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News, 26/02-05/03/03 (4) IRAQI/ARAB WORLD RELATIONS * The Arabs and Iraq * Saudis offer bases for war * Turkey pockets the price, Iraqi Kurds pay the cost * League 'lacks courage to discuss UAE plan' * 'There is No Future For the Arab League' * Riyadh says it won't be part of war * Zayed urges Saddam to resign, go into exile * Bahrain, Kuwait join U.A.E. in opposing Saddam * Arab impotence and misguided anger * Analysts disagree on whether Arab summit rose to people's expectations, agree little could be done to avert war * Why we can trust Bush this time IRAQI/ARAB WORLD RELATIONS http://www.dailystar.com.lb/opinion/26_02_03_c.htm * THE ARABS AND IRAQ by David Hirst Daily Star, Lebanon, 26th February All Arabs, regimes and peoples, agree on one thing: War on Iraq may affect the entire world, but they and their region will pay far the highest price. The war itself could be terrible, but there is also what they fear will follow. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa warns that it will "open the gates of hell," and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that it will light a "gigantic fire" of violence and terror. An Arab world deeply conscious of its long history of humiliation by foreigners is about to see one of its member-states conquered and occupied; and the Bush administration does not hide its ambition to make this the first step in a "reshaping" of the whole region at least as much in the interest of the Arabs' historic adversary, Israel, as its own. Commentators forecast all manner of possible consequences, ranging from the breakdown of Iraq into civil war and its dismemberment by neighboring powers to an attempt by Israel to subjugate the Palestinians once and for all, perhaps with another mass expulsion like 1948. Yet the Arabs, peoples if not regimes, are agreed on something else too: that they are doing less than anyone else on Earth to forestall the calamity about to engulf them. It is disgraceful, Arab commentators say, that others' governments, even close allies of America, are far more energetic to this end than Arab governments themselves, that other peoples around the world have taken to the streets in anti-war demonstrations that far outdo those of the Arab peoples. "European countries," says Beirut's al-Safir, "have more Arab national feeling than we Arabs ourselves." It was the Turkish government, they point out, which recently - if unsuccessfully - lobbied Arab states to sign on to regional initiative to avert a war; it was at European instigation that Mubarak belatedly sought to reassert Egypt's traditional role as the promoter of collective Arab action. Palestine has always been the pan-Arab cause par excellence, and Arabs thought their rulers had reached a nadir of impotence with their failure, these past two years, to furnish meaningful help to the intifada, or at least to get the US to rein in its Israeli protege. But now, with Iraq, they have sunk yet further. Commentators call it the virtual demise of the "pan-Arab principle" which has dominated regional politics since Arab independence, the whole idea that Arab states, as constituent parts of a greater Arab "nation," should always combine in defense of the higher Arab interest. "The first shot fired in the Anglo-Saxon war on Iraq," says Syria's Al-Baath daily, "will be the coup de grace to the corpse of the Arab system - that least influential player in what is happening." Officially, all Arab states oppose war. That is what they proclaimed at their last annual summit. They are staging another on Sunday, with what appears to be a maximum objective of launching an 11th-hour "Arab solution" - which, in practice, could only be a concerted attempt to persuade Saddam Hussein to step down - or a minimum one of throwing their weight behind the endeavors of others. But the summit - if held at all - is widely expected to be a fiasco. Arab leaders will go to it hopelessly trapped between fear of their people and fear of the US, on whose good will they will feel themselves, post-Saddam, more than ever dependent. Some, like Syria, tend toward the ingratiation of their people, staking out a strong, "patriotic" position against war; this time, unlike in the 1991 Gulf War, Syria deems it the less dangerous, painful option. But for others ingratiation of America is the sounder, indeed only possible, course, with the result that, in a mockery of last year's summit, half a dozen of them have offered their territories as launching pads for the coming onslaught. And those which have not are almost universally deemed to be colluding with the Anglo-American "war camp;" or, at the very least, to be more aligned with it than they are with anti-war Europeans. "The Arab system," said Palestinian commentator Hafiz Barghouti, "hasn't just declared its impotence to stop the war, it has volunteered to join in - as if in resistance to the desire of many friendly governments and peoples to stop the potential massacre of the Iraqi people. But history will also record that not only the Arab system failed, retreated and colluded with the aggressors; the Arab people, too, were spineless and terrified." His comment is typical of much woeful speculation as to why the Arab "street" has been so relatively quiescent, especially since