Along with memoirs of Brigadier General Ali Sedigh Zadeh from the first widespread operation

Third solution and the principle of surprise in time

Zahra Abu Ali
Translated by M. B. Khoshnevisan


Note: Zahra Abu Ali, the writer of memories of the commanders of Islamic Republic of Iran’s Army from the Scared Defense years has had a detailed interview with Brigadier General Ali Sedigh Zadeh part of which has been given to the website of Iranian Oral History. In a reference to this interview, she writes, “27th of September 1981is considered a turning point in the history of the eight-year sacred defense. On this day, Iran’s first widespread operation against Saddam’s aggressive army was successfully carried out some one year after the occupation of part of the Islamic land. For reviewing various angles of Operation Samen al-A’ememh (AS) which led to the break of Abadan’s siege, I went to meet the retired Brigadier General Ali Sedigh Zadeh in Mashhad. He was the Head of the Third Bureau in the Division 77 of Khorasan. One of the duties of the bureau is to organize and design military operations.  This shows that we should search for the secret of the success of this difficult and victorious operation in memoirs of people like him; an operation which was achieved by the request and order of Imam Khomeini (God bless his soul) namely “Abadan’s siege should be broken.” 


*Thanks a lot for giving us your time and accepting our invitation. At first, tell us about yourself.

*I am Ali Sedigh Zadeh, born in 1941 in the city of Yazd. I was 16 when my father passed away. His death was so heavy for me that crumbled me in a way that my uncle moved us to Tehran where he was living.


*How did you become interested in army?

*After graduation from high school and getting my diploma, I along with my friend Hossein Azar Khosh went to Pastor Street which had and still have stone chairs and studied for Konkoor (nationwide exam for entering university). At that time, the konkoor was not nationwide and every university held separate exams for itself. We had enrolled for the knokoor exam in Civil Engineering of Tehran University and the Architecture of Melli University (current Shahid Beheshti University). One day when we were studying, a third lieutenant officer with polished shoes and army should knots passed by us. The brightness of his star attracted us. Hossein said, “Ali, shall we go to Officers’ University.”

The charm of that officer caused us to prefer the Officers’ University to Tehran and Melli universities. We were not alone.  Among 200 people who took part in konkoor in 1960, perhaps more than 40 young people like us had fallen in love with military uniforms and preferred Officer’s University to other ones.  


*To which division were you sent after graduation?

*After graduation from the Officers’ University and spending the preliminary course of infantry unit, I went to Davison 6 of Khorasan from Shiraz Infantry Training Center.


*How long were you in Mashhad?

*I was in Mashhad until 1969, and then was transferred to Birjand’s 04 Training Center.


*With what job were you transferred?

I was a captain and the Commander of the First Company of the First Battalion. I went to Shiraz Infantry Center in 1974 to pass higher course.  


*Where were you in 1978? What post and job did you have?

*In the years 1977 and 1978, I along with my friend Rouhollah Sorouri passed a course in AJA University of Command and Staff known as Dafoos and came to Division 77 in September 1978 since my wife was from Mashhad. I became the plan and organization officer of the division.

As I began my job, the Military Governor also started work. When the rallies and demonstrations started, I tried to stay away from the military governor, making myself busy in my office. In that year, Brigadier General Ja'fari who was a veteran and faithful person was appointed as the Commander of Khorasan Division. Earlier, he was the commander the Training Center of Chehel Dokhatr. I remember that he sometimes visited religious authorities in Khorasan such as Ayatollah Abdollah Shirazi and Ayatollah (Seyed Hasan) Qomi who were then at the highest position and said, "We are not the sole proprietor!" He asked them to keep the people away from clashing with the army. He was a faithful man and not tough on revolutionary activities. General Ghoalmali Oveisi dismissed him as the division commander in December 1978.



*Because he did not carry out his duties as General Oveisi expected.


*Who was replaced him?

