Interview with Commander Golali Babaei

Sacred Defense Memories: Guideline to Modern Life
Golali Babaei speaks about memory writing of war. "Memories of the Sacred Defense days are useful for the betterment of the society and fight against social issues, and can be used to show people how to live a better life."

Every year Iran celebrates September 22-29 as the Sacred Defense Week which begins with the anniversary of Iraqi forces attacking Iran borders on September 22 1980 and ends with the anniversary of braking the seize of Abadan on September 29 1982. The history of the 8-year Iraq-imposed war on Iran is full of analyses, interpretations, memories and stories which could be heard from everyone witnessed the crisis. However, when heard from war experts and military commanders of that era, the history of the war and the way things happened are much more precise and well-founded.

Commander Golali Babaei currently serves as head of the Sacred Defense Art and Literature Organization. He has penned various books about the history of the war and its logistics. He has held an interview with the news agency of the Art Bureau in which he talked about the background of the war, Iran's conditions, formation of national foundations and memoir writing of the war.

-You have written numerous titles about writing Sacred Defense memoirs and the history of operations and sacrifices by Iranian comrades during the war. As the first question, what was the reason Iraq attacked Iran?

The imposed war of Saddam against Iran was a long process which began as the Islamic revolution took place on Sunday, February 11, 1979. After the revolution, world arrogant powers sought to prevent the export of the revolution, and, therefore, set up measures to bring back Shah or at least install a ruling system with the mentality of the previous regime in Iran. During the first days after the revolution, they planned scuffles in border provinces of the country like Kurdistan, Sistan and Balouchestan, and formulated the Arab separatism in southern parts of the country and among the Turkmens in north. Even some of the clashes led to the temporary fall of some cities like Sanandaj, Mahabad, Gonbad, etc. Such activities were meant to prevent the spread of the revolution but their abject failure made the enemy resort to Plans B, C, … to reach their goals. Their first plan was the US attack in Tabas under the pretext of setting their hostages free and seizing a number of sensitive areas in Iran. After they failed in their attempts, they formulated the Neghab Network Coup which was known as the Noujeh Coup in which they deceived a number of servicemen in Iran and garnered the support of a number of runaway politicians like Bakhtiar and Oveisi from outside and planned a seemingly invincible coup which was immediately neutralized by Imam Khomeini. The world arrogance, now hapless after a series of strategic failures, clung to Saddam Hussein as an unethical arm in the region. He was very much inclined to be known as the guardian of the region after Shah left Iran. With a support from all parts of the world, Saddam attacked Iran on September 22 1980 and occupied parts of Iran.

-Iran's army was far stronger than allowing Iraq's seizure of some cities. Why did we have some of our cities captured by Iraqi forces at the beginning of the war?

Noujeh coup could be a reason in this regard. The coup was aimed at weakening Iran's army from inside. The coup was so carefully designed which attracted most top brass military officials and made it seem impossible for the army to maintain its oath to the revolution.

-Are you saying that the coup resulted in the loss of most of our defense force?
Yes, indeed. This is why were not as strong as we were supposed to be then. Besides, Bani Sadr was the then-commander of army and armed forces and was appointed as the acting chief of staff by Imam Khomeini. He was ignorant of the warnings sent out to him from the border regions. We were left startled by the invasion of 12 Iraqi brigades. A country not ready to defend itself is prone to heavy damage in the first attacks. I should add to this that Baath forces had envisaged the seizure of Khuzestan province, and the border cities of Khorramshahr, Abadan, Sarpol-e Zahab, Dasht Azadeghan, ets. were the first cities to be seized by Iraqi forces? As Bani Sadr was eliminated from the war, the scenario changed for Iran and major developments came afterwards.

-What was the role of the Islamic Revolution Guardian Corps (IRGC) in the war?
In the beginning, the IRGC was engaged with borders clashes, and it had become a general consensus that enrolling in the IRGC was synonymous with surviving for at most 6 months. IRGC was not well-integrated to resist enemy assaults at that time. On the other hand, Basij militia practically assumed a role of serving as the executive arm of the IRGC for the country. Accordingly, people flocked military sites and everyone could establish their guerrillas. For example, the late Mr. Khalkhali convened his own group of fighters and took them to the battle zone as was the case for several other Sacred Defense figures. All the guerrillas formed this way possessed their specificities and were made with a unique operational goals. All these guerrillas were named after a Sacred Defense figures. It was after the second year of the war that IRGC's divisions began to form up with a thorough organization. The divisions grew further into brigades and so forth.

-How did the war go on for Iran prior to acceptance of UN resolution 598?
When the management of war changed in Iran, things became better. Formation of combat units by IRGC and attraction of forces led to formulation of large-scale operations. Iran's major encounter with Iraqi forces began with Sameno Aeme operation which led to the breaking of the siege of Abadan and later on during Tarigh Al-Qods, the city of Bostan was freed. It was during Operation Fathol-Mobin when large occupied parts of the country were cleared of Iraqi forces. The turning point in these successful operations was Operation Beitol-Moqaddas which led to liberation of Khorramshahr. After the liberation of the city the world witnessed Iran as a newly emerged power which could overcome Iraq in its war against Iran. It was here that the US began to intervene in the war; the US established this military site in Baghdad to monitor the battlefield and its activities, and help Iraqis in their strategies against Iranians. The site also served as a mediator to entice other Arab states to join Saddam against Iran. The first application of the site was visible at Ramezan operation where we failed.

-Did we still have parts of our soil occupied by Iraqis after Operation Beitol-Moqaddas?
Yes. Naft Shahr, Sarpol-e Zahab, Qasr Shirin, ets. were still controlled by Iraqi forces. We needed to chase the enemy to free our cities. Operation Ramezan was designed with the aim of following the enemy all through Basra. But in eastern Basra we were faced with a major barrier: the US. It supplied Iraqis with all the intelligence they needed to attack us. There are plenty of documents which support this claim.

-You have written many books about the Sacred Defense memories. What kind of mentality have you been seeking to form by pursuing the issue of memoirs?
These memories belong to personages from all walks of the society who partook in the war. The eight-year war of Iran and Iraq is a perfect example of a war of people. We claim that the war was governed by the people on our side. It was the people who fought and supported the comrades and even provided their food and ration. This is why we say the war was a war of people. You could see students, clerks, workers, illiterates and all kinds of people waiting in lines to be deployed to the war fronts. All walks of the society were involved in the war. All these people have now begun to write their memories. It is clear that a varying culture is engaged in the writing of these memories. A culture which shows us how to live in an ambiance full of spirituality, martyrdom and sacrifice. Now they want to distribute their experiences. These memories can be utilized to correct our society and put its values right and learn from the way martyrs lived under social and economic pressure.

Translated by: Abbas Hajihashemi

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