popular disgust with governments - failed, corrupt, tyrannical - runs incomparably deeper in this region than almost anywhere else. One answer commentators come up with is the ruthless repression with which such governments would counter any serious manifestations of popular will. Another is the apathy induced by the knowledge that, with such regimes, demonstrations never change anything - unless, that is, they for once assume so massive and explosive a form that they change the regimes themselves. That they very well could is the fear haunting pro-American regimes like Jordan's and Egypt's; both know that the outward calm is no measure of the pent-up anger that lies beneath the surface, and that what Palestine on its own failed to ignite, Iraq and Palestine together could. Indeed, some argue, disgust with the existing order runs so very deep that many Arabs will actually welcome the war they simultaneously abhor. When Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1991 some deplored this for what it was, the most spectacular violation of Arab brotherhood; yet they simultaneously applauded it in the belief that, though Saddam himself was the most rotten ruler of a rotten Arab order, he was supplying the dynamite that would blow the order away. It didn't happen; with US help, the order, including Saddam himself, was entirely restored. But this time, as leading columnist Raghida Dergham points out, the US itself is supplying the dynamite: "The oppression of those who live under the Iraq regime, and the discontent of those other Arabs who deem their own regimes beyond reform, has reached the point of despair. And despair has bred acquiescence to anything that might shake the foundations of the Arab world, even a war that was conceived by men famed for their loathing and contempt for the Arab peoples and their total loyalty to Israel." David Hirst is a Beirut-based veteran correspondent and author. He wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR http://www.nzherald.co.nz/storydisplay.cfm?storyID=3198035&thesection=news&t hesubsection=world&reportid=562588 * SAUDIS OFFER BASES FOR WAR New Zealand Herald, 28th February WASHINGTON (Reuters): The United States and Saudi Arabia have reached new agreements on expanded use of Saudi military facilities in any war against Iraq, the Washington Post reports, citing senior US officials and diplomatic sources. The newspaper said the co-operation included full use of the air command and control centre at Prince Sultan Air Base, southeast of Riyadh, the Saudi capital. In addition, the agreements would allow the United States to fly refuelling aircraft, surveillance planes and battlefield radar aircraft from Saudi airfields, the newspaper said. The United States also would be allowed to base fighter jets at Saudi airfields, according to the Post. The newspaper quoted a source as saying that the two countries had a tacit agreement to allow the United States to conduct bombing missions from Saudi Arabia in the days after an initial wave of US air attacks as long as no public announcement was made. Saudi Arabia agreed last year to let the United States use a high-tech operations centre at Prince Sultan and to let American aircraft use its air bases for defence purposes only, US officials said in December. However, the Post said the Saudis had been vague about the extent of their co-operation until the understanding reached with US officials in recent days. [.....] http://www.dailystar.com.lb/opinion/28_02_03_f.htm * TURKEY POCKETS THE PRICE, IRAQI KURDS PAY THE COST Daily Star, Lebanon, 28th February As Turkey closes its border with Iraq in apparent anticipation of joining an American-led invasion of the country, Arab commentators see the Iraqi Kurds emerging as early losers in the approaching war. Their aspirations in post-Saddam Iraq are viewed as a prominent casualty of the political, financial and strategic trade-off between Ankara and US President George W. Bush's administration over the terms of Turkey's participation in war on its neighbor. Ghassan Sharbel writes in the Saudi-run pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat that Kurdistan Democratic Party leader Masoud Barzani's long-standing suspicions of the US and its advocacy of enforced "regime change" in Baghdad appear to have been vindicated. Barzani made plain months ago that he feared that "the process of deposing Saddam Hussein would develop into a great game which the Kurds would be unable to influence and in which they would be unable to protect the gains they made in the 1990s," Sharbel writes. And his words have been borne out by Turkey's "skillful maneuvering to pocket the price for its participation in the war alongside the US." He says the change of government in Ankara and the assumption of power by the neo Islamists there does not appear to have altered Turkey's traditional appraisal of its "security, unity, role and interests," nor the military establishment's hold on its thinking over these issues. Thus "Ankara demanded a big bribe in return for its role, and now it is preparing to host American troops while guaranteeing its security by sending its own forces into northern Iraq to dismantle what is left of the Kurdish dream," Sharbel writes. Editor in chief Joseph Samaha writes in the Beirut daily As-Safir that America's war