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Iran, Iraq hold US moves won't end war

For once, Iran and Iraq seem to agree on something. Officials from both countries denounce President Reagan's claim that one of his main aims in sending arms to Iran is to help bring an end to the Persian Gulf war.

After initial reports of the American arms supplies to Iran first broke two weeks ago, Iraq's prolonged silence fueled some speculation among Middle East observers. Did the silence mean Iraq was in the know, and that Washington had told Baghdad that settling the war peacefully was part of the deal? (Iraq, whose troops first entered Iran in 1980, has since sought to negotiate an end - which Iran refuses.)

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But Baghdad left little room for such questions when it issued a government statement last week, bitterly denouncing the United States' move. It explained the delay saying it wanted to be sure of the facts first.

The statement said Iraq did not object in principle to Washington seeking normal ties with any other country, even Iran, as long as that process did not threaten Iraq or prolong the Gulf war. But, it said, ``Iraq not only deeply regrets, but strongly condemns the fact that American efforts to establish relations with Iran, or some circles in Iran, should involve the supply to that aggressive regime of quantities of military supplies, irrespective of their size or nature.''

``How could the supply of [US] military hardware to such a regime achieve the objectives outlined in President Reagan's speech?'' the communiqu'e asked. It noted the US had maintained that denying supplies to Iran was the best way to end the war.

Iranian officials also discount any possible US role in mediating the conflict. In an interview with Iran's official news agency last weekend, Iran's ambassador to the UN, Said Rajaie Khorassani, said: ``If the US, by establishing links with [Iran], intends to mediate in the Iraqi-imposed war and end it in the manner it desires, it is 100 percent mistaken.'' He said Washington decided to approach Iran only because it became aware of Iran's ``strategic power'' and ``imminent victory.''

In the four objectives Reagan said he was pursuing, ending the war came second to restoring relations with Iran. But Iran has been emphatic that this cannot happen. Even Mr. Khorassani, who said Iran saw Reagan's address as a positive development, ruled this out.

``This will not happen easily: people will not tolerate it,'' he said. ``If the Americans meet their obligations to Iran, the most they can expect is [Iranian] mediation to solve American [hostage] problems in Lebanon.'' Officials in Tehran have been more categorical.

But, despite differences in tone and presentation, Iranian leaders have all held out the possibility of Tehran using its influence to help free US hostages held by pro-Iranian groups in Lebanon - if the US meets Iran's terms. These include lifting of the arms embargo, returning Iranian assets, and ``meeting the demands of Lebanese Muslims.''

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Islamic Jihad, the group which claims to still hold two Americans in Lebanon, said Saturday there would be no more releases unless its demands are met. The main one is believed to be the release of 17 Islamic extremists jailed for bomb attacks in Kuwait.

Getting the hostages back was, in fact, placed fourth on Reagan's list of objectives. In third place was ``ending Iranian state-supported terrorism,'' an issue on which Tehran has been silent.

Reports, from Iranian officials and exiled oppositionists, of arrests in Iran of radicals committed to exporting the ``Islamic revolution'' are seen as perhaps related to a power struggle over succession to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and to the pragmatic direction apparently being taken by some Iranian leaders. But it is unclear if they relate to Reagan's third stated aim of ending Iranian-backed terrorism. Judging from Iran and Iraq's reaction, analysts say that, in terms of their likely achievement, Reagan's goals should have been listed in reverse order.

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