US embassy cable - 85BAGHDAD3988

THE GULF WAR: PROSPECTS FOR PEACE OR EXPANSION

Identifier: 85BAGHDAD3988
Wikileaks: View 85BAGHDAD3988 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Baghdad
Created: 1985-11-24 11:15:00
Classification: SECRET
Tags: MOPS PREL IZ IR XF
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
P 241115Z NOV 85
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9731
AMEMBASSY AMMAN PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY DOHA PRIORITY
AMCONSUL DHAHRAN PRIORITY
AMCONSUL JEDDAH PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY KUWAIT PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY MANAMA PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY MUSCAT PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY RIYADH PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY SANAA PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY
INFO AMEMBASSY CAIRO
AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 3988 
 
FOR MANAMA POLITICAL OFFICERS' MEETING 
NEW DELHI FOR ASSISTANT SECRETARY MURPHY 
LONDON FOR RAPHEL 
PARIS FOR WINN 
 
E.O. 12356: DECL:OADR 
TAGS: MOPS, PREL, IZ, IR, XF 
SUBJECT: THE GULF WAR: PROSPECTS FOR PEACE OR EXPANSION 
 
REF: STATE 323960 
 
 
1. SECRET - ENTIRE TEXT. 
 
2. SUMMARY: THE GULF WAR WILL LIKELY BUT NOT NECESSARILY REMAIN 
STALEMATED. IRAQ DOMINATES IN EVERY MAJOR WEAPONS CATEGORY AND 
HAS CONSTRUCTED FORMIDABLE DEFENSES. YET, ALL IS NOT WELL. THE 
IRANIANS CONTINUE TO MAKE INROADS EVEN WHILE PAYING DEARLY FOR 
THEM. OVER TIME THE WILL OF IRAQI FORCES TO RESIST COULD BECOME 
INCREASINGLY BRITTLE. THE STAKES INVOLVED FOR WESTERN INTERESTS 
ARE TOO VITAL TO PERMIT COMPLACENCY. AN IRANIAN VICTORY WOULD 
REDRAW THE POLITICAL AS WELL AS THE GEOGRAPHIC MAP. THE DANGER 
IS NOT THAT IRAQ'S ACTIONS WILL SPARK A WIDER WAR BUT THAT IT 
WILL OVERESTIMATE ITS ABILITIES TO SUSTAIN A DETERMINED DEFENSE. 
IN ANY CASE, IRAN WILL NOT NOW ATTEMPT A FRONTAL ASSAULT ON 
OTHER GULF ARAB STATES BUT WILL CONTINUE TO PURSUE POLICIES 
DESIGNED TO DESTABILIZE THEIR RULING REGIMES OR AT MINIMUM 
INTIMIDATE THEM INTO STRICT NEUTRALITY. FINALLY, FEARS THAT THE 
SOVIETS WILL GAIN ADVANTAGES IN IRAN AT OUR EXPENSE ARE GROSSLY 
EXAGGERATED GIVEN THE DIVERGENT POLICIES OF THE TWO STATES AND 
THVIR ANTITHETICAL INTERESTS. END SUMMARY. 
 
