An interview with former commander of the 16th Armored Division of Qazvin – 2

Zahra Abu-Ali
Translated by M. B. Khoshnevisan

2021-09-14


The leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Khamenei stated, “Our army is a revolutionary army. There are lots of things inside you which you can’t find in others. You are an army which fought for the sake of your country for ten years. Few armies in the world have such a feature. There are many armies that have not stood in these crises and have not given such an exam to the people; the pious people whose house was an earthwork for 7 years 8 years and whose villa was a tent in the desert. They did give a good exam really and fairly, the army is both popular among the people and among us. The ground force must be impenetrable like a steel barrier. I identified the 16th Armored Division in Karkheh Noor.”

What follows is the second and final part of the interview with Brigadier General Syrus Lotfi entitled “Armored General”:

*You entered Dezful on 9th of Aban 1359 (October 31, 1980) and visited Brigadier General Zahirnejad. What happened to your tried division there?

*When we entered Dezful on 9th of Aban, I went to visit Brigadier General Zahirnejad who had been replaced by Brigadier General Fallahi as the Commander of the Army’s Ground Forces. General Fallahi had become the Chief of the Joint Staff of the Army. Brigadier General Zahirnejad was in the front headquarters of the Ground Forces in the 2nd Brigade of the 92nd Division. The headquarters was a basement that was formerly the tire factory of the brigade which was later turned into a headquarters. I told him, “I've come and the division is scattered in Dezful region”. He thought for a while and said, “What can you do?” I said, “You are the commander of the force and I will carry out any order”. He said, “For now, you will organize so that I can give orders”. The next night, it rained heavily. The forces were stationed in the valleys around Dezful; as they wanted to move and go to the heights, several cars were flooded.

*How many days were you in Dezful?

*Ten days; one day, Iraqis bombed the Dezful emergency airport and destroyed one of the tanks of the 3rd Brigade; Command Sergeant Major Houshang Anvarizadeh, who was inside the tank, was martyred. He was the first martyr of the division in the imposed war. While we were busy organizing ourselves, they told us to move the division towards Ahvaz. In Ahvaz, we expanded the 1st Brigade to a surface where each tank was 500 meters away from the other tank.

*Who had prepared the plan of the operation?

*Colonel Yaqub Hosseini who was the Commander of Ground Forces, prepared the plan. The plan was a correct one classically. The operations usually started early in the morning until the unit found itself at late night and not to be raided.

*You said that you visited Mr. Chamran. Was it after the plan arrived?

*When I received the order, the 1st Brigade had yet to be expanded and the area had not been identified. I went to see Dr. Chamran, and told him, “Do you have any information about the area?” He said, “Just be careful of the Karkhehkoor (noor), because the Iraqis have built six earthen bridges over the Karkhehkoor. I said, “I need gas pipes to build a bridge”. He sent the pipes, which even that day the crane driver was hit by a tank”.

*Could you succeed to build a bridge?

*Yes. We built a bridge with pipes in the western part.

* Why did general Zahirnejad not allow the 2nd Brigade of the division to go to Ahvaz with you?

*Zahirnejad had kept a brigade out of fear. I told him, "Do not keep the brigade here; I cannot attack the Iraqi 5th Division, which is supported by the 6th Armored Brigade with two disbanded brigades."

*What did general Zahirnejad said?

He said, "I will provide you the Airborne Brigade."

*Why this infantry brigade?

*Yes; this was an infantry brigade and could not keep up with an armored unit. After my protest, the 2nd Armored Brigade of the 92nd Division was supposed to pass through Karun and join us in Jofair.

* Who was the commander of the 2nd Brigade of the 92nd Division and where was their area of expansion?

* The 2nd Brigade of the 92nd Armored Division, under the command of Colonel Amrollah Shahbazi, had expanded with several tanks on the defensive line south of the Ahvaz-Susangard road. The front base of this brigade was located under a bridge on the Ahvaz-Susangard road in the center of the operational area. On 14th of Dey 1359 (January 4, 1981), a meeting was held in the front base of the brigade, and Banisadr ordered us to begin the attack tomorrow morning at 4:30.

*What operation?

