The Gulf and reason

The agreement between Iran and Iraq to stop attacking each others' civilian residential areas represents the first sign of accommodation between the two warring nations. The task for all parties involved in that dispute - the two protagonists and the neighboring Gulf states - is to build on that small step and find a way to bring the conflict to an end.

Perhaps what most needs to be kept in thought at this juncture is that there is no law anywhere that says the irrationality that has so characterized this particular war needs to continue. Pressures for some sort of reasonable accommodation are felt on both sides. In Iran, where the war has been perceived as some sort of crusade by top officials, there are reports that middle-class families are now hiding their children to avoid their conscription into an Iranian military force that is increasingly using youngsters for its mass attacks.

The recent attack by an unidentified plane against a Kuwaiti tanker near Qatar is the type of incident that could cause the conflict to escalate. That is why both sides, which fought up to the deadline, should be encouraged to adhere to the limited agreement on residential areas - and find a larger, more permanent agreement that brings this unhappy conflict to a fitting halt.

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