Feisty Saddam sure Iraq will win Gulf war
A buoyant Iraqi President has predicted victory in the current fighting with Iran, even if hostilities should drag on for some years. In the meantime, however, President Saddam Hussein held out hope to oil consumers that his country could resume pumping oil as soon as certain "technical steps" had been taken.
The Iraqi leader presented a cheerful face to some 200 local and foreign journalists in his Nov. 10 press conference. He smiled broadly even when an air-raid warning provoked a power cut in the Baghdad concert hall where he spoke for some 2 1/2 hours.
The President spelled out further the extent of his government's hostility to the present regime in IRan. "We are for the partition, destruction, and weakening of Iran, so long as it is hostile to the Arab nation," he said.
He also expanded slightly on references he had made in a speech to the Iraqi parliament earlier this month, including one about war bestowing "additional rights" on its victors.
He appeared to stress that these additional rights would not include demands for any territory from Iran other than that previously claimed as belonging historically to Iraq.
Asked about the key oil-producing Iranian province of Khuzestan (which Iraqis call Arabistan), large parts of which are now occupied by Iraqi forces, Saddam Hussein was absolutely clear.
"We have said, and repeat, that our demands from Iran do not include territorial demands," he emphasized. "We have said that whenever Iranian officials recognize our rights we would withdraw from all Iranian lands."
The demands of "the Arabistanis, the Iranian Kurds, and other Iranian minorities" for some form of self-rule were, he added, a different issue.
If the "additional rights" are not to be territorial, then, "after one year . . . or three years, after the war, it will become clear what these extra rights are," the President said. He made a passing reference to the reparations demanded of Germany after its defeat in World War I.
Despite his denial of any claims on Arabistan, the President, dressed in the battle dress appropriate to his field-marshal's rank, did lay stress on the issue of the three Iranian-occupied islands near the Hormuz Strait traditionally claimed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
"The three Arab islands should be returned to their owners, the UAE," Mr. Saddam spelled out. "This is necessary for the security of the strait. Just as the Shatt al Arab should be Iraqi.
"Halfway solutions cannot help," he stressed. "If the islands remain with Iran, then the world should expect . . . possibly another world war."
For now, the President said, Iraq preferred to solve its problems with Iran on a bilateral basis. "But if we find that is not possible, we could look for guarantees or formulae," he said.
He recalled that Iraq has encouraged, and continues to encourage, mediation efforts by the nonaligned and Islamic countries, as well as the United Nations.
The President said that the Iraqis were ready for a long-drawn-out fight. Since just after the war erupted in earnest in late September, he said, Iraq had been paving roads inside the captured Iranian territory in preparation for winter actions.
He was sanguine about the ability of Iraq's population of 13 million to withstand a long war. "We have five years' financial reserves in hand even if there is a total stoppage of oil exports," he said.
This is the first such open claim by the financially canny Iraqis. The International Monetary Fund figures, which Western diplomats here consider err considerably on the conservative side, give the country at least two years' reserves.
The President was asked about the French-supplied Iraqi atomic research facility in Baghdad that was reported damaged in an air-raid in early October.
"The people who supplied it -- even if it was damaged or destroyed -- can always bring along another, even better, one," he replied. He declined to make any further comments on the report.