At the end of the second full week of war between Iran and Iraq neared, Baghdad renewed its call for a cease-fire to begin at dawn Sunday, while Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini rejected any cessation of the fighting until Iran had achieved final victory and revenge for the "crimes" of Iraq.
After another day in which Iraqi and Iranian planes raided each other's territory while their ground troops remained locked in savage combat on the Shatt-al-Arab waterway, what 10 days ago seemed destined to be a short but bloody war now appears certain to continue indefinitely.
Iranian planes today bombed the outskirts of Baghdad, the port of Basra and several other Iraqi cities in what Tehran Radio said was retailiation from Iraqi Air Force raids on the Iranian cities of Tabriz, Abadan and Dezful.
In Khorramshahr, on the Iranian side of the Shatt-al-Arab, fighting continued. Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Ali Rajai termed it "the scene of one of the bloodiest battles in the history of the Islamic nation."
Rajai's statement came as Iraqi Foreign Minister Saadoun Hammadi, at the United Nations in New York, renewed President Saddam Hussein's offer earlier this week for a four-day cease-fire in place that he said Iraq would honor as long as Iran did not fire on its troops. That possibility seemed negligible, to say the least, given the toe-to-toe fighting going on for the past 48 hours in Khorramshahr as well as several other places inside Iran's borders.
Thus, the war of words continues to run at least as fierce as the war in the air and on the ground, and it has become increasingly clear that prospects of a quick and easy solution to the conflict are minimal.
In his initial invasion of Iran two weeks ago, Saddam Hussein clearly gambled on a relatively painless advance into the neighborhing country that would bring Khomeini to his knees to sue for peace.
In that he sorely underestimated the Islamic Republic's propsensity to refuse all compromise, no matter how imperative it might seem to outsiders.
In addition, Saddam Hussein overrated the extent to which Khomeini's mullah revolution and its subsequent purges had destroyed the Iranian armed forces built up by the late shah.
Iraq's armed forces, trained in ponderously conservative tactics preferred by the Soviet Union, its chief weapons supplier, failed to take advantage of its superior preparation, organization and discipline. It also failed to exploit the surprise element of its tactics.
The rapidity of their initial advances on the ground was possible only because the Iraqi troops were moving across uncontested wastelands. Despite all the officials claims in Baghdad, they achieved no major, much less decisive, victories.
Aside from the odd border post, the villages the Iraqis overran in their first ground thrusts against Iran Sept. 23, they failed to capture any of the strategic urban objectives they sought, preferring to besiege such cities as Khorramshahr, the oil center, Abadan, or the provincial capital of Ahwaz, with artillery rather than overrun them quickly with infantry.
The end result was to give Iran time to regroup, resupply and reinforce its positions. It has done so with an effectiveness that has surprised outside observers as much as it has Iraqi military planners.
The short and painless war with which Saddam Hussien had hoped to launch his own visions of grandeur as the new power in the gulf, and the Arab world as a whole, in fact appears to have failed. Both countries have become locked in a closely stalemated war of attrition, in which unchallenged control of a city like Khorramshahr, Abadan, or even Ahwaz, has little real meaning beyond the psychological.
Perhaps more important now than the military struggle is the economic crisis facing both nations. Both sides have shelled and bombed each other's key oil installations on which their economics depend, halting collective oil exports to the world of nearly 4 million barrels a day.
The destruction of the oil industries in both nations also has cripplied their ability even to supply oil to their own populations. The longer the war drags on, the more likely is the economic crisis to become the war's crucial factor for both sides.
Already, there are lines for gasoline and bottled gas for cooking in Iraq. With Iraqi forces reportedly sitting astride Iran's own pipeline from Khuzestan to Tehran, it is expected to create even more severe oil shortages there at the very moment that winter, always harsh in Iran, is nearing.
But while the economic crunch may well determine the war's final outcome, dropping morale, particularly in Iraq, is also a factor. In Iran the Islamic revolution is still, despite everything, a popular movement.
In Iraq, the Baath Socialist Party regime of Saddam Hussein hardly rests on popular acclaim, but is rather a minority dictatorship whose powers rest with its ruthless control of the state apparatus.
For Iraq, with all its illusions of greatness in the region and the Arab world, the stakes are much higher in this war than they are for Iran. Iraq has gambled on a victory which would give it the power it has long craved in the region and, as one Western diplomat in the Persian Gulf said recently, "If the Iraqis don't win, they lose. If the Iranians don't lose, they win."
Meanwhile, news services reported the following related developments:
In the first sign that Iran's dissident Arab minority in Khuzestan Province is siding with the Iraqis, the Iranian news agency Pars reported today that 15 Iraqi "agents" were executed in the Khuzestan town of Susangerd on orders of roving Islamic Judge Ayatollah Sadegh Khalkhali.
They were accused of giving military information to Iraq and helping it to occupy part of Iran. Pars said the 15 belonged to an organization in Ahwaz called Jebhato Tahrir, believed to be an Arab group dedicated to "liberating" Khuzestan from Iranian rule.
In Amman, the Associated Press reported that King Hussein had left Jordan for Baghdad to assess personally the situation in the war. A palace announcement said that the king was accompanied by Prime Minister Mudar Badran and officers of Jordan's armed forces. Hussein was to meet with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
A palace spokesman repeated the king's pledge "to provide military support to Iraq if this is needed." The announcement of Hussein's departure was delayed for several hours.
Iran has sharply criticized the king for his statements in support of Iraq and made repeated threats to take action against those countries which aid the Iraqi war effort.
The Jordanian government also denied reports that former Iranian premier Shahpour Bakhtiar was in that country to set up a government in exile. Reports from Paris have said that Bakhitar, who served as Iran's last prime minister under the shah, had left the French capital by special charter to Amman Thursday.
In Abu Dhabi, the state-run United Arab Emirates news agency said that Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ahmed Zaki Yamani had arrived with a message from Saudi King Khalid. The agency did not disclose the contents of the message, but Yamani appeared to be on a mission to Persian Gulf oil states to discuss raising crude oil production to fill the gap created by the cutoff of oil from Iran and Iraq.
Saudi officials announced yesterday that they planned on increasing production levels from 9.5 million barrels per day to 10.2 to 10.4 million barrels.
Meanwhile, both Iran and Iraq criticized the dispatch by the United States of four radar planes to Saudi Arabia. Iranian Prime Minister mohammad Ali Rajai called the move "the continuation of the hostile stance taken by the United States against the Islamic Republic of Iran."
In Baghdad, the Iraqi defense minister, Lt. Gen. Adnan Khairallah, told a news conference that the delivery of the AWACS radar-equipped planes was "a sign of interference by outside powers." Khairallah also accused the United States of providing Iran with military spare parts in return for freeing the U.S. hostages.
"The U.S. is no longer neutral as far as we are concerned," he said. "The latest measures show the U.S. takes the Iranian side."