plans in Iraq have left the Iraqi Kurdish opposition facing the prospect of a military showdown with Turkey. The Iraqi Kurds are not allowed to pursue their ultimate wish of establishing a homeland for a people who are dispersed over a number of states, Samaha says. "If it were up to them, they would prefer to maintain today's status quo in (Iraqi) Kurdistan. They appeared for a while to have been persuaded, after many bitter experiences, that the US had become their faithful friend along with the mountains. But they now find themselves forced to 'participate' in a war on Iraq when they know, as their leaders say, that the real war could be tomorrow against the Turkish Army." But the Kurds are not the only Iraqis who have been left in an impossible position by the US, according to Samaha. The pro-Iranian Iraqi Kurdish [sic - PB] opposition, for one, may find itself inexorably "becoming part of an American war machine," which, if successful, intends to turn Iraq into a springboard for toppling the regime in Tehran. "Its opposition to Saddam Hussein is intense. But it must be shuddering at the thought of becoming part of a game that goes beyond it, and aims at subjecting its country to a prolonged foreign occupation and regenerating a formula for government whose sole virtues are obedience and facilitating plunder." Samaha indicates that even some of America's most loyal proteges in the Iraqi opposition are balking at its plans for post-Saddam Iraq. Some, like Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi, "will adapt," but others, like Kanan Makiya, appear to be in shock over Washington's betrayal of its self-proclaimed values, he remarks. Samaha goes on to argue that the goal of preventing a US invasion of Iraq has to take precedence for the time being over the justified objective of toppling Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. Those who call on the Iraqi leadership to resign as a way of avoiding war are taking an easy way out that misses the point, he says. "They are, at best, evading the confrontation where it is actually taking place, and closing their eyes to the key element of the equation: A colonial war is to be waged against a repressive regime for reasons related not to the regime's nature but to the invaders' interests." While no sincere person can ignore the question pertaining to the Iraqi people continuing to suffer under the regime's rule, "it cannot be allowed to stifle the discussion, because that prevents it from being based on the cold calculation that the horrors of war and its aftermath will be harsher, for everyone, than the status quo." Saad Mehio writes in the UAE daily Al-Khaleej that Turkey is only the most indiscreet of many countries that have been "openly trading in Iraqi blood" by haggling over the price of their involvement in the Bush administration's war. In Ankara's case, its bill for allowing US troops to invade Iraq from its territory was $30 billion plus written undertakings upholding its interests in post-Saddam Iraq, he writes. Russia is reportedly trading its acquiescence to war for a list of things spelled out by SPS leaders Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Kara-Murza, including settlement of its $8 billion debt to Iraq, retention of its existing commercial contracts with the Baathist regime, and a guaranteed share of post-war reconstruction business. As for China, Mehio says it had appeared "satisfied with whatever the Americans had promised it" until the Franco-German intifada against Washington. That prompted Beijing to submit a "new and more costly economic-political bill" to Washington, which the latter will duly pay. Mehio suggests that France is also taking a "calculated" approach to Iraq. By leading the anti-war camp, President Jacques Chirac figures that if war is prevented "he will win the lion's share in Iraq," and if not, Paris will be able to "negotiate shares with the Americans from a position of strength." Mehio continues: "As for the 'canny' Arab states, they have split into two camps. In the first stand the states that opted to join the US war drive openly and straight away, by blaming Saddam Hussein for the evaporation of the peace opportunities. In the second stand the other states that have opted to join this same drive but with different timing. It was in the heat of the struggle between these conflicting schools of thought Š that the emergency Arab summit went up in smoke, and the regular summit may do the same." Everyone, remarks Mehio, "is treating Iraq like a commercial deal that must be clinched, an auction that mustn't be missed, or a slaughtered cow whose meat people are rushing to carve up." When the UN estimates that a war on Iraq will cause half a million deaths, "they try to cover up the news either by hurling accusations at each other or by portraying post-war Iraq as though it is going to be transformed into God's paradise on earth." Ahead of the Arab summit in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Sheikh, Jordan's Mahmoud Rimawi joins the growing chorus of Arab commentators calling on Arab leaders to use the meeting to demand Saddam Hussein's resignation as the surest way of preventing war. Writing in the semi-official Amman daily Al-Rai, Rimawi says that if the summit is to grapple with the crisis, it must have a clear "mandate" and Baghdad must be prepared to "sacrifice" and make fundamental changes to its political regime. Some may dismiss this as an "American and British demand," but in fact since the early 1980s it has been "essentially an Iraqi national demand," he says. Rimawi goes on to judge that "most" of the Iraqi opposition and "many" ordinary Iraqis now favor war, in order to get rid of the regime. The Arab summit should momentarily "abandon the principle of nonintervention in the internal affairs of individual Arab states" and demand change in Iraq. "This intervention is necessary to avoid a greater external intervention," he says, adding it was to this end that Russia sent envoy Yevgeny Primakov for talks in Baghdad. "The Arab summit should be knocking at this door too in order to spare Iraqi blood, deny Washington pretexts to attack, and also to reassure certain neighboring states that Iraq is ready to change, radically reconsider its previous policies, and effectively become one of the Gulf states - even if it doesn't immediately join the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)." Armed with a "mandate" like this, the Arab states would be able to present Washington with a lucid and unified vision on which a peaceful solution can be based "with effective Arab participation as well as Iraqi participation representing all aspects of the country's political life." Rimawi adds: "Bitter past experience and the need to adopt serious and responsible policies makes immediate action in this direction imperative. That would foil any excuse or pretext for war, and open the door wide to promoting peace and security in the region - including putting an end to Ariel Sharon's war on the Palestinian entity and Palestinian society, and resuming negotiations from the point at which they broke off. That would set the stage for the resumption of negotiations on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks. And perhaps before long a further negotiating track will emerge - an Arab-sponsored Iraqi-US track." Meanwhile, a commentator in the Amman daily Al-Dustour springs to the Jordanian government's defense after it conceded for the first time that "a few hundred" US troops are deployed in Jordan, ostensibly to man Patriot missile batteries and help "cope with a possible refugee influx from Iraq." Bater Wardam stresses that these soldiers represent only a "tiny proportion" of American troops in the region, and are only there to help Jordan cope with the humanitarian fallout of a possible war. They will not, he insists, actually be used in any American attack on Iraq. "No one wants war, but everyone has reached the conclusion that the war has already begun even if the shooting hasn't started. Everyone knows that the decision to stop the war is not a Jordanian one, but should be a unified Arab decision backed by international support. But wise policymakers cannot rely on hopes. They must deal with reality. Bracing for the possible consequences of war is therefore part of the Jordanian state's duty toward its people," he muses. Wardam then draws a distinction between the few US troops who are in Jordan to perform "information and coordination tasks," and the American forces in most of Iraq's other Arab neighbors for "offensive strategic military" operations. If anyone is to blame for "what is happening in the region," he reflects, it is all the Arab countries who voted in favor of the 1990 Cairo summit resolution which supported the despatch of US troops to the region in the first place (Jordan abstained). It is they who critics of the US military presence in the region should be addressing, he writes. As Arab states trade charges over Iraq, the Qatari daily Al-Sharq strongly criticizes Saudi Arabia - without naming it - for pouring cold water on Doha's bid to convene an Islamic summit on Iraq (in its capacity as Organization of the Islamic Conference chair). Following remarks by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal at the Non-Aligned Movement conference in Malaysia, in which he suggested there was no need for an Islamic summit, the paper professes itself baffled at such an "inexplicable" attitude. It writes in its leader that it is one thing to argue there was no need for an emergency Arab summit on Iraq, seeing as a regular summit was already scheduled to be convened soon. But to say there is no need whatsoever for an Islamic summit is to devalue the OIC as an institution and a political bloc entitled to a say in world affairs, Al-Sharq writes. Those who maintain that neither an Arab summit nor an Islamic summit is desirable invite the "logical conclusion" that they are not concerned about the major threats facing the region, and "perhaps aren't even convinced that there are any threats." Al-Sharq explains that Qatar called for an OIC summit out of a sense of "Arab and Islamic responsibility vis-a-vis the dangers threatening us all." The "voice that spoke in Malaysia" does not necessarily speak for all the Gulf states or the Arab world, it says. "Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness, and Qatar's duty is to light that candle in the hope of illuminating the way for others," the paper concludes. http://www.gulf-news.com/Articles/news.asp?ArticleID=79118 * LEAGUE 'LACKS COURAGE TO DISCUSS UAE PLAN' Gulf News, 2nd March Sharm