Iran, Iraq grimly determined to continue Gulf hostilities

The picture emerging from the Gulf war after the latest peacemaking effort shows two stubborn foes who not only refuse to give ground in order to end hostilities -- but who need the war to continue for their own reasons.

"Can either side afford to give in?" a leading Arab commentator asked in a recent interview with the Monitor. "Iraq is united as never before. Without the war, [Iraqi leader] Saddam Hussein would be gone in three months.

"Can anyone in Iran take a decision?" he added. "No, there is no one who can take a chance on weakening his position by appearing to be weak toward Iraq."

Other analysts echoed this source in explaining why last week's intensive mediation effort by the Islamic Conference Committee (ICC) appeared to have borne little fruit.

After a short period of optimism, when both Baghdad and Tehran seemed to move slightly closer to the ICC proposal for a cease-fire, an Iraqi withdrawal, and prompt mediation of the Shatt al Arab waterway dispute, the committee returned to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, late last week and the combatants returned to their old antagonistic positions.

The Palestine Liberation Organization, along with the seven Islamic states involved in the mediation, has promised to follow up the peace effort with continuing negotiations and committee work.

But in the meantime Iran and Iraq are holding fast on the front and actually moving farther away from common ground in other areas.

In recent days, radio monitors have reported Iraqi-sponsored broadcasts, allegedly from the non-occupied Iranian city of Ahvaz, calling on "Arabistani citizens" for "the liberation of this usurped area." Analysts say these broadcasts show that Iraq is pushing ahead with plans to consolidate Khuzestan ("Arabistan" to Baghdad) and possibly to form an Arab state on territory won from Iran.

For its part, Tehran is now caught up in an intensifying power struggle between President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr and the Islamic Republic Party's most hard-line member, Ayatollah Sadeq Khalkhali.On March 8 Khalkhali called for Bani-Sadr to be put on trial for ordering hecklers at a rally to be silenced. Thus it appears that the minimum of unity that would be necessary to negotiate peace with Iraq is missing in Tehran.

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