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[casi] Robert Fisk: American billions keep Arab regimes sweet

American billions keep Arab regimes sweet

By Robert Fisk in Beirut

02 March 2003

It was pathetic. The President of the United Arab Emirates – too old and
too sick to visit Sharm el-Sheikh – sent a message begging Saddam
Hussein to go into exile, just as the US Secretary of State, Colin
Powell, had told the Arabs to do last Thursday, when he urged them to
get President Saddam "out of the way and let some responsible leadership
take over in Baghdad".

Even the Saudis didn't oppose the Emirates' plea, while the Egyptians –
host to the Arab League summit – could only claim that they were "not in
the business of changing one regime for another". How much does it cost
to produce this kind of subservience? In Egypt's case, $3bn (£1.9bn) in
US aid and other credits, plus another $1bn in gifts. Another $1bn for
Jordan, which has just accepted US troops on its territory – only to man
Patriot missile batteries, of course.

Money seems to make the Arab world go round. The Egyptian government
daily Al-Ahram and the Saudi newspaper Al-Hayat are singing the
Emirates' tune and demanding a "regime change" in Baghdad. Turkey – not
an Arab country – is waiting for its $26bn in promises to let the US
army tramp across its border into Iraq.

Syria alone – since it may well be number two on Washington's list for
"regime change" – said that it was a mistake to identify the Iraqi
leadership as the source of the current crisis. President Bashar Assad
said that America wanted Iraq's oil and wished to "redraw the region's
map". The latter is undoubtedly true, since Mr Powell unwisely admitted
just that last week. "We are all targeted ... we are all in danger,"
President Assad said.

The Iraqis, needless to say, responded with considerable anger to
President Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan's demand from the Emirates. Other
Arab leaders were meanwhile scurrying to form a consensus over whether
they should send one of their beloved delegations just to Baghdad, or to
Baghdad, the US, the UN and the EU as well.

What it came down to was whether the Arabs should allow the Americans
the use of their territory to attack Iraq or whether – this from
President Assad of Syria – they should ban the US from their territory
if they wished to use it as a springboard for war. The Kuwaitis,
liberated from Iraqi occupation by the US and its coalition partners 12
years ago, said that this view was "not realistic". The real problem is
that the US is already, in effect, in occupation of a fairly large
number of Arab nations.

US forces control half of Kuwait; they are in Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi
Arabia, Oman and in Jordan. Every one of these countries will be called
an "ally" if – when – the Americans storm over the border into Iraq. So
will Turkey. So, probably, will Egypt. And so, of course, will Israel.

Also in Americas
US accused of spying on Security Council
US prepares to use toxic gases in Iraq
American billions keep Arab regimes sweet
Klansman faces new trial over plot to kill Luther King
Oprah becomes first black woman to join billionaires' club


© 2001 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd

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