Iraq today shrugged off the election of Ronald Reagan as the next president of the United States, saying that it expects him to be "no less malicious and hatred-filled than his predecessors" in his policies toward the Arab world.
On Iraq's first comment on Reagan's election, Al Thawra, the official newspaper of the ruling Baath Party, said in an editorial that "change of faces does not mean a change in policy, and the exchange of presidents does not mean the exchange of progams."
The remarks were published as President Saddam Hussein, flanked by Army generals and party officials, turned out in the heart of Baghdad today to preside over a two-hour motorized parade of camouflage-uniformed Iraqi soldiers.The troops were on their way to the battlefront in Iran's Khuzestan Province, where the Iraqi Army has been at war with Iranian forces for nearly seven weeks now.
The Al Thawra editorial once again raised fears that the United States, in its concern to free its 52 hostages held by the Iranians for the past year, might strike a deal with Tehran that would tilt its present neutrality in the war toward Iran and "thus open a new page in dealing with [Ayatollah Ruhollah] Khomeini and his supporters."
The party newspaper reiterated the official Iraqi government line before the presidential election that there was little real difference between President Carter and Ronald Reagan as far as the Middle East was concerned. Each, the official line has been, was as blind to the realities and exigencies of the Arab world as the other.
"The Arab nation and its patriotic and progressive forces do not expect any benefit from this president or that," Al Thawra said. "The Arab nation which experienced the ugliness of imperialism rejects gambling on the victory of this candidate or that.
"Reagan's policy towards the Arab world will not be any less malicious and hatred-filled than that of his predecessors," the newspaper continued, "whether concerning the central Arab cause of Palestine or the Camp David accords or the continued threats to the Arab gulf security."
Iraq broke off relations with the United States in the wake of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Although Baghdad has since agreed to a low-level exchange of diplomats with Washington at "interests sections" operating under the flags of other foreign embassies in each other's capitals, the United States has remained a political whipping boy in Baghdad for support of Israel and, until the overthrow of the late shah, of Iran as well, Iraq's historical adversary. t
Meanwhile, reports from the war front today reflected the stalemate between Iran and Iraq. Iraq war communiques were brief and vague about the fighting, in the past a sure sign that no gains had been made on any of the fronts. The Iraqis reported only that in the last 24 hours, 32 Iranians had been killed on various fronts and nine Iraqis were "martyred."
At the same time, the Iraqis said the Iranian oil minister, Mohammed Javad Tondguyan, who was captured late last week by an Iraqi patrol outside Abadan, had been wounded at the time of his capture and was now in a Baghdad hospital.
Iran has demanded the release of Tondguyan, a 30-year-old engineer appointed as oil minister only last month, and has accused Iraq of violating international laws by continuing to hold him.
In reply to those charges, the official Iraqi News Agency tonight said, "It was lucky for him that our forces found him" because he had been wounded and bleeding when he was captured.
As for the charges of violations of international laws, the Iraqi agency merely scoffed, hinting at Iran's holding of 52 U.S. hostages. "They are making a fuss about international laws," the commentary said, "that they themselves have violated."