Crushed in Infancy: An Account of the 1980s onwards

Chapter 1: The Dogfight over the Gulf
It was in the middle of the conflict between Iran and Iraq, which also saw both nations initiate attacks on tankers to strangle one another's economy. Unfortunately, the Persian Gulf was the site of the world's most critical route for oil transport, and the war between the Iraqis and the Iranians drew in the interest of those who sought to safeguard the flow of oil that their economies depended on. The Iranians fought back ferociously against the Iraqi invasion, with Saddam Hussein being supported by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, both of them fearing a decisive Iranian victory and the implications of such an outcome on their own lands.

Meanwhile, the United States wanted to hurt the Iranians in retaliation for their actions at the US Embassy in Tehran, which naturally made supporting the Iraqis an attractive choice. This fed into the Iranian paranoia, in that the US and Iraq were conspiring to overthrow the new Islamic Republic and interfere in their own domestic affairs like the British and the Soviets did in 1941. And it also provided a much-needed boost to the Islamic Republic’s legitimacy, as a large portion of their government’s standing depended on staunch anti-Americanism rooted from the 1953 coup and the US “sheltering” the late shah. The main policy of the US was to safeguard the security of the Persian Gulf from the spillover of the Iran-Iraq War, which unfortunately caught many vessels flying neutral flags in the crossfire.

The beginning of the so-called Tanker War began when the Iraqis began attacking Iranian shipping. Their goal was to provoke the Iranians to retaliate with extreme measures, such as closing the Strait of Hormuz to all maritime traffic, thereby bringing American intervention, and the United States had threatened several times to intervene if the Strait of Hormuz was closed. The Iranians knew that they stood no chance in a conventional fight with the US military, so they limited their retaliatory attacks to Iraqi shipping, leaving the strait open to general passage. However, this would change once the Iraqis repeatedly bombed Iran's main oil export facility on Kharg Island, causing increasingly heavy damage. As a first response to these attacks, Iran attacked a Kuwaiti tanker carrying Iraqi oil near Bahrain on May 13, 1984, as well as a Saudi tanker in Saudi waters three days. Because Iraq had become landlocked during the course of the war, they had to rely on their Arab allies, primarily Kuwait, to transport their oil. Iran attacked tankers carrying Iraqi oil from Kuwait, later attacking tankers from any of Iraq’s supporters with coastline on the Persian Gulf. Attacks on ships of noncombatant nations in the Persian Gulf sharply increased thereafter, with both nations attacking oil tankers and merchant ships of neutral nations in an effort to deprive their opponent of trade.

The Saudis were angered at the Iranians attacking their shipping and were already allowing a covert US military presence in the country, with painful efforts to keep it that way to avoid inflaming a populace who did not welcome those who worked for the country seen as Israel’s protector and on the very soil containing both Mecca and Medina. The US also sold F-15 Eagles to the Saudis, which would prove to be a vital asset in their military and during the events of June 5, 1984.

On that day, two Iranian F-4 Phantoms from Bushehr Air Base intruded into Saudi airspace to prepare for an attack on oil tankers. The planes were tracked by a United States Air Force E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft, which directed two patrolling Saudi F-15 Eagles to intercept the Iranians. The Saudis shot down one Iranian F-4 Phantom, killing pilot Lieutenant Homayoun Hekmati and weapon systems officer Lieutenant Seyed Sirous Karimi while damaging the second F-4, which despite being damaged, was able to make an emergency landing at Kish Airport, but the aircraft could not be repaired and returned to service. This caused the Iranians to scramble 11 additional F-4s from Bushehr as well as two F-14s that were nearby hunting for Iraqi aircraft. In response, the Royal Saudi Air Force scrambled 11 additional F-15s.

What happened next has been called “al-Qadisiyyah in the air,” with the clash correctly being called the most serious aerial dogfight in the Middle East. It started with the two Iranian F-14s opening up with their AIM-54 Phoenixes, which greatly outranged the AIM-7s on the Saudi F-15s. Three F-15s were shot down in the first salvo, but the Saudis merely engaged their afterburners and sped towards the merge. The F-15 was superior to the F-4 in terms of maneuverability and speed, and it would emerge the victor in a dogfight. That was exactly what happened, as the Saudi pilots were able to avoid suffering more losses from more Phoenix launches through aggressive evasive maneuvering and come into range to launch their AIM-7 Sparrows. The Iranian pilots were well-trained, the result of their instruction from the US military prior to the Revolution, but training and skill were both not enough that day.

The Saudis suffered three more F-15s downed, while the Iranians lost nine of their F-4s. The F-14s had ran out of Phoenixes and thus withdrew from the fight, their pilots wanting to spare Iran’s best plane from danger. Meanwhile, the E-3 monitored the dogfight and this put the US Seventh Fleet, which provided the bulk of the US Navy’s presence in the Persian Gulf despite being based in Japan, on high alert. Both the USS Kitty Hawk and the USS Constellation received orders to sail to the Persian Gulf, with their F-14s, A-6s, and the new F-18s being scrambled, along with dozens of their destroyers and cruisers.

The Iranians wanted revenge for the loss of so many of their aircraft and pilots. Cooler heads in the Iranian military urged for caution, since they correctly feared the direct involvement of the US military. However, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, with help from Khomeini, accused them of being pro-American and the Ayatollah commanded for a retaliatory strike against the Saudis. What happened next was a major operation, with the Iranians arranging for forty F-4 Phantoms armed with ground attack ordnance escorted by six F-14s. Their target was the Saudi naval base at Jubail, and their objective was to cripple the Saudis along the Persian Gulf. Even the Saudis would have been overwhelmed by an attack of such a scale.

