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Picking up the pieces from the Gulf war. Lessons for Gulf states - and the world

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IF there is to be a lasting peace between Iran and Iraq, other states in the Gulf region and the great powers must all learn the right lessons from this tragic conflict. They must also apply these lessons to policies toward the peace negotiations and to the longer-term goal of creating and maintaining a stable balance of power in the region. First, Iraq should be disabused of the idea that it won the war, and on its own. The Gulf countries have paid a heavy price for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's ambitions. He must not be allowed to reap the fruits of his aggression, such as gaining full sovereignty over the Shatt al Arab (Arvand Rud) waterway. That would only encourage more recklessness and adventurism on his part.

Second, the Arabs must realize they made a mistake in believing their own propaganda about Iran. The last eight years have proved that Iran is not the hodgepodge of ethnic and linguistic minorities they assumed it to be, a country that would disintegrate with the slightest push from outside. The war has shown there is a strong sense of nationhood and nationalism in Iran. Most important, the Arabs must finally realize that Khuzestan is not Arabistan, as the Iranian province is known to many in the Arab world.

Third, Iran - and especially the Islamic radicals - must realize that they have lost the war, and only they are to blame. Not since the Mongol invasion of the 13th century has Iran seen so much devastation. Some Japanese experts have estimated that it will take Iran 30 years to rebuild its economy. By that time its oil reserves will be all but depleted. If the current 3.5 percent annual rate of population increase continues, in 30 years Iran could become another Bangladesh.

Meanwhile, Iran's historical and cultural heritage, from the pre-Islamic sites of Khuzestan to the blue Mosque of Isfahan - the masterpieces of Islamic architecture - have been blown away. In terms of the destruction of Iran's cultural heritage, President Hussein has matched the Arab armies that burned its libraries and pillaged its treasures 1,400 years ago.


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