* The Nasr Offensive Operation or the battle of tanks, which was the first regular operation of the army and is considered as the largest motorized operation of the armed forces during the war with Iraq, and this operation as a regular operation is considered one of the glories of the16th Armored Division of Qazvin.
While sipping his iced tea, general Lotfi wore his glasses, rummaged the folder of his sheets and said, "I want to read you the text of the order that was communicated to me. The 16th Armored Division, with the exception of the 2nd Armored Brigade and the Armored Cavalry Battalion, has a mission to attack at 4:30 AM on 15th of Dey 1359 (January 5, 1981) and to capture and secure the northern bank of the Karkhehkoor River and join the 92nd Division in Jofair, and according to the order, after capturing the Hamid Garrison, continue the attack to the border and drag the battle into enemy territory."

*The names of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) forces and the irregular Chamran group have not been mentioned here. Weren't you in coordiantion with them?

*The view of the Commander of the Ground Forces was that the IRGC forces and irregular groups known as Dr. Chamran Group should act independently or semi-independently so as not to interfere in their responsibilities, because they lacked artilleries, tanks and heavy weapons, and in a meeting held at the headquarters of the Ground Forces, it had been agreed that two 150-strong battalions of IRGC and irregular troops would be placed under the command of one brigade.

*What was their mission?

*Their mission was to identify the mined areas, and the wings covered the 1st and 3rd brigades, and were sent as guides up to the ranks of company and squad, and provide information about the enemy to the commanders of squads, companies and battalions of each brigade.

*What was the aim of the operation?

*The liberation of the town of Hoveizeh.

*Who were the commanders of the operation?

*The armored colonel Mohammad Javadi, was the Commander of the 3rd Brigade from Hamedan, the armored colonel Iraj Jamshidi, the Commander of the 1st Brigade from Qazvin, armored lieutenant colonel Radfar, the deputy Commander of the 1st Brigade and colonel Mohammad Baqer Khoshnevisan was the Deputy Commander of the 16th Armored Division of Qazvin. Amrollah Shahbazi, commander of the 2nd Brigade of the 92nd Armored Division of Ahvaz, and Armored Colonel Yaqub Hosseini, the operational deputy commander of the ground forces in the southern front, and Lieutenant Colonel Mahboubi[1], the artillery officer of the 16th Armored Division of Qazvin, were the commanders of the Operation Nasr.

*So, the initial operational plan of Nasr was announced on 26th of Azar 1359 (December 17, 1980). Were the forces ready at this time?

*The operation was carried out at a time when the armed forces were unorganized and the IRGC was a newly established unit. During the unrests in the Kurdistan region, the Revolutionary Council of the 3rd Brigade of the 16th Armored Division of Qazvin was given a mission to organize those areas that played an important role in the liberation of Saqqez and Kurdistan. This brigade was sent to the south for Operation Nasr after its presence in the Kurdistan region and 20 days of reconstruction.

*As the commander of the 16th Armored Division, didn't you have any idea about this operation?

*I asked Mr. Banisadr to give me a chance and a point. He said, "What is that? I will give you whatever you want. I said, "One of the principles of the operation is the principle of surprise. I know both my forces and the opposite side. I know they are waiting for our attack. Given that I have very less forces than the enemy, I want to use the principle of surprise. I want "the time of the attack to be at 10 in the morning on the 15th of Dey (January 5), as well as the single execution in a circular manner, so that the enemy is surprised according to the principle of the time and the type of action." Banisadr agreed with my demand. While Ayatollah Khamenei, Brigadier General Fallahi, the Friday Prayer Leader of Ahvaz and Mr. Qarazi, the Governor of Khuzestan were beside me, I started the Operation Nasr that day. A heavy shellfire was carried out from 9:30 to 10 AM and I began the operation at 10 AM with the secret name of "Allah-o Akbar".

*How was the deployment of the brigades?

*The 1st Brigade carried out the act of surrounding and went behind the enemy. The 3rd Brigade also acted as a front. At 9:30 in the morning, I lined up all the artillery we had. The 3d Brigade was deployed in the east and the 1st Brigade in the west. The shellfire against the enemy was carried out for 30 minutes. Exactly after two hours, we destroyed the enemy forces at the bridgehead, and many of them were killed and about 1,200 of them were captured; we also got a lot of booty. At one o'clock in the afternoon, in the presence of Ayatollah Khamenei and general Fallahi, I installed the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the south of the Karkhekoor River (Noor). Then we spread a blanket and after praying led by Ayatollah Khamenei, we ate Abgoosht (broth) for lunch.