There was only one problem: timing. The Iranians naturally had to pull much-needed aircraft from fighting the Iraqis for this operation, especially during a shortage of spare parts and ordnance. And the US Navy’s F-14s and F-18s were on station to provide support for the Saudis, with the rules of engagement being to not fire on the Iranians unless fired upon. AWACS detected the large Iranian air formation speeding towards Jubail and the Saudis scrambled the F-15s. The Iranian mission commander flying in the lead F-14 wanted to abort the mission after detecting thirty F-15s coming to intercept them, but his superior back at base, under pressure from both the Ayatollah and the Revolutionary Guards, ordered him to stay on target.

Consequently, the Iranian attempt on Jubail was met with heavy resistance. The Saudi F-15s were able to speed towards the merge, despite losing six to Iranian-launched Phoenix missiles. The Saudis made quick work of the F-4s, shooting down fifteen and forcing the others to turn back. But the F-14s stayed to cover the Phantoms, resulting in an intense dogfight. The F-15s and the F-14s were evenly matched in dogfighting skills, but the Iranians were outnumbered and thus began to crack under the pressure. Three F-14s were shot down, with two F-15s in return, and the Iranians were forced to retreat.

The clash also resulted in a blunder for the Iranians. One of the F-14s detected two radar signatures and consequently fired two Phoenix missiles, believing it to be Saudi F-15s. However, it was in fact a pair of US Navy F-18s, with both planes shot down and the pilot, Lieutenant Commander Michael Henderson, killed while the other pilot, Lieutenant James Johnson, was able to eject and land near the Saudi coast. The only reason why the Navy’s F-14s didn’t fire back was because the dogfight was occurring and they were given strict instructions to not cause casualties among the Saudis.

The Pentagon was outraged at what they saw as Iranian aggression, and President Ronald Reagan addressed the nation to express in his words “prayers for the family of Lieutenant Commander Henderson and anger against the fanatical regime of Iran.” In response, Reagan authorized the Navy to conduct a bombing strike against Bushehr and Bandar Abbas, and then had the SEALs and the Marines to seize Abu Musa. It was taken with little resistance. In response, the Iranians launched a battery of Silkworm missiles, purchased from China, against them at Abu Musa, causing the death of one hundred Marines and ten SEALs.

  • This is the POD, in IOTL the Iranians were more aggressive and thus causing the dogfight of June 5, 1984 to go really hot
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Chapter Two: Escalation
An emergency session of the National Security Council occurred right after the Iranian strikes on Abu Musa. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger urged caution, not wishing to get the military involved in a major war with Iran and so soon after the bombing in Lebanon a year prior. However, Secretary of State George Schultz, reeling from that same event, wanted a firm US response. President Reagan also did not wish for the US military to be fighting in a war with Iran, but he also had other priorities to think about, which would depend on how he would respond to the Iranian attack on Abu Musa. This included his reelection, and the public demanded that the Iranians pay for the deaths of the Marines and SEALs and Abu Musa. Reagan feared that the Democrats would use both the 1983 bombing in Lebanon and the crisis with Iran to attack him as weak on defense, accusations he made to Jimmy Carter four years earlier, and causing a confidence hit in his administration.

Reagan also was afraid of how the Soviets would respond, in that they would either support the Iranians against aggressive US military operations or would take the opportunity to cause chaos among the Iranian ranks and lay the foundations of a communist regime in Iran. That was not including the myriad of other possibilities that could happen from a firm US response to Abu Musa such as the Arab states reacting badly to a direct US presence in the Middle East, Israel wishing to become more involved with Iran, and a spillover into war-torn Afghanistan.

But therein laid the problem. What plagued the US regarding Iran was that the country never before dealt with a regime claiming to be an Islamic revolutionary government. It had analyzed nations based on how aligned they were or would be towards communism, which unfortunately caused a myopic view on nations who only courted communism for pragmatic reason and those who did not seem to be defined by the binary politics of the Cold War.

In the end, Reagan decided to not show impotency during this crisis and had the Navy and Air Force give him options on how to cripple Iran. He was also assured that the Soviets would not really intervene in Iran given their focus in Afghanistan, but the possibility of them arming the Iranians remained high. Weinberger, realizing that there was no talking the president out of responding to Iran, switched to controlling the response. Believing that the Iranian regime was not negotiable and that an escalation of the crisis would only buttress the regime in the eyes of the Iranian people, Weinberger recommended covert action and using the Saudis to conduct most of the dirty work. Reagan liked Weinberger’s suggestion, but balancing that out with domestic concerns, he compromised: the US Navy would conduct strikes against all of Iran’s major facilities along the coast of the Persian Gulf while the Saudis would conduct raids along Iran’s coastlines. The latter was easier said than done, since the Saudis were not experienced in that type of raiding and would require specialized training. The CIA and the Pentagon would have to work together in sufficiently equipping and training the Saudis, which did not always produce the desired results. Nevertheless, Weinberger was appeased and the operation went forward.

In probably the largest air operation conducted by the Navy since Vietnam, scores of A-6s, A-7s, and F-18s took off from their respective aircraft carriers, covered by F-14s, to drop bombs on Iranian naval sites such as Bandar Abbas, Bushehr, Chah Bahar, and Bandar Shapur. Hundreds of Iranian personnel were killed while only one A-6 was shot down, with both the pilot and the navigator ejecting over the Persian Gulf and rescued by a US Navy helicopter.

Select groups of Saudis were sent to the United States to be trained in unconventional warfare and direct action, supervised by a mixture of Green Beret, Navy SEAL, and CIA instructors. They were also paired with Iranian exiles who had intimate knowledge of Iran’s coasts. Despite obstacles such as the Saudis not being in good physical condition at the beginning and cultural conflicts between the Iranians and Saudis, they eventually performed well under the training and conducted their first operation, which was a raid against Qeshm. It was a success, allowing the Saudis to continue to conduct such raids along the coasts alongside US “advisors.”