3. THE IRAN-IRAQ WAR HAS ESSENTIALLY BEEN A BLOODY STALEMATE FOR 
THE LAST THREE AND ONE-HALF YEARS WITH IRANIAN SOLDIERS PAYING 
A TERRIBLE PRICE TO ACHIEVE MINOR TACTICAL GAINS. GIVEN IRAN'S 
GROSS INFERIORITY IN THE FULL RANGE OF MODERN WEAPONRY AND IRAQ'S 
FORMIDABLE, IF LARGELY STATIC, DEFENSIVE LINES, THE STALEMATE 
SHOULD CONTINUE. HOWEVER, WARS ARE NOT ENTIRELY PREDICTABLE. 
INDIVIDUAL MOTIVATION AND UNIT ESPIRIT STILL COUNT FOR A GREAT 
DEAL. IN THESE CATEGORIES, IRAN'S REVOLUTIONARY GUARDS AND RAG- 
TAG BASIJ CLEARLY HOLD SWAY. MOREOVER, THE IRAQI POLITICAL LEADER- 
SHIP'S DETERMINATION TO MINIMIZE CASUALTIES AND TO USE ITS VAST 
AIR SUPERIORITY SPARINGLY LEAVE THE INITIATIVE TO IRAN'S FORCES 
-- A SITUATION THAT CERTAINLY MUST DEMORALIZE AT LEAST SOME OF 
THE MORE PROFESSIONAL OFFICEERS AND NON-COMS IN IRAQ'S ARMY. 
EVEN MORE PUZZLING IS THE IRAQI ARMED FORCES' APPARENT WILLING- 
NESS TO ALLOW THEIR ADVERSARIES TO BUILD CAUSEWAYS AND PONTOON 
BRIDGES THROUGHOUT THE VAST HUWAYZAH MARSHES WITH ONLY SPORADIC 
HARRASSMENT FROM H&I FIRE OR AIR STRIKES. MILITARY ATTACHES AND 
ADVISERS IN BAGHDAD ARE AT A LOSS TO EXPLAIN IRAQ'S PASSIVITY AND 
VIOLATION OF SOME BASIC RULES OF WARFARE. 
 
4. NEVERTHELESS, THOSE WHO MEET WITH IRAQI COMMANDERS AND MILITARY 
INTELLIGENCE OFFICIALS FIND THEM EXUDING CONFIDENCE. AND, PERHAPS, 
NOT WITHOUT REASON. MASSIVE IRANIAN OFFENSIVES HAVE BEEN BROKEN 
TIME AND TIME AGAIN. WHERE IRAQI LINES HAVE BEEN BREACHED, THE 
IRANIANS HAVE BEEN UNABLE TO EXPLOIT IT BECAUSE OF INADEQUACIES 
IN PLANNING, MOBILITY, AIR, ARMOR AND ARTILLERY SUPPORT AND 
LOGISTICS. INDEED, THESE FACTORS RATHER THAN IRAQI PROWESS MAKE 
A CONTINUED STALEMATE LIKELY. 
 
5. TO CONTEMPLATE AN IRANIAN VICTORY REQUIRES THE SUPPOSITION 
THAT IRAQI FORCES AFTER SUFFERING A MAJOR, BUT INDECISIVE, 
BATTLEFIELD REVERSE, PANIC AND A GENERAL ROUT BEGINS SOMEWHAT 
ON THE ORDER OF WHAT HAPPENED TO ARVN TROOPS IN 1975. ALTHOUGH 
THE IRAQI LEADERSHIP WITH GOOD INTERIOR LINES OF DEFENSE COULD 
BE EXPECTED TO RUSH IN FRESH TROOPS TO CONTAIN THE DAMAGE, THE 
FACT IS THAT FEW FOREIGNERS HAVE ANY REAL KNOWLEDGE OF HOW IRAQI 
TROOPS WOULD HANDLE SUCH A REVERSE. WE BELIEVE THAT WHILE A 
COLLAPSE CANNOT BE RULED OUT, IT REMAINS IMPROBABLE FOR THE NEAR- 
TERM. 
 
6. YET, THE STAKES IN THIS WAR ARE SUCH THAT WESTERN COUNTRIES 
SHOULD GUARD AGAINST COMPLACENCY. EVEN IF ONE ASSIGNS THE 
IRANIANS ONLY A 10-15 PERCENT POSSIBILITY OF VICTORY, THE 
IMPLICATIONS OF SUCH AN OUTCOME WOULD CERTAINLY BE CATESTROPHIC. 
 
