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Iran/Iraq: Tehran Airs Its Grievances Against Saddam Hussein

By Bill Samii

On 18 October, the day before the trial of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein on charges of crimes against humanity began in Baghdad, Jamal Karimirad, the spokesman for the Iranian judiciary said Tehran will be submitting a separate indictment against him. Karimirad said on 18 October that the first part of his country's indictment has already been sent to the Iranian Foreign Ministry to be forwarded to Iraq and other relevant materials will be sent later, Iranian state radio reported.

The current trial does not address Hussein's alleged crimes against Iran, most of which relate to the 1980-88 war between the two countries. Iranian officials made clear in September that they would submit a separate indictment, and their concern was apparent when Hussein was arraigned in July 2004.

The Iranian Indictment

The head of the Iranian judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi, said in early September that "the bill of indictment [in Hussein's current trial] is very weak and feeble, and Saddam's crimes during the eight-year imposed war against Iran and the Kurds have been neglected," state radio reported. Hashemi-Shahrudi said he has tasked the prosecutor-general with drawing up a further bill of indictment for submission to the court.

Prosecutor-General Qorban Ali Dori-Najafabadi described the issues that he believes have been neglected. He mentioned "crimes against humanity, genocide, the killing of senior clerics and distinguished personalities, the chemical bombardment of Halabja, [and] the chemical bombardment of our country," state radio reported on 6 September. Dori-Najafabadi went on to mention Iraqi bombardments of Iranian cities and infrastructure, as well as damage to the environment. Dori-Najafabadi added that Hussein "has to be held accountable for all the crimes he committed."

Dori-Najafabadi said the real importance of the Iranian indictment is in establishing the accuracy of the historical record, rather than in punishing Hussein. "It must be recorded and registered in history," Dori-Najafabadi said, "the evidence, the documents, for future generations, to show how wronged our nation was, how wronged the Iraqi nation was as well. So that it will serve as a lesson for other criminals."

Dori-Najafabadi conceded that Iran might seek compensation.

Iran's Initial Concerns

The preliminary charges against Hussein at the time of his July 2004 arraignment related to purported crimes against humanity committed during his Ba'ath Party's 35-year rule of Iraq. These charges reportedly relate to the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, the 1988 chemical attacks on Iraqi Kurds in Halabja, the 1974 intentional killing of Iraqi religious figures, the 1983 killing of Barzani clan members, the 1987-88 Anfal campaign against the Kurds, and the suppression of the Kurdish and Shi'ite uprisings in 1991.

Iranian complaints related mostly to the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, which Hussein initiated. Tehran is particularly enraged by the Iraqi use of chemical weapons against Iranians. Iran first reported an Iraqi chemical attack in November 1980. Attacks using mustard agents, the nerve agents tabun and sarin, VX gas, and cyanide continued into 1988.

The day after Hussein's arraignment, Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani asked in the second sermon of the Friday prayers why none of the initial charges against Hussein relate to Iran, state radio reported on 2 July. "Have you not heard of the 100,000 victims of chemical weapons in Iran?" he said. Rafsanjani said that, in some cases, it is only now that the symptoms of chemical poisoning are becoming apparent. "One of [the victims] is my own son," Rafsanjani said. "He thought he had not been affected." The cleric referred to the Iraqi chemical attacks on the Kurdish towns of Halabja in Iraq in March 1988 and Sardasht in western Iran in June 1987. He claimed that although the initial chemical attacks on Iranians were ineffective, later ones had a bigger impact because of scientific and technical assistance from the West.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on 6 July, "Initiation of eight years of war against Iran should be the most important issue in the letter of indictment against the former dictator of Iraq," state television reported. "This is because this war was imposed on the Iranian and Iraqi nations and consumed a considerable portion of both countries' resources." Khamenei also claimed that the United States was Saddam Hussein's accomplice in the war against Iran.

More Than A Legal Case

Four days after Hussein's 2004 arraignment, the head of the Iranian judiciary was already talking about an additional indictment. Hashemi-Shahrudi said at a 5 July meeting of judiciary officials that he had instructed the prosecutor-general to draw up an indictment and added that the judiciary and the Foreign Ministry must coordinate their actions, state television reported.

It is clear, therefore, that the Iranian indictment has been some time in the making. Yet there are other outstanding issues that will not disappear regardless of the outcome of Hussein's current trial. Iran has, at various times, claimed in excess of $1 trillion in war damages. Tehran's hostility to the United States, furthermore, is connected to some extent with the persistent belief that Washington encouraged Iraq to start the war and aided it during the fighting.

Copyright (c) 2005. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

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