / MEK.

The NCRI was assured of his independence in pursuing its goals at a meeting on June 15, 1986, between Mr. Rajavi and President Saddam Hussein.  The Iraqi leader declared his government's respect for the "Iranian Resistance, its ideological and political independence, and its freedom to achieve its objectives."1

At the meeting, Mr. Rajavi reminded Saddam Hussein that when Iraqi forces were on Iranian territory, the PMOI / MEK was fighting them.  "But ever since Iraq proved to Iranians and the world her readiness for peace," he said, "all weapons should have been aimed at Khomeini's regime, the only party that has wanted the war to continue."2

The ranks of the People's Mojahedin rapidly swelled as news spread about the organization's new headquarters near the Iranian border. Many initial recruits were Iranian students studying abroad at universities in the U.S. and Europe.  A little more than six months after arriving in Iraq, the PMOI / MEK staged its first attack against the mullahs, striking a military target in Iran.

What began as a small guerrilla force quickly swelled into a large military operation that was renamed the National Liberation Army of Iran (NLAI) in June 1987.  While Iraq's military remained in a defensive posture along its border with Iran, the NLA operated offensively, undertaking cross-border raids against government targets and Iran's Revolutionary Guards or Pasdaran.  

The NLA conducted its operations independently from the Iraqis.  While it was necessary to coordinate with Iraq's army to avoid unintended confrontations along the border area, such as the June 1988 offensive in which it captured the city of Mehran, it never collaborated with the army, such as requesting supporting artillery fire.3

In its first year of operations, the NLA mounted more than 100 strikes, inflicting hundreds of casualties and "provoking 3,000 desertions from the Iranian forces."4

Escalating Strikes

The NLA's forces operated from five bases positioned along the border that were linked by a string of small camps. At first, the NLA crossed into Iran, often at night, to conduct hit-and-run attacks.  It concentrated on training, upgrading weapons, and developing its military skills.  In early 1987, the NLA was ready to move to the next step, to carry out brigade-size assaults against targets in Iran.6

On March 28, the NLA initiated its first major strike, dubbed "Operation Shining Star." It deployed tanks and armored vehicles ten miles inside Iran in an attack on the 77th Khorrassan Division, an elite Iranian force.  Iran suffered many casualties and more than 500 troops were taken prisoner.

Details of the NLA's successful assault were broadcast - the same as other operations - on its Voice of the Mojahedin, which reached a wide audience in Iran, and on its television station that was available in provinces close to the border.7

The next major offensive, named "Forty Stars," was launched on June 19, 1998.  NLA troops, after battling two Iranian divisions along a 31-mile front, captured the town of Mahan, located on the Iraq-Iran border, and surrounding heights.8  Iran suffered thousands of casualties; more than 2,000 prisoners were taken.  During the operation, the NLA captured a large number of tanks, personnel carriers, heavy machine guns, small arms, and ammunition.

Not wanting to pin down its forces in defensive positions, the NLA withdrew days later, stating it was making preparations for more extensive and decisive operations.

Victorious in Ending Mullahs' War

Unable to achieve its stated goal of defeating Iraq and establishing an Islamic republic, having lost a series of battles against Iraqi troops, and facing a growing offensive threat by NLA forces, the mullahs conceded defeat and announced their acceptance on July 20 of the United Nations ceasefire Resolution No. 598 

While Saddam's final military operations were successful in recapturing lost territory in Iraq, they did not pose a major threat to the mullahs' regime.  The NLA's modest forces, on the other hand, had the potential to spark a revolution in Iran.  Its attacks had penetrated increasingly deeper into Iran, fueling panic by the mullahs.  The next assault might reach all the way to Tehran.  Rather than risk the regime's demise, Khomeini decide to conclude hostilities and accept the ceasefire.

Thus, the People's Mojahedin deserve much credit for forcing the mullahs to end their needless war.  Although Iran and Iraq agreed to the ceasefire, the PMOI / MEK pledged to continue its armed struggle against the mullahs.  As explained by Mr. Rajavi, it was the "duty of the National Liberation Army to pave the way for a general uprising."9


1) "Saddam Husayn Receives Iranian Resistance Leader Rajavi." BBC Summary of World Broadcasts.  June 17, 1986.

2) "Enemies of the Ayatollahs."  Mohammad Mohaddessin.  Zed Books, London, New York.  2004.

3) "Inside a Moujahedeen Camp: The Fact of Iran-To-Be?"  Los Angeles Times.  December 20, 1987.

4) Ibid.

5) "Iranian Exiles Form Rebel Army."  United Press International.  May 22, 1988.

6) "Moujaahedeen Mount Raids from Iraq."  Los Angles Times. April 3, 1998.

7) Ibid.

8) "Iranian Rebels to Pull Back, Prepare New Offensive."  UPI.  June 20, 1988.

9) "Anti-Khomeini Guerrillas Seek to Exploit Power Struggle in Iran."  Associated Press.  July 19, 1987.

VEVAK / MOIS Propaganda

Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security (VEVAK / MOIS) aggressively distributes fabricated accounts of the Iran-Iraq War to demonize the People's Mojahedin and National Liberation Army (NLA).

The VEVAK / MOIS falsely states the resistance organization joined Saddam's army "during the Iraqi imposed war on Iran" that "killed thousands of Iranian soldiers."  It describes the NLA as "Saddam's private army" and claims the PMOI / MEK helped Iraq in the "imposed war on Iran." 

The VEVAK / MOIS conveniently fails to inform readers in its disinformation articles that Khomeini refused to end the conflict after Iraq sued for peace on June 17, 1982 - 20 months after it began.  It never discloses the contributions of the PMOI / MEK members who rushed to the front lines to fight Iraqi troops when they invaded Iran.  Nor is there any information on the mullahs' rejection of the 1982 ceasefire offered by Iraq.

Khomeini refused to end the conflict, bringing needless misery and suffering to millions of Iranians.  The PMOI / MEK strongly disagreed with the mullahs' decision to continue hostilities and began a campaign to bring an end to the conflict.

The VEVAK / MOIS never gives credit to the PMOI / MEK for forwarding a peace plan that garnered broad international support or recalls Khomeini's refusal to accept a United Nations ceasefire (Resolution No. 514) proposal in July 1982. Iraq endorsed the initiative, but this action is never acknowledged by the VEVAK / MOIS fabricators.

The VEVAK / MOIS rightly draws attention to the Iran's suffering as a result of war. But it is the mullahs who are directly to blame for most of the horror and destruction for they are responsible for needlessly extending the conflict for six more years.

The VEVAK / MOIS wants people to believe the VEVAK / MOIS and NLA collaborated with Iraq to kill Iranians and thus are not popular in Iran.  But if this were true the VEVAK / MOIS would not be spending millions of dollars to rewrite history to tarnish the resistance organization by misrepresenting facts and remaining silent about the mullahs' record of shame.

See for additional details on campaigns by the Iran's Ministry of Intelligence to destroy the PMOI / MEK and NCRI. 


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External Links

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