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Israel, the US, The Arab League, and Iraq

Dear CASI member,

A few weeks ago someone inquired about official Israeli policy on Iraq. I looked into this but have 
not been able to find anything. However, In a recent talk given by Professor Tanya Reinhart, she 
made the following interesting comments: 

1) The “success” of the US’s war in Afghanistan, which it carried (is carrying) out without a 
coalition force, only political support, might mean that the US will launch a similar attack on 
Iraq, i.e. unlike 11 years ago when the US attacked Iraq along with Arab allies. Now however, given 
that the US will find it very hard, if not impossible, to enlist Arab military support for a war in 
Iraq, the US might feel confident enough to go ahead and attack Iraq anyway without a (Arab) 
coalition force, as it did in Afghanistan. 

2) It is not yet known how Turkey, Iran, Syria and other Middle East countries will/will not 
support a US attack on Iraq, but Israel is a certain ally. According to Professor Reinhart there is 
a 50-50 percent chance that Israel would allow US planes to use Israeli military bases from which 
to launch their attacks.

Below are two articles from this week’s Al-Ahram edition. The first is about a possible trip to 
Iraq by Amr Moussa and the second is an opinion piece on Israeli-US relationship vis-à-vis Iraq.

Please forgive me if this is my second sending of the article on Moussa’s visit to Iraq. I am 
sending it again as I am not sure whether it got sent the first time.

Salwa de Vree,
Leiden, The Netherlands.

Mission to Baghdad
A ground-breaking visit to Baghdad by Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa is in the works. 
Dina Ezzat reports 

It may be in a few days, it may be in a few weeks, but Arab League Secretary- General Amr Moussa is 
almost certain to arrive in Baghdad for an official visit to the Iraqi capital. A fixed date for 
the visit is yet to be decided but, as Arab diplomatic sources told Al-Ahram Weekly, it is likely 
to take place sooner rather than later. 

"The Arab summit is scheduled to open in Beirut on 25 March, so by that date Moussa will have 
visited Baghdad," the source said. 

The visit will be aimed at demonstrating Arab support for the Iraqi people, though urging the Iraqi 
government to spare no effort in working with the Kuwaitis and Saudis to settle the file of POWs 
and ending more than a decade of hostility will be high on Moussa's agenda.

"This visit will be a message that all Arabs, without exception, are displeased by the ongoing 
suffering of the Iraqi people and do not accept increasing this misery by any measures under any 
name -- all Arab countries want to see the sanctions lifted from Iraq," one Arab League source 

Iraq, a sensitive issue for Arab diplomacy since its invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, has yet to 
be fully re- integrated into the Arab fold. Diplomatic attempts to improve the state of relations 
between Iraq and Kuwait, in particular, and the other Arab countries in general, have yet to lead 
to a full reconciliation. The last Arab summit in Amman dedicated attention to the matter and a few 
lines were included in the Amman declaration and communiqué, urging the alleviation of the 
suffering of the Iraqi people who have been living under stifling economic sanctions for over a 
decade. Despite this, no agreement was reached on a potential reconciliation. 

However, according to Assistant Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Bin Heli, a clear Arab stance 
has emerged that supports ending the suffering of the Iraqi people. All Arab countries, Bin Heli 
added, agree that there is a need to resume the dialogue between the Iraqi government and the UN 
over the inspection of Iraq's weapons programme and modifying the terms of the oil-for-food 

But much has changed since 11 September. Iraq is now facing overt threats of military action from 
the US as Washington extends its anti- terrorist campaign. 

Moussa has been in contact with several senior US, UN, European and other officials over the past 
three months in a bid to explain that an attack against Iraq or, for that matter, any other Arab 
country whose association to the September attacks has not been proven, would ignite Arab public 
anger. "This is the stance of all Arab states," Moussa declared. 

"The upcoming visit by Moussa to Baghdad will aim to send a message to all concerned that Arab 
countries are opposed to any possible attacks against Iraq," one Arab diplomat commented. According 
to another: "Even the Kuwaitis and Saudis, who make no secret of their discomfort with Saddam 
Hussein's regime, say they are not comfortable with the idea of an attack against Iraq -- not with 
the situation as volatile as it is in the occupied Palestinian territories and not with the images 
of misery in Iraq as flagrant as they currently are." 

Moussa's visit will be the first by an Arab League secretary-general to Baghdad since Esmat 
Abdel-Meguid visited on 3 February 1999 in the wake of the US operation Desert Fox which provoked 
such opposition across the Arab world that an emergency Arab foreign ministers' meeting was 

"At that meeting, and during subsequent Arab meetings, Moussa, then Egyptian foreign minister, was 
instrumental in mobilising a consensus among Arab states to oppose further attacks against Iraq. It 
is now Moussa's mission, as Arab League secretary- general, to go to Baghdad and voice Arab 
opposition to an attack against Iraq, especially in view of the human consequences that it would 
lead to," commented one Egyptian diplomat who requested anonymity. 