* The operation, despite the victory, caused you a lot of trouble too?!

*Yes unfortunately! But the orders I issued during the attack were recorded and are now available. The operation lasted four days. While the 92nd Armored Division was to cross Karun River and join the 16th Armored Division in the north of the Karkhekoor River; but no annexation was made. As a result, the 16th Armored Division was left alone in front of an armed-to-the-teeth army. The Iraqis also started counterattack due to their air superiority over us. The members of the division resisted with self-sacrifice during these four days, and 141 of our forces were martyred. Our casualties were high. Inevitably, we retreated on the order of the higher ranks, in order to prevent the complete destruction of the division.
Colonel Javadi and Colonel Jamshidi and I announced to the commanders of the brigades that we would defend our homeland to the last person and last breath. Quickly, with the help of the engineer officer and a few others, we dropped anti-tank mines on the dirt bridges of Karkhehkoor and then began to retreat. Because the front headquarters had emphasized that we retreat to prevent the complete destruction of the division. The report of the operation reached Imam Khomeini every day. For the success of the division, he had ordered on the first day: "People should all go to the roof and shout Allaho-Akbar." At the time of the retreat, he had said, "War has both advancement and retreat." I immediately conveyed this order to all the personnel of the division. This order of the Imam strengthened the morale of the army.

*The operation advanced well on the 15th day. Many damages were inflicted on the Iraqis and they were forced to retreat; but according to the documents, you could not preserve the seized positions due to lack of coordination and were forced to retreat from the day of sixteenth and the military deployment of the two sides went back to the day of fifteenth. What were the reasons behind the failure of the Nasr offensive operation except not joining of the forces of the 92nd Division?

*There were many drawbacks including lack of roads, ‌ insufficient force and equipment, and also due to lack of necessary forecasts in terms of ammunition, equipment, bulldozers, loaders and other necessary equipment and other promises such as equipment and military forces that the higher ranks had promised us but were not fulfilled. Also, the number of enemy forces in this operation was not estimated correctly. As a result, it was clear that a small force would often be inflicted more casualties than a large one. In view of the fact that in the first stage the success was one hundred percent, but the enemy relied on the principles of warfare and the implementation of classical tactics, we were generally defeated due to lack of military force and equipment in the later stages of the operation.

*One of the IRGC brothers, martyr Alam al-Hoda had said that day that we should give moral to the army forces so that they could advance and move. Thus, the infantry moved ahead of the armored forces; why did this happen? Did you prevent them from moving?

*We started defending while we had no ammunition; our troops had dwindled and some of our tanks had been destroyed. Given the situation in the area and its conditions, we kept telling them: Do not move forward. Ayatollah Khamenei who was in the war zone had the same view and said many times, “ I told some brothers that now you came to some extent and our forces are advancing; don’t hurry; don’t go and come back now. The guys said no, we want to go and they went.” Given the situation of the area and its conditions, we repeatedly told them not to advance. The Iraqis in counterattack bombed the Iranian forces from air and ground. In the first phase of the operation, the division had managed to advance quickly; but I had ordered the units to take a defensive stance and the evidence is the tape that is available, and I want you to listen as well. Unfortunately, brother Hussein Alam al-Hoda and other students continued to advance. They were the men of God and the vanguard of the battle to preserve the independence of the homeland. That day, it was as if I had lost my children. They were separated and martyred when the army retreated. I was in the frontline and gave orders to the commanders of the brigades who also fought along with our forces in the frontline, and guided the operation. Ayatollah Khamenei supervised the battle. Let me show you the text of his speech, which he delivered after the operation in the parliament, and which was also published in the Ettela'at daily on Monday 8th of Tir 1360 (June 29, 1981),the issue  number 16464.

*He gave me the daily; he took out his box of pills and while a handful of colored pills were showing up in different shapes, he took out some of them and said:

*"This is also one of the blessings of war. I take 13 pills a day." I am being treated by American psychologists. He took the pills, got the newspaper from me and started reading.

Mrs. Lotfi came to us and offered fruit and sweets. I knew the general was not fine. He said, "I wake up at night with the sound of the breaking of the tank’s track link. This nightmare has not left me for years. I take a handful of pills but to no avail. I change my doctors; but my nightmares are all the same. These are the silent blows of war that have struck me.

