The Gulf conflict -- through the eyes of the warring parties

Iran is continuing to grapple with its two major problems -- the unfinished war with neighboring Iraq and what to do about the 52 American hostages still under detention.

As far as the war is concerned, Iranian leaders have been convinced that the fighting gradually would turn in their favor, which may account for their resistance to cease-fire proposals, especially those emanating from Baghdad.

They also bank heavily on Iranian air attacks to keep Iraq from making further gains into Iranian territory.

On the hostage issue, meanwhile, the Majlis (parliament) has appointed a special commission composed of hard-liners to make recommendations on the future of the US captives. "The hostage issue has become a problem that is responsible for all our difficulties. We must solve it," declared Dr Yadollah Sahabi, one of the few voices of reason that have been raised in the Majlis on the hostage issue.

"We have enough problems with the United States which must be solved. The US has frozen our assets and crippled our economy. We must enter into discussions with the US and talk about our rights," he added.

But each time the subject comes up, new and unexpected difficulties also appear. The latest argument (Oct. 2) was about whether the subcommittee that the parliament had set up should have the right to hold discussions with US representatives on the hostages.

Ayatollah Muhammad Khoeyni, the mentor of the militants in the US Embassy, asked: "How can anyone who is at war with the United States hold negotiations with it?"

Retorted Dr. Sahabi: "It is not clear that we are at war with the US."

Dr. Sahabi, one of the men responsible for drafting the present Iranian Constitution, later walked out of the Majlis to show his disapproval at the turn the debate on the hostages was taking. An uproar followed, and further discussion was put off until a later date.

Also still being heard in parliament is the charge that the hostages are spies who should be put on trial, but the call for a trial has continued to remain in the background.

Not surprisingly, the war with Iraq now overshadows the hostage issue. The noticeable decrease in the intensity of Iraqi air attacks has encouraged the Iranians to believe that Baghdad has suffered heavy damage to its air bases from Iranian attacks.

This was perhaps one factor that led Tehran to reject all offers of a cease-fire, and to step up Iranian air attacks on Iraqi targets. But what has puzzled observers is that the Iranian planes should have concentrated on bombing economic and industrial targets inside Iraqi territory, instead of enemy ground forces on Iranian soil.

The Iranians claim they have pushed back the Iraqis on the ground in three sectors, including recapturing the border town of Mehran and breaking the siege of Khorramshahr. But President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr said in a message to the nation Oct. 2 that heavy fighting was still continuing in Khorramshahr.

One Iranian newspaper has been keeping a score of enemy losses -- based, no doubt, on figures released in communiques from the combined military headquarters.

By this count, Iran claims to have shot down 101 Iraqi fighter planes so far, and destroyed 519 tanks or armored personnel carriers. The Iranians also claim 3 Iraq helicopters, 6 rocket-launching frigates, 2 logistic vessels, and 1 merchant vessel.

These figures may well turn out to be exaggerations, expert military observers say. The 101 Iraqi planes claimed shot down, for example, are all described as MIGs, though one of the captured Iraqi pilots said in a television interview he was flying a Soviet-built Sukhoi bomber.

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