THE IRAQ-IRAN CONFLICTTue Apr 10, 2007 20:31
THE IRAQ-IRAN CONFLICT
TO Al-Moharer Readers,
We have received many letters inquiring about the Iraq-Iran Conflict and the reason behind the role of Iran in occupying Iraq alongside with the United States and its allies.
The roots of the hostility of Iran against Iraq and the Arab Nation go back for many centuries ago. We find it imperative to answer the readers by publishing THE IRAQ-Iran Conflict which was published in 1981 by Institute of Studies and Research”. Reading this book will shed light on the present role of Iran in the destruction of Iraq and its support of the sectarian gangs. Those who believe that Iran is the enemy of the United States are wrong because facts speak against this belief, Iran of the Mullahs is very hostile to Iraq and the Arab people equally like the Iran of the Shah and the United States of the neoconservatives.
The Arab-Iranian conflict is as old as the history of this region of the world. The historian will not fail to call attention to the fact that the present-day war between Iraq and Iran has broken out between two peoples belonging to dissimilar civilizations, and whose origins date back to the ancient times of Arabia and Persia (1). As history amply demonstrates, the numerous divergences between these two countries are obvious from a purely geographical point of view as well as from the ethnic and cultural traits of their peoples.
The Iranian language is considered as one of the ancient Indo-European languages (2) along with Greek, German and Armenian, among others. The Arabic tongue belongs to the Semitic language group, in the same way as the Arabs would be included in the Semitic ethnic ensemble. Despite their geographical proximity, the differences between Iraq and Persia have always been greater than their similarities. Relations between the two countries were frankly hostile until the birth of Islam and the Arab conquest of Persia. Islam, carrying a novel message, brought about considerable changes in Persia and in its relations with the neighboring countries.
The Arabs settled in Mesopotamia before recorded history. There, they edified a brilliant civilization and marked this region with their cultural imprint. The Arabs left the Arabian Peninsula by successive waves in order to attain the Mediterranean Sea, where they became known under the name of Phoenicians, as well as reaching the fertile lands of Iraq. Among them, there were the Acadians, the Assyrians, the Chaldeans and before them, perhaps, the Sumerians, whose origins still pose the historian problems. In any case, the experts agree on the fact that the Sumerians always inhabited Iraq, where they have left substantial traces. Some writers even claim that the men living in Mesopotamia were the first to use cuneiform writing (3).
The Arabs of contemporary Iraq thus inherited an illustrious civilization having benefited from all those that were to flourish on Mesopotamian land over the centuries: Assyria, Babylonia, etc. Hence, Iraq must be considered as one of the richest regions of the world with respect to both its history and culture. The mountains of Zagros constitute a natural barrier to the east of this country. A new life and a new people are to be found on the other side of those mountains, that is, a people belonging to a civilization which differs from that of the Arabs: the Persians.
Persia, too, had known a specific cultural development. It had its own sciences, its own customs and its own religion, namely, Zoroastrianism. The historian J.M. Roberts writes that the central idea in the Persian religions was the affirmation of the divine nature of royalty. Moreover, "the doctrines in which they (the Persians) believed stressed the existence of a creature, Ahura
Mazda, whose viceroy on earth was the king." (4). He notes that their science, customs and religion were foreign to those of the Arabs.
With respect to military strategy, the Arabs and the Persians also had varying conceptions, as clearly shown by the battle of Qadisiyah. It is indeed at this site that the decisive battle took place, allowing the Arab Muslims led by Sa'ad bin Abi Waqqas under the Omar bin Al-Khattab Caliphate to defeat the Persians headed by Rustom (4). This victory occurred on the last day of May or the first day of April 637 A.D. (5). The Arabs were surprised during the battle by the Persian army's use of elephants. Protected within small, wooden fortresses mounted on the backs of the elephants, the Persian archers succeeded in inflicting serious losses upon the Arab infantry and cavalry which were momentarily stunned by a war technique unknown to them. After the bitter defeat at Qadisiyah, having ended with the death of Rustom and the routing of the Sasanid army, the way was cleared for the Muslim conquests in Persia, India and other Asian countries.
The Arab conquest of Persia meant that this country would become part of the region governed by the Arabs, and thus marked the beginning of a history common to both peoples. The situation did not last long. Persia took advantage of the decline of the Abbasids (and thus, of Arab leadership) as well as the overthrow of the Caliphate by other Muslim peoples, namely, the Turks, in order to free itself from Arab control and to assert its independence. As for the Arabs, they found themselves under Turkish rule for a long period that only ended with the First World War. In 1501, Persia retrieved its independence under Ismail, the founder of the Safawid dynasty (6). Historian Philippe Hitti considers the Safawid Kingdom as "one of the greatest and most glorious Persian Muslim states" (7).