*I’ve heard that you were considered the main culprit and do not know why they wanted to put you on a military trial.

* I returned to Qazvin after the defeat in the operation. A few days later, a delegation of 30-40 people came to try me. General Fallahi said,"Lotfi, you will finally be executed. They will not leave you”. I said, “From the moment you stood in front of me at the headquarters until the start of the attack and the operation, everything has been recorded on cassette tape”. When I put the tape on, they saw what problems I had. I had evidence. In the second phase of the operation, the Iranian forces were defeated by the high armor power of Iraq, not the betrayal of friendly commanders. Those people looked at each other after listening to the tapes. When general Fallahi and I left the room, Fallahi said, “You saved both yourself and me!”
There was a lot of pressure on our forces from the Iraqi army at that time. The Iranian border was attacked hour by hour until Iraqi forces reached the Abtimur area, 21 km far from Ahvaz. Their first attack was carried in five directions, but their aim was to reach Ahvaz and separate Khuzestan from Iran. Our forces were not in a good condition due to the beginning of the revolution and the dispersal of the military forces in different provinces, and the only unit that had remained almost stronger was the 16th Armored Division. That is why this operation had been entrusted to us.

*Did the inspection board meet the commanders after each operation? 

*The delegation came to see me after the failure of the Operation Nasr and the martyrdom of the students. The commanders should be asked. But in view of the evidence, documents and opinions of the top military commanders, the operation was successful, and the 16th Armored Division was able to inflict heavy casualties on the Ba'athist army’s manpower, equipment and vehicles in the first phase of the operation. In fact, Operation Nasr plunged the Iraqi army into a defensive mode and prevented the enemy from advancing towards Ahvaz. 

*what was the next operation of the 16th Armored Division?

*After the Nasr Operation, since the risk of the enemy’s threat to cut off the Susangerd-Hamidieh had increased and it was estimated that the available forces were not able to prevent possible attacks of the aggressor in this area, it was offered that an earthen dam was built in the area of Seyed Ali in Ahvaz-Susangerd road which caused water to flow the occupied areas by the enemy in the south of the road. Therefore, large areas in the north of Karkhehkoor were flooded and the invading forces were forced to evacuate the flooded areas and went to the back of the Karkhehkoor River. After this operation, which became known as the "Water War", Operation Tavakkol was carried out on 20th Dey of 1359 (January 10, 1981) by Arvand Command elements consisting of army forces, gendarmerie, naval commandos, and an irregular group of people's forces during which the Iraqi forces retreated to their previous positions and took a defensive position, suffering casualties. The Operation Tavakkol was aimed at breaking the siege of Abadan and retaking the eastern shore of Karun and driving the Iraqis back to the international border. This operation was the last Iranian armored effort during the Iran-Iraq war.

*Some also include the drawbacks of Operation Hoveyzeh (Nasr) in the case of Operation Tavakkol. What is your opinion?

*Yes, drawbacks such as not paying attention to the correct identification of enemy positions, our small armored force against the enemy, unsuitable ground for armored maneuvers, lack of confronting with the enemy’s anti-armor fire, and lack of sufficient air support, are the reasons that were common between these two operations. Operation Tavakkol took place two days after Operation Nasr, which was perhaps another drawback of the inappropriate time of the operation.

*What was the next operation of the division?

*It was Operation Tarah which was carried out on 5th of Mordad 1360 (July 27, 1981) by the 3rd Brigade of the 16th Division and the forces of Dr. Chamran and IRGC and in four phases, we managed to force the enemy to repel behind the Karkhehkoor River. After the operation, Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani said in the Friday Prayer, “Colonel Lotfi, the commander of the 16th Armored Division, cut the enemy like cotton.”
Then, the Operation Samen al-A’emmeh was carried out. After Operation Samen al-A'emmeh, when some military personnel boarded a C-130 plane to fly from Ahvaz to Tehran, I was supposed to board that plane as well. General Fallahi came to the headquarters and said, “I am going to the airport, you also get ready to come to the airport immediately to fly!” when he left, General Zahirnejad came and said, “Where is general Fallahi?” I said, “He went to the airport.” General Zahirnejad said, “I don’t reach to the flight. You also come by land.” Of course, it seemed that he was afraid of flying and preferred to travel by car more. After the crash of the plane of the commanders, Brigadier General Zahirnejad was appointed as the Chief of the Joint Staff of the Army of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Colonel Ali Sayad Shirazi as the Commander of the Ground Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Army on 10th of Mehr 1360 (October 2, 1981) .