*Brigadier General Mirhadi who was already the Military Governor of Karaj. According to himself, he established calm there. But he did not remain more than a week and left and was promoted as Major General. In Shah's trip to abroad, he left the country and did not come back anymore. The incident of 31st of December 1978 was shaped under him. He was also changed since the incidents in Mashhad had become tough and critical. Then, Brigadier General Yazdjerdi who was previously the commander of Airborne Brigade of Shiraz was appointed as the Commander of Division 77.


*Did you leave the barracks in the unrestful days of 1978?

*No. I and Abolfat'h Karami who is currently in Shiraz and Hossein Nikparvar stayed in the barracks so that the guns were not handed over to the people's opponents. As we were gradually approaching the victory of the revolution, several non-commissioned officers came to the barracks and when they found out what we were going to do, went and find the soldiers on whom they had great influence. Everybody promised to keep the armories. We stood and protect the barracks round-the-clock.


*When did the soldiers came back to the barracks?

Before the victory of the revolution, Imam Khomeini (God bless his soul) ordered the soldiers and army officers to leave the barracks; in our barracks, some 300 military personnel 90 percent of whom were soldiers left the barracks. A few days after the victory of the Islamic revolution, Haj (Mohammad Taqi) Falsafi was brought to Mashhad. Haj (Abbas Va'ez) Tabasi had still no position in Astan-e Qods Razavi. They gathered the soldiers outside the house of Ayatollah Shirazi. The Ayatollah had asked them to return to the barracks and continue their military service.


Hamzeh 21 Brigade Staff; right: the late Gen. Ali Razmi, middle: Gen. Ali Sadighzadeh, left: Gen. Saeed Poordarab


*The first commander of the Division 77 after the revolution was Colonel Shapour Qobadi?

Colonel Shapour Qobadi was the Commander of Infantry Academy of Shiraz. Before the revolution, he had been appointed as the Commander of the 3rd Brigade of Mashhad. His military knowledge was so high who had left form his shoulder as Mashhad's Military Governor. The colonel had divided ten battalions under his command in Mashhad. He had given limit line like the war-time tactic. It meant that your limit was from this street to that one. He had done this both to control the situation and not to shoulder any responsibility directly. After the revolution, Yazdjerdi who was the Commander of Division 77 had detained Qobadi, the Chief of Staff, the Deputy Commander of the division and several others. I told (Hojjat al-eslam Seyed Abd al-Karim) Hashemi Nejad, "This colonel (Qobdi) had recently come to Mashhad and done nothing and should be released. On the other hand, we prepared the soldiers and the officers of the 3rd Brigade to go to Hashmei Nejad and tell him and he had issued no wrong order. After two nights of detention, he was released and then became the commander of the Division 77 and major general.


*When did you become the brigade commander?

Mr. Hahsemi Nejad came to our barracks after the victory of the revolution. One day, he called me and said, "I want you to become the Commander of the 3rd Brigade! I said, "As a matter of fact, I am not a revolutionary man, and I have no claim, but I am patriotic." Haj Agha said, "I trust in you." I said not. He was surprised and asked, Why? You showed during this time that you want to serve? I said, "I want to serve but the prerequisite to go to the 3rd Brigade is that an order is issued form Tehran. We follow military order." He brought his hand forward and said, "Who is commanding in Tehran now?" I said, "Whoever he is, I will not go unless an order comes from Tehran." Finally, he got an order from Tehran and I became the Commander of the 3rd Brigade.   


*Where were you in September 1980?

* The harvest of the farmers had been delayed; at that time, the Islamic Republic system in order to show the army's popularity had left the farmers' harvest to army forces. Thus, the barracks helped the people. In order to help the farmers, the division also ordered the brigades in turn to assist them. Therefore, all of the forces of the 3rd Brigade except the guards and the staff bureaus went to the farmers by vehicles every morning and help the farmers and returned to the barracks in the evening. As we were busy harvesting the wheat farms, we were informed by portable transceiver: The war has started, come to Mashhad as soon as you can, you should move toward the western country!  

