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Iraq Tricked West Into Gulf, Israeli Suggests

October 28, 1987|Associated Press

JERUSALEM — Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, indirectly criticizing the Reagan Administration, suggested today that Iraq tricked the West into sending warships to the Persian Gulf by attacking Iran's oil industry until the Iranians struck back at neutral shipping.

He said U.S. and European involvement could increase the danger, with unpredictable results.

"No doubt, for the Iraqis, it is a tremendous achievement to drag the others to be involved," Rabin told reporters at a Foreign Press Assn. luncheon. "It carries with it a potential escalation, and I would not dare to think in which direction it will go."

The Iraqis "realized that just by fighting they are not going to win the war," he said. "Therefore, they started to attack the main source of Iran's national revenue, oil. They hoped either to reduce the shipment of oil outside Iran or bring Iran to react against the flow of oil from the other (Arab) side of (the) gulf, which is what really happened."

Raids on Oil Terminals

Iran and Iraq went to war in September, 1980, and the "tanker war" began in earnest early in 1984.

Iraqi warplanes raided Iran's oil terminals in the northern Persian Gulf and tankers carrying Iranian oil. Iran initially struck back at neutral vessels in the southern gulf, but in the last year has attacked shipping and laid mines throughout the waterway.

U.S. Navy warships now protect 11 Kuwaiti tankers that sail under the American flag, and other Kuwaiti vessels have been registered in Britain. Naval units of other Western nations guard ships flying their flags and hunt for mines, and the Soviet Union also has warships in the gulf.

Calls Defense One-Sided

Rabin said he is not judging American or European responses, but nonetheless called the defense of reflagged tankers one-sided.

"None of those fleets protect the Iranian right of free navigation, which is under attack by the Iraqis," he said. "They protect only the rights of navigation of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the oil princedoms on the Western side of the gulf that might be attacked by Iranians in response to Iraqi attacks."

That approach makes the Soviet Union the only superpower able to talk to both warring parties, said the defense minister, who is a former Labor Party prime minister.

He said there is little chance of reconciliation between Israel and Iran while the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's fundamentalist regime remains in power, but added that Iran was a friend of Israel for nearly three decades before the revolution.

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