Khomeini was enraged over the US bombing and therefore decided to have the Revolutionary Guards unleash their Silkworm missiles in retaliation. He also commanded that any commando captured along the coastlines was to be executed without trial, and devoted more resources to hurting the Saudis. This was to be of great benefit to Iraq, with Saddam Hussein pleased at how things were turning between Iran and Saudi Arabia. He flew into Riyadh and met with King Fahd to discuss more direct involvement of the kingdom against Iran. The king greeted Saddam Hussein warmly and offered the possibility of troops, but he did not make concrete promises yet.

Soon enough, the Iranian response to the US bombing backfired. One of the Silkworm missiles struck the USS Stark, which had been there to protect Saudi shipping. Sixty US sailors were killed and the USS Stark was heavily damaged, requiring another vessel to tow it to a friendly port. The Iranians claimed bad targeting, but this led to exactly what the Iranians and even Reagan feared, an escalation in the Persian Gulf. Utilizing sources that the CIA still possessed in Iran, the Navy struck at the major Silkworm batteries with bombers, but they were then met with a fierce Iranian response from the air. For the first time, Iranian and US F-14s fought against one another, their Phoenixes attempting to take the other out. But the Iranians were outnumbered and also outmatched in terms of ability, especially since they could not afford any loss of their valuable Tomcats. In the ensuing dogfight over Bandar Shapur, the US Navy’s F-14s shot down seven Iranian Tomcats and ensured that the bombers reached their targets.

Meanwhile, the US continued to supply the Saudis with military hardware like the F-15 and then the FB-111H. Different from the FB-111A, the H model’s stretched fuselage accommodated new engines, additional fuel capacity, and an enlarged weapons bay, resulting in reconfigured landing gear and entirely different air intakes, which would be fixed rather than the variable-geometry design. It was powered by General Electric F101 turbofans, the same engines used in the original B-1As, each of which was rated at 30,000 pounds of thrust at full afterburner. Performance-wise, the FB-111H would reach Mach 1.6 above 36,000 feet, a cruise speed of Mach 0.75, and a low-altitude penetration speed of Mach 0.85 flying at 200 feet. This would be slower than the FB-111A, which could hit Mach 2.2, but the tradeoff was judged acceptable to boost range and weapons carriage. The enlarged fuselage would add another 104 inches in length, making the aircraft 88 feet 2.5 inches long compared to the FB-111A’s 73 feet 6 inches. Weights were to be increased proportionally, including an empty weight of 51,832 pounds and a maximum inflight weight of 155,000 pounds. The same figures for the FB-111A were 116,115 pounds and 122,900 pounds, respectively. To allow truly strategic range, internal fuel would have to be doubled, growing to 64,000 pounds. It was in terms of range that the FB-111H would have offered a real advance over the FB-111A. While its predecessor could fly 5,300 nautical miles, the FB-111H would have increased this figure by 44 percent, for a range of 7,632 nautical miles. In both cases, this envisaged a mission profile that included the aid of aerial refueling, a 1,200-nautical-mile high-speed dash at low level, and carriage of two internal nuclear weapons. What is more, the FB-111H would be able to match the range of the FB-111A when carrying three times the payload.

While the FB-111H did not make it through Congress in the ‘70s, circumstances had changed positively for the aircraft. The Saudis needed a bomber to strike deep into Iran, which would also be cheaper than the B-1. As a result, General Dynamics worked hard to have Congress authorize the production of the aircraft, which also aroused the interest of the Air Force and the Australians. The first batch of FB-111Hs would not arrive until a year later, but it would make a huge impact on how the Saudis would be able to conduct operations against Iran. The first such operation involving the new FB-111Hs would see them strike Tehran, causing chaos throughout the country.

Reagan was able to win reelection in the 1984 election, with his response to the crisis with Iran contributing to his victory. By spring of 1985, the effort against the Iranians was starting to bear fruit, as the Saudis were conducting successful raids along the coasts and the US Navy began to scale back on its bombing while allowing the Saudis to take over. Eventually, King Fahd agreed to send troops to support Saddam Hussein, sending 50,000 Saudi troops to support the Iraqis. While small when compared to what the Iraqis and the Iranians were throwing at each other, it was a powerful symbol, as it communicated that the rest of the Arab world stood behind Iraq.

On the Iranian home front, the population had grown tired of the war, with pessimism turning into fear once the Saudis and the Americans started to enjoy success against them. Protests grew to innumerable numbers, with the Revolutionary Guards and police firing on the protestors and the army suffered from desertion and draft dodging. The Iranian air force also suffered, as their number of Tomcats dwindled to just under ten and not even half that number was able to fly due to a lack of spare parts. Meanwhile, the regular military and the Revolutionary Guards had poisonous feelings towards each other, with one blaming the other for how the war was going badly for Iran, especially since the Americans were directly involved behind Saudi Arabia.

It was at around this time that certain elements of the Islamic Republic began to maneuver against Khomeini. Military officers who were sympathetic to the Americans, moderates in the government who were against the radicalization that took place under Khomeini, and holdovers from the days of the shah who managed to survive coalesced into a legitimate underground movement, their one goal being to overthrow the radicals and end the war. Such figures included Iranian naval captain Touradj Riahi, SAVAMA director General Hossein Fardoust, and Grand Ayatollahs Mohammad Kazem Shariatmadari, and Mohammad-Taher Shubayr al-Khaqani. Even General Ali Sayad Shirazi, who had opposed the shah when he was a young officer, grew fed up with the Revolutionary Guards’ arrogance and started to plot against the regime.


Being bombed by saudis and americans would cause More support for Khomeini, just like Iraq war make Islamic republic more stable. In this scenario, Khomeini rally the flag would be even more effectives as US directly attack Iranian soil.
Chapter Three: The Tide Turns
The Saudis sending their troops to support Saddam Hussein prompted the other Arab nations in sending their troops in support. Egypt, Jordan, and Syria contributed soldiers while the Gulf States increased their financial subsidies to the Iraqis. The US also increased their military presence in the Persian Gulf, but continued to allow the Saudis to take the lead in bombing missions. One hundred thousand soldiers would arrive in Iraq by autumn 1985, with the goal being to provide Saddam Hussein political support among the Arab world.

