Iraq, Iran issue joint statement blaming Saddam for 1980-88 war, 1990 invasion of Kuwait
By Paul Garwood
5:35 a.m. May 20, 2005
BAGHDAD, Iraq – For the first time Iraq has joined with Iran in labeling Saddam Hussein as the military aggressor of the 1980-88 war between the two countries and of Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
The joint statement, issued Thursday during Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi's historic trip to Iraq, comes as the Shiite Muslim-dominated governments of both countries try to forge better ties following Saddam's ouster two years ago.
The former Iraqi dictator, who was captured in December 2003, is facing charges including killing rival politicians during his 30-year rule, gassing Kurds, invading Kuwait in 1990 and suppressing Kurdish and Shiite uprisings in 1991. He is in U.S. military custody with several of his former top aides awaiting trial. No trial dates have been set.
Iraqis in the new government and Iran's Shiite-led theocracy have previously blamed Saddam for starting the bloody eight-year war against Iran, in which 1 million people died.
But the latest statement, issued by the Iraqi Foreign Ministry, marks the first time Iraq has sided with Iran to accuse the former Iraqi president of being the aggressor in the war.
"The two sides confirm the necessity of trying the leaders of the former regime in Iraq in a fair trial because they committed war crimes and crimes against humanity and their military aggression against the Iraqi people, Iran and Kuwait," the statement said.
Shiite lawmaker Jalaleddine al-Saghir said Friday that Iranian officials have made it clear previously that "they are not after financial compensation, but seeking rehabilitation."
He described the statement as a "positive step to solve all problems between the two countries."
Asked if such a statement would anger this country's Sunni Arab community, to which Saddam belonged, al-Saghir said it was not only Iraqi Shiites who accuse the former dictator of being the aggressor in the war with Iran, "but all Iraqis as a state, and the proof is that the foreign minister is a Sunni," referring to Hoshyar Zebari, an Iraqi Kurd.
Iraqi and Iranian officials were not immediately available for comment Friday, a weekly religious holiday in both countries.
Iran has said previously it is considering filing a lawsuit against Saddam for invading Iran, which says it is owed billions in war damages.
Iraq also owes billions to Kuwait for damage to oil facilities and the environment caused during Iraq's occupation of Kuwait, which began in August 1990 and ended with the February liberation by a U.S.-led coalition during the Gulf War.
During that crisis, Iraq flew 120 military and civilian planes to Iran for safekeeping. Tehran since has said it would keep the planes as compensation for war damages it sought from Iraq.
Iraq had started to pay through the United Nations billions of dollars to Kuwaitis who lost possessions and relatives during the Iraqi occupation and the Gulf War.
Views among Iraqi Shiites toward Iran range from hate to devotion. Despite 60 percent of Iraq's 26 million people being Shiite, many harbor resentment toward Iran over the war.
Some Iraqi Shiite leaders have previously said that their country should compensate Iran over the war, comments that have angered many Iraqis.