Iran said last week that it wants Saddam Hussein to stand before an international tribunal and Iranian and Iraqi judges should be included in the court panel.

Iranian MPs have signed a statement saying: "The crimes of Saddam, his cronies and his international supporters go beyond the national Iraqi framework and have an
international dimension.

"He should be judged publicly and before an international court comprising independent judges, among them Iraqis and Iranians," the statement said.

For their part, Iraqi analysts believe that Iran is taking advantage of the fact that the war-ravaged country is under occupation and lacks a strong government to defend its interests.

Ceasefire rejected

According to Iraq, the Iran-Iraq war started on 4 September 1980, when the two countries exchanged artillery shelling along their 1300km borders.

Days later, the UN called for a ceasefire. Iraq said it was ready to abide if Iran would do so, but Iran refused the offer and continued its shelling campaign.

Eighteen days later, the Iraqi military crossed the border and pushed into the Islamic republic hoping to push Iranian artillery beyond the range of Baghdad's borders.

However, Iran said the war began on 22 September. The actual start date of the war has been a point of contention between the two countries.

Hoping to avert what would be a catastrophic war, Islamic states formed a committee to negotiate a ceasefire. Iran rejected all negotiation bids throughout 1980 and 1981.

The Iraqi military continued to push further into Iranian territory.

"Who refused to stop the war, was it not the Iranians ... who refused to sit and talk for eight years? Now they want
to try Saddam Hussein for the war that they refused to stop? This
is nonsense" 

Nuri al-Muradi,
Iraqi politician

The war continued through the 1980s until it became known as the forgotten war.

On 20 July 1987, the UN unanimously passed Resolution 598, which urged Iran and Iraq to end the war. Iraq accepted but Iran refused and demanded modifications.

By the mid-summer of 1988, the tide of war had turned against Iran, who at one point was poised on the outskirts of the southern city of Basra.

Iran was now facing several military setbacks at the hands of Iraq's army and serious economic collapse was threatening the capacity for prolonged conflict.

On 17 July 1988, Iraqi president Saddam Hussein delivered a speech commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Baath party's ascension to power.

The speech included an appeal to Iran to accept UN Resolution 598. The next day Iran said it was considering accepting the resolution.

At the time, Iran's spiritual leader, Ayat Allah Khomeini said that accepting the ceasefire was like "drinking from a poisoned chalice".

Iraqis reply

Aljazeera.net interviewed some Iraqi politicians, intellectuals, and former officials who lived through the Iran-Iraq war.

They voiced anger and dissatisfaction at the Iranian claims, considering them attempts to put more obstacles in the way of Iraqi recovery from war and 13 years of US-orchestrated sanctions.  

Izz al-Din al-Majid, an Iraqi officer, bodyguard to Saddam Hussein, and later an exile, said Iraqis should not give any other nation the ammunition to condemn Iraq as the guilty party in a court of law. 

Iranian cleric Rafsanjani speaks
against Saddam Hussein

"Iraqis should be attentive against any attempt to burden Iraq with extra financial obligations, knowing that Iran is fully responsible for lengthening the war because it refused all efforts to a ceasefire during the eight-year war with Iraq," al-Majid told Aljazeera.net.

 

Dr Nuri al-Muradi, spokesman for the Iraqi Communist party – al-Kadir - said Iran has no right to claim anything because the war ended with its acceptance of a UN-mediated ceasefire.

 

"They approved a UN ceasefire, and signed documents that Iraq and Iran would solve their problems through dialogue, on what basis they are they preparing a complaint."

 

"Who refused to stop the war, was it not the Iranians ... who refused to sit and talk for eight years? Was it not the Iranians? Now they want to try Saddam Hussein for the war that they refused to stop? This is nonsense." 

Chemical weapons

Both Iraq and Iran used chemical weapons in the eight-year war. Iraq claimed it started using chemical weapons against the Iranian army in the battlefield in the mid-1980s to combat Iran's 3-1 manpower superiority.

 

At the time, the Iranian army had adapted the North Korean human-wave stratagem of offensive warfare made popular during the Korean war. Although this resulted in severe human casualties, it proved effective in gaining field positions.

Iraq had repeatedly denied using chemical weapons in the battlefield with Iran, and accused Iran of fabricating the news. But news from foreign news agencies and UN delegations which visited Iran during the war confirmed that Iranian soldiers suffered injuries due to chemical agents.

However, on 26 May 1986, the Worldwide Television News agency quoted an Iraqi battlefield general who delivered what was tantamount to an admission; "If we are invaded by thousands of insects, we use repellent," he said.

 

Iraq acknowledged that it used chemical weapons in later stages of the war, but strongly denied that they were used against civilians. Iraq also accused Iran of using chemical weapons in its war against Iraq.

 

"It is known that Iran used chemical weapons against Iraq just as Iraq did; why should they complain and Iraq not? The problem is we do not have anyone to defend our rights at the present time," al-Muradi said.