*How was the role of Colonel Sayad Shirazi in interacting between the army and IRGC?

*Colonel Sayad Shirzai was very young compared to his rank and had no experience in the higher ranks of the command, but he was a faithful, and intelligent officer, and he soon realized that his staff officers should be experienced, skilled, experienced officers with relevant specializations. Some commanders did not cooperate with him. However, Sayad was a well-known officer who was accepted by many of his commanders like me. After his appointment as Commander of the Ground Forces, Sayad convened a meeting and told the commanders: "Anyone who does not accept me can resign."
Some commanders, including Colonel Shahabuddin Javadi, the victorious commander of the 77th Khorasan Division, did not accept the appointment of Sayad Shirazi and resigned at the same meeting, despite the fact that a short time had passed since his division's victory in the liberation of Abadan. I was in the meeting that day and I saw that Colonel Javadi left the meeting resentfully, but I and Colonel Monfared Niaki, the Commander of the 92nd Armored Division, accepted his command. I believed that a military force should not deal with these issues and should only think about serving. I have said many times that I have nothing to do with these issues. At the Karbala Headquarters (jointly with the army and the IRGC), Sayad invited those officers to work for the army staff who were his command advisers.

*Who were the senior officers?

*Armored Staff Colonel Ali Akbar Mousavi Ghavidel as Operational Officer and Infantry Staff Colonel Abdolhossein Mofid as Intelligence Officer, Staff Colonel Bakhtiari, Staff Colonel Moeini Vaziri, Staff Colonel Eqbal Mohammadzadeh, and Staff Colonel Amir Beigi. They had had full expertise and training and participated in various maneuvers in the command and staff position and had enough experience. He recruited all of them in the joint headquarters and using their guidance, he took another initiative by combining the army and IRGC forces and the Basiji forces and cooperating with IRGC commanders, including brother Mohsen Rezaei, the IRGC commander, brother Gholam Ali Rashid, brother Mohammad Ali Jafari brother, brother Rahim Safavi and brother Gholampour brother and other IRGC brothers, he was able to achieve significant successes in the Iran-Iraq war after Operation Samen al-A'emmeh.

*Operation Tariq al-Qods, an operation called by Imam Khomeini as “the victory of victories”, was the first operation carried out by Karbala joint headquarters. Tell us about the operation.

*Before everything, I should say that on the first day of the war, I and general Fallahi insisted that the town of Bostan should be liberated in order to prevent the rapid movement of Iraqi forces from north to south, but Brigadier General Zahirnejad disagreed. I even prepared a plan and gave it to general Fallahi; but Brigadier General Zahirnejad, seeing the plan, said, “What is this plan that has been extended so long and continues until Bostan ?!” I said, “In the plan, an attack is carried out in the north of Karkheh River for securing the Bostan, and concurrently, another attack is carried out in the south of Karkheh for securing the areas in western Susangerd to the eastern bank of Hawizeh Marshes. General Zahirnejad disagreed again. Until the artillery colonel Sayad Shirazi, after being appointed as the Commander of the Ground Forces, asked the front headqaurters of the ground forces in the south to present their plans and opinions on how to implement large-scale offensive plans in the Khuzestan region. The front headqaurters proposed the implementation of operations to enter the Dezful and Bostan regions, which was based on previous ideas and plans; the difference is that this time it also included how to use the Basiji and IRGC forces to increase the combat capability of the army. Colonel Sayad, the Commander of the Ground Forces, summoned two intelligence and operations officers of the front headquarters after returning to Tehran from the ground forces front in Dezful and announced his general plan to carry out a large-scale offensive in the Dezful and Bostan areas. In fact, the approval was the same as the previous proposals. He ordered an operational plan to be prepared in the mentioned areas. 

*According to the plan, was there a change in the composition and order of the forces?

