As superpowers talk, peace spreads. Easing of Gulf and other conflicts follows tacit US-Soviet prodding
Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran gave in this past week to the pressures bearing upon him and agreed to accept a cease-fire in his eight-year war with Iraq. He thus provided another example of how regional conflicts can be resolved when the superpowers work together. Moscow and Washington have both wanted an end to the Iran-Iraq war. Each might have used the war as an opportunity to gain a power advantage over the other. Instead, both used their influence and their leverage toward settlement.
Superpower pressure was perhaps not decisive in persuading the obviously reluctant ayatollah to agree to accept a truce in the war. He said it was harder for him ``than taking poison.'' But the superpowers have jointly contributed to the pressures on Khomeini: Russia by keeping up a steady flow of modern weapons to Iraq; the US by protecting the flow of Iraqi oil through Kuwait to the outside world.
Thus the Iraqis could both pay for weapons and get them, whereas the ayatollah was having trouble finding weapons, and his ability to pay was being eroded by the steady bombing of his oil terminals. He was running out of money at the same time that his young men were growing reluctant to go to the front.
Ronald Reagan went to Moscow in late May. He talked there with Mikhail Gorbachev for four days. The world has not been the same since. Over this past week other developments show unmistakable fingerprints from the summit.
Moscow said it was willing to dismantle its great radar complex at Krasnoyarsk which some American experts think is part of Moscow's own ``star wars'' complex. They propose a 10-year extension of the terms of the 1972 ABM treaty. The US would never agree without the dismantling of Krasnoyarsk. The offer could bring a deal closer.
Negotiations over Angola have taken a promising turn. The important details are still to be worked out, but the negotiators seem to think that they have the outlines of a settlement under which South Africa will get its troops out of both Angola and Namibia in return for which the Soviets (950) and Cubans (45,000) will go home.
The Vietnamese are still promising a total troop withdrawal from Cambodia and have already pulled out some troops. The Soviets have been pulling out inch-by-inch from Afghanistan. The Chinese are talking of reining in the infamous Khmer Rouge, which would make possible a new regime in Cambodia.
Mutual inspection of nuclear facilities in the US and Soviet Union continues and was extended during the week to US nuclear installations in Britain.
The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmed that the Soviets are doing ``less forward naval deployment.''
The Gulf war has not ended. But the evidence seems to be decisive that Iran cannot afford to carry on much longer, if at all. Both the economy and the will of the people to fight has been undermined. The time has apparently come when more war could threaten Iran's regime.
Of course not all regional conflicts have a superpower factor, hence not all are susceptible to superpower collaboration.
The Soviets have refused to give more support to the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, but Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega Saavedra is again being defiant. Instead of moving ahead toward the democratization called for in the Arias plan, he closed down La Prensa and Radio Cat'olica, the main voices of political opposition.
In Washington, President Reagan would like to revive military aid for the contras to renew pressure on Mr. Ortega. But it was late in the game for that. Time is running out for Mr. Reagan. Congress is too preoccupied with domestic election politics to take up anything as controversial as more guns for contras.
Meanwhile, if you sit back and take a general look at the whole world, you will notice that for the first time since the end of World War II more news is being generated by Soviet problems at home than by Soviet deeds to others outside.
This week Mr. Gorbachev cracked down on the latest outburst of local nationalism by Christian Armenians who live inside the Muslim Republic of Azerbaijan and wish to be incorporated into the neighboring Armenian Republic.
During the previous week he had been in Poland trying to find the solution to virtual collapse of the economy in that unhappy country. Unrest plagues him in the Baltic states. And his own economy is not yet responding to perestroika.
Is the US also beginning to look inward? Certainly, for the moment its preoccupation is with its own domestic politics. The phenomenon is more pronounced in the Soviet Union. Mr. Gorbachev is busy trying to revive his economy and hold together his inner empire. He literally has no time for faraway adventures.