Whatever Happened to the Iraqi Airforce (Iran-Iraq relations)
Someone asked of the 1990 pilot defections:
>1) Were these defections spontaneously carried out by Iraqi pilots,
>or were they part of an some kind of official Iraqi policy (perhaps
t>o maintain a force-in-being in a neutral country)?
Since Iraq had just fought a long and bloody war with Iran and still had lots of POWs, it is highly unlikely that either the Iraqi high command deliberately wanted to “park” the planes in Iran or that the Iranians would have been willing to be so used.
The most likely explanation is that the pilots decided to avoid being executed by superior American F-16s, and basically escaped to a place where Saddam could not order them up and where the Americans were unlikely to come after them. Some of them may have been ethnic Shi`ites (I don’t know), which might make a little more sense of why they went to Iran.
>2) What eventually happened to the planes? Were they repatriated or
>did Iran keep them?
As G. says, Iran kept them. However, since they don’t have training or spare parts for them, I presume this step was simply to deny them to Iraq.
>3) What light does this incident shed on Iraqi-Iranian relations with
>the United States?
Those relations have been very bad. It was reported in ash-Sharq al-Awsat recently that Saddam’s son was sent to Iran secretly to ask for Iranian military and civilian help in case of a war with the U.S. The report said that the clerics in Iran rudely rebuffed this approach, though they did allow that in a post-war situation where Iraq needed relief aid, Iran was always ready to help anyone on humanitarian grounds. (This last is an insult). The clerics have publicly condemned the idea of the US going to war with Iraq, but likely in private they don’t really mind it all that much.
If a post-Saddam Iraq were governed by democratic principles, the 55-60% majority of the Iraqi Shi`ites would give them power, and they have extensive ties with Iran. So Iran would be trading a hostile Sunni secularist regime as a neighbor for a Shi`ite dominated friend. Ayatollah Baqir Hakim and his son, who are Iraqi exiles in Iran, have openly discussed their continuing dialogue with the U.S. and the son says Rumsfeld assured him post-Saddam Iraq would be a democracy (which implies, Shi`ite-dominated).
The Shi`ite Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) has called for a post-Saddam Iraq to incorporate extensive elements of Shi`ite practice. It is among the administration’s primary allies in the planning for ousting the Baathists. I am not entirely sure why the war party in Washington thinks promoting Shi`ite revolution is such a great idea, since they have called Iran’s Shi`ite theocracy part of the axis of evil. Is it ‘anything but Saddam’? And there are lots of questions. Are the Kurds and Arab Sunnis (the latter the traditional elite) really going to put up with Shi`ite dominance without a fight? And, why wouldn’t a democratic Shi`ite Iraq want nukes, given that Israel, Russia, Pakistan and India all have them among the neighbors, and Iran is apparently trying hard? What will all this really change?