Saddam ordered renewed efforts to retake the Fao Peninsular in April 1986 when the landscape had begun to dry out, but the army still could not dislodge the Iranian troops. There were attacks on Iranian refineries at Tehran and Isfahan that spring which interrupted two-thirds of Iranian output and gave Saddam a propaganda victory. However, what the Iraqis wanted was a decisive victory in the land war. On 17 May 1986, four Iraqi divisions made an assault on the central front and took Mehran, a town in Iran. The Iranian garrison, numbering no more than 5,000, fought as best they could but suffered heavy casualties. The achievement was exaggerated for the purposes of propaganda. Saddam announced the attack represented a new strategy of ‘dynamic defence’ and a ‘daring expression of the Iraqi leadership’s political decision to force the Iranian leaders to yield, [thus] preparing the way for peace’.1 The Iranian leaders appeared to be in no mood to negotiate after the loss of Mehran. Instead, the old suspicions about the army resurfaced and the Revolutionary Guards were the favoured focus of a new recruitment drive. Targets of an extra 300,000 recruits were established, to be distributed across all branches of the armed forces and the Basiji militia.
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