Near East and South Asia Review
The war with Iranproving more difficult andthan Iraq expected. Iraqi leaders appear to be redefining victoryore modest way to helpolitically defensibleo demonstratein contrast to Iran's refusal to negotiate, and toolitical settlement.
Iraq's efforts over the last few weeks to strengthen international support for its position have included
plore the possibilities for mediation. [
Minister Hammadi has been less categorical in his recent remarks on ending the fighting. He has denied that Iraq hast is just looking for its "basic rights": restoration oflost territory and freedom from outside interference.
A protracted war probably was not the original Iraqi plan. It seems to have been forced upon them by miscalculations about Iran's military capability and the willjjigness of anti-Khomeini forces in Iran to revolt.
Dangers of Long War
Despite its superior battlefield position, Baghdad sees several disadvantagesong war with Iran.
Iraq's invasion has initially strengthened, not weakened, Iran's leaders. Iranian exiles have been discredited by their ties to Iraq.
raq's President Saddam Hussein has failed to win solid Arab backing and has instead split the Arab world along radical-conservative lines. Arabs in both camps see "Saddam's war" as hurting the Palestinian cause. Many of Iraq's conservative supporters do not want an Iraqi victory but simply an end to the fighting. Their support for Iraq will weaken over time, and they will exert pressure on Baghdad toits termsease-fire.
war hasarger US presence in
the Persian Culfreater willingness of Gulf monarchies toS security role, developments that prewar Iraqi policy had sought to combat.
superpowers appear to be leaning toward sup-
port of Iran. Iran's international isolation will be reduced if sanctions are liftedthe release of the hostages. Iraq canincreased external pressure to settle the conflict as world oil stocks are depleted and oil prices rise.
he perception of Iraq as the aggressor is
likely to intensify over time, damaging Iraq's position in the nonaligned movement.
a prolonged war will disrupt the
economy, stimulate plotting against Saddam, set Sunni against Shi a, andinimum usher in note repression. The political payoff of the conflict seems remote, and the Iraqi wili-tary will be tied down in Khuzestan.
In the absenceramatic weakening of thein Iran or its acknowledgment of Iraq's control over the Shatt-al-Arab estuary, Saddam Hussein's options to protracted war will be to soften his terms foror intensify the war in the hope of bringing down the Khomeini government or forcing its capitulation. Mediation and more modest demands appear more attractive, given the uneven performance of the Iraqi*military.r
Importance of the Shatt-al-Arab
Iraq, we believe, is flexible on all points except control of the shatt-al-Arab. The Shatt is the core issue, the crucial variable in judging victory or defeat, and the principal reason for Iraq's launching the war.l
Two essentially geographic factors undermine Iraqi claims to primacy in the Gulf and leadership of the Arabs. Iraq has no defensible maritime access from the Gulf to its largest port at Basrah, and it cannotits access to the Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz. Iran can block both, as the current war demonstrates. Iraq's border on the Gulf is aboutiles wide. It has had to share administration of access to Basrah with Iran, while to the west, Kuwaiti territory dominates the approach to Iraq's other port and naval base at Umm Oasr. Saddam's war was intended to correct this strategicat Iran's expense while Iran was presumed to be militarily weak and politically isolated.f
Iraq is not likely to negotiate seriously until it takes control of Khorramshahr. Abadan, and thereby, the Shatt-al-Arab. when thisiplomatic peaceisonly to shift diplomatic pressure to Iran. Iraq can repeat its offer to trade Iraqi with-drawal for acknowledgment of its control of the Shatt.
we cannot be certain if "control" in Iraq's eyes requires continued occupationorder striphatt that includes Khorramshahr and
Baghdad might accept UNuiiei worn in uie shatt area. Virtually allterritory seized by Iraq would be used as bargaining chips. I
withdrawal from the area along the Shatt is possible if Saddam sees the international situation turn against him, and if Iran agrees to return the border in the shatt to the low water mark on the Iranian side. He could ask for UN supervisionuffer zone. This would wipe out
thinking is not static on the subject of Khuzestan. Baghdad's strategy will be influenced by Iranian behavior, intransigence could convince Saddam that he has no alternative to long-term occupation of Khuzestanar of attrition.