The conflict was to again break out between Persia and Iraq (henceforth occupied by the Turks) in a way almost analogous to the pre-Islamic period. International agreements concluded between Persia and Iraq and to which specialists in international law refer in the debate over today's conflict, were in fact signed between Persia and the Ottoman Empire. The most significant treaties were those of Ard Roum (Erzeroum) in 1847 and the Constantinople Protocol of 1913. We have analyzed these conventions in the context of the developments that this book treats with regard to Arabistan and Shatt-al-Arab. To bring to light the true facts opposing Iraq and Iran today, the history of the relations between these two countries must be retraced and closely examined. It is for this reason that we have axed our discussion upon three main themes. First of all, we have recalled the direct causes of the war which broke out in September 1980 (Chapter 1). The historical roots of the Iraq-Iran conflict are then exposed through the geographical and historical development of the region from its origins to the present day (Chapters 2 and 3). The period subsequent to the Turkish occupation has been considered in detail because events which took place then were later to have important consequences (Chapters 4 and 5). The sixth and seventh chapters describe the turns taken by the war.
Even though this book is to be published at a moment when the war is still going on, we hope to have attained our goal of clarifying some of the ill-known aspects of the present conflict. It is also our hope that an objective presentation and analysis of its causes, both ancient and modern, will favor a better understanding of the realities behind this ferocious clash, whose theater is one of the most vulnerable and vital regions in the world.
(1) In 1935, under the reign of Reza Khan, the name of Persia was changed to Iran.
(2) Cf. Course on French Linguistics of Professor Georges Matore at the University of Paris IV - Sorbonne.
(3) Matore G. Ibid.: "The Sumerians invented writing around 3500 B.C.'
(4) J.M. Roberts, The Hutchinson History of the World. Hutchinson Publishing Group Ltd. London, 1976, p. 356.
(5) Rustom was the head of King Chosroe's Persian army.
(65) Philippe Hitti, History of the Arabs, Macmillan Student Editions. 10th ed. London, 1974, p, 155
(6) J.M. Roberts, /bid. p. 430.
(7) J.M. Roberts, /bid. p. 430.
(8) Philippe K. Hitti, History of the Arabs.5th edition, 1974, p. 797 (Arabic).
THE UNIVERSITY BOMBING
Tuesday, April 1st, 1980, thousands of students from all over the Arab world and Asia were assembled at Al-Mustansiriyah University (1) in Baghdad. They were awaiting the arrival of Tareq Aziz, Deputy Premier of Iraq and member of the Revolution Command Council (R.C.C.), who had been scheduled to inaugurate the International Economic Conference organized by the National Union of Iraqi students in collaboration with the Asiatic Student Committee. In the crowd, a young man was waiting - he was Iranian.
When Tareq Aziz made his entrance, greeted by peals of applause, the young Iranian threw a bomb in his direction. Seeing the danger, the President of the Student Union, Mohammed Dabdab, hurled himself toward Tareq Aziz, shouting: "Look out! There's a bomb!" Immediately the Deputy Premier flung himself to the ground, just missing the full force of the explosion. In the midst of the bellowing crowd the student leaders rushed towards Tareq Aziz to find him only very lightly injured.
As the ambulances were taking away the numerous wounded and dead, the Deputy Premier took control of the situation and rapidly met with the student organizers of the conference. Together they took the decision to carry on the inaugural ceremony as planned. However, due to his state which required hospitalization, Tareq Aziz was unable to deliver the speech he had prepared. A second bomb was later discovered in the same area and defused in time. If it had exploded, this bomb would have slaughtered many students.
In the meantime, the President of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, was visiting the borderline province of Suwayra from which the Iranian summits can be seen. This visit was one of those that the President regularly paid throughout the country. Rarely a day would pass without his touring a city, a neighborhood, a school, a university or an industry, generally ending up each trip with a visit to an Iraqi home.
At the time of the bombing at the University, the Iraqi president was addressing the crowd that had gathered to welcome him to Suwayra. especially intending his message for the Iranian neighbors, he strongly affirmed: “The Iraqi people do not wish to break off relations with any state unless some state so desires and believes it could endanger the sovereignty of our country or offend the honor and will of our nation... We proclaim to any state wanting to halt relations with Iraq and the Arab Nation that we are determined to combat its interference. .. We are not prepared to give way before our duty and the defense of our principles... "
The opening of the Student Conference at Al-Mustansiriyah went on without any further incident; the Deputy Premier's speech was read to the audience and won the success expected. News of the bombing was broadcast on the radio, and when the Iraqi president arrived in Baghdad that evening from Suwayra, he went directly to the hospital to visit those injured.
