On paper, the strength and size of the two countries' armed forces appear roughly equivalent. Western military experts say however, that the figures belie the real fighting capabilities of the two armies.
For example, the figures of the size and strength of the Iranian Army mostly predate in 1979 revolution. The International Institute for Strategic Studies estimated in its 1979-80 edition of The Military Balance that 60 percent of Iran's Army had since deserted. It also said that the condition of much of Iran's military equipment, particularly ships, was "doubtful."
Military experts say that, although the Iranian Navy has missile-carrying destroyers, frigates and Hovercraft and is generally better equipped than Iraq's, it is unlikely to be able to play a major role in a war. Experts question, for example, the Iranian Navy's ability to lay down a blockade of Iraqi oil reserves.
The state of the two countries' officer corps also differs greatly, according to military experts. The Iranian corps has been decimated at the top by revolutionary purges and is generally held to be extremely low in morale with few outside advisers, if any, still assisting it. The Iraqi officer corps, on the other hand, is believed to be reasonably cohesive and to benefit from the aid of Soviet and East European advisers.
Iraq also probably has ready access to additional military supplies from the Soviet Union and other East Bloc suppliers. Iran, on the other hand, has severed its military relations with the United States, previously its main supplier, and has severely strained its ties with other traditional arms providers, such as Britain.
The ability of the Iraqi Army to wage a full-scale ware is, nonetheless, in question. Military experts doubt that it is capable of marshaling and maneuvering its forces on a scale sufficient to achieve an overall victory and would probably have to settle for limited gains. a