Crossing Arvand Rud (Shatt al-Arab)

Narrated by the Basij Commander Sardar Hossein Kargar

Selected by Faezeh Sassanikhah
Translated by Ruhollah Golmoradi


It was at the end of November, 1985 when I was informed that our forces intended to implement an operation. It was in the night and they had set up a temporal camp in Ahwaz Road. For confidentiality, they hold the meeting out of Ahwaz and in the night so that the fifth column, which was very active, would not be informed of the commander’s going back and forth, and also their gathering in a special place. The meeting place in that night was next to our brigade station and in the main route of Abadan to Ahwaz Road. They were in a village so that nobody knows about the subject. When we arrived there I saw the division and headquarters commanders were there. After a while, Mr. Mohsen Rezaee came and stuck the operation overlay to the wall, and gave an explanation about the place and goals of the operation, and also said: “our goal in this operation is crossing Arvand and capturing Al-Faw, and advancing to the salt factory. The operation would be ended in the same salt factory.”

Crossing Arvand was a great and bold task, and had its own difficulties which were very few, if any, in the previous operations. One of the most difficult issues was strong tides in Arvand and rushing water flow. In some areas, the difference between the low tide and the high tide was about four meters. Therefore, building a bridge upon it in the coastal area was impossible or so hard.

The low tide was enough strong at the time of spring tide that some streams emptied totally and a muddy marshland remained. The wharf and bridge had to build within Arvand, very far from the coast, to resolve this problem; a measure that was much difficult since Iraqis, on the other side of Arvand, watched any movement. Rushing water flow was also a major problem, especially for divers. In the operations Khyber and Badr, at least, there was no water flow in Hawizeh Marshes but this time water flow and pressure created a new problem. At the time of high tide, the water entered from Persian Gulf to Arvand and streams, and the time of low tide moved so fast toward the gulf. The divers had to be very strong in order not to be trapped by the water flow. Hence, if the divers wanted to go from this side of Arvand width to the opposite side, given rushing water flow, they had to dive into water 300 to 400 meters far from their target so that they could hardly reach to the other side. In addition to transporting troops, Amir al-Muminin’s Flotilla in Operation Valfajr-8 was also missioned to be in the reserve of Noah Headquarter which was commanded by brother Alaee. Delivering all the troops, ammunition, personnel carrier, loader, boat, artillery, and devices to a silent area like Arvand certainly sensitized the enemy. Local people still lived in their villages in that area. Since no operation had been done yet there, so civilian had to be evacuated from the village and their houses without knowing what was happening there. IRGC could evacuate people and they didn’t know what happened; because of the enemy sensitivity and its permanent presence in the area, engineering tasks were most conducted in the night. The dump truck drivers were embanking and built roads in the groves. It was winter and the weather was rainy, the ground was wet and swampy, and this caused the work progress very slowly and with difficulty. Often, the loaders, bulldozers, and trucks of the engineering unit got stuck in mud and swamps, and were pulled out so hardly. Along with the engineering work, identifying enemy positions was also done. At this stage, a type of unmanned aerial vehicle was used, which worked very well and was very effective. The length of the aircraft was about 2 meters. It flew at a low altitude, and, by remote control, flew in the enemy's areas and took pictures. There was a photo lab in the area that immediately printed the photos. The photos were very accurate and very helpful. The manned aircraft had to fly at high altitudes to stay away from the fire of air defenses, and for this reason, their photos did not have the necessary accuracy. But because the drone was flying at a low altitude, it took very accurate pictures. The troops who had gathered in the area were stationed in the evacuated houses of the people to stay away from the eyes of Iraqis. The armies and brigades had established their rear in Bahmanshir region, and lacked hospitals, ammunition depots, kitchens, and workshops. But the wharf and camp were moved to Arvand. The rear was built very quickly. Camp, emergency room, and telecommunication were built and established; observation towers were made so that we knew the depth of the enemy's rear, where its artillery was, and how it came back and forth. Where were its operational and reserve commands? From which areas they were supplied and supported, and where were the roads accessible to them?

Of the brigade under my command, one battalion was assigned to serve in the third region and Kausar’s Flotilla. The mission of this brigade was operation on Al-Amaya and Al-Bakr wharf. This was a harassment operation and was intended to distract the enemy from the main area of ​​the operation, which was Arvand and Al-Faw. The next goal was to capture these two docks if they could. Of the rest of Amir al-Mu'minin (a.s.) Brigade, two battalions were assigned for transportation and transfer, which were supposed to serve headquarters of Thar Allah and Noah (a.s.) and Amir al-Mo'minin’s (a.s.) Flotilla. We also had 4 infantry battalions which were specific for the operation and were kept in the headquarter reserve so that they could be used in the continuation of the operation. The engineering and road building work was progressing rapidly, and despite many obstacles and problems, the troops worked sacrificial. The engineering work was done at night and they stopped working and rested during the day. One day before the night of the attack, together with the commander of Fajr Division, brother Rudaki, we went to check the situation and how the troops were prepared. It was very early in the morning when we set off with the Land Cruiser van. The troops had just finished their work and were resting. We went to see the emergency room, docks, roads, and pads. A terrible thing had happened that my heart beat fast when I saw it. The engineering command had built a road from the inside of the grove to its outside in the night before, and they had to do this on the first night of the operation; it means they had to work on the rest of the road, which was from at the top of the grove to the top of Arvand’s dock, on the night of the operation so that they finished it by morning. The guys had made a terrible and huge mistake. They thought that the operation was going to be done that night. For this reason, the road was crossed from the grove to the outside and the road had been built from outside of the grove to Arvand about 300 to 400 meters. When I saw the road, I was very upset and worried, and I said to myself, did you see what happened? The Iraqis must have seen the road and realized that an operation was about to take place in this area. The road was in front of Iraqis' eyes. Brother Rudaki was also very upset. we didn’t know whether inform the headquarter or not? On the one hand, I felt pity for all that effort, and on the other hand, I was afraid that the Iraqis had seen the road, or would see it. With a broken heart and despair, I began to beg and plead with God: O God, cause the Iraqis do not see the road and that no one will see it until tomorrow night. My God, after a year of hard work, it is a pity that this operation is exposed.

