The Gulf Life Among the Smoldering Ruins

Iranian firepower turns Basra into an urban wasteland

The desperate battle for the once thriving port of Basra, Iraq's second largest city, has become the longest and most crucial campaign in the 6 1/2- year Iran-Iraq war. More than 20,000 Iranian troops and 10,000 Iraqis have died since Jan. 9, when Iranian Revolutionary Guards attacked Iraqi defenses along the Shatt al Arab, a broad waterway that forms the southern frontier of the warring nations, and advanced on Basra some ten miles away. The stakes in the fighting, which has settled into a ferocious standoff a few miles outside the city, could not be higher: an Iranian victory would demoralize...

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