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Gulf war polarizes Arabs: Soviet allies line up with Iran

As the Gulf war moves toward the end of its fourth week with no sign of stopping, other Arab states are increasingly polarizing in their suprt for the two protagonists.

Analysis here say that this, in turn, could lead to a greater involvement by the great powers. One veteran Lebanese editor even warns that the upshot could be a demoralized Iran falling clearly into the Soviet sphere of influence.

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At any rate, Moscow's allies in the Mideast are coming out ever more openly in support of the Iranian war effort.

Libya's Col. Muammar Qaddafi is openly calling on his fellow Arabs to support Islamic Iran "against the inifidel." And there is increasingly solid evidence that the Syrians, who entered into a formal "unity" arrangement with Libya in September, and who this month signed a friendship treaty with Moscow, are sending much-needed war supplies to Iran.

One traveler transiting Syria's international airport at Damascus in recent days reported seeing three Iranian Air Force Hercules transport planes on the tarmac, loading up with rockets, mortars, and ammunition.

Meanwhile, Syria's southern neighbor, Jordan, has offered Iraq full transit facilities for goods, including military supplies, unable to reach the war-smitten Iraqi port of Basra at the head of the Gulf.

Travelers along the main Iraqi-Jordanian highway over the Oct. 11-12 weekend said numerous convoys of brand-new (and empty) troop transports were crossing toward the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.

With new supplies thus apparently reaching both of the warring Gulf powers, prospects of an early solution to their conflict remain dim. Reports from the battlefront, which now runs right through the oil fields at the south of the Iran-Iraq border, say that both sides continue to fight there with a dogged determination.

The Iraqis claimed at the end of September to have attained their basic war aim of regaining control over Iraqi land and portions of the Shatt al Arab waterway. But they still continue their push into the two Iranian riverside cities of Khorramshahr and Abadan -- a move some military analysts say might be aimed at ensuring total Iraqi control over the waterway.

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Their continued offensive against Iranian cities farther north, however, offers no such simple explanation. The Iraqi's major problem appears to be that , after the completely unsuccessful offer of a cease-fire on Oct. 5, there is no one among Iran's leaders willing to respond to such an initiative.

Iranian spokesman have sworn that Iran will agree to no cease-fire while Iraqi troops remain on iranian soil. Thus the Iraqis, having once transgressed the international frontiers, seemed doomed to continuing to fight an enemy ruled by religious fanaticism rather than a statesmanly logic.

As the hostilities further outgrow the hope for a short, sharp war, the long-term potential of the two sides assumes ever greater importance. The iraqis might be thought to have a clear lead in access to needed resources -- but the Soviets are doing what they can to ensure that Iran stays in the game.

For the Saudis, the sight of the two major armies of the Gulf battering each other in an extended war of attrition might at first appear to be welcome. But reports from the Saudi capital, Riyadh, say the Saudis fear that in any prolonged fighting they will be drawn ever further into supporting the Iraqis -- with all the attendant risks from the enraged Iranians.

A flying visit by Jordan's King Hussein to Riyadh was followed Oct. 13 with a visit there by an Iraqi vice-premier. It is said that the Iraqis may be in need of Saudi port space and oil suppies.

The Iraqis themselves have expressed full confidence that whatever they need from their Arab brothers will be granted them.

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