|Operation Forty Stars|
|Part of the Iran–Iraq War|
|Commanders and leaders|
|22 PMOI brigades||16,000 (PMOI claim)|
|Casualties and losses|
71 dead (PMOI claim)
240 wounded (PMOI claim)
Thousands dead (Iranian claim)
8,000 dead and wounded (PMOI claim)|
numerous 155mm and 130mm artillery pieces
numerous TOW ATGMs
numerous HAWK SAM batteries, and hundreds of small arms, mortars and machineguns captured
Operation Forty Stars (Persian: عملیات چلچراغ), also known as Operation Forty Lights, or Chelcheraq, was a military operation conducted by the PMOI and the Iraqi military at the closing stages of the Iran–Iraq War on 18 June 1988. The goal was to occupy the Iranian border city of Mehran to control its oil fields, as well as Kurdish villages in the region.
On 26 July 1988, Iranian forces launched Operation Mersad, and took back Mehran from PMOI forces.
The Iran–Iraq War had been ongoing for nearly 8 years. The Iraqis, rearmed by foreign allies, were retaking the initiative for the first time since the beginning of the war in April 1988. They launched several major offensives to liberate their own territory in Iraq, as well as launched renewed offensives into Iran and occupying dozens of towns, as a way to pressure Khomeini to accept a ceasefire. Prior to the battle, the Iraqi military deployed large amounts of armor and chemical weapons opposite to the Iranian border town of Mehran (in which several battles had been fought earlier, and now was in ruins).
On 18 June 1988, Operation Forty Stars (Persian: Chehel Cheragh) was one of those battles, planned in conjunction with the Iranian opposition group the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), which was actively collaborating with Iraq. While Iraq would support the attack with armor, artillery, air power, and chemical weapons, the bulk of the infantry operations would be carried out by the MEK forces.
In final years of war, Saddam decided to use the MEK group openly, as an auxiliary military force, against Iran. MEK group joined with the Iraqi army against Iran, and the first physical operation named, Operation Aftab (Shining Sun), near Shoush in southeast Iran on 28 March 1988. Massoud Rajavi was ordered an all-out invasion into Iran by MEK forces. Rajavi thought that his forces, numbering close to 7,000, would be met with a warm welcome by Iranians and he can occupying Tehran.
On the night of Saturday 18 June, Iraq launched the operation with the help of the MEK, which had been trained and armed in Iraq. By employing nerve gas and 530 ground-attack sorties with fighter aircraft and helicopter gunships, they crushed the Iranian forces in the area around Mehran, killing or wounding 3,500 and nearly destroying a Revolutionary Guard division. Finally, The Iranian town of Mehran was captured and occupied by the combined MEK and Iraqi forces. The Iraqi and MEK forces captured several heights around the city, and took several supply dumps intact, enough to equip and supply 2 divisions. Booty included many Toyota Land Cruisers.
The Iraqi army used 3,000 of MEK's members during the operation. The goal of occupying Mehran was, firstly achieving its oil fields, and secondly by using Persian language penetrate into Iranian territory and control Kurdish villages in the region. Three MEK battalions cooperated with Iraqi forces. The MEK forces were wore war clothes as Iranian army soldiers, which helped them to ambush Iranian defensive forces and killing them or capturing them. At the end, MEK occupied Mehran in the morning of the next day. According to the statement and a report by AP News agency, 8,000 Iranians were killed or wounded and more than 1,500 captured in the battle, and about 16,000 Iranians were involved. The Iraqi forces left the area after three days, and MEK forces remain there. Iranian defense forces killed all remained MEK forces inside Iran territory in Mersad operation. Finally, both side of war had officially accepted ceasefire on 20 July 1988.
The Iraqis later withdrew back across the border on the night of 21 June, leaving the MEK forces in occupation of the area. It was a severe defeat for the Iranian forces, who lost a large amount of intact equipment, along with many troops killed or captured. Iraq also launched a wide-scale strategic bombing campaign on Iranian population centres and economic targets, setting 10 oil installations and six crude oil production plants in Ahwaz on fire and two pumping stations at Bibi Hakemeh as well as the destruction of other facilities at Gach Saran. Moreover, the bombing campaign included strikes on power stations, natural gas plants and offshore oil facilities.