El Sheikh: Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Information and Culture, said the Arab countries refused even to discuss a UAE proposal calling on Iraqi leadership to step down to stave off a possible war against Iraq. "By this initiative, the UAE, under the visionary leadership of President His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, seeks a way out of the Iraqi impasse and a peaceful solution to the crisis. "But the Arab League does not have the courage to discuss such a proposal," Sheikh Abdullah said yesterday. He said: "The Arab countries regard this proposal as unprecedented. But this talk can be refuted because the Iraqi regime has brought woes to the Arab nation and the entire world over the last two decades which makes this proposal applicable only to Iraq and not to any other Arab country. "Another reason for not considering the UAE's initiative is that certain Arab countries are looking for a way to launch a war against Iraq." http://www.arabnews.com/Article.asp?ID=23221 * 'THERE IS NO FUTURE FOR THE ARAB LEAGUE' by Mohammed Alkhereiji Arab News (Saudi Arabia), 2nd March JEDDAH, 2 March 2003 ‹ Saudi intellectuals and political commentators contacted by Arab News last night offered a wide array of opinions on the failed Arab League summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, but on one thing they all agreed: The Arabs are hopelessly divided. They were speaking after the extraordinary public showdown between Crown Prince Abdullah and Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Qaddafi, during which the crown prince reacted angrily to accusations that the Kingdom was a US puppet. Leading businessman Hussein Shobokshi in Jeddah called the meltdown "a dose of reality". "There are too many lingering issues and priorities," he elaborated. "The real issue is not the pending war on Iraq, but reform of the Arab condition." Asked about his thoughts on the future of the Arab League, he said: "I don't see a future for the Arab world, let alone the Arab League." Dawood Al-Shirian, the Riyadh-based Gulf chief of the leading pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat, said that this was a repeat of the Arab League summit in 1990 before the last Gulf War. "The Arab world's condition needs to be addressed and reformed," he told Arab News. "There are too many Arab nations whose view on the current condition is out of date and out of step with reality." Moderate nations like the Kingdom, he said, are concerned with the important issues like the aftermath of the war and the possible ramifications it might have on the people of Iraq. "These are the issues that should have been at the forefront of the Arab summit." Asked to comment on the fact that Egyptian TV decided to cut the live feed when the crown prince and Qaddafi exchanged insults, he added: "The Arabic media is run by government officials. They make these decisions without proper consideration of the consequences." Tariq Al-Homayed, the Jeddah-based managing editor of Asharq Alawsat daily published from London, said that the summit had been destined to fail. "No one can stop this war except Saddam," he added. "I think Qaddafi's outburst was irresponsible. All I see is turmoil for the Arab League in the future." A Jeddah-based former senior oil executive, who asked not to be identified, told Arab News: "Qaddafi's role as a perpetual spoiler at summit conferences is well documented. His role as a spoiler was tolerated in pervious summits, but it obviously was not tolerated by Saudi Arabia this time round." "The future of the Arab League is only as relevant as the members who make it up," he said. http://www.gulf-news.com/Articles/news.asp?ArticleID=79116 * RIYADH SAYS IT WON'T BE PART OF WAR Gulf News, 2nd March Sharm El Sheikh, Reuters: Saudi Arabia reiterated yesterday that it would have no part in an anticipated U.S.-led war on Iraq and said a military conflict was not inevitable. "We have stated clearly that we will not take part in this war, and that is our position," Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal told Al Arabiya satellite TV from the Egyptian resort of Sharm El Sheikh, where he was attending an Arab summit. Al Arabiya, which made Saud's remarks available to AFP, said he was replying to a question about Western media reports that the kingdom would provide logistical support to U.S. forces in the anticipated offensive. He warned that a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq would plunge the Gulf region into chaos and do nothing but harm to all parties involved, including the United States. In remarks to CNN broadcast yesterday, he also questioned U.S. intentions to help introduce democracy in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. "We would hate to see American soldiers paying the price for an occupation that will do nothing but bring terrible consequences to everybody," Prince Saud said. "An occupation of Iraq is not simple. How (are) 250,000 troops going to maintain order in a country like that? Especially if war leads to the instability we think it will lead to, if it leads to chaos we think it will lead to. If the social order breaks down, who is going to be fighting who? It is going to be a mess we think," he added. Prince Saud was speaking a day before Arab leaders started a crisis