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IRAQ; in war and peace; Hussein's blitzkrieg on Iran: 28 months in a Persian quagmire

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The general consensus among diplomats, military analysts, and other observers in Paris and London is that, ultimately, an end to the Iran-Iraq conflict would have to be a political one. Neither country seems to have the military stamina, equipment, or ability to knock out the other.

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Iraq is under growing pressure from the Gulf states to come to terms with Iran. This would imply, at the very least, a return to prewar status, including the dropping of all territorial demands. As for Khomeini, he has shown no willingness to come to the negotiating table. Analysts maintain that his regime will talk only once the situation is completely in Iran's favor. Among Tehran's demands are the creation of a Shiite-dominated Islamic republic and the settling of costly war reparations.

By the end of 1982, according to conservative reports, Iraq had lost some 25, 000 to 30,000 troops. Other sources have trebled that number. Whatever the estimates, Iraq, with a population of fewer than 14 million, can hardly afford to lose such manpower. Already, a substantial portion of its civilian work force consists of imported labor.

Apart from a small contingent of Jordanian soldiers, whose presence is more symbolic than effective, Egypt has also provided Iraq with several thousand military advisers and technicians to help run the war.

Although Iran, with a population of 40 million, has reportedly suffered considerably higher losses, Iraqi casualties appear to have had a more traumatic effect on the home front. Virtually every family has lost at least one son, brother, or father. As the war began to sour, so did public enthusiasm. Unlike Iran, Iraq has never been able to count on religious fanaticism to maintain its war efforts. Among Khomeini's revolutionary guards, for example, it is considered an honor to die as a ''martyr'' in the regime's ''holy war,'' a commitment not necessarily shared by ordinary Iranian conscripts and officers.

Ironically, the military reversals that brought the war onto Iraqi turf have politically benefited the Baathist regime. Only in recent months has Hussein enjoyed a significant rise in public support instigated by patriotic sentiments to defend the homeland. Had Iran not thrust its forces across the frontier, some analysts say, it might have retained a powerful advantage. Iraqi public disillusionment with Hussein's expansionism could have resulted in his overthrow.

Weapons' supplies and spare parts have been major problems for both sides. Ever since Baghdad signed its friendship treaty with Moscow in 1972, the great bulk of Iraq's military backing, both equipment and training, has come from the Soviet Union. Hussein's offensive against Iran, for example, was modeled after conventional Soviet strategy.

Although Moscow publicly adopted a ''neutral'' stand in the present war and halted direct arms supplies to Iraq, the Soviets saw to it that weapons and spare parts continued to arrive via East Germany, Libya, Syria, and North Korea. Without these supplies to replace destroyed or broken-down equipment, Iraq's war effort would have foundered after two or three months. According to US government estimates, Baghdad paid up to $10 billion in hard currency for Soviet arms in the first two years.

Moscow, however, has been playing both camps. Its strategy appears to be aimed at forcing a military stalemate.