US embassy cable - 88BAGHDAD1181

IRAQ-IRAN WAR: ESCALATION OF THE WAR: NEED TO PRESSURE IRAQ TO DE-ESCALATE

Identifier: 88BAGHDAD1181
Wikileaks: View 88BAGHDAD1181 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Baghdad
Created: 1988-03-02 10:53:00
Classification: SECRET
Tags: PREL MOPS IZ IR US
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
O 021053Z MAR 88
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6465
INFO GULF WAR COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE 0261
S E C R E T BAGHDAD 01181 
 
E.O. 12356: DECL:OADR 
TAGS:  PREL, MOPS, IZ, IR, US 
SUBJ:  IRAQ-IRAN WAR: ESCALATION OF THE WAR: NEED TO 
PRESSURE IRAQ TO DE-ESCALATE 
 
1.  (SECRET-ENTIRE TEXT) 
 
2.  NOW THAT THE WAR OF THE CITIES HAS RESUMED 
(REGARDLESS OF WHO ACTUALLY STARTED IT), THE IRAQIS 
APPEAR TO FEEL THAT FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 1980-81 
THEY HAVE A SIGNIFICANT STRATEGIC ADVANTAGE OVER 
IRAN.  ALTHOUGH UNDERSECRETARY HAMDOON ARGUED TO ME 
YESTERDAY THAT IRAQ WANTS TO ASSURE MUTUAL DETERRENCE 
AGAINST HITTING THE TWO CAPITALS, THE IRAQIS ARE 
SHOWING NONE OF THE MEASURED RESPONSE SUCH A GOAL 
WOULD IMPLY.  RATHER THEY HAVE FIRED NINETEEN 
MISSILES TO DATE, NAMED BY THEM PROVOCATIVELY THE 
"HUSSEIN" AFTER SHIA ISLAM'S MOST HOLY FIGURE, AND, 
EVEN MORE PROVOCATIVELY, HAVE FIRED THE LATEST ONE 
AGAINST THE HOLY CITY OF QUM. 
 
3.  WE BELIEVE THAT THE IRAQIS SEE THIS STRATEGIC 
ADVANTAGE AND ARE PRESSING IT HOME.  IF THEY HAVE 
STOCKPILED A LARGE SUPPLY OF MISSILES (WE ASSUME 
BUT DO NOT KNOW THAT THEY ARE SOVIET SS-12'S), THEY 
HAVE BADLY OUTGUNNED THE IRANIANS WHO HAVE ONLY A 
LIMITED SUPPLY OF OBSOLETE, SLOW-RELOADING SCUD B'S 
WITH A FEW LAUNCHERS.  THE IRAQIS ALSO KNOW THAT THEY 
HAVE AN ADVANTAGE ON THE GROUND.  IRAN IS NOT READY 
FOR AN ALL-OUT OFFENSIVE IN THE SOUTH.  IF IT IS 
GOADED TO ATTACK WITH WHAT THEY HAVE, THEY FACE 
ALMOST CERTAIN DEFEAT AND THE POSSIBILITY OF A 
STRONG COUNTER-ATTACK FROM IRAQ.  THE WINDOW FOR 
ATTACKING IS RAPIDLY RUNNING OUT FOR IRAN, SINCE THE 
PRIME WINTER IAPYJV  S PQMF AILL BE OVER BY THE 
END OF THIS MONTH, HARDLY ENOUGH TIME EVEN IF A NEW 
RECRUITING OF BASIJ STIMULATED BY THE MISSILE ATTACKS 
BEGINS IMMEDIATELY. 
 
4.  THE IRAQ MOTIVE IN FORCING AN ESCALATION OF 
THE FIGHTING IS CLEARLY TO MAKE IRAN GIVE UP ITS 
WAR AIMS.  FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE THE INITIAL AIR 
RAIDS ON KHARG ISLAND THREE YEARS AGO, IRAQ SENSES 
THAT IT REALLY HAS THE ABILITY TO FORCE AN END TO 
HOSTILITIES, RATHER THAN JUST TO REACT.  UNDER THESE 
CIRCUMSTANCES, IT IS NOT LIKELY TO LISTEN TO APPEALS 
TO EASE OFF. 
 
5.  OUR CONDEMNATION OF BOTH SIDES FOR ATTACKING 
CIVILIAN TARGETS WAS JUST RIGHT.  I BELIEVE THAT, IF 
THE ATTACKS GO ON ANOTHER DAY, WE SHOULD GO BEYOND 
THE CONDEMNATION AND PRASS IRWY TT BE-ESCALATE.  I 
AM NOT SANGUINE THAT THEY WILL LISTEN, SINCE THEY 
SEE A VITAL OPPORTUNITY AND THEIR RECORD FOR LISTENING 
TO OUR UNWELCOME ADVICE IS NOT ENCOURAGING.  BUT IN 
THE INTEREST OF OUR EFFORTS TO ACHIEVE A QUICK 
PEACEFUL END TO THIS CONFLICT AND ABOVE ALL TO 
AVOID THE DANGERS OF AN INTENSIFIED WAR, I BELIEVE 
WE SHOULD MAKE THE EFFORT. 
 
NEWTON 

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