Global Policy Forum



By Modher Amin

United Press International
July 5, 2004

Iranians are indignant at the Iraqi court's failure to include the 1980 attack on Iran and the use of chemical weapons on its fighters as the charges read out during Saddam's Hussein's court appearance last Thursday.

Tehran said Sunday it was drawing its own list of charges against the ousted leader for crimes relating to the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, during which close to a million people -- mostly Iranians -- were killed. "One of the crimes of Saddam Hussein is the attack of Iran, the death of Iranians, and the use of chemical weapons in Halabja (within Iraq) and other places (in Iran) during the war," Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hamid Reza Asefi, told reporters. "Iran will definitely file a complaint with the Iraqi court."

Preliminary charges against Saddam Hussein cover invasion of Kuwait in 1990, crushing Kurdish and Shiite revolts after the 1991 Persian Gulf war, ethnic cleansing of Kurds in 1987-1988, gassing Kurds in Halabja in 1988, killing religious leaders in 1974 and killing of political activists over three decades. "We have asked the Iraqis to explain why the attack on Iran did not feature among the charges against him, even though the judge said it would be addressed at a later date," Asefi said.

The trial of the 67-year-old Saddam has provoked anger among other Iranian officials, who described Saddam as a war criminal, having committed atrocities beyond the borders of his country. The officials also called for the transparency of the trial, with some urging the case to be referred to the Hague, to, apparently, obtain international recognition of the "crimes committed."

Addressing an open session of the new conservative-held parliament on Sunday, Speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad Adel denounced the trial as "American." "The Iraqi attack on Iran was the most important chapter in Saddam's dossier," he said. "The prosecution will have to reveal if they really intend to prosecute him for his crimes or if this will be a show trial."

On Friday, the influential former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, said Saddam's trial should be totally public, accusing, at the same time, the United States of imposing censorship. "Saddam's extraordinary crimes must be exposed but from the first words pronounced by Saddam, the Americans imposed censorship and broadcast only what they wanted," Rafsanjani told worshippers at the weekly prayers in Tehran.

Rafsanjani called on all Iranian authorities to press charges against Saddam for using chemical weapons on Iranian soldiers and civilians within the country during the eight-year war between the two nations. "We faced severe chemical attacks at the beginning of the war when world powers were giving Saddam the green light to do anything to prevent Iran from winning," he said.

Rafsanjani, head of Iran's top political arbitration body -- the Expediency Council -- and still one of the clerical regime's most powerful figures, condemned the absence of the Iran-Iraq war from the main charges leveled against the deposed Iraqi dictator. "Why is the war against Kuwait, which only lasted several months, among the major charges while the war against Iran, which lasted eight years, is omitted?" he asked, casting doubt on the self-reliance of the Iraqi court. "If the Iraqi court refuses to include (Saddam's responsibility) in the unleashing of the war against Iran, it means it is on an order from the Americans," Said Rafsanjani, adding that 100,000 Iranians suffered from Iraqi chemical weapons. Iranian officials put the annual cost of treatment alone of the chemically injured victims at $20m.

Once the war ended in 1988, peace negotiations between Iran and Iraq got underway in the U.N. premises in Geneva. Iran's attempts, however, to receive compensation for war damages, which Tehran puts at $1,000 billion, has so far failed. Tehran says its call for reparations was partially approved by the former U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar in 1990, who later on December 9, 1991, declared Iraq as the initiator of the war. But, Saddam's Iraq insisted it was Iran that provoked the war with border shelling and skirmishes, as well as by threatening to export the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's Islamic revolution of 1979.

A U.N. fact-finding mission confirmed the use of banned weapons by the Iraqi regime against Iranian troops in a trip they made to Iran in March 1984. "The specialists unanimously concluded that chemical weapons in the form of aerial bombs had been used in the areas they inspected ... and that the type of chemical agents used were ... mustard gas, and ... a nerve agent known as Tabun," read the 1984 U.N. Yearbook.

It remains uncertain, however, if such agents were developed inside the country or supplied to Iraq by external sources. But Iran believes the U.S. and other Western governments provided Saddam with equipment that helped him use chemical weapons against the Islamic republic.

In its Editorial on Monday, the pro-reform English-language Iran News daily, stresses the prosecution of Saddam for what it calls "unspeakable atrocities against Iran," but, at the same time, criticizes Iranian foreign policy for failing to pursue a strong, effective diplomacy in securing war reparations.

"... Not all fault should lay with the new Iraqi government for this gross oversight of justice (absence of Iran-Iraq war from the charges brought against Saddam Hussein)," it said. "U.N. Resolution 598 (by which Iran agreed to a cease-fire) expressly stated that Iran was entitled to billions of dollars worth of war damages but our foreign ministry officials were indecisive and not as resolute as needed to secure payment." The paper compared Iranian situation with that of Kuwait, asking: "Notwithstanding that having U.S. support is a plus, why couldn't we get the kind of deal Kuwait secured?"

After the 1991 Persian Gulf war, the Iraqi regime was ordered to pay $48 billion worth of war reparations. Reports say that Kuwait has already received $18 billion of that money and the U.N. has obtained a guarantee from Iraq's new interim government whereby 5 percent of all Iraqi oil proceeds would be set aside for Kuwait. "It is high time for Iran's foreign ministry to once again get the ball rolling on Resolution 598," the paper concluded. "In fact, the first step should be a thorough review of the Resolution by our seasoned diplomats and legal experts toward reviving and recovering our long-overdue rights."

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