The Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee deliberated today on the impact of the Iraqi-Iranian war on Israel’s security. Premier Menachem Begin, who attended the session, repeated that Israel must watch developments closely and carefully. Some members suggested that Israel take some initiatives to prevent on Iraqi victory while others maintained that Israel keep a low profile while exploiting the propaganda value of the conflict between two declared enemies of the Jewish State.
The consensus in the committee was that it is too early to predict the outcome of the war. Military experts who briefed the committee said Iraq’s heavily armored land forces enjoy an advantage in ground fighting. The Iranians have novel supremacy and both sides are about even in the on with possibly a slight advantage for the Iranian, they said.
According to the experts, Iraq had been preparing for the war for many months, militarily and politically. Baghdad moved to improve its elations not only with the Soviet Union which had deteriorated since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, but also with the Western-oriented Arab states, Saudi Arabic and Jordan.
IRAQ’S THREE GOALS
They said Iraq has three goals in its war on Iran; to acquire supremacy in the Persian Gulf area; to depose the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini; and to take over the Arab-populated, oil-rich area of Khuzistan in southern Iran.
That would give Iraq toll control over the Short el Arab, the waterway formed by the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, easy access to the Persian Gulf and a substantial increase in its oil producing capacity. The Khuzistan fields have a potential of five million barrels a day.
VIEW OF KNESSET MEMBERS
Meir Amit, of the Labor Alignment said Israel’s dilemma was how to cause the fall of the Khomeini regime and yet promote an Iranian victory that would prevent the strengthening of Iraq. Amit said Israel should consider possible moves in that direction.
Yehuda Ben Meir of the National Religious Party also spoke of possible Israeli initiatives toward the resumption of relations with Iran. He said Israel was a natural source of assistance to Iran since it could supply that country with spare ports and other equipment of American manufacture which are still in use by the Iranian army.
Yosef Rom of Likud said “Israel’s first interest was its own security and therefore any action in that direction is positive.” However Rom was not sure that arms sales to Iron were feasible under present circumstances or whether the Khomeini regime was interested.
Former Foreign Minister Abba Eban of the Labor Alignment said the Iraqi-Iranian war gave Israel the opportunity to point out to the world that the Arab-Israeli conflict is not responsible for turmoil in the Middle East. “If Israel ceased to exist the Soviet troops would not withdraw from Afghanistan, Khomeini would not release the American hostages, Iraq would not stop the war and the price of oil would not drop one penny,” Eban said.
Labor Party leader Shimon Peres stressed that Israel must not become involved in the Persian Gulf war. He said the war could change the map of the Middle East and touch off a new arms race in the area.
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