Khomeini attempted to offset this change of circumstances by stirring up nationalistic feelings among the populace, stating that the Arabs were coming for Persia just like during the days of the Arab conquest of the Sassanids. But that didn’t work as planned, as Iranian soldiers were dying by the thousands and they were now being pummeled by land and from the air. Moreover, in a massive offensive against Iranian positions, the Iraqis and their Arab allies pushed the Iranians out of Iraq and started to threaten Khuzestan Province again. This would lead towards further tensions between the Revolutionary Guards and the regular military.

Mohsen Rezaee, commander of the Revolutionary Guards, was invited to a special meeting with Khomeini and senior members of the government. The other person who was invited was General Shirazi, with both loathing each other. Rezaee sought to utilize the Revolutionary Guards as part of a new approach to warfare, taking a page out of Mao’s idea of a “people’s war.” Shirazi, who was trained by the Americans, sought to fight a conventional war with conventional tactics with the Iraqis, which caused a conflict of ideas between both Shirazi and Rezaee. When things turned for the worst regarding the crisis with the Saudis and then with the US, Rezaee took the opportunity to blame the conventional military officers for the country’s woes, even accusing Shirazi of being an American sympathizer. This was all part of the goal of replacing the Iranian military and having the Revolutionary Guards have the central role over all of Iran’s defenses. Khomeini supported Rezaee and joined in on criticizing the regular military for their failures against the Iraqis, the Saudis, and the Americans. Unfortunately, this would only contribute to the regular military being alienated from the regime, which Khomeini and his supporters failed to resolve after the Nojeh coup plot.

In the meeting, Rezaee proceeded to continue his criticisms of Shirazi and the others in the regular military, with Khomeini supporting his ideological ally. Shirazi loudly protested, citing the amount of Iranian blood that was spilled on his watch and that it was the Revolutionary Guards themselves who were responsible for escalating the crisis with the Saudis and the US. Rezaee, as well as the ideologues in attendance, would hear none of it and even called Shirazi “a coward and an American whore.” That was one insult too many from Rezaee, and Shirazi had long exhausted his patience with him and the others who dared to impugn his honor. He angrily excused himself from the meeting, with Khomeini bidding him leave and allowing the meeting to continue. What they discussed next would be left to speculation, for it would be cut short by the heat and shockwave of plastic explosive.

Prior to the meeting, Fardoust and his subordinates in the SAVAMA obtained Khomeini’s schedule and learned of where it would take place. They also became aware of key attendees of Khomeini’s regime such as Rezaee, and saw an opportunity. Utilizing Captain Riahi’s American contacts, Fardoust’s subordinates obtained a hundred pounds of C-4 plastic explosive and placed it within the walls of the meeting place. But before they could proceed, Fardoust knew that killing Khomeini would not achieve the desired result unless he had the support of Khomeini’s opposition. Evading surveillance from the Revolutionary Guards, Fardoust was able to arrange a meeting between himself, General Shirazi, Grand Ayatollahs Shariatmadari and al-Khaqani, and a few other military officers and clerics who were opposed to Khomeini’s ideologues. They all agreed that Khomeini had to go and that the ideologues had to be purged from the government, but they were all divided on the aftermath. The meeting went into the early hours of morning, with them agreeing on a temporary committee to be staffed by both military officers and clerics and they would build their base of support by coming to terms with Iraq.

Once Shirazi left the building, SAVAMA agents detonated the C-4, killing Khomeini, Rezaee, and the other ideologues in attendance. Simultaneously, the army, air force, and SAVAMA moved against the Revolutionary Guards all over the country, even those at the front. Revolutionary Guard officers who surrendered peacefully were merely taken into prison, while those who resisted were shot on sight. Within a day, the Revolutionary Guards were dissolved and the remnants of Khomeini’s ideologue faction was removed from power.

Fardoust, Riahi, Shirazi, Shariatmadari, and al-Khaqani announced that Khomeini had been assassinated by rogue members of the Revolutionary Guards, thus legitimizing their demise in the eyes of the Iranian populace. They established the Stability Committee, with the purpose being to stabilize the country and seek peace with Iraq. Given that the war by this point had resulted in a stalemate and that the economies of both Iraq and Iran were tumbling downwards, they surmised that Saddam Hussein would be open to peace talks. Using intermediaries in Turkey, they spoke with the Iraqis, who proved their thoughts correct. While Saddam Hussein was not satisfied with how the war was going as well, he felt that he achieved his political objectives, as he was now regarded as a leader in the Arab world.

At the same time, the Stability Committee reached out to the US through their representatives in Turkey regarding Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Air Force were beating the Iranians badly, and the roars of the FB-111H’s engines echoed through Iran’s skies. This was not including the success the Saudi commandos had against Iran’s coastlines, which would have only been possible with US training. In this, the Committee knew that they were walking a risky line, since the whole purpose of the Iranian Revolution was to move against perceived American intervention in Iran’s affairs. However, the Committee also looked to Iran’s postwar economic and geopolitical future, both of which looked bleak if the country remained isolated.

Weinberger was very pleased at how events turned out in Iran and recommended to Reagan to begin official talks. Schultz, although also happy at the turn of events, saw the blood of the Marines in Beirut on Iran’s hands and demanded an apology not just for that but also for the illegal seizure of the US Embassy in Tehran. Only afterwards would the committee get what they needed: a return of Iranian assets in the US and reestablishment of relations with America. Reagan had to balance out both, since he did acknowledge that the American population wanted closure after how violently the Iranians broke off relations but also understood that Iran returning to the US fold would be beneficial to them.

