This ancient Mesopotamian city of waving palms and brash new construction projects is suddenly feeling the impact of modern war. But, despite suffering modest casualties from Iranian air raids, ordinary Iraqis express pride and confidence in the achievements of their own armed forces.
They keep tuned in to repeated broadcasts dubbing the current fighting as the "Qadissiyeh" of President Saddam Hussein -- referring to a famous 7th-century victory of the Islamic Arabs over their Persian foes. And residents of the capital seem to bear with bluff good humor the blackout regulations enforced by members of the civil defense force, many of them only teen-agers clad in commando-style uniforms.
But as the Iraqi armies advance into the oil-rich Khuzestan area of Iran, diplomats here are increasingly asking where the current Iraqi euphoria will end.
In launching the current offensive, President Hussein claimed merely to be reclaiming areas ceded to the Shah's Iran under the 1975 Algiers pact, which Iraq abrogated last week (Sept. 17). Now Saddam Hussein already holds these areas -- and considerably more. Will he be tempted to press ahead to gain most of the area Iraqis call "Arabistan," which holds most of Iran's proven oil reserves?
This is far is not clear, though Iraqi slogans calling for the "Liberation of all Iraqi and Arab lands" could leave such an interpretation open.
Sources at the Iraqi News Agency (INA) report that Iraqi ground troops continue to drive back Iranian forces from the international border that snakes from northern mountains through deserts to the southern oil fields.
The Iranian towns of Qasr-e-Shirin, Sumar, and Mehran, northeast of the capital, are reported to be part of a 10-mile-wide strip taken by the Iraqis since fighting started over the weekend.
In the south, the Iraqis claim to have cut the main road linking the vital Iranian port and oil cities of Khorramshahr and Abadan with Ahwaz and the rest of Iran.
On both sides, there appeared to be a escalation of actions against oil installations. A Sept. 24 military communique here spoke of an attempt by the Iranian Navy to attack the Iraqi Minat al-bakr oil terminal, offshore of Al Faw. The attack, the communique said, was turned back, with a loss of four Iranian gunboats. Shelling was reported installations at Basra, Mosul, and Kirkuk.