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May 25, 2005

Iraq Started the Iran/Iraq War?


by Jude Wanniski

If you continue to wonder why the "insurgents" in Iraq continue to blow themselves up to prevent the interim government from gaining credibility among the populace, please note the report that the new "interim government" has confessed that Saddam Hussein started the eight-year war with Iran in 1980. All these years, the people of Iraq believed the war grew out of Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini's call for Iraqi Shi'ites to overthrow Saddam in order to install a sectarian Shi'ite government in Baghdad. And the United States for all the eight years of the war thought so too, didn't it? Else why support Iraq in the war, re-opening diplomatic relations with Baghdad, and sending Don Rumsfeld to pow-wow with Saddam to arrange for military and financial assistance?

Can it be that practically every member of the new interim "government" in Baghdad either fought on Iran's side in the war or was in exile, a la Ahmed Chalabi, openly rooting for the defeat of Iraq by the Iranians? Hasn't the New York Times, which says it is mystified by the determination of the insurgents to lay down their lives to preserve chaos, noticed that the new Baghdad regime is a government of quislings??

It is said that there were a million Iraqi casualties in the war against Iran. Practically every Iraqi family – whether Shi'ite, Sunni or Kurd – lost a father, brother or son to Iranian weaponry (conventional and poison gas). These are the official estimates of the U.S. government, by the way, not my figures or those of the news media. But the question I raise is how can the Times consider the insurgency a "mystery" when it must have noticed there is not a genuine nationalist in the new government, one who fought heart and soul against Tehran. The people of Iraq look over the crowd and see three dozen replicas of Benedict Arnold – handpicked by the occupying army.

As for who started the war, you need only ask yourself why Saddam would take on a country three times the size of Iraq, 60 million to 20 million, without ever showing the slightest intent of carrying the fight to Tehran. When the escalating skirmishing grew into open war, the Iraqi army moved several dozen miles into Iran and stopped, seemingly ready to come to terms. It was the deranged Ayatollah Khomeini, whose followers overthrew the Shah of Iran (a client of the U.S. government in the Cold War), who announced upon his return to Tehran from his exile in Paris, that Saddam Hussein was at the top of his list of enemies... and it was he who called upon his Shi'ite followers in Iraq to change the secular regime in Baghdad, replacing it with a fundamentalist regime that would make him happy. The Ayatollah is no longer around, of course, having lost the war with Iraq in August 1988, but if he were he would be delighted to see the regime change was carried out by the American people, who sent their sons and daughters to overthrow Saddam and install the puppet government that now smiles upon Iran.

What a mystery.


Iraq blames old regime for 1980s war with Iran

By Sabrina Tavernise, New York Times

BAGHDAD, Iraq, May 19 - In a move that is likely to inflame further Sunni Arab resentments, the Iraqi government publicly acknowledged for the first time on Thursday that Iraq was the aggressor in 1980 when it touched off a bloody eight-year war with Iran.

In a joint statement at the end of a three-day visit by the Iranian foreign minister, Kamal Kharazi, the new Shi'ite-led Iraqi government said that Saddam Hussein, the overthrown Iraqi leader, and other officials in his government must be put on trial for committing "military aggression against the people of Iraq, Iran and Kuwait," as well as crimes against humanity and war crimes.

It was an effort to bring to a close the bitter legacy of the war in which nearly a million people were estimated to have died and tens of thousands more were displaced as refugees.

An Iraqi Foreign Ministry official who helped write the communiqué, Labeed Abbawi, said the admission was intended not as an acknowledgement of guilt on the part of the Iraqi state or people, who also suffered staggering casualties in the war. Rather, he said, it was meant to lay the responsibility for the war squarely on Mr. Hussein and other leaders of his government, many of whom face trials later this year for their roles in the killing of Iraqis.

"The file of the war, we want to put it behind us," he said. "We want to open a new path of cooperation."

Even so, it was a gesture of warmth toward Iran, which has long sought formal recognition of Iraq's use of chemical weapons against it during the war, and underscored how the political landscape here has shifted, with Iraqi Shi'ites, many of whom spent years in exile in Iran, now running the government.

The statement is not likely to sit well with Iraq's Sunni Arabs, who ran the country for decades but have been largely left out of the National Assembly, which will draft the new Iraqi constitution, since boycotting national elections in January. Shi'ites control the government for the first time in modern Iraqi history, and Sunni Arabs, isolated politically, have begun to chafe under their rule.

Sunni resentment has hardened recently, with a leading Sunni cleric accusing a government militia, made up largely of Shi'ites, of carrying out mosque raids and killings. On Thursday, two Sunni groups called for the temporary closing of dozens of Baghdad mosques as a protest.

"People will not accept it," said Saleh Mutlak, a member of the National Dialogue Council, a coalition of Sunni Arab political leaders, of the admission of responsibility for the war. "It looks like these people want to pay back the favor that Iran did for them," he said, referring to Iraq's new government.

Historians still debate the precise reasons for the start of the war between the two countries in 1980. It began during the Iranian revolution, and some experts say the new Iranian leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, agitated for a religious war to incite Iraq's large Shi'ite population to rebellion.

Others have accused Mr. Hussein of starting the war, saying he was seeking to capitalize on the chaos in Iran to overturn a 1975 agreement that fixed what he considered an unjust border in the Shatt al Arab, the waterway the two countries share at its southern end, and to seize the oil-rich Iranian province of Khuzestan.

A United Nations investigation after the war effectively assigned responsibility for the start of the war to Mr. Hussein, said Farideh Farhi, a professor of Iranian politics at the University of Hawaii, but Iran's claims of huge sums in war reparations [remain] unresolved.

Ms. Farhi said the statement Thursday appeared to be directed more at Mr. Hussein's use of chemical weapons against Iran, an issue very important to Iranians. As the Iraqis drew up guidelines for the trials of Mr. Hussein and other Baath Party leaders, they decided not to extend prosecution to any crime perpetrated outside Iraq's borders, and Iranians want international recognition that they suffered under Iraqi gas and chemical weapons attacks.

"The issue for Iranians is not whether or not Iraq is identified as the aggressor," she said. "That was something that had been settled before. The issue that is not settled for them is the issue of war crimes. During the time the Iraqis were using chemical weapons on Iran, the international community was not willing to take a side on that issue."

Underscoring Iran's ties to the religious leadership in Iraq, Mr. Kharazi called on the Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in the holy city of Najaf on Thursday. The Iranian minister's visit began on Tuesday, just two days after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Iraq.


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Jude Wanniski, founder and chairman of Polyconomics, Inc., is a world-renowned political economist whose 1978 book The Way the World Works was named one of the 100 most influential books of the 20th Century by the editors of the National Review. He was an economic advisor to Ronald Reagan from 1978 to 1981.

Wanniski runs Wanniski.com. (If you subscribe, and check Antiwar.com in the referring website pull-down, we get 10%).

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