To assist them, Schultz reached out to the Israelis, who had been providing covert assistance to the Iranian military since the war with Iraq began. Despite all the speeches made by Khomeini and his supports and the denunciation of Israel at Friday prayers, there were never less than around one hundred Israeli advisers and technicians in Iran at any time throughout the war, living in a carefully guarded and secluded camp just north of Tehran. Israel sold weapons to Iran, which included M-40 antitank, spare parts for tank and aircraft engines, and TOW missiles. Israel provided active military support against Iraq by destroying the Osirak nuclear reactor near Baghdad, which the Iranians themselves had previously targeted. Israeli sales also included spare parts for the F-4 Phantoms and even a few of their F-14s, the latter being not enough. The Israelis were very happy with coordinating the talks with Iran, since that would also damage Khomeini-backed organizations like Hezbollah.

The committee initially reacted to Schultz’s demands negatively, as that was more than what they were prepared to give. They also did not sympathize with the embassy seizure, but some portions of the populace did and they had to be careful with how they approached it. However, Fardoust and Shirazi worked around that by rightfully blaming the ideologues for what happened, which they blamed for all the other problems that the country was facing. They then said that Khomeini was “coerced into supporting the embassy seizure by bad counsel” and thus shifting blame even further away. Consequently, they approached the US representatives in Turkey with that narrative, which would spare the committee from saying something that would damage their standing among the Iranian population. Schultz realized he would not get anything better and begrudgingly supported the ongoing talks with the Iranians. As a goodwill gesture, Reagan returned $100 million in seized Iranian assets, which the committee needed to show to the population.

A time and place was then chosen for further talks, while a ceasefire was unofficially declared along the front.
Chapter Four: Is it the end?
In the summer of 1986, Iranian and Iraqi representatives met at Ankara, Turkey to discuss the final terms of peace between their nations. Iraq had to admit that it did invade Iran unprovoked, but the Iraqis also had cause since the Iranian Revolution threatened their internal security. No territorial changes were to take place, with both Iraq and Iran agreeing to pay compensation to each other and to release any POWs. Also involved in the peace conference were members of the Arab League, with the Saudis leading them, as all were aligned behind Saddam Hussein during the conflict. What the Arab League states feared the most was that the Iranian Revolution would threaten the power of those in charge, as they saw the shah as equivalent to those like King Fahd. Iran exporting radicalism such as those in Hezbollah only confirmed their worst fears, thus explaining why they would support the Iraqis against Iran. So, beyond the material terms of peace, the Iranian Stability Committee had to make assurances that they would not inspire their respective populations to rise up against the various monarchies in the Middle East.

The Stability Committee continued to hunt down Revolutionary Guard members and ideologues who had managed to escape the purge, paying onto them what they brought onto those who supported the shah and had failed to escape. Once again, the streets were littered with men dangling from ropes and executions of the committee’s opponents. General Shirazi, now the undisputed leader of the Iranian military, worked to reform the military and bring it back up to strength. Revolutionary Guard officers who showed bravery and skill during the war with Iraq were offered commissions in the Iranian military, with the holdouts receiving nothing and death. Shirazi set up additional committees to study and analyze why Iran suffered badly at the hands of the Iraqis and the Saudis. Meanwhile, Shariatmadari became the leading cleric in Iran, removing those mullahs who had political aspirations and reemphasizing quietism among the religiously devout. However, even he had to realize that Khomeini opened Pandora’s Box and so worked to control those who had the ear of the population.

The Stability Committee was in essence a junta between the military and the clerics. They were not overly sympathetic to democracy, but they also opposed a return of the Pahlavis to Iran. To appease the West, they promised elections, but they also feared what the elections would bring. They also had to control the aspirations of the Kurds, who had started an uprising during the war. In order to achieve stability, the committee reached out to the National Front, which had been illegalized by the Islamic Republic for their opposition activities. They didn’t share their enthusiasm for democracy, but the National Front represented the only other faction that would allow the Committee to really re-stabilize the country. By this time, the National Front was led by Nasser Farbod, who previously served as the commander of the Islamic Republic of Iran Army before resigning. Given his activism during the days of the shah, he was allowed to have a position in the new government.

Among the ones who would end up among the most active and powerful in the new government were Jalil Zandi and Yadollah Sharifirad. Both of them cut their teeth in the war with Iraq, becoming fighter aces. Zandi flew the F-14 and the Sharifirad flew the F-5. Both of them were colonels by the time the ceasefire was declared, but given their status as war heroes, the committee promoted them to general and gave them key positions in the government, particularly in the defense ministry. It also helped that both suffered at the hands of the Islamic Republic, Zandi for being “politically unreliable” and Sharifirad as an American sympathizer, so they had no reason to be operating against the committee.

Finally, in July 1986, Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia signed the Ankara Accords, which brought about peace between the two nations. Saddam Hussein was seen as a hero to the Arab world, while the Iranian Stability Committee knew they had much work to do when it came to rebuilding Iran and reestablish prosperity. In September of 1986, the first publicized meeting between US and Iranian officials took place, which only happened after the US agreed to pay for the damages suffered by the Iranian navy during the bombing attacks as well as return more Iranian assets. It involved Vice President Bush and General Fardoust, who was now Prime Minister of Iran. By December 1986, a US Embassy was reopened in Tehran, albeit in a different part of the city, with the opening ceremony attended by Shariatmadari and General Shirazi.

General Shirazi reopened negotiations with the Argentinians to purchase the Tanque Argentino Mediano, or TAM, from Argentina, which stalled when the Saudis interfered. This was part of a bid to reequip the Iranian military by applying lessons from the war with Iraq. This time, the Argentinians pulled through, with two hundred such tanks being delivered. However, the tank was no match for the T-72s used by the Iraqis, which the Iranian military saw as their main foe. The Iranian military, now having access to spare parts thanks to the reestablishment of the relations with the US, worked hard to obtain more equipment from the States, which was not easy given that the US still held them at arm’s distance.

