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USMC: Lessons Learned From the Iraq-Iran War (Appendix B)

USMC: Lessons Learned From the Iraq-Iran War (Appendix B)

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USMC: Lessons Learned From the Iraq-Iran War (Appendix B) "Chemical Weapons" -December 10, 1990
USMC: Lessons Learned From the Iraq-Iran War (Appendix B) "Chemical Weapons" -December 10, 1990

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09/04/2013

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APPENDIXB
CHEMICALWEAPONS
TheIraqisdevelopedtheirproficiencyinchemicalweaponsgraduallyduringthewarwith[ran.Theyweremotivated
to
findasolutiontotheimpactofIranianhumanwaveinfantryattackswhichlikethatoftheChineseattacksonU.S.forcesinKorea-wasdevastating.Theunpredictabilityoftheattackswasverydemoralizing,butthepsychologicalimpactonindividualscaughtupintheinsensateviolenceofthemwasworse.ForapsychologicalparallelinWesternexperienceonemaylooktothe1939Russo-FinnishWar,and,inaparticularlydramaticsense,toGermanexperiencesontheEasternFrontasconveyedinGuySajersForgotfen
So/dier.
AreviewofIraqichemicalweaponsemploymentrevealsaninitialusein1982ofCS,ariotagentproducingmassivetears,someskinirritationandsomedifficultybreathing.Inthisinstance,surprisewaseffectiveinachievingextremedisorganizationonatacticallevel,whichinturntuinedtheoperation’sexecution.Thenextreportedemployment
was
inJuly1983inthe
(Val
Fajr11)fightingnearHajUmran.Here,theIraqisarerepodedtohaveemployedmustardgas,apersistentblisteragentwhichcanblindandcausedeathunderidealconditions.Itsprincipaluse,fromWorldWaritothepresent,however,isnottokill,buttoincapacitateandoverburdenrearservices-itisveryeffectiveindegradingtheperformanceofrearechelonactivitiesasfarforwardasartilleryandcommandandcontroloperations.Inthe1983employment,theIraqisusedmustardgasagainstanIranianforcewhichhadcapturedamountaintopposition.Unfamiliaritywiththegascharacteristicscausedtheattacktofail.Mustardgasisheavierthanairandseeksthelowestelevation.TheIraqisdiscoveredthisastheyattempted
99
i
,
 
tocounterattackupthemountainonlytobemetandoverwhelmedbytheirownweapon.ThenextemploymentshowedarapidlearningcurveastheIraqisfiredlargequantitiesofmustardgasontheattackingIraniansatPenjwin(ValFajrIV)inNovember1983.TheyfollowedthiswithamorelethalattackinlateFebruary1984(Khaybarl).Here,theymayhaveusedthenerveagent,tabun,althoughthisislessdefinite.Tabuninhibitscholinesterase,anenzymeinthenervoussystemthatallowssuccessiveneweendingstoconnectwitheachother.Oncetheconnectionisinterrupted,thenaturalbodyfunctionsceasefromlackofrequiredexternalsignalsfromthebrain.Tabunisacrudeagent;howevertheIraqisarebelievedtohavedevelopedsatin,amoresophisticatedvarietythatactsliketabun.Thiswassupposedlyemployedduringthe1988attackontheAlFawpeninsula,andinseveraloftheotheroperationswhichmadeuptheTawakalnaAlaAllahcampaign.However,wedoubtthiswasthecase.Similarly,wefindnoevidencewhatsoeverthattheIraqishaveeveremployedbloodgassessuchascyanogenchlorideorhydrogencyanide.BloodagentswereallegedlyresponsibleforthemostinfamoususeofchemicalsinthewarthekillingofKurdsatHalabjah.SincetheIraqishavenohistoryofusingthesetwoagents-andtheIraniansdo-weconcludethattheIraniansperpetratedthisattack.Itisalsoworthnotingthatlethalconcentrationsofcyanogenaredifficulttoobtainoveranareatarget,thusthereportsof5,000KurdsdeadinHalabjaharesuspect.Mustardgas-theagentmostcommonlyassociatedwithIraq-isrelativelyeasytohandle,atthoughitisatwo-edgedweapon.Itspersistenceis
a
functionofhumidityandtemperature,makingitsuseasalong-termcontaminant-inEuropeanconditionsnearlyideaLIntheMiddleEast,however,wheretemperaturessoarabove100degreesFahrenheit,itspersistenceissignificantlyreduced-unlessoneoftwoalternativesisfollowed.Itmaybemademorepersistentbythickening,whichdoesnotreduceits100
 
,.
effectiveness,butdoeslimititsdispersal.Asecondalternativeistoimpregnateacarrierwiththeagent,thepreferredonebeinganytalcum-likesubstancethatwillabsorbtheagentandstilldisperseoncarrierimpact.Thetacticsofchemicalemploymentaresimilartootherweaponshavingshortorlong-termeffects.Itisdesirabletomakethefirstvolleysofanychemicalattackamixtureoftwoagents,vomitornauseaagentsandkilleragentslikephosgerw,cyanogen,ornerve.Thesoldierwhoisasleeportooslowmaskingeitherdiesdirectlyfromtheeffectsofthelethala@orindirectlyfromhavingtomaskandunmaskwhilevomitinD~theprocess,inhalingthelethalagent.Persistentagentslikemustardareusuallyfiredonartillerypositions,linesofcommunicationandlikelycounterattackroutes,aswellascommandandcontrolinstallations.Againstartillery,gasattacksareprincipallymeanttoslowdownservicingoftheguns,reducetheaccuracyofsighting,anddegradetheprocessingofcommands.Inmostcircumstancesitproducesasignificantincreaseingunnerfatigueasbodyheatbuildsupinsideprotectivesuits.Further,theconstantmovementofthecannoneersmeansthatavenuesofpenetrationforthegassesareprogressivelyopened;seamsarethepointofgreatestmovementandfrequentlywheresweataccumulatestofurtherdegradetheprotectivequalitiesoftheovergarment.Thepassageofvoicecommandsisrendereddifficult,inwhatisalreadyapracticallyimpossiblesituation.Additionally,somesoldierssufferfromclaustrophobiaandcantoleratebeingmaskedonlysolong.Insummary,chemicalagentsareeffectiveindegradingcommandandcontrol,firesupportandlinesofcommunication.OneofthemostdramaticexamplesofthiswasduringOperationKhaybarIinFebruary1984.Inthisoperation,theIraniansattackedthroughtheHawizahMarshes,attemptingtocuttheBasrah-Baghdadroad.Inanotableexampleofbattlefieldinterdiction,theIraqisisolatedtheforwardelementsoftheattackingforcewith
mustard,cutting
themoffalmostentirelyfromresupplybyland.WhentheIraqis101

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