The Iraqis used the lull in the Iranian attacks in 1984, thanks to the flooding of the western and southern portions of the marshes, to build up a stronger network of defences around Qurna and along the axis of the Basra–Baghdad road. To speed up command and control in the new vulnerable sector, a separate East Tigris chain of command was established, followed by the creation of a distinct Shatt al-Arab Command in May 1984. By the autumn, the system of defence was a formidable mass of entrenchments, barbed wire, concrete emplacements and killing zones. The defensive belts were organised in four layers in depth. A vast number of guns, situated on higher ground, had registered all their likely targets. To assault such a position, the Iranians would have to cross a lake 8 miles (13 km) long and 2–7 miles (3–11 km) wide, or risk fighting through waterlogged terrain to the south, which was dominated by a mass of concrete pill boxes. The Iraqi army was also much larger than before. The regular army was composed of 22 divisions, totalling 500,000 men; in other words, twice the size of the force that had gone to war in 1980. The Popular Army had also expanded to 560,000 and its tasks ranged from internal security to battlefield police in the rear areas of the front lines. Saddam wanted more of these men and authorised the forcible conscription of university students, and implemented man-hunts in residential areas. To equip these new forces, Iraq imported $7.7 billion worth of arms and ammunition that year alone.
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