* Initially, the 16th Armored Division was to be reinforced with a brigade of the 92nd Armored Division, and the some IRGC units carry out an attack in the north and south of the Karkheh River and liberate Bostan and the western regions of Susangard.
At this time, the 1st Armored Brigade and the 55th Airborne Brigade, which were under the operational control of the 16th Armored Division, were expanded about 8 km west of Susangerd and the 3rd Armored Brigade in the area of Tarah in northern Karkhehkoor, and the 2nd Armored Brigade of the 16th Armored Division under the command of the Ground Forces was deployed in Raqabieh area. I suggested that the 55th Airborne Brigade be replaced by the 2nd Armored Brigade so that all units of the division could be present in the operation. Thank God, Sayad and the front headquarters agreed to this proposal and ordered a replacement. As a result, the 2nd Armored Brigade of the 16th Division was stationed in the north of the 1st Armored Brigade of the 16th Division.

*Who was the Commander of the 2nd Brigade of the 16th Armored Division?

*Colonel Zamanfar

*Tell us about the naming of the plan of the operation.

*At first, the plan was named as “Operation Valiollah”. This was consulted in headquarters and the then person in charge of IRGC intelligence department proposed the name Karbala which was agreed by the Commander of Ground Forces. He added, “Since several other operations will be carried out after this operation, so other plans will be named as Karbala 1, 2, 3 and so son.” According to this, later, the operational plan of Karbala 1 was named as Tariq al-Qods.

*According to the operational plan, where were the brigades of the 16th Division deployed?

*According to the plan, the 3rd Brigade of the 16th Armored Division and some IRGC units had to carry out an attack in the north of Karkheh and secure the northwestern region of Bostan, known as the Bostan Opening. The 1st and 2nd brigades of the 16th Armored Division and units of the IRGC carry out an attack in the south of Karkheh and secure Bostan and the eastern coast of Hawizeh Marshes and the northern coast of Nissan.

*What was the reserve unit?

*The 2nd Brigade of the 2nd Armored Division had been considered as the reserve unit in this plan.

*How was the maneuver of the forces?

*The maneuver of the forces in the plan was a penetrating one. But the implementation of the maneuver was in a surrounding mode, and the attack on the enemy's back side caused the rapid disintegration of the forces, the command system, and the fall of the enemy positions, with brilliant results; however, given the reconnaissance of the enemy fortifications in the defensive positions, this success seemed very weak. The results showed that it was not possible to carry out a surrounding maneuver in the south of Karkhehkoor, because the northern and southern sides of the enemy in this area relied on the Karkheh and Nissan rivers.

*How was the expansion of the enemy forces?

*The enemy units were deployed in such a way that there was no open or weak faction that allowed Iranian forces to conduct a surrounding maneuver. For this reason, penetrating maneuvers had to be carried out in the southern region of Karkheh, but in the northern region of Karkheh, where the southern side of the enemy was toward the river and the northern side of the enemy relied on the sandy Mahur Hill area and the Mishdagh hillside. It was not possible to threat the southern side and back of the enemy due to existence of Karkheh River.

*Were the northern sandy lands impassable too?

*Yes; it was impossible for the armored and wheeled vehicles to move in the land. For this reason, the enemy had rested the right side of its forces on the sandy area in order to secure and prevent damages in northern Karkheh. Of course, the sandy area had been identified by the army and IRGC combatants, and comprehensive information had been gathered about the situation in the area. The IRGC brothers, based on their reconnaissance, announced that they were ready to operate with an infantry brigade consisting of Basiji forces from the sandy area; because they consider crossing the sandy passage was considered a threat to the enemy wing in the north of Karkheh and its surrounding back in the west. The IRGC deployed one of its four brigades to operate in the sandy area and threaten the enemy’s wing and back in northern Karkheh.
Previously, I and martyr general Fallahi, the then Chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, believed that the liberation of Bostan was of great importance and that the recapturing of Bostan would have good propaganda, military and political effects. Martyr general knew a road that ran from the north of Bostan to Mishdaq area and from there it connected to the Plain of Raqabieh. This road was used in the past in military maneuvers. But over time, this road was buried under sand piles and only parts of it had been left out. He said, "This road can be used to reach Bostan.” And he wanted to connect the northern region of Karkheh to the Raqabieh plain by building a road from Mishdaq to the hills of Allah Akbar." After identification, road construction work was started from Tang-e-Mishdaq using limited engineering facilities, and was stopped with the martyrdom of general Fallahi in a plane crash.