It was here that the Israelis would help the Iranians. Israeli defense contractors persuaded Grumman to sell them parts for the F-14s and Phoenixes, which the Iranians needed to get their Tomcat numbers back up. Grumman saw an opportunity to increase interest in the Tomcat for foreign buyers and thus keep one of their most iconic aircraft in the air, so they lobbied the Pentagon hard to get the Iranian F-14s flying again. The result was the Iranian air force getting all its Tomcats operational again, and purchasing a hundred more from the US. This allowed Grumman to successfully pitch the Tomcat to other nations like Japan, West Germany, and the UK. The Iranian air force also received the F-18s and the F-16s that were cancelled with the start of the Revolution, The Iranians also persuaded Lockheed to produce the AH-56 Cheyenne helicopter for their use, which naturally got the attention of the US military and increased their attention in it alongside the AH-64 Apache. To offset the Saudis, the Iranians also purchased the FB-111Hs and built an extensive air defense system.

In other areas, the Iranians also established shipyards to build missile destroyers and cruisers, the goal being to provide employment and also establish a domestic arms industry that could match that of the West. Not only that, the Iranians also tentatively purchased the Sea Harrier, knowing the vulnerability of their coasts due to the Saudi raids and also give the Iranian navy a much needed boost in prestige. In this regard, they invited South Korean companies to assist them, as the South Koreans had heavily invested in Iran prior to the Revolution. South Korean naval commandos were also invited to train the Iranians, their experience infiltrating and countering the North Koreans to be applicable against the Saudis.

Iran also sought foreign investment and opened up its oil for competitive bidding. Japanese, Korean, and Indian businessmen were welcomed, while Iran was careful in allowing US firms into the country. Iran also successfully petitioned to have the 1992 Summer Olympics take place in Tehran, to regain lost international prestige. This made Iran be the first nation in the Middle East to host the Olympics.

During the Persian New Year in 1987, the Stability Committee inaugurated the Commonwealth of Iran, with Fardoust becoming Chancellor of Iran. SAVAMA adopted the innocuous name “Public Safety Agency,” which still retained the notorious brutality from the days of the Islamic Republic. Shirazi was retained as commander of the Iranian military, with the other senior members of the previous Stability Committee retaining their power and influence. But underneath the economic redevelopment of Iran and the strengthening of Iran’s military power lay tensions, tensions that would threaten Iran back into civil strife.

While those who supported Khomeini were ousted, Khomeini’s memory was still cherished among those who saw him as a hero. Shariatmadari and the clerics of the quietist tradition were able to keep the ayatollahs in line, but dissatisfaction still existed. Veterans of the war with Iraq were not pleased at how the war ended, seeing it as the country bowing to foreign powers. And there were those who were appalled at Saddam Hussein’s oppression of the Shiites in Iraq, with the leading cleric there, Grand Ayatollah Abu al-Qasim al-Khoei, appealing to Iran for help. And yet despite the new commonwealth attempting to rebuild the country, many saw it as an artificial republic, ruled by a select few and not representative of the wishes of the populace. It would take another event to cause the strife to be brought back into the limelight, with the only question being time.
Chapter Five: Elsewhere in the world
Within the Soviet Union, there was tension between the ideologues and those who wanted to reform the country in order to remain competitive with the West. After the death of Brezhnev, the issue that plagued the Soviet leadership was the succession. Soviet leadership was divided on how it could keep up pace with the West, while also maintaining their own grip on power. Moscow was hardly a place of safety, as like in the days of the tsars, everyone sought to overtake each other and were willing to use violence to achieve their ends.

Yuri Andropov and the ideologues wanted to continue the course of the ideological struggle of the Cold War, and thus continuing the binary politics. But they were opposed by those such as Volodymyr Shcherbytsky, Nikolai Shchelokov, Georgy Korniyenko, and Dangatar Kopekov. The former two presided over corrupt power bases, which was tolerated by Brezhnev, while Korniyenko was one of few to oppose the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. For Kopekov, he was among the more transactional-minded individuals within the KGB. And when it came to those engaged in corruption, they also understood that the system had to be maintained or otherwise improved in order to keep the benefits flowing to them.

Brezhnev appeared before a Central Committee plenum one last time to hand over to Shcherbytsky the position of General Secretary, which not even Andropov could fight without causing strife among the Soviet political machinery. He moved quickly against Andropov and the ideologues, removing Andropov as head of the KGB and moving those such as Shchelokov into key positions such as Premier of the Soviet Union. Korniyenko was appointed as Soviet Foreign Minister after Gromyko was compelled to resign and Kopekov replaced Andropov as head of the KGB.

Among the first matters that Shcherbytsky had to deal with was how to withdraw from Afghanistan. Even though he was staunchly loyal to Brezhnev, he saw the invasion of Afghanistan as a waste of Soviet troops and resources and thus made plans to withdraw from the country. However, the question was how to do so in a way that would save face for the Soviet Union. While in office, the Saudi-Iranian crisis broke out, which the Politburo watched closely after the US started to bomb Iranian naval targets. Some in the KGB wanted to approach the Iranians and offer them support against the US, but Kopekov shot them down and the Politburo decided to do nothing since their hands were tied in Afghanistan.

The Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan had to become self-sufficient, as the only reason why the mujahedeen were even there was because of the presence of Soviet soldiers. In this regard, the Soviets decided to scale back on combat operations and instead cultivate Afghan warlords who would be autonomous but also allied to the communist government in Kabul. Soviet weaponry and vehicles were sold to the Afghans, with the Soviet withdrawal from the country taking place in stages. The Soviets also had geologists explore Afghanistan’s mineral resources, which were considerable, and they worked to get an economy up and running. Soviet contracts to mine Afghanistan’s resources, albeit under military protection, were given to many of Shcherbytsky’s cronies, with the profits lining their pockets. It was in Afghanistan that the Soviet Union under Shcherbytsky began to show their true priorities: prosperity over ideology.

