Gulf fighting slows as peace efforts resume

After 24 days of fighting, the tempo of the Gulf war between Iraq and Iran appears to be slowing down. New efforts to end the conflict got under way Oct. 15 as Habib Chatti, secretary- general of the Islamic Conference, went to the Iraqi capital of Baghdad for talks with the Iraqis, and the United Nations Security Council in New York was scheduled to discuss the war in a public session with Iran and Iraq participating.

In essence, Iraq has achieved most or all of its original objectives in Iran -- especially control of portions of the Shatt al Arab waterway. But now it is encountering stiff resistance from fanatical Iranians. Iraq's offer of a conditional cease-fire was promptly and curtly rejected by Iran.

For its part, Iran has refused to consider a cease-fire while any of Iraq's troops remain on its soil. After a relatively slow start in the hostilities, Iran has managed to keep its forces, including aircraft, in action.

This has surprised those Western military experts who had expected that the loss of some of Iran's most experienced military officers during the Muslim revolution's upheavals, along with lack of spare parts from the United States for Iran's largely American-made equipment and defections of Iranian soldiers from the armed forces, would make it virtually impossible for Iran to fight a full-scale war for more than a short time.

As the conflict continued into its fourth week, Iranian planes still struck at Baghdad and other Iraqi targets, while fierce ground fighting was reported from Iran's southern oil-producing areas around Khorramshahr and Abadan.

Iran also broadcast a warning that the Gulf and the strategic Strait of Hormuz would be mined by its naval vessels if other Arab nations come to Iraq's aid. This threat, while it may prove difficult to implement, nevertheless is a matter of extreme sensitivity to Western nations whose tanker routes and oil supplies could be adversely affected.

While the United States and the Soviet Union maintain an uneasy neutrality, both Gulf belligerents have acquired support from other Arab states, with Jordan behind Iraq, and Libya and Syria backing Iran.

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