The Impact of Casualties on the Armed Forces
Casualty figures in the Iran-Iraq War could not be estimated accurately because neither belligerent permitted independent observers to assist in verifying records, and both belligerents rarely allowed foreign observers to visit combat areas. At the end of 1986, the most frequently cited estimate of casualties since September 1980 was about 1 million--350,000 dead and 650,000 wounded. According to this estimate, 250,000 Iranians and 100,000 Iraqis had been killed, while 500,000 Iranians and 150,000 Iraqis had been wounded. These estimates were probably conservative. Another reliable source claimed that the combined death toll was between 600,000 and 800,000. In 1987, the Iraqi minister of defense reported that as many as 1 million Iranians had been killed and almost 3 million had been wounded, but this was impossible to verify. During large offensives, reports indicated that casualty figures ranged between 10,000 and 40,000, primarily because of Iran's "human wave" tactics. The impact of this loss of life on both societies was immense as was that of the high number of prisoners of war (POWs). The Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross estimated the number of POWs at nearly 50,000 Iraqis and 10,000 Iranians in early 1988.
For Iraq, the most damaging social repercussion in 1988 was the knowledge that the toll in casualties would continue to increase. Drafting young men, and at times women, from school and from work became unpopular, and the loss of young life weakened the regime. This human drain also created shortages in the labor force. These shortages forced an integration of women into the work force, a move that further disrupted Iraq's traditional social environment.
The war also forced cutbacks in Iraq's economic development, and it wiped out the relative prosperity of the late 1970s. Individuals were pressured to donate savings and gold holdings to the war effort. Experts believed in 1988 that these hardships, endured from 1980 onward, would gradually erode what social cohesion and progress had been achieved over the previous decade, should the war continue for a few more years.
Opposition to the war continued to grow. There were sporadic attempts on the lives of military officers, and especially on the lives of Saddam Hussayn's relatives. As funerals in every neighborhood reminded the masses of the realities they faced, Iraqi morale continued to diminish.
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