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Issue 327 - 14 December 1987

LINE-UP IN IRAN

Free

Over the past few weeks, Iran's political leaders have all been making repeated public statements in preparation for the next expected ground offensive against Iraq. The valour, enthusiasm and proficiency of the armed forces have been lavishly praised, those who suspect Iran of battle-weariness have been admonished, and the United States has been defiantly challenged to show its mettle. But beneath this apparently unanimous chorus of belligerent confidence lie sharp divisions within the ruling hierarchy which seem scarcely noticed outside Iran.

Issue 326 - 30 November 1987

RAFSANJANI IN TROUBLE?

Free

Suddenly, a cloud seems to have passed over the political prospects of Hojatolislam Hashemi Rafsanjani, the speaker of the Majlis (parliament) and hitherto the most powerful political figure in the Iranian regime after Ayatollah Khomeini. Rafsanjani is being exposed to mounting - and apparently concerted - criticism for his moderation on the issue of the war.

Issue 325 - 16 November 1987

ARAB ADJUSTMENTS

Free

The negative responses from Iran and Iraq to the UN Secretary General's latest proposals for a ceasefire in the Gulf war effectively quashed any hopes that the replies might have opened the road to an eventual peace settlement. Iran dismissed the UN proposals, which would link a ceasefire to the setting up of an independent commission to establish the blame for starting the war, accusing the UN of "cheating" and adopting a partisan attitude in favour of Iraq.

Issue 324 - 02 November 1987

NO SOLUTIONS

Free

The foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) meeting in Riyadh at the end of last month were faced with a number of clear-cut and important problems arising from the situation created in the Gulf by the Iran-Iraq war but to which - unfortunately for the ministers - there are no clear-cut solutions. The Silkworm missile assaults against Kuwaiti ships and oil installations left the six GCC countries wondering how close Iran was to launching a full-scale attack on Kuwait.

Issue 323 - 20 October 1987

THE AMMAN AGENDA

Free

King Hussein of Jordan has been extremely busy in recent weeks, trying to make sure that there are no absentees from next month's Arab summit meeting in Amman. And, a substantially more difficult task, he has also been making efforts to ensure that the conference will produce a credible and creditable pan-Arab consensus on at least some of the major issues facing the region at the present time.

Issue 322 - 06 October 1987

THE GULF: WHAT NEXT?

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The inconclusive results of last month's peace mission to Tehran and Baghdad by the UN Secretary General, Perez de Cuellar, and the temporising suggestions made by President Ali Khamenei in fresh talks with the UN Secretary General, has left the fifteen member states of the Security Council uncertain and discordant on the next moves to be made in the effort to halt the Gulf war.

Issue 321 - 22 September 1987

PEREZ RUNS AGROUND

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Even before he left New York, there was very little optimism that the peace mission to Tehran and Baghdad by Javier Perez de Cuellar, the United Nations Secretary-General, would have much success and the first reports on his visits confirms the gloomy prognosis. In Tehran, the Secretary-General's first port of call, the Iranian leadership insisted that any acceptance of the ceasefire call was conditional on the public condemnation by the Security Council of Iraq for starting the Gulf war.

Issue 320 - 08 September 1987

THE GROWING RISK

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Until a week or so ago it seemed just possible that some progress was being made towards a negotiated settlement to end the Gulf war. Iran had edged a little closer to acceptance of the July 20 United Nations Resolution 598, which unanimously called for a ceasefire in the war, and Iraq was keeping to its suspension of air attacks on Iranian shipping and oil installations. After an inauspicious beginning, the United States' naval escort operation was working reasonably well and without, so far, untoward incident. However, there were growing signs that the uneasy truce would not last.

Issue 319 - 25 August 1987

SWEEPING SOLUTIONS

Free

The arrival in the Gulf last week of the assault carrier USS Guadacanal carrying eight Sea Stallion mine-hunting helicopters gave, at last, some substance to American claims to provide a counter to the threat of Iranian mines in the Gulf. The United States has now assembled an operational fleet of 24 warships, including a battleship, six cruisers and an aircraft carrier, in and around the Gulf region. This is a formidable body of hardware but it has yet to prove that it can accomplish the task the Reagan Administration has set it.

Issue 318 - 11 August 1987

THE RELIGIOUS CHALLENGE

Free

The regime in Tehran was very well aware that Iran's pilgrimage contingent would cause trouble during the Haj, the Iranian leadership had publicly exhorted it to do so. The government of Saudi Arabia was fully expecting some mischief from the Iranian pilgrims, for several years there have been problems from the Iranian contingent on the Haj. But what Iran incorrectly calculated and Saudi Arabia failed to anticipate was the violence of the Iranian demonstrations and the magnitude of catastrophe they caused.

Issue 202 - 04 August 1987

INADEQUACIES EXPOSED

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At the end of their recent meeting in Taif, having held an "open" session for more than a month, the GCC foreign ministers welcomed the UN Security Council resolution on the Iran-Iraq war and urged the world community to "take positive attitudes" that would bring "peace, security and stability in the Gulf region". The ministers, meeting as the GCC Ministerial Council, also confirmed support for the arrangements made by Kuwait to preserve its safety and "hailed" the positive stance adopted by Iraq in relation to the Security Council resolution .

Issue 317 - 28 July 1987

THE U.S. PRESSES ON

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The Reagan administration is pressing ahead determinedly with its naval intervention in the Gulf, despite the considerable risks of escalating a conflict which it is officially pledged to resolve. The contradiction (and dangers) of US policy are evident both to Congress - which vainly wishes to postpone the reflagging and escorting of Kuwaiti oil tankers - and to Iran, which sees the whole exercise as a deliberately hostile act directed against itself .

Issue 201 - 21 July 1987

HAJ SEASON

Free

More than two million pilgrims are expected to come to Saudi Arabia to take part in this year's Haj, currently in progress. A considerable government administrative effort is under way to provide pilgrims with essential services and facilities. As well as the 22m one-litre plastic packs of iced drinking water provided by the government for distribution at the holy sites, the authorities have also mounted substantial security precautions against any political disruption of the ceremonies.

Issue 316 - 14 July 1987

A RUINOUS ENLARGEMENT

Free

Some stirrings within the Iranian government to consider a negotiated end to the war with Iraq are faintly discernible in some recent Iranian diplomatic activity. Jawad Larijani, the deputy Foreign Minister, has been in Geneva talking to senior political leaders of the Soviet Union and West European countries about the Gulf war. Speaking after his discussions with leading officials from West Germany, Italy, Belgium and the Soviet Union, the Iranian minister said he had presented a "complete set of ideas" to bring peace and security to the Gulf. Larijani refused to go into details of his talks with European government representatives but said the ideas embraced "new dimensions of cooperation".

Issue 200 - 07 July 1987

RAISING THE STAKES

Free

Kuwait's Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister, Shaikh Sabah al Ahmad, set off at the end of last month on a tour of the other member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council. The avowed reason for the trip, according to the official Kuwaiti news agency, was to explain "the dangerous situation in the Arab Gulf region, caused by the continuation of the Iran-Iraq war that is threatening the freedom and safety of navigation in the territorial waters of the Gulf". Since every member state of the GCC has officially, openly and frequently pronounced on the grave dangers of the Iran-Iraq war and the GCC collectively makes constant reference to the same subject, Shaikh Sabah's tour could have appeared, in its announced purpose, to have been quite unnecessary. The official news agency statement was nothing more than a bit of public relations Dim-flam, designed to avoid giving a more accurate account for Shaikh Sabah's travels.