Roots of Conflict Still Strong Two Decades After Iran-Iraq War Erupted
Twenty years on from the brutal Iran-Iraq war, which left almost a million dead, the roots of conflict are still strong, witness rocket attacks, border incidents, verbal broadsides, allegation and counter-allegation.
Baghdad considers the war to have begun on September 4, 1980, with a "series of Iranian attacks on Iraqi territory" which preceded the entry of Iraqi troops into Iran on September 22, the internationally accepted date for the start of the war.
The conflict, the bloodiest since World War II, started after Baghdad denounced accords with Tehran on the sharing of water from the Shatt al-Arab, a natural border for much of its course before flowing into the Gulf.
"The rocket attack undertaken Sunday in Baghdad reflects Iran's hostile policy towards Iraq," Salem al-Qubaissi, head of Iraq's parliamentary commission on Arab and international relations, told AFP.
The attack, which left one wounded in a residential area of Baghdad, was the latest in a series of armed operations in the Iraqi capital blamed by the authorities on Iranian agents.
For Qubaissi, "it offers more proof of the implication of Iran in the US-Zionist plot hostile to Iraq, which is trying to normalize relations with Iran in all fields."
The two countries re-established diplomatic relations at the level of charge d'affaires in 1990, almost two years after the end of the war.
But the process of normalization has since run aground on the issue of prisoners of war and armed opposition groups sheltered by both regimes.
Tehran has repeatedly denied Baghdad's charges that it still holds 29,000 Iraqi prisoners. Iraq says another 60,000 are missing.
Iran, meanwhile, claims that Iraq still holds some 3,000 Iranian soldiers, while Baghdad says it holds none but a handful who were involved in a regional uprising against Saddam Hussein.
Since September, Baghdad has rejected accusations that it was working to destabilize Tehran by supporting the People's Mujahedeen, the main Iranian opposition group based in Iraq, which has intensified military operations along the borders as well as in the heart of the Iranian capital in recent months.
Tehran regularly undertakes operations in Iraqi territory against the Mujahedeen, the last in June when it fired missiles at a base.
Iran, meanwhile, harbors several opposition groups, notably the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which in May claimed responsibility for an attack that left one dead and four injured in Baghdad, saying it was aimed at one of Saddam's palaces.
"Tehran will never accept the presence of Mujahedeen in Iraq from where they launch military activities in the heart of Iran, and nor will Baghdad accept that rebel elements continue to cross the border to carry out acts of sabotage, especially in southern towns," one Western diplomat in Baghdad said.
"This state of neither peace nor war will continue until the question of opposition groups is sorted out," he added.
Iraq has also accused Iran of being in cahoots with the United States in planning "terrorist acts" to subdue Baghdad.
It has also denounced Tehran's refusal to return 115 warplanes and 33 civilian planes spirited to Iran on the eve of the 1991 Gulf War.
Iran has said it has possession of only 22 planes and is ready to return them if the United Nations so wishes -- BAGHDAD(AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)