With falling support and political turmoil, the dictator and president of Iraq, Malik Hassan Zaid al-Asad, had his military leaders devise a strategy to invade Iran during the Iranian Revolution in 1979. The hope was that if Iran fell, no one would be able to question the validity of the al-Asad regime. A week before Iraqi troops prepared to cross the border, American troops invaded Iran to "stabilize" the country. With US troops in Iran, the invasion was called off. al-Asad decided that Syria would then be a better target. Before any real battle plans could be draw, al-Asad ordered the invasion. The invasion caught the Syrian military by surprise, but Iraqi supply lines quickly broke down during the Battle of Deir ez-Zor. Syria managed to recover from the shock and go on the offensive. After defeating the Iraqi Army at Deir ez-Zor (1980), they began to push them back to the border.
With Syrian troops close to the border, retired general, Akbar Khalif Rajaa al-Anfal, was forced back into service. He was given control of the Anbar Army District. When Syrian troops entered the town of Al-Qa'im in western Iraq, General al-Anfal led the Anbar Army against the Syrian. With his victory in Al-Qa'im (1980), General al-Anfal was promoted to the rank of marshal and given control of the Iraqi military.
Iraqi began to recover from its losses in Syria and began to rebuild and go on the offensive again. Marshal al-Anfal began the new offensive against the city of Al-Malikiyah (1981). Syrian resistance of the city was fierce. Iraq managed to take the city, but with greater losses then the defenders. The Iraq army then moved to take Al-Hasakah. Due to the unexpected delays in Al-Malikiyah, the Iraqis didn't arrive in Al-Hasakah until January, 1982. The brave sacrifices made in Al-Malikiyah gave the Syrians enough time to dig in and prepare for the Iraqi onslaught.
The Battle of Al-Hasakah began on January 27th, 1982. The Syrians had set up miles of barbwire, landmines, and trenches outside the city. With all the landmines blocking the entrance, Iraqi tanks were forced into narrow passes surrounded by anti-tank guns. Iraqi soldiers faced artillery and machine gun fire before they managed to reach the trenches. Iraqi losses were heavy, but they managed to push on into Al-Hasakah. Iraqi artillery bombarded the city for days before ground forces entered the city. The city's defenders managed to hold the invaders back until Marshal al-Anfal ordered a massive sarin gas strike on the city, killing all inside. With this, Al-Hasakah fell.
The chemical strike on Al-Hasakah caused outrage in the United Nations which began to impose sanctions on Iraq. Iraq managed to work around the sanctions thanks to al-Asad's political maneuvering. The Soviet Union was supplying Syria with arms, so al-Asad used this to gain support with the United States. The US, hoping to gain a new ally in the Middle East, overlooked Iraq's appalling use of chemical weapons. They began supplying Iraq with arms and munitions. al-Asad also used his new US suppliers to acquire arms from the Soviet Union. The Soviets, in the hopes of getting Iraq's support, supplied Iraq with Adskogo missiles. al-Asad basically caused the US and USSR to pour in arms in the hopes of gaining a new ally in such a strategically valuable area.
The Syrians began to rebuild again after the Battle of Al-Hasakah. The loss of Al-Hasakah caused a stir of nationalist sentiment. The Syrian army was filled with volunteers. Citizens donated funds to buy weapons for the military. Syria began buying ChO-80 "Black Eagle" tanks and Adskogo missiles from the Soviet Union. The tanks were slowly purchased and built up their armored forces. Volunteers from Tunisia, Libya, Sudan, and Somaliland began to fight for the Syrians.
The Iraqis began to prepare to strike deeper into Syria. Iraqi Adskogo strikes began hitting Damascus. Iraqi troops began to invade the Deir ez-Zor Governorate again. The led to the Second Battle of Deir ez-Zor (1982). Syrian forces managed to successfully defend against the Iraqis. The Syrian victory resulted in an Iraqi retreat. The Iraqi Army didn't leave Syria, instead choosing to dig in and hold onto the territories already occupied. The following two years were marked by static warfare and small skirmishes.
In 1985, Iraq began its offensive again, choosing to attack Mayadin. Following Adskogo strikes on the city, the Iraq Army entered the city. After a brutal five months of fighting, the Iraqis managed to take the city. Marshal al-Anfal decided to strike Deir ez-Zor. The Third Battle of Deir ez-Zor (1985) was a disaster for the Iraqis. While caught in a brutal battle against the Syrians, an Iraqi Adskogo missile's guidance system failed, landing in the center of a massive Iraqi troop movement moving to reinforce their comrades in Deir ez-Zor. The missile was carrying sarin gas, killing 99% of all those caught in the gas. Next, Iraqi supply lines broke down as Syrian tanks maneuvered around the city. The Iraqis were now trapped. To make things worse, Marshal al-Anfal was killed by the sarin gas accident. After a month of siege, the Iraqis were forced to surrender. With Iraq's most capable commander lost, al-Asad appointed General Ali Bashir Omar Muhmed.
With Iraq's most valuable commander lost, Syria launched Operation Khaybar (1986-1987). Led by General Khalif Ali Rawan Rajaa, the Syrians began taking back their lost territory. General Rajaa managed to successfully predict most of General Muhmed's moves. With the Syrian Army now closing in on Iraq, President al-Asad replaced General Muhmed with General Raied Battar Murad Rama in the hopes of preventing a Syrian invasion.
With Iraq driven out of Syrian territory, the Syrian military launched a massive offensive into Iraq's Ninawa Governorate. The Battle of Mosul (1988) began with the Syrians overrunning most of the city. Panicking, al-Asad ordered a massive chemical strike on Mosul. The gas killed most of the city's defenders, with most of the Syrians held back while their artillery bombarded the city. With the city's defenders dead, the Syrians took the city. The Syrians then moved south against the city of Tikrit (1989), north of Baghdad. The Iraqi defenders managed to stall the Syrians for a few months. By June 5th, 1989, the United Nations demanded that both nations withdraw their troops from each other. To prevent more border clashes, the UN deployed peacekeepers along the border and heavy sanctions against Iraq.