*Why didn’t you use local or guide people?

*Coincidentally, there was a soldier named Jum'ah Mousavi from Bostan who had previously helped the 3rd Brigade of the 92nd Division to gather information about the enemy. He was a shepherd before joining the military and was familiar with the area. After Operation Allah-o Akbar on 31st of Ordibehesht 1360 (May 21, 1981), this soldier traveled to and around Bostan in order to obtain information from the enemy. During these trips, Jum'ah had noticed that short and long sandy hills were connected together from around the Bostan’s Green Hill, with the exception of the first few kilometers; after that, the sandy lands are alternately separated and between them there are narrow plains and solid lands, and high sandy hills in some areas dominate the enemy positions and they can be used for monitoring.

*So you could control the enemy’s back?

*Yes, the soldier's familiarity with the area reinforced the idea that the area could be used to reach the enemy's back. For this reason, in order to complete the identification and collect more information, a team consisting of three IRGC forces and three members of the 3rd Armored Brigade of the 92nd Division and Jum’ah Mousavi, led by a member of the Khuzestan IRGC named brother Hosseini, were assigned to identify the area accurately. In order to cover their actions and minimize their movement, the team chose a base four kilometers northeast of the Green Hill and near an abandoned well, and was stationed there, and with great effort and problems, identified the area and succeeded to choose three good views dominating over the enemy side and use these views to obtain very accurate information about their defensive and back positions and mark the route that was about 12 km long.

*Did you build the road?

*Yes, this mission was left to the Jihad of Construction of Semnan Province. Misters Hasan Beigi, Aliabadi and Miri did the mission and built a road on the sands with indescribable sacrifice and effort, and this road was an important factor in the victory and having access to the enemy's back in the northern front of Karkheh.  

*On what date?

*The road-construction operation started in mid Aban 1360 (November 1981) and the road-construction until the first view finished on 6th of Azar 1360 (November 27, 1981). This was one of the masterpieces of road construction in the world. The continuation of the road ended with a total length of 16 km by marking.

*Who were the first forces who used the road?

*Concurrent with the completion of the road, the 293rd Armored Battalion of the 3rd Brigade of the 92nd Armored Division under the command of Colonel Ali Safavi[2] began their infiltrative movement towards the 3rd view. Also the infantry units of the 4th Brigade of the IRGC’s Imam Sajjad (PBUH) were deployed around the triple views and prepared to carry out surprise operations against the enemy.
The 2nd Armored Brigade of the 92nd Armored Division in the form of two combat groups were deployed as reserve units in the north and south of Karkheh around the village of Sobhani. Also, the IRGC settled its command post in the village of Bardieh in southern Karkheh beside Susangerd-Bostan road and the consultative meetings were held in the presence of the commanders of IRGC and Karbala 1 Headquarters in this post or the command post the 16th Armored Division or the 2nd Armored Brigade of the 92nd Division.

*When and where was the Operation Tariq al-Qods carried out?

* At 00:30 on the 8th of Azar 1360, the sound of cannons and Katyusha rockets echoed like thunder through the air which according to the plan of the 16th Armored Division was carried out by the 3rd Brigade of the division in the area of Tarah in Karkhehkoor in order to deceive the enemy. The attack was immediately met with Iraq's heavy artillery fire, and the lightning of the cannons and the explosion of bullets constantly lit up the space, and the thunderous roar of artillery fire was not interrupted in Tarah even for a moment. Thus, the battle of Tariq al-Qods began after a month and a half of efforts and preparations. I had urged the commanders to minimize wireless calls to surprise and secure operations. Armored units were waiting for the minefields to be opened. Finally, after the opening, the movements began.
At 3:50, the 1st Brigade reported that the Defae'iyeh and Alwan bridges had been secured, that the enemy had shown very little resistance, and that Iraqi units had fled backwards and towards the bridge. The 125th Mechanized Battalion under the command of Major Mokhberi[3] from the 2nd Armored Brigade of the 16th Armored Division managed to advance along the Sabelleh and captured the enemy's first embankment. The 114th Mechanized Battalion, operating south of the 125th Mechanized Battalion, managed to cross the enemy's second embankment.
After reviews at the Karbala Headquarters, a surrounding maneuver using the identified route seemed possible. Eventually, it was decided that a force consisting of an armored brigade of the army and an IRGC infantry brigade attack the enemy's front lines in northern Karkheh, and other IRGC combatants already stationed around the triple views carry out an attack in three columns simultaneously to surprise the enemy.