I was begging God with all my heart. Of course, as a precaution, we went to the camp and reported. They also came and saw the road and the situation. One of the commanders said: “Now and at this stage, nothing can be done. Insha’Allah, the Iraqis have not and will not see. Everything is ready and the operation must be done.” Fortunately, the Iraqis had not noticed the road at all. The road was in front of their eyes; if they came on their embankments, they would see the road. But God wanted them not to see. Finally, after months of trying with anxiety and worry, the night of the attack came. It was winter and the weather was very cold, dark and heavy clouds covered the sky, and it started raining. Everywhere plunged into pure darkness. We were all anxious and worried. That night, I was very anxious and honestly I was afraid of the end of the work. I said to myself, will the enemy's line be broken? Is it possible to support all forces tomorrow? Have the Iraqis smelled the attack? God, help yourself.

You know that we are alone in the world and we only hope for your help. God, make happy the hearts of these warriors and people behind the front.

The operation began at approximately 10 p.m. For this reason, they had chosen such a time because Arvand had the highest tide, and the boats and divers were less likely to encounter the natural barrier that was on the side of the enemy's shore. For about an hour there was a spring tide and less turbulence. Despite the rain and darkness of the night, the operation started on time. In the first stage, divers went and penetrated the enemy's trenches and embankments, and the enemy's frontline trenches fell one after another. I, along with other army and brigade commanders, were sitting in the camp. The signalers were on and we were aware of every moment of the battle. In the meantime, we were informed via the signalers that there were some problems for al-Mahdi Division’s divers. The reason was that the distance from Arvand coast to the front line of the enemy was about one kilometer. Because Arvand was wide, that's why many divers of al-Mahdi Division didn't manage to reach the enemy's line in the early hours, and some of them were washed away by the water. The Iraqis had built all kinds of barbed wire, solar wires, incendiary fougasse networks, and bunkers on the side of Arvand up to their front line trenches. The 25th Division of Karbala, commanded by brother Morteza Ghorbani, broke the line and forced the enemy to retreat from their positions. It was midnight when the enemy's main line was finally broken at one point. A hard war broke out. Some other commands also managed to cross Arvand and reach the enemy's front embankment, and break the Iraqi line. Of course, some commands were still involved in the front line. At this stage, it means crossing Arund and attacking the front line of the enemy, some troops made strange sacrifices that I am afraid if I say no one will believe today. For example, when Thar Allah Division reaches the barbed wire of the Iraqis, the passage of the troops becomes difficult and the people are under the fire of Iraqi machine guns and grenades. At this time, one of the company commanders throws himself on the barbed wire and orders the troops under his command to step on my back and pass. The troops refuse at first and no one was willing to pass over the commander's body. But he orders them and some of them pass over his body and reach the enemy's trenches and destroy them.

As soon as the enemy's lines were broken and when our own forces advanced in depth, the commander of Thar Allah Division went from the camp to the enemy's positions to command his forces closely. In the morning of the operation, we boarded the boat with a group of commanders and brother Alaee and headed. Arvand was at low tide when we set off. The reason why we waited until morning and did not move was because some Iraqis in the front line remained in the trench and were barely resisting. They hit the creek mouth and targeted any boat or vessel that came out of it. Finally, it was early in the morning when the guys went and hit the few remaining Iraqi bunkers, and suppressed them. As we were coming by boat, due to the low tide and shallowing of the mouth, our boat got stuck in the mud and stopped moving. I immediately radioed for a rescue boat. I thought there is no use in staying and sitting on my hand. I took a board and started rowing and then a rescue boat came. Some of the brother commanders were transferred to the second boat, but it wasn’t still useful and our boat had stuck in the mud. We tried our best to get rid of that situation. We disembarked from the boats at Ras al-Bisheh dock. The spirit and mood of the guys was like Operation Fath ol-Mobin. Some guys followed the Iraqi forces. A group was chanting Takbeer and uttered peace be upon Mohammad and his family. Some were interrogating the captured Iraqis.

It was early morning and Iraq had not yet started bombing. In the meantime, I saw the commander of Thar Allah Division who was very happy. As he saw me, we hugged and kissed each other, and kept thanking God, and everyone said God liberated Al-Faw.

The Iraqis were divided into two groups. Some people dove in a hurry into the swamps of Khor Abdallah, and were in mud up to their waists and below their chests. Apparently, they were planning to reach the Abdallah estuary and escape, but they got stuck on its swampy shore. It was a pathetic and humiliating scene. Some fell into the swamp and some were saved by the guys from certain death through using a rope. They threw a rope for them and pulled them out of the mud. Others were captured. Groups of Baathist forces were captured by the troops. The guys had captured some 150 to 155 people and brought them to board the boat and take them back. The poor captives were trembling with fear.[1]


[1] Yahosseini, Sayyid Qassem, Madanipour, Mohammad (2011). A Soldier for Ever; the narrative of the Basij commander Sardar Hossein Kargar. Bushehr’s General Directorate of Preserving Works and Publication of Values of Sacred Defense, Daryanvard Publication. Chapter 1, p. 146.

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