Meanwhile, on 29 December Baghdad declared that 1.6 million children had died as a result of 
sanctions since 1990. And unease about those sanctions is growing. In the US, late last month, an 
American NGO opposed to the continuation of the sanctions regime sent a letter to US President 
George W Bush expressing its dismay with US policy on Iraq. The use of sanctions, the letter 
argued, amount to using a weapon of mass destruction against the Iraqi people.

Seeking havoc

Israeli pressure on the Bush administration to launch an attack on Iraq must be ignored, writes 
 The Bush administration is assessing its next steps in the war against terrorism. One thing, 
though, is certain: the US will not rest content with crushing the Taliban and liquidating Osama 
Bin Laden's Al-Qa'eda. But as yet Washington has yet to specify the next stages of the war. 

Within the framework of conflicting interests a US strike on Iraq must remain a possibility, not 
least because of the pressure being exerted by Israel for such a course of action. And while it is 
true that Washington considered Saddam Hussein regime as a threat to American national security, 
and its interests in the Gulf, throughout the 1990s, and that American planes have routinely 
attacked military targets in Iraq, neither the Bush senior nor Clinton administrations considered 
using a large- scale campaign to remove Saddam Hussein. 

Israeli attempts to foment such a campaign are a symptom of the hysterical approach Israel's 
politicians have routinely adopted towards security. It encourages the mistaken belief that its 
security is subject to constant threats to justify its continuing occupation of Arab land in 
Palestine and Syria, yet it is the occupation that places Israel in a state of conflict with its 
Arab neighbours. Yet instead of resolving the conflict, and returning occupied land, Israel has 
chosen violence, placing itself in an unhappy confrontation with most of the international 

Israel's anti-Iraqi incitement of America is a result of this mindset. Immediately after 11 
September Israel tried to find a role for itself in the war on terrorism and was hugely 
disappointed when the American administration kept it firmly out. Yet Israel did not stop in its 
attempts, and has been pushing the line that the US must get rid of the Saddam regime. Israel has 
its own agenda, of course, topping which is the creation of new tensions in the Middle East that 
will distract attention from its continuing occupation of Arab land and oppression of Palestinian 
Another Israeli objective is to disrupt Arab- American relations. Arab countries, regardless of 
their position towards the regime in Baghdad, oppose strikes against Iraq (or any other Arab state) 
in the next stage of the war on terrorism. 

Reservations within the Arab world cannot be discounted. First, of course, is the fact that the 
Iraqi leadership had no role in 11 September or the anthrax attacks in the US, so there can be no 
justification for any strikes. Many parties, including the EU, Russia and China, oppose any 
broadening of the war without firm evidence. France demands unequivocal evidence of involvement in 
11 September atrocities, acceptable to the UN, before any future target is attacked; that military 
action be preceded by calling the state in question to take measures against terrorism; and that, 
should this fail, any further action be dependent on gaining Security Council support. 
Nor is it likely that any military operation against Iraq will follow the "Afghan scenario". Such a 
strategy would involve supporting and arming local groups, driving them to stage land operations 
against the regime, aided by American air strikes. In Iraq the opposition is too weak to confront 
the government and the Iraqi armed forces, especially the elite Republican Guard. The Iraqi people 
will not readily accept such intervention, moreover, even if it has reservations about its 
government -- a situation radically different from that of Afghanistan, where there existed a 
powerful armed opposition and people fed up with the Taliban and years and years of war among 
various factions. 

But Israel's incitement of America has not been restricted to Iraq. They extend, if only at the 
political level, to Hizbullah in Lebanon, an organisation with which, following its withdrawal from 
southern Lebanon, Israel feels it has a score to settle. Fortunately, with American political 
circles, there is an increasing awareness of the dangers of Israel's attempts to impose its own 
agenda on US policy. 

A few days ago, during a televised seminar, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and the 
Israeli politician Dan Meridor discussed the next stage of the war on terrorism. Meridor, 
predictably, pushed the usual Israeli anti-Arab line. But the American official responded sharply, 
emphasising the fact that the American administration has yet to decide on the next stage. Armitage 
also pointed out that the first stage was not yet over: as soon as it is completed, he said, it 
will be reassessed; and a decision will be made on the basis of that assessment. Israel evidently 
must realise that its attempts to exercise pressures on America might actually boomerang. 

Another thing Israel should realise is that it is in its own interest to stop its current 
war-mongering, for any military action against Iraq will inevitably lead to a unified Arab position 
against it -- a development that would be in the interests of neither the US, nor the West in 
general. Nor is it in Israel's long term interest that any conflict occur between the US and the 
Arab states. President Hosni Mubarak has repeatedly warned that regional instability is in the 
interest of no one, not even Israel. At the same time, Israel must realise that its attempts to 
drive the US to exercise pressure on Egypt, through the agency of the Jewish lobby in Washington -- 
the main objective being to curtail American military aid to Egypt -- will only lead to greater 
extremism and instability across the region. 

The American administration happens to have a far more realistic assessment than Israel of the 
importance of Egypt as a regional power, a pioneer of peace and an agent of stability. Egypt has 
friends in the Congress, too; and one has plenty of faith in President Bush and his 
administration's interest in continuing its special relationship with Egypt.


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