*Please tell us about the hero major Mokhberi, the commander of the 125th Battalion. What did he do that his name became lasting in Operation Tariq al-Qods?

*In crossing the Obeid River and attacking the enemy on the river bank, the IRGC's Karbala Brigade faced with the enemy's severe resistance and could cross the Obeid River. For this reason, on my order, the 125th Mechanized Battalion under the command of Major Mokhberi and a tank battalion from the 92nd Armored Division commanded by Lohrasebi approached the shore of the Obeid River with great effort and During a fierce battle, and with heavy casualties, the team set up a bridge on the Obaid River in the northernmost area of the Obaid River, near the confluence of the river with the Karkheh River, but due to heavy fire of the enemy and heavy fighting, the end of the bridge which had not been settled completely on the shore, sank in the water as soon as the first person crossed, and attempts to re-install it were unsuccessful, and three personnel carriers of 125th Mechanized Battalion trying to cross the river were destroyed by the enemy.  

After the incident, the Commander of the 125th Battalion decided to carry out an attack along the Sabelleh River using the asphalt road of Susangerd-Bostan and capture the concrete bridge on the Sabelleh River and invade the back of the enemy's positions and then advance toward the target area namely Bostan. For this purpose, the 125th Mechanized Battalion attacked the Iraqi positions and broke the first embankment and advanced along the Susangard-Bostan road and while inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy and capturing 45 of them, they reached 600 meters of the Sabelleh concrete bridge and captured the enemy's second embankment, but were stopped there due to the strong resistance of the Qadisiyah Tank Battalion.
The 114th Mechanized Battalion deployed in the south of the 125th Battalion also attacked the enemy bravely and fractured the first embankment, but were stopped because their southern wing was open.
At the same time, the 125th Mechanized Battalion advanced towards the Sabelleh Bridge and pushed the enemy back. Due to the fierce resistance of the enemy, the battle turned into a one-on-one battle and the 125th Battalion units moved closer to the Sabelleh Bridge.
At this time, for preventing the fall of the forces defending Bostan, the assisting units of the Iraqi forces moved a large armored column from the south toward Bostan on the Taqavon road, which led to the Saballeh Bridge road, to strengthen their units in the Saballeh Bridge and Bostan area in order to prevent the arrival of the 125th Mechanized Battalion and the 114th Battalion and the Karbala Brigade under the command of brother Morteza Ghorbani to the Sabelleh Bridge. But I can fearlessly say that Morteza Ghorbani and Major Mokhberi and the forces of the 125th Battalion created an epic and invaded an armored column of the enemy with a number of tanks crossing the Sabelleh Bridge, and destroyed about 43 enemy tanks. The bridge was closed for a while and then after that, the forces of the second brigade and Karbala brigade crossed the bridge, moving toward Bostan. Of course, apart from Sabelleh bridge, two Iraqi floating bridges in the west of the area were captured. When the Sabelleh Bridge had not been captured yet, for connecting the south of Karkheh with the area in northern Sabelleh in the final part of the Obaid River, a military bridge was installed on the river and a connection was established between the 2nd Brigade of the division with the north of Sabelleh and the units managed to capture the enemy's positions by crossing the bridge.

*I heard that you gave the colonel rank of major Mokhberi under fire and bullet?

*Yes; after the operation, I invited the Commander of the Ground Forces to the front among the forces. Then I took a pair of ranks out of my shoulder and said to Colonel Sayad, "Put these on the shoulders of major Mokhberi and make him proud of the rank of lieutenant colonel". Colonel Sayad did this and at this time, the Iraqi jet fighters attacked, putting us under the barrage of their machine guns, but since we were fighting for the right in the way of God and the homeland, we were not harmed. It was necessary that the honorary rank was installed on the shoulders of brother Ghorbani on that day.

 


[1] Colonel Mahboubi lives in Sweden.

[2] Colonel Ali Safavi was martyred in Fakkeh in Mordad 1362 (August 1983)

[3] Colonel Gholam Reza Mokhberi was martyred in Kurdistan in Esfand 1361(March 1983)



 
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