By 1987, the Soviet presence in Afghanistan had been largely scaled back, with the warlords either allied to the communist government in Kabul or bribed with promises of development and thus money into their pockets. This confused the CIA, who were still largely stuck in the binary politics of the Cold War, but Reagan was not going to look at the gift horse in the mouth and used the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan to pursue a scaling down of missiles in Europe. In the summit of 1987, Reagan and Shcherbytsky signed an accord which saw all intermediate-ranged missiles withdrawn from Europe. Reagan also used the increasingly realpolitik but corrupt nature of the Soviet government to his advantage, appealing to their self-interest to achieve their mutual goals.

Unsurprisingly, the changed nature of the Soviet regime caused tensions among the ideologues in the rest of the Warsaw Pact. This was most clear in East Germany, where Shcherbytsky ran afoul with Erich Honecker and Erich Mielke over him not doing much about Solidarity in Poland. Knowing that both of them would interfere with his plans to reach an accord with the Americans, Kopekov offered to use the KGB to create a situation where both Honecker and Mielke would be ousted. That would prove to be unnecessary, as there were others within East Germany who did not like the ideologue line of their superiors. Among them was Gerhard Schürer and Markus Wolf. The former was very much for economic reform while the latter, known to the West as a master spymaster, had grown tired of Mielke’s arrogance and thus wanted him out. What happened next is still a mystery, but what is acknowledged is that Mielke feared Honecker would eventually bow to the Soviets and launched a coup, which saw Honecker killed. Wolf and Schurer, with support from Soviet forces in East Germany, suppressed the coup and had Mielke executed for high treason. Schurer took over as head of the SED, while Markus Wolf consolidated his position as head of the Stasi. This put the most visible nation of the Warsaw Pact besides the Soviet Union under much-needed management.

The Soviet economy retooled itself to focus away from military hardware to one that could compete with the West. This meant an emphasis on computer manufacturing and allowing OGAS to be developed and come online. Computing power increased exponentially across the Soviet Union, while the Soviets began to export computer systems to its allies and to the Third World. This led to improvements in Soviet military hardware, which those like Marshal Ogarkov liked since he acknowledged that the West enjoyed technological superiority over them. The Soviets also sought help from the Japanese, since they were also technologically advanced but also approachable enough. In exchange for Japanese help to the Soviets’ burgeoning computer industry, the Japanese were given contracts to develop the Soviet Far East, which would also benefit Shcherbytsky and his cronies.

In the 1988 elections in the US, the Democratic National Convention put forward Nebraska Governor Bob Kerrey as their candidate. Analyzing Reagan’s response to the crisis with Iran and also with the easing of tensions with the Soviet Union, the Democratic upper leadership needed a candidate who was seen as a war hero, a riser from humble origins, and also committed to not much government intrusion. Kerrey fit all of that, as he was a Navy SEAL who won the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War, presided over two successful terms as Governor of Nebraska, and had become successful as a local businessman before entering politics. In order to round out his campaign, Kerrey selected Jesse Jackson as his running mate, which would allow the Democrats a shield and potentially accuse the Republicans of racism if they attempted to unduly attack Jackson. In the general elections, Kerrey showed his respect to Bush during the debates but stated that Bush was not what the country needed. Rumors spread about Jesse Jackson’s extramarital affairs, but the Democrats used the race card to deflect them. During the 1988 elections, Kerrey and Jackson won with nearly three hundred electoral votes to Bush’s two hundred and thirty-five.

Kerrey was content on allowing Jackson oversee the administration’s response to domestic issues, where he focused on healthcare and helping working class families in the urban areas, while Kerrey focused on the foreign policy issues of the day. He sought to continue the strengthening of US relations with Iran, establish a comprehensive plan for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and perhaps become involved in mediating between the factions of South Africa. But in his first year in office, Kerrey would face his most daunting foreign policy challenge in his administration: the ongoing tensions between the Soviet Union and China turning hot.
Chapter Six: Sino-Soviet tensions
Mao Zedong died in 1976 and after the ousting of the Gang of Four, China seemed to enter a new phase after the chaos of the Cultural Revolution. However, Deng Xiaoping, one of the more promising reformers in the CCP, died under suspicious circumstances and thus leaving control of the country in the hands of those who still sympathized with Mao’s ideas and also recognized the need for moderate reforms.

Hua Guofeng emerged as the new Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, but his power could not be secured without the PLA and thus he was merely treated as a figurehead. Instead, real power was rested in the hands of eight senior individuals in the Party: Wang Dongxing, Xu Xiangqian, Yu Qiuli, Li Xiannan, Yang Shangkun, Chen Xilian, Wu De, and Ji Dengkui. Wang was Minister of Public Security, Xu was one of the Ten Marshals, Yu headed the petroleum industry, Li and Chen were both Vice Premiers, Yang was released as part of a general rehabilitation and assumed a key role in the Politburo, and both Wu and Ji were among Mao’s staunchest supporters. They all understood the need for change due to the destruction unleashed by the Cultural Revolution, but they also were against any sort of sweeping reforms which could be interpreted as betraying Mao’s legacy. Moreover, they wanted to continue the Party’s total control over all areas of economic life, which they proceeded with haste.

Yu Qiuli, who became prominent in the years after Mao, was a member of what inner circles in Beijing referred to as the "petroleum faction", a group of senior officials who advocated using the profits from petroleum exports to finance high technology imports from the West and Japan. These officials were essentially Stalinists in their economic thinking, favoring central planning and heavy industry, something that Hua also supported but found himself unable to influence the course of events. Li and Yang both supported economic reform, but they also were against any changes to the political system. Marshal Xu was the most hawkish when it came to the Soviet Union, correctly predicting the Soviet military would win a conflict with China and pushed for reforms to make the PLA equipped for a future war with Moscow. As for the others, they provided the needed legitimacy among the Maoists and reformists in the Party in order to hold power.

