A POSSIBLE alliance of convenience between Iran and Iraq is an
ominous twist in the growing crisis in the Gulf. This bizarre
development could greatly complicate, if not scuttle, the outlook
for the embargo of Iraq and is the latest of the bitter fruits from
United States policy.
Thus far Iran has continued to denounce Iraq's occupation of
Kuwait, and Teheran has publicly indicated no plan to make common
cause with Baghdad.
Nonetheless, the possibility of Iranian-Iraqi cooperation, not
merely peace, is suddenly real - a dramatic reversal that means both
the quick elimination of a potential "second front" and the opening
of a new dimension in countersanctions.
If Iran joins Iraq in confronting their common enemies, the US
and Israel, the options for a quick throttling of Iraq through the
use of economic sanctions alone are suddenly more limited, less
certain, and much riskier.
The resolution of outstanding issues between Iran and Iraq was
announced last week by spokesmen of both governments. The settlement
involves repositioning the boundary in the middle of the
Shatt-al-Arab waterway, as demanded by Iran, and the withdrawal of
all Iraqi forces in Iran.
Particularly significant, however, is the declaration that both
sides propose to return the hundreds of thousands of prisoners they
hold. The prisoners have been the real issue remaining between the
The prisoner exchange confirms that the Iran-Iraq war is indeed
over, which should be welcomed by the world - except that it could
result in a dangerous new configuration in the Gulf.
Iran and Iraq share common enemies and perceive common rivals and
competitors, which are at the present time much more important than
their differences over the boundaries. Both are implacably opposed
to Israel and thus to the US for its unqualified support of what
both term "the Zionist aggression."
Both resent the Saudi-Kuwaiti policy of maintaining low oil
prices for the greater good of OPEC over the longer run. Both
militantly want higher oil prices in order to finance their
short-term financial needs.
A common front is thus a real possibility - both can oppose the
United State, Israel, and the rulers of the Arabian peninsula. In
particular, both can expect real resonance throughout parts of the
Arab world if they join in a common jihad against Israel and its US
The implications of this rapprochement for the embargo and
blockade of Iraq are profound. Until now the prospects for success
of the embargo against Iraq have been excellent. Iraq depends
totally upon oil export revenues, and all major export routes have
been interdicted. Even if the truck route through Jordan were to
remain open, the revenues could not meet Iraq's daily needs for food
and essential products.
However, if Iran supports Iraq against Israel and its allies, all
bets are off because enforcing the embargo becomes not only
difficult but in fact dangerous. …