In its war with Iran, Iraq is seeking sovereignty over the entire Shatt-al-Arab estuary and a disputed border salient as well as a halt to revolutionary threats from Iran or Iranian-inspired Shiite Moslems against Arab states on the Persian Gulf, according to Iraqi Foreign Minister Saadoun Hammadi.
Hammadi, outlining Iraq's goals in the four-week-old conflict, placed these immediate objectives against a background of what he said were perennial attempts by Iranian goverments -- first under the late shah and now under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini -- to impose Iranian control over access to the northern end of the Persian Gulf, Iraq's only outlet to the sea and a vital route for its oil exports.
In an interview in his hotel suite here Saturday night, Hammadi provided one of the most comprehensive public accounts to date of what prompted not only Iraq's concern over unhindered passage into the gulf, but also a feeling of Iraqi responsibility for removing the danger that Khomeini's brand of Islamic revolution could spread trouble to other countries in the region.
Repeating what he told Secretary of State Edmund Muskie during their meeting here Sept. 30, Hammadi urged the United States not to abandon its declared policy of neutrality in the Persian Gulf war. Iraq understands how the Carter administration's desire to free American hostages in Iran opens the possibility of renewed shipments of U.S. military equipment to the Iranian military, Hammadi said, but Iraq would consider this an effective end of the neutrality.
"If the United States, under an agreement for the hostages, opens the door to a flow of arms to Iran, wouldn't that be helping one side against the other?" he said "Of course, what concerns us is the supply of arms."
Hammadi emphatically denied that President Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi leader, wants to play the "Persian Gulf policeman" role left vacant by the departure of the shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. His comments nevertheless drew attention to the increased power and influence assumed by Iraq recently in its dealings with Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other Arab nations.
Among Iraqi objectives in the war, for example, is restitution to Arab -- but not Iraqi -- sovereignty of the three Persian Gulf islands of Abu Musa and Greater and Lesser Tumbs, occupied by the shah in 1971, Hammadi said. Iraq reportedly considered seizing the islands early in the war but Hammadi said it would be enough for them to return to the United Arab Emirates "sometime, maybe not now, but sometime in the near future."
His remarks also dramatized the threat perceived in Iraq and its gulf neighbors from fundamentalist Moslem currents fomented or at least inspired by Iran's Shiite revolution. This threat is felt particularly in countries -- such as Iraq -- that have large Shiite populations and Sunni leaderships. -
"This situation we would like to end once and for all," Hammadi said, adding that Iraq intended to make the new situation: "We don't export revolution to them, and they don't export revolution to us."
More immediately, he said, any negotiations to end the conflict must give Iraq full control over Shatt-al-Arab, the waterway leading from the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers into the Persian Gulf, and must guarantee effective Iraqi sovereignty over about 150 square miles of disputed border territory near Zein al-Qaus, Seif Saad and Maimeh in a salient about 80 miles northerneast of Baghdad.
"The main objective is to end a longstanding situation whereby Iran, being a bigger country, a stronger country, has always been creeping on our side, expanding on our side, taking our territory," Hammadi said. "If another country would share sovereignty with Iraq over disposal of the [Shatt-al-Arab] waters, it means that Iraq is no longer an independent country. That must absolutely be under Iraqi sovereignty."
A 1975 agreement with Iran splitting sovereignty midway in the channel is inadequate, he added, because it reflects Iranian expansion from earlier agreements between Turkey and Persia conferring total sovereignty on what is now Iraq and because, under the 1975 arrangement, Iran has attempted to control Iraqi actions in the area.
As examples, Hammadi cited complaints from the late shah's government over Iraqi plans to build a dam on the Tigris, which Iran said would affect the Shatt's water level, and similar complaints from Khomeini's government over Iraqi and Kuwaiti plans to pipe fresh water to Kuwait from the Shatt.
In addition, he charged that Iran reneged on a commitment to pull out of the disputed border salient made as part of the 1975 accord, which Hussein abrogated a month ago just before the war broke out.
Hammadi explained Iraq's failure to seize total control of its main military targets -- the Iranian oil centers of Khorramshahr and Abadan and the pipeline hubs of Ahwax and Dezful -- as a desire to avoid casualties. Reports from the battle area have underlined Iraqi reluctance to commit troops to the kind of house-to-house ground fighting that would be necessary to clear fallen Iranian cities of their last defenders.
"We prefer to isolate the city, take some time," he said. "We know the resistance by a sniper, or that type of resistance, will die off sooner or later."