The economic policies undertaken by the new leadership of China could be accurately in the following words: Soviet style central planning with an emphasis on heavy industry. Initial economic growth is witnessed, but the more dramatic of the economists in China predict the same inefficiencies that came with Stalin’s policies, which included the growth of a “nomenklatura” class made up of Maoists and military officers who started to line their pockets, a lack of consumer goods, bread lines and stagnation. Still, China saw high production rates when it came to steel, petrochemicals, machinery, and arms among other areas. While the excesses of the Cultural Revolution were curtailed, Wang’s security forces merely adopted civilian clothing and expanded their surveillance of the Chinese population in all areas of the country’s social, economic, and political life. They courted Japanese, West German, French, and British firms to start production plants, but they also made sure to control them and obtain as much technical know-how from the West and Japan as possible.

On the military side, the Politburo spent lavishly on the PLA. Using Xu’s ideas, they sent experts to places like West Germany, the UK, Japan, and France to study military technology and tactics. Xu also sent a group to the Soviet Union to observe the changes of Soviet tactics and strategy with the advent of OGAS and Ogarkov’s overseeing a technological revolution in the Soviet military. To test his ideas, the Politburo saw an opportunity when Vietnam invaded Cambodia in 1979, prompting the Sino-Vietnamese War. The PLA did not perform well against the Vietnamese and suffered heavy casualties, with Xu putting the blame on “incompetent subordinates.” But while the Politburo saw the value for utilizing foreign technologies, they still clung to the idea of a “people’s war,” and therefore allowed Xu to conduct his policies only up to a certain point. Nevertheless, the PLA emerged from the chaos of the Cultural Revolution with the largest army in the world. They were able to copy Soviet designs and also reverse-engineered designs stolen from the West like the British Challenger and German Leopard tanks, and the French Dassault Mirage 4000 prototype. Essentially, all industrial activities were meant to strengthen the military, which was the goal that Stalin pursued prior to the purges that took place before the Eastern Front with the Nazis took place.

The Chinese leadership were also opposed to any rapprochement with the West. While they saw Mao inviting Nixon as a necessary measure to counter the Soviets in the aftermath of the 1969 skirmishes, they were afraid of another “century of humiliation” taking place and thus kept the US as far away as possible. They even encouraged and equipped those who were opposed to the US around the world in order to also undercut Soviet international activities, with the Silkworm missiles being supplied to the Iranians as part of that. The US expressed their feelings towards the Chinese for that as well as supplying weapons to the remnants of Hezbollah after Khomeini’s assassination among other actions, only for the Chinese to respond with, “What about you supporting the Japanese and your Korean puppets against us as well as those in Taipei?” Consequently, the US began to regret supporting the PRC over Taiwan and thus relations deteriorated.

With the change in Soviet leadership away from the ideologues, the Chinese started to engage in aggressive actions against them, calling the Soviet Politburo “a den of corruption, vice, and revisionist traitors” and equating them to the tsarists of old. This alarmed the Soviets, who were rightfully afraid of what the Chinese would do and especially since they viewed the 1858 Treaty of Aigun with Russia and the 1860 Convention of Peking with Russia, France and Britain as unequal treaties and therefore illegitimate. Coupled with increased Chinese military movements all along the border, the Soviets prepared themselves for a repeat of the Sino-Soviet skirmishes of 1969.

The US observed the situation closely and called on both sides to not engage in fighting, fearing that a potential war between them would turn nuclear. But with the stagnation coming to a head in China and the need to justify the military expansion and acquisitions that took place since 1976, the Chinese Politburo decide to increase its involvement in the Kashmir disputes between Pakistan and India, siding with the former due to its close political and economic ties. They sold weapons and gave money to the Pakistanis, which didn’t go unnoticed by the Indians. The Chinese also started to concentrate troops in Manchuria and in Inner Mongolia, no doubt to put pressure on the Mongolians to leave the Soviet sphere.

The Mongolians naturally got nervous and asked for an increased Soviet military presence in the country. The Soviets responded by sending three divisions, all of them fresh from Afghanistan. The Chinese countered by sending four divisions, with the bulk of their forces on both sides occupying opposing ends of the Buir Lake. But it would be in the Atlay Mountains where things came to a head. A Chinese recon unit advanced too far into a valley in the mountain range, their leader making a navigational mistake. After seeing his error, they attempted to move quickly out of there, but they were caught by a Soviet patrol. Not willing to be captured, they opened fire on the patrol, killing all of them. However, one of the Soviet soldiers was able to radio for help, causing two Hind gunships to speed towards where the firefight took place to investigate. Soon enough, they found the recon unit and mowed down most of them, with one managing to make it back across the border. The Chinese leadership called this an act of Soviet aggression and called for retaliation, while the Soviets saw it as a violation of the border and thus assembled accordingly.

Under the cover of night, Soviet frogmen moved across the Buir Lake to conduct sabotage and gather intelligence against the PLA. But while they succeeded in planting explosives, they were discovered by a Chinese patrol boat and killed. The local PLA commander believed it to be the Soviets searching for targets on the other side of the Buir Lake and thus obtained permission from his superior to launch a retaliatory strike. Chinese-made missiles struck at the Soviet and Mongolian positions, causing hundreds of casualties. The Soviets decried this as an act of aggression, setting the stage for the clash.
IDK how the Soviets will react, but will they invoke the Warsaw Pact alliance and ask for assistance from them even as "volunteers"? Plus how will Albania support China?
IDK how the Soviets will react, but will they invoke the Warsaw Pact alliance and ask for assistance from them even as "volunteers"? Plus how will Albania support China?
It'll become a very expansive war, but one that the Soviets will try to control since they don't want to undermine the progress made with the US should things get drastic