A Possible Iran-Iraq Axis

Article excerpt

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 two countries.

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 proxy.

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. …