7. FEW DOUBT THAT KHOMEINI WANTS HIS INTERPRETATION OF ISLAM TO 
PREVAIL THROUGHOUT THE REGION OR THAT HE WOULD BE SATISFIED TO 
DOMINATE IRAQ. EVEN NOW THE IRANIANS ARE SEEKING TO UNDERMINE 
SEVERAL GULF REGIMES, MOST NOTABLY IN BAHRAIN AND KUWAIT. THE 
SAUDI RULING FAMILY IS THE OBJECT OF SCORN IN TEHRAN AND THEIR 
RIGHT TO ACT AS SOLE GUARDIANS OF THE HOLY PLACES HAS BEEN CALLED 
INTO QUESTION. IRANIAN FEELINGS TOWARD KING HUSSEIN AS A CRONY OF 
THE SHAH AND MORE RECENTLY AS AN ALLY OF IRAQ HARDLY NEED 
MENTIONING. DESPITE REPORTED ISRAELI AID FOR IRAN EARLIER IN THE 
WAR AND THEIR MUTUAL ANTIPATHY FOR IRAQ, ISRAEL AND ITS RULE OVER 
JERUSALEM SERVE AS POWERFUL SYMBOLS THROUGH WHICH IRANIAN 
PROPAGANDA TRIES TO ROUSE ARAB AND NON-ARAB MUSLIMS ALIKE. THE 
ACTIONS OF IRANIAN-SUPPORTED GROUPS IN LEBANON SUCH AS 
HIZBALLAH AND ISLAMIC AMAL WOULD SEEM TO INDICATE THAT IRANIAN 
VITUPERATION DIRECTED AT ISRAEL IS MORE THAN RHETORICAL. 
 
8. EVEN A VICTORIOUS IRAN WITH LESSER AMBITIONS AT MINIMUM COULD 
EXPECT TO DOMINATE OIL POLICY IN THE REGION AND FORCE A CHOICE 
AMONG GULF RULERS BETWEEN DISTANCING THEMSELVES FROM THE U.S. OR 
EMBRACING US A NEVER BEFORE. BOTH SCENARIOS ARE INHERENTLY 
DANGEROUS AND UNSTABLE. 
 
9. IF THIS ANALYSIS IS VALID, THEN IRAQ NEEDS BOLSTERING AND 
FEARS THAT ITS ACTIONS AGAINST KHARG OR IRAN'S INTERIOR WOULD 
SPREAD THE WAR, WHILE UNDERSTANDABLE, SHOULD BE SUBORDINATED TO 
REDUCING FURTHER THE ODDS THAT IT MIGHT LOSE. IN TRUTH IRAQ 
WAS TOO BOLD IN STARTING THIS WAR AND IS TOO TIMID IN 
PROSECUTING IT. 
 
10. THE LONGER THE WAR DRAGS ON, THE MORE LIKELY AN IRAQI 
COLLAPSE BECOMES. A KHOMEINI-LED IRAN WILL NOT WIND DOWN OR END 
THE WAR UNLESS NO OTHER VIABLE OPTION EXISTS. THIS REQUIRES IRAN 
BE DENIED TO THE EXTENT POSSIBLE INCOME AND ARMS. THE IRANIANS 
ARE NOT GOING TO SPREAD THE WAR BY MAKING A SUSTAINED FRONTAL 
ASSAULT AGAINST THE GULF STATES, REALIZING ALL TOO WELL WHAT THE 
CONSEQUENCES WOULD BE. RATHER, THEY CAN BE EXPECTED TO CONTINUE 
TO SEEK SUBVERSIVE ASSETS THROUGHOUT THE GULF REGION WHILE 
PROBING PRESSURE POINTS AND PRACTICING GENERAL INTIMIDATION. 
 
11. FINALLY, FEARS THAT THE SOVIETS WILL MAKE INROADS INTO IRAN 
WOULD SEEM GROSSLY EXAGGERATED. THE SOVIET UNION, NOT THE U.S., 
IS IRAQ'S PRINCIPAL ARMS SUPPLIER; THE ENEMY OF THE MUJAHIDIN 
IN AFGHANISTAN; THE BACKER OF THE TUDEH PARTY; AND THE RULERS 
OF 40 MILLION MUSLIMS INSIDE ITS OWN BORDERS. THE SOVIETS HAVE 
HARDLY RESPONDED POSITIVELY TO RECENT IRANIAN OVERTURES LARGELY 
BECAUSE THE IDEOLOGY OF IRAN'S RULING CLERICS PREVENTS THEM FROM 
MAKING THE SOVIETS A SUFFICIENTLY ATTRACTIVE OFFER TO SWITCH 
SIDES.-/ 
 
 
NEWTON 

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