Outstanding Issues in Iran-Iraq Relations

Salaam, (Morning Daily)
Tuesday, July 18, 1995
Page: 9
Word Count: 1323


Despite the end of the Iran-Iraq war and establishment of cease-fire, there are still differences between the two countries which have remained unsettled. Apart from political disputes between the two countries, other issues such as installation of border poles, non-conclusion of a peace treaty, the dredging of the Arvand River, demarcation of the Iran-Iraq continental shelf and payment of war reparations by Iraq are yet to be resolved between the two countries.


Despite the coming to an end of the Iran-Iraq war and establishment of cease-fire, there are disputes between the two countries which have remained unsettled. Apart from political differences between the two counties, there are other outstanding issues between the two sides. This is while the Prisoners of War (POWs) of the two countries have almost been swapped and forces have withdrawn to internationally recognized borders except for a small part of the Iranian territory which is still under the Iraq occupation. The main outstanding issues are as follows:

Installation of Border Poles

The 1975 Algiers Accord and its related protocols and agreements, has specified the two countries territories on map based on the border signs determined by the 1914 agreement between Iran and the Ottoman empire. Nevertheless, the acceptance of the map and compliance with it in practice are two difference things. Border demarcations on the land are usually carried out with installation of border signs by teams comprising relevant experts from the two sides. Therefore, following the withdrawal of Iraqi forces, a delegation was set up for this purpose and one or two preliminary sessions were also held to that end. But despite the emphasis laid by the officials of both countries on the need to install the fences, no important step has been taken in this respect. The reason for this is the lack of preparedness by Iraq which has resorted to its problems in connection with the Kuwait crisis and the consequent international sanctions as a pretext.

The fact is that even after the end of the Kuwaiti crisis, Iraq has not shown any tendency towards this issue. Suspicion is now growing that Baghdad prefers the issue to remain unsettled so that it would use it as a pretext to justify its unpredictable policies at an appropriate time.

Non-Conclusion of Peace Accord

Although in certain cases, a prolonged cease-fire may be interpreted as de facto peace, but it is only after the signing of a peace treaty that the state of war is legally ended. For this reason, Paragraph 4 of the U.N. Security Council Resolution 598 refers to the achievement of "a comprehensive, just and honorable settlement acceptable to both sides". While signing of such a accord has not been negotiated between Iran and Iraq, therefore as long as the peace agreement has not been inked, the state of "no war, no peace" will remain between Iran and Iraq. Moreover, during the time that the truce has been established between the two countries, numerous cases of its violation have been reported to the United Nations by the two sides. In case there existed an intention to fan the flames of the war, each of these cases would be enough to trigger a full-fledged war. It seems that a quick end to this state is imperative.

Dredging of the Arvand River

The Arvand River (Shatt-ul Arab) is currently not suitable for navigation because it is covered with piles of mud, wreckage of ships and existence of marine mines. On the other hand the dredging of this international waterway is very costly and is estimated to cost Dlrs. 5-10 billion. The dredging of the Arvand River is of utmost priority to Iraq because it links the country to the Persian Gulf. After the United Nations ceded part of the Um al-Qasr Port at the mouth of the Khour Abdullah to Kuwait, the Iraqis now only possess two major ports, that is Basra and Faw, one of which is at the mouth of the Arvand River and the other at its end. For this reason, the Iraqis have been followed up this issue with special care over the recent years.

Of course with the acceptance of the 1975 (Algiers) Accord by Iraq, the problem of how to dredge the Arvand River has been solved. Because the shipping agreement which is part of the Accord, determines the methods of the waterway's dredging. According to the agreement, the dredging of the Arvand River is among the duties of a Joint Coordination Bureau (comprising equal number of representatives from both countries). Therefore, the first step in this respect would be the creation of the said bureau.

Demarcation of the Iran-Iraq Continental Shelf

Continental shelf is the advance of land under the coastal waters of each country which contains mineral and non-mineral resources for the littoral state. The 1975 Accord or the Resolution 598 do not refer to the demarcation of the Iran-Iraq continental shelf and for this reason, this too is among the outstanding issues between the two countries.

The issue was negotiated between the officials of the two countries in the years 1963 and 1967 but no progress was made. Lack of agreement between Iran and Iraq led to the non-demarcation of the continental shelf of the two countries as well as Kuwait because the continental shelf of the three countries join together in north of the Persian Gulf.

Assessment and Payment of War Reparations

According to Paragraph 6 of the Resolution 598 regarding the determination of the party which initiated the war, Javier Perez de Cuellar, the then Secretary General of the United Nations in his report to the Security Council on December 11, 1991, declared that Iraq was the initiator of the war between Iran and Iraq.

Based on the rational procedure of this official U.N. announcement, the amount of damages inflicted upon the two countries during the eight years of war should have been assessed and the Iraqi government as the initiator of the war, compensated the damages inflicted on Iran. Although due to the make-up of the Security Council, especially the presence of some of its powerful Western members, restoration of Iran's rights was faced with numerous problems and no appropriate occasion has surfaced to make up for its damages, but the termination of the Iraqi aggression against Kuwait and the need to estimate the damages inflicted on Kuwait by the United Nations, compelled the international body to follow suit as concerns the Iran-Iraq case because principally, the Security Council could not adopt a dual policy towards a similar case, namely assessment of war reparations in Iran and Kuwait.

Earlier, the United Nations had underlined the need for assessment of the war reparations in Iran and Iraq merely in the Resolutions 598 and 687. After the submission to the United Nations in April 1991 of the report on the war damages in Kuwait, the Secretary General dispatched a delegation to Tehran in May the same year to assess the damages. After preliminary studies and the visit to Tehran of the second U.N. expert delegation in November 1991 and the meetings and talks of the members of the delegation with Iranian officials, the delegation handed over its report to the U.N. Secretary General. According to the repot, the amount of direct damage was assessed at Dlrs. 97.2 billion and indirect damage at rls. 34,535 billion. Following the report, Iran declared it had sustained Dlrs. 100 billion in damage during the Iraqi war.

Although the report recommends other countries to cooperate in the reconstruction of Iran's war-stricken areas, since the assessment of the war reparations has been objected to by the Iraqi government, no specific mechanism for the payment of reparations to Iran by Iraq has been decided yet.

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