We had sent the Battalion 110 commanded by Major Parviz Heirani to Kurdistan on 6th of September in order to station in Sanandaj. For a few days, they were waiting in Qazvin barracks for the vehicle parts to go to the mission. The handing over of the vehicle took time. When Iraq attacked Iran, the Ground Forces changed mind and ordered this battalion to go to the area of Sar-e Pol Zahab with another battalion.


*With which battalion?

*We were dispatched to Sar-e Pol Zahab with Battalion 148 and with the brigade's Headquarters and the units of combat and services logistics. On our way, the Ground Forces order us to leave Battalion 148 for the south. The Battalion 148 went to Ahwaz and went under the commandership of the Division 92. Our battalion reached to Sar-e Pol Zahab on time and forced the Iraqi forces to retreat through fire and move. After a while, we went to the western country to Qal'eh Shahin Barracks to visit the Battalion 110 which had been stationed in the frontline.  

Major Heirani came in October 1980 and said, "Sir, a captain from Kermanshah's division has worn Kurdish dress and intends to go to Ghasr-e Shirin. I saw that he's got a yellow Paykan (car) and has stood that side of the road. The guard allowed no one to travel, since Ghasr-e Shirin had fallen to the enemy. I went to see what this captain says. I said, "Sir, what do you say sir? He said, "Are you married? I said yes. He said in a destitute manner, "My family is in Ghasr-e Shirin. What did you if you were with me? I said, "How did they go to Ghasr-e Shirin? He said, "My wife is from Ghasr-e Shirin and has gone to visit her parents. When the war started, she stayed there. I want to go and bring them back. I asked surprisingly, "How do you want to go? The enemy will shoot at you a few hundred meters ahead. He said, "Allow me to go, no problem if I am killed." I said, "I will allow you to go because your wife and children are holy for the human and one of the things for which we are fighting is to keep honor. I undesrand you. But I have a request. I am usually here during the day and in Ghal'eh Shahin Barracks at nights. If you went and came back, come here to see you! He said happily, "Ok, colonel. He also showed his ID card and I saw that everything was all right and he was the combat officer of the Division 81."


Right: Gen. Manouchehr Dezhkam, Left: Gen. Ali Sadighzadeh


Two days later, he came to Ghal'eh Shahin Barracks. It was 11 AM. He was glad and said, "Come out and see my wife and two children." I asked surprisingly, "How did you go?" He said, "That day when I went ahead some 50 meters, stopped and tied a white cloth on the car's antenna. I went forward. Nobody shot at me. I told the Iraqi commander: We are military forces. You have to fight with us. I have now worn a civilian dress. This problem has happened to me. This may happen to you too. Please help me. The Iraqi commander directed me. He even gave me a note that I was safe. I went and went there for one day. I picked up my family and came back with same note."


*When did you return to Mashhad?

*It was also in November. The division commander had been changed. I was ordered to come back.


*Who had been appointed as the division commander?

*Colonel Shahbeddin Javadi. I came to Mashhad. Colonel Javadi, the division commander said, "I want to give you a descending appointment." I said, "What do you mean." He said, "I want to become the Head of Third Bureau, because you are the only infantry officer who has the ability to handle the division's operations. I said jokingly, "You speak as if I have so far had ascending appointments!


*As the Head of the Third Bureau or design and operation, talk about the haves and have-nots and the movement of the division's units on those days. 

*In an operational review from the division's haves, I found out that until that date namely March 1981, all of the division's ability had not been sent to the war zone, but the combat, and artillery units and even half of the combat infantry unit had been stationed in the northwest to the south. Two brigade headquarters had been sent to the war zone but the division's headquarters was not there. However, it was there somehow, I mean the staff personnel of the division, the heads of the bureaus, the operational, logistic and personnel officers were regularly in the fronts, inspected and solved the problems in the division's center.  


