Iran-Iraq Naval War – Volume 1: Opening Blows, September-November 1980
This enjoyable little volume is a recent offering from military history specialists Helion. I had not previously encountered their work, but they are clearly working to fill in some of the less well known aspects of military history. This book forms part of their Middle East at War series, following the format of their reportedly successful Africa at War series. Their aim is to bring together rare imagery, high quality illustrations, and non-Western sources, to give a new perspective on post-1945 conflicts. Judging from this one example of the genre, they seem to be succeeding.
This book packs a great deal into 68 pages. Lots of pleasing illustrations, interesting photographs, and all well-supported with notes. The authors are a somewhat eclectic mix. Cooper, an editor with Helion, is a deep expert in Middle Eastern, African, and Asian air forces. Hooton is a retired defence journalist who also co-authored Helion’s four-volume coverage of the Iran-Iraq land war. Ebrahimi is a retired Merchant pilot and veteran of the war.
Between them, these three have set out an interesting perspective on the Iran-Iraq war. The book gives a good, concise history of the main geopolitical events and factors to establish the war’s context. I was particularly impressed by their exposition of Iran’s military build-up through the 1970s, which so clearly set the footings for their capabilities over subsequent decades. It was also interesting to get a sense of the internal dynamics immediately post-Revolution, before the IRGC established dominance. We are shown a resolute and professional Iranian navy and air force doing their best for their country.
My principal criticism, and one the introduction acknowledges, is the book’s availability bias. While the authors clearly worked hard to represent an Iraqi perspective, the book is weighted towards the Iranian sources apparently accessed by Ebrahimi. This yields an interesting and thought provoking work, but it is not a balanced history. A second, but less persistent issue is that it is periodically difficult to situate the tactical events recounted within the larger strategic picture.
Overall, a good read, if something of a niche subject. Recommended for those with an interest in the region, the Iran-Iraq war, or green/brown water conflicts. A second volume, treating convoy battles of 1981-84, is expected in May 24.