VIEW FROM BAGHDAD. Top Iraqi expresses distrust of US policy in region
Iraq's leadership says the United States' behavior in joining Israel to aid Iran has badly shaken Arab trust in the Reagan administration. Arms supplies to Iran and allegedly false US intelligence supplied in the past to Iraq endanger its defense and regional stability, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Taha Yassin Ramadan said in an ABC News interview.
``We are sure and confident,'' asserted Mr. Ramadan, one of President Saddam Hussein's senior colleagues, ``that for 1 years we have been dealing with an organized conspiracy by the US, Israel, and Iran.''
Though Mr. Ramadan used language which Western analysts here called more moderate than used earlier toward the Iran arms affair, he accused the US and Israel of coordinating an anti-Iraq strategy, in supplying arms to Iran and in the communications and intelligence fields.
``The conspiracy,'' Ramadan charged, ``began on Dec. 24, 1986'' with an Iranian offensive against the Basra area. From that date, he indicated, US-supplied Hawk anti-aircraft and TOW antitank missiles were used to offset the superiority of Iraq's French- and Soviet-supplied Air Force and tanks.
For two months until end of its ``Karbala 7'' push earlier this year, Iran sought to ``cut off and occupy Iraqi territory,'' Ramadan said. Iraq repulsed a new Iranian drive near Basra earlier this month.
Ramadan formally repeated a charge often expressed in Arab media: that two months before the February 1986 Iranian offensive which won the Faw Peninsula, ``information ... which we know originated in the US, told us that the main Iranian buildup was not against Faw. They said it was against the east bank of the Tigris,'' a now inactive area about 100 miles east of Bagdad. But while Iranian forces diverted Iraqi troops by occupying an island in the Shatt al-Arab waterway, another Iranian force seized Faw.
``While the aggression was going on,'' Ramadan claimed, ``the flow of information from the US still referred to the main Iranian target as the Tigris area, not Faw.''
Ramadan and diplomats here appear to agree that when Iraq challenged the US information, the US reply was that the information was the best then available. Iraqi field commanders said the Iranians often make surprise, unorthodox moves.
Since the Faw campaign, the US as well as the Soviet Union - one of Iraq's main arms suppliers - are understood to have continued supplying information including satellite intelligence. But neither Iraqi officials nor diplomats will discuss this.
Western experts here confirm that Iraqi forces have faced a hard test coping with Iran's growing missile capability. This includes, as well as US Hawks, Soviet-made SCUD missiles that have caused civilian casualties in Baghdad.
``Just the same,'' a neutral military analyst here adds, ``Iraq's Air Force remains far superior in strike power and in recent fighting around Basra has showed up better in tactical terms than ever before.''
Mr. Cooley, the Monitor's former Middle East reporter, is a London-based ABC news correspondent.