THE OATH OF PRESIDENT SADDAM HUSSEIN
The next day, April 2nd, President Saddam Hussein went to the place where the bomb had exploded. Pain and sadness could be read on his face. Beginning to speak in the midst of a throng of students, he firmly summoned Iran not to intrude in the internal affairs of Iraq or the neighboring Arab countries. “Yesterday ", he said, " a miserable agent caused the very dear blood of young AI-Mustansiriyah students to be shed... “The President then vowed three times that this criminal act would not remain unpunished.
The Iraqi people have become an unyielding mountain that they (the Iranians) are not capable of attaining with their bombs or by any other means. Fourteen-hundred years ago the Arabs took it upon themselves to accomplish a divine mission on this holy ground. It is still they who are the most apt to fulfill such a calling for the honor of the Arabs and in the interest of all humanity... Our people are ready to fight to defend their honor and sovereignty, as well as to maintain peace among the Arab nation... We shall pursue this vocation, in the service of the Arabs...
After the speech, the President's threefold oath was considerably commented by the crowd. Nevertheless, people's minds were soon occupied by the preparations for (the celebration of the 33rd anniversary of the Ba'ath Party. Since the ninth summit held in Baghdad in November 1978 at the close of which the Camp David politics were condemned, and since the eight-principle national proclamation of the Head of State on February 8, 1980 (2) in which Iraq committed itself not to resort to force in its relations with the neighboring countries, except for cases of its own legitimate self-defense or that of the other Arab countries, Iraq has taken on a determining political role in the Middle East region. Indeed, this phenomenon has been commented upon by the French newspaper "Le Monde":
Baghdad, which just a few years ago had the appearance of a modest, old-fashioned provincial capital, has become the rallying place of a steadily increasing number of presidents of small, unaligned countries and leaders of national liberation movements of Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The oil revenues of Iraq have attained the record figure of 150 billion French Francs, allowing the regime not only to improve the standard of living of the population, but also to play a political role in the Arab region and in the Third World...
Baghdad is getting ready to welcome in 1982 the Movement of Nonaligned Countries, the exercising president of which will be Saddam Hussein, succeeding Fidel Castro. (3)
THE PREPARATION FOR THE CRIME
An investigation brought to light the fact that the Iranian student who was responsible for the bombing at the University, was a member of the Daawat Al-Islam Organization whose headquarters are in Qom in Iran. Daawat Al-Islam (the "Call of Islam") is a small faction of religious inspiration adhering to the ideas of Khomeini (4). This movement was organized in Iraq after the Revolution of 1958. It was then manipulated by the Shah in order to foment disorder in the surrounding countries. Even before the fall of the Shah, the Iraqi authorities had discovered ammunition dumps containing immense quantities of arms and propaganda (tracts, brochures, etc...). The Iranian Revolution aided in the revival of Daawat Al-Islam, which reorganized its cells and proceeded to obtain financial and military assistance from Teheran. Thereafter, the authorities noticed a multiplication of the actions of this movement whose ties with Iran were confirmed after the University bombing.
Iraq's moderation following that attack gave way to more severity when another bomb was thrown from the window of an Iranian school (5) April 5, 1980, during the funeral of the victims of the University attack. An investigation of the Al-Daawat Party led to the discovery of several depots in which great amounts of money and weapons (especially bombs and guns with silencers) were found. In the same hiding-places there were tracts, pamphlets and printed matter of all kinds attacking the Iraqi leaders as well as the Ba'ath Party. Hence, the authorities decided to investigate the Iranians residing in the country. All Iranians having secretly entered Iraq, in particular, the adherents to the Al-Daawat movement and those having been found guilty of activities against the security of the State were deported. Most of the persons in question were either shop owners or wealthy merchants.
On April 12, 1981, another attempt was made to assassinate a member of the Iraqi Government, this time Latif Nsaif Jassim, Minister of Culture and Information. The assailant was soon arrested and confessed his ties with the al-Daawat Party.
The Al-Mustansiriyah bomb was therefore part of a long series of incidents having begun long before April 1, I'JHO, the inevitable consequences of which increased the tension between Baghdad and Teheran to the point of rupture. Iran's President Bani Sadr himself openly
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