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SUNDAY, AUGUST 27, 2006
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EDITORIAL

U.S. better off when Iran, Iraq fought over borders

Fighting erupted over long-disputed borders in September 1980, when Iraq invaded Iran to begin one of the longest and bloodiest "conventional" wars of the last century.

At first, it appeared that Iraq might topple Iran and seize its vast oil fields, so the U.S. came to Iran's aid even after the hostage crisis of 1979 that lasted for 444 days. The Iran-Contra scandal of the Reagan administration was about the covert shipment of arms to Tehran to use against Iraq.

Then the U.S. switched sides and began sending equipment to Iraq to keep Iran from winning. Some aid went direct, other through surreptitious routes.

The war stabilized into one of attrition that claimed a million casualties before ending in 1988 with a cease-fire.

Today, Saddam Hussein is on trial for atrocities in Iraq following his capture in the U.S. invasion of 2003. His country is ablaze again with violence that our military forces can't control, and President Bush is pushing for international sanctions against Iran for its insistence on developing nuclear capabilities.

The first President Bush had no choice but to push Iraqi troops out of Kuwait in 1990. Wisely, he didn't attempt to liberate or occupy Iraq. With the no-fly zone in the North, Iraq was about back where it was after the stalemate with Iran. Saddam was still in power as a bully, but he was no major threat to anyone.

By now, if the U.S. hadn't sought to liberate the Iraqi people, Iran and Iraq might be back to slugging it out with each other and threatening no one else.

Oh, for the good old days.

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