*Apparently, the new commander had visited the western and southern fronts for becoming familiar with the situation of the units?

*I along with Colonel Shahabeddin Javadi and the staff personnel and some of the battalion commanders who were almost 28 went to Abadan in January 1981. We had visited the entire areas attacked by the enemy in the northwest from Gilan-e Gharb to Mahshahr and had come to Abadan by a helicopter. We along with the division commander inspected the Arvand coast and then the Khosro Abad area known as Ramileh area in which the Battalion 129 commanded by Colonel Tavallaee had been stationed. The division commander visited the forces trench by trench, giving cash bonuses to the officers and soldiers including to First Lieutenant Banaee the commander of the groups of the Battalion 153 who had thrown some 400 grenades toward the Iraqis in Zolfaqarieh Palm-Grove on the night of 31st of October 1980. Later lieutenant Banaee was martyred in Haji Omran altitudes.

The next day, we along with the division commander went to visit the Khorramshahr's bridge. Part of the bridge was controlled by us and one company had been deployed under the bridge. As soon as we arrived, the enemy's mortar started firing. When Colonel Javadi saw the situation said, "Shame on me! Should I be alive and see the Iraqis have come here! I should not be able to walk freely in my country; I have to pull my head down so that the Iraqis do not target me! The Iraqis who did not dare to give our soil a dirty look, now separate Khorramshahr from our soil insolently!"   


*When was the entire Division 77 deployed in the south?

*An order by the then Commander of the Ground Forces, Major General (Qassem Ali) Zahirnejad reached to the division in which he had written, "The Division 77 is commissioned to command the Aravnd area and defend the borders of the country of Islamic republic of Iran from Darkhowein to Fav strait with the existing organizational and operational units, and force the enemy to retreat with local attacks and provide the grounds for an all-out invasion, break the Abadan siege and liberate Khorramshahr and draw the border line. Upon the order of the Commander of the Ground Forces, the division’s headquarters were stationed in the southern country on 18th of March 1981 and we started controlling the operational staff of the Arvand officially.


*When and where was the first meeting of the Chief of Staff of the division held and who attended it?

*The first meeting was held on 8th of April 1981 in Mahshahr. In this meeting, the commanders of the army, committee, police, navy, gendarmerie, Fedaeiyan Islam or devotees of Islam, and Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) in Abadan were present.


*The Third Bureau writes plans and programs according to the information and recognitions of the Second Bureau; what information had the Second Bureau presented to you from the area and the enemy’s ability?

*Major Ahmad Bayati, the Head of the Second Bureau of the division in the first staff meeting said, “After review and recognition, we found out that the enemy forces in eastern Karound River consisted of armored and mechanized brigades from the Armored Division 3, two infantry battalions for 44 and 49 brigades, one reconnaissance battalion (Salaheddin), one battalion form the Brigade 113 of border forces, one battalion of special forces and some elements of Jaish al-Sha’bi. Meanwhile, the Third Brigade of the Armored Division 3 and two infantry and armored brigades had been identified in western Karun River as reinforcement forces.


Standing from left: Col. Seyyed Shahabeddin Javadi, Then Commander Khorasan 77 Division, The late Gen. Qassemali Zahirnezhad, then Commander of I. R. I. Army and Gen. Ali Sadighzadeh at the night of Samen-ul-A'emmeh


*What were your measures regarding the roads and ways?

*After Major Bayati’s talks, while explaining about the circumstances of the deployment of friendly forces in the frontline and the general situation of the area, I said, “In front of the tip of the infiltration of Iraqi forces in Zulfiqariyah, about four kilometers, namely the distance between the combat group of the armored unit 37 of Shiraz and Fedaeiyan Islam is empty. Since after the arrival of the division into the region, the first measure of the Third Bureau was the identification of the line, Major Sorouri one of the officers of the Third Bureau along with Colonel Mahvi went to Shadegan Three-Way by helicopter for reconnaissance which due to enemy’s fire, they had to do this in the ground. In this reconnaissance, they found out that the forces had expanded in the southeastern area till the suburbs of Mahshahr-Abadan Road; the 37 armored group of Shiraz had almost covered this area and no unit was deployed in front of the tip of enemy’s advancement namely some four kilometers till the deployment of Fedaeiyan Islam. Of course, the ground was watered at this distance. At the same time, the enemy’s frontward toward the east not toward Abadan was open. It was true that it might not be dangerous, but the defense line of our troops in this area was disconnected.


*Why disconnected? Wasn’t the division deployed with its forces in the area?

*No. we did not have access to all of our forces. They were in northwestern and western fronts. We had to organize the forces through the unity of the commandership until they were released and sent and carried out measures in order of preference. 


*What plans and programs had the Third Bureau predicted for this situation?

*The first phase was to prevent the enemy of advancing; it means that we should not allow the enemy to advance and attack. In the next phase, we should stable the enemy’s situation in the occupied positions; it means that we had to choose limited targets in the area of Sar-e Pol Zahab and seize parts of the enemy’s occupied positions through carrying out surprised and limited attacks. The last phase was a full plan to destroy the enemy forces in eastern Karun River.


*How was the deployment of forces which had been considered for Operation Samen al-A’emmeh.

*Many solutions had been provided for this operation; at least three solutions which I approved the third one. The solution was that we could not surprise the enemy in terms of locations, but we could do so in terms of time. Another issue was the equation of advancement or the tactic of work and the management of the operation. The enemy thought we were maneuvering in the front, but we attacked from the wings. Of course we had frontal maneuvers. The brigades of two and three had the mission to carry out frontal; Brigade II from Fayyazia to the Bridge of Mard and Brigade III from the north, parallel to the Karun River, towards Salmaniyeh and reaching to Salmaniyah Bridge.


*The same bridges which the enemy had installed in eastern Karun River?

*Yes, our mission was to destroy the enemy forces. We stopped the enemy in the area through seizing the bridges, and they were not able to retreat and thus were destroyed. Another issue was to prevent the enemy from escaping as well as preventing the enemy forces to be strengthened. The 1st Brigade, by carrying out frontal maneuvers, would hit the enemy's precautionary force and open the roads that the enemy had seized.


*You mean which roads?

*Mahshahr-Abadan road and Abadan to Ahwaz road. This plan was completely classic and academic and had been designed according to the regulation “101-5”, It should be said that no war source and book can be compared with it. Because this is the book which teaches us staff methods.

The maneuver which is carried out from the wings is the best type of maneuver and surrounds the enemy from the back. This plan is very complicated. One brigade from the north to south and another brigade from the south to north are attacking. We had to do something that the two brigades do not fire at each other since they were fighting in front of each other. The firing should be set in a way that we did not fire at ourselves. One brigade moved from Darkhovein to Salmaniyeh from Karun bank, and one brigade from Karun bank downward to Ghasabeh Bridge. The two brigades had to be annexed in the middle of two Ghasabeh and Haffar bridges and defend form the eastern part of Karun.

This maneuver is very complicated. It demanded high accuracy and delicacy, in a way that when the professors of the war university came there for a field mission and saw the plan, objected to it, but we convinced them. They also objected to fire supply. We had to predict fire supply that the attacks continued on a daily basis, the fire would usually be done. We fixed 20 minutes for this, but we saw that 20 minutes was a long time and we might face with shortage of ammunitions. Thus, we considered 10 minutes for the fire supply. However, when the operation is carried out in full surprise, the fire supply is usually not done, but it is likely that our plan is disclosed in the beginning of the operation. Therefore, we predicted that if our operation was disclosed, we could execute the firs supply.


*Why did you name the operation as Samen al-A'emmeh (AS)?

*Colonel Javadi had told Major General (Valiollah) Fallahi that since he had just come back from pilgrimage to the holy shrine of Imam Reza (PBUH), it was better to name the operation as Samen al-A'emmeh (AS). The major general had welcomed this offer.


*In view of the estimates of the Third Bureau, what balance was between us and the enemy in this battle?

*In this battle, we had balance of forces and even superior. We had calculated everything. The tanks were not advanced. Thus, we compensated our shortage of armored units through using two armored battalions of the armored divisions of 92 and 16. You should know that we had also a fifth front. The Brigade 2 was in the first front, Brigade 3 in the second front, Brigade 1in the third front and the Army Aviation in the fourth front. Our fifth front was the Air Force which started acting. We justified the air force intermediate in Dezful's Vahdati Base that he had to carry out flights toward western Karun. The enemy had tanks but instead we had means that we had an anti-thesis for any thesis and for all of the factors. We had shortage of soldiers which as compensated by brother Rahim Safavi who gave us 2400 forces, and popular and military forces carried out the integration action. Thanks God, we were fully prepared for combat in view of the training courses the forces had passed within a few months. We had justified the brigades, and companies about the operation. All of the guys were aware of the operation. The commanders of the groups and companies took their forces one by one to the bulwarks, showing them the area. The duties of all had been determined. The limit lines of the units were clear even in terms of advancement, firing and everything, the time of the operation's order was unclear. The plans were specified and completed day by day.

The enemy had understood from the movement of the units that we were going to have an operation, but did not know the time. Even the commander and deputy of the brigade were not aware of the operation's time. Every brigade had to break the passages of anti-personnel and anti-tank mines in its area. The enemy knew the map of mining. It was interesting that the engineering units of the division opened and marked the mine barriers, but the enemy noticed and closed them again. The engineering guys of the division worked hard very much.   


Gen. Ali Sadighzadeh among I. R. I. Army Alumni


*When was the time and day of operation?

*The units declared their readiness on 25th of September 1980. The operational plan was handed over to the brigade units that were executing the plan. Thus, the plan turned into a command to run. Closed envelopes were sent to the brigades by the division commander. The commanders of the brigades were not worry because they had justified the units well. I heard that after opening the envelops, the commanders went to the board and talked about the situation of the operation happily while weeping. The commanders of the bureaus of the brigades also talked together. Then everybody kissed each other and said goodbye and wished success for each other. While the enemy did not imagine at all, we sent the forces to the specified positions in the darkness. They advanced. We had already installed sticks in the routes of the brigades that were supposed to pass through the purged mine field with red ribbons on our side and black ribbons on the enemy's. The guys knew that they had to pass through the middle of the red signs. We had determined logistic areas in which ammunitions' boxes had been put. We had also told the units to use the ammunitions such as RPG, artilleries, guns and machine guns. They did have to come back and bring the ammunitions. We had also predicted and predicted cold water and warm food for the forces. At the appointed time namely one and a half hour after the midnight of Sunday 26th of September 1981, the operation started with the code "Nasro menallah va fat'hon gharib."


*Tell us about the result of the operation.

*The execution of Imam Khomeini's order (the break of Abadan's siege) and victory in this operation revived hope in the hearts of other combatants for carrying out next operations. Some 200 square kilometers of the scared soil of Iran was liberated.


*What was your prediction of the martyrs' figures?

In the meeting of the commanders, Colonel Mahmoud Eqbali, the Head of the First Bureau had said, "According to our estimates, some 900 forces would be killed in this operation that we have prepared more forces to replace them. But the operation has been designed so academic and accurate that after the operation, a total number of 550 were martyred or injured while, more than 3000 enemy forces were killed, 1761 were taken as captives, 90 tanks and personnel carriers and 100 vehicles were destroyed and the booties received were 160 tanks and personnel carriers, 150 vehicles and five 155 mm artilleries and other types of weapons.


Thanks a lot for giving us your time.


I also thank you.       

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