A senior Iraqi official today called on the United States to halt unofficial shipments of Western-made arms to Iran and expressed surprising criticism of Arab oil states, accusing them of failing to give Iraq enough help to win its war with the revolutionary government in Tehran.
Deputy Premier Tariq Aziz accused the United States of deliberately neglecting to stop what he said was a flow of Western-made, advanced weapons and spare parts to Iran through the black market and other unofficial channels. He said the arms were coming from U.S. companies and agents overseas and from American allies, including Italy, Britain, West Germany and Israel.
Aziz, who is a member of the ruling Revolutionary Command Council and has served as a government spokesman in the past, also warned that Iraq might attempt to send its troops back into Iran if that country continues to reject a cease-fire in the 25-month-old Persian Gulf war.
"We cannot exclude from a military point of view that the military leadership may jump again inside Iran," Aziz said in an interview. "This would not be a political decision, to stay and occupy Iran for a long time."
He stressed that Iraq was aware that it was too weak to conquer all of Iran and that Baghdad's only objective was to force the Iranians "to stay on their own territory, mind their own business and not interfere in our internal affairs."
Iraqi troops still occupy several small pockets of strategic territory along the border after withdrawing from most of Iran in June following a string of defeats. Iraq invaded Iran in September 1980.
The threat of a new invasion appeared designed to encourage Iran to come to the bargaining table. Iraq has a substantial edge in planes, tanks and other weapons, but it has been pressing for peace and, in recent months, has lost most of the Iranian territory it seized in the early months of the war.
Iraq might justify a fresh thrust into the country to push back Iranian artillery to prevent it from bombarding Iraqi towns. Iraq claims that its invasion two years ago was defensive in nature, to stop such bombardment and to forestall an invasion that Iran allegedly was planning then.
Since driving Iraqi troops from most of its soil, Iran has tried several times to pierce Iraqi lines along the frontier and has seized two small pockets of Iraqi territory. The Islamic revolutionary government in Tehran says it will continue the war until it topples Iraq's secular president, Saddam Hussein, and obtains other demands.
In October, Iraq accepted peace proposals put forth by a mediation team led by the Islamic Conference Organization. It called for an immediate cease-fire and negotiation of disputes over the border and over payment of war reparations. Iran rejected the proposals.
Iraq previously has accused the United States of doing nothing to stop the Persian Gulf war because it wants to weaken Iraq, an Arab socialist nation that is particularly hostile to Israel.
Aziz charged that "Western centers" somehow were helping Iran sell its oil, despite the current petroleum glut, and thus to obtain funds to continue the war. Iran has been able to market its oil by offering discounts, but Aziz hinted that Western oil companies or banks somehow were aiding Tehran.
"If you want to stop a mobster, you can stop the flow of arms and money," Aziz said. He said Iraq was certain that Washington was not officially supporting arms shipments to Iran but that the United States could go another step.
"We managed at the start of the war to arrange to buy some American arms outside U.S. territory through unofficial means, but all of those deals were sabotaged by the U.S. government," Aziz said. "Why doesn't the American government do the same to the flow of arms to Iran?"
Aziz said that he had outlined these complaints last week to Geoffrey Kemp, the director of Middle East affairs for the U.S. National Security Council, who was visiting here. The United States has told the Iraqis that the black market is outside U.S. control and that Washington has asked its allies not to sell arms to either side, an informed diplomat here said.
"The response [to the U.S. appeal] has been mixed. The British and German positions have been pretty responsive, while the Italians probably sell arms to both sides," the diplomat said.
Aziz noted that most of Iran's arms were made in the United States and that Tehran needed spare parts for them. He said that the Iranians have obtained U.S.-made TOW antitank missiles since the start of the war, plus Western-made heavy artillery, tanks and armored personnel carriers, or parts for them.
Israel also has acknowledged supplying arms to Iran, but Aziz said the arms had not gone there in large quantities. He said other U.S. allies in Western Europe, possibly Portugal, also had provided weapons to the Iranians.
Aziz acknowledged that Iran has received most of its weapons since the beginning of the war from friends of the Soviet Union, notably North Korea, Libya and Syria. He said that Iraq was complaining to Moscow as well as to Washington about the flow.
Some diplomats here speculate that both the United States and the Soviet Union are content to allow the Persian Gulf war to continue because it ties down two powerful, independent-minded nations in a strategic area.
Aziz criticized Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf oil states for not providing Iraq with enough aid. His comments were believed to be Iraq's first public criticism of the Saudis and other gulf states on the issue. The oil states have provided Iraq with between $35 billion and $50 billion in grants and low-cost loans since the start of the war.
"The help has not been comparable to the strategic fact" of Iraq's importance, Aziz said. The Saudis and Kuwaitis reportedly are one or more months behind in their contributions to Iraq at present.
Iraq apparently feels that the gulf states are depending so heavily on it to contain Iran, which has urged the overthrow of the oil states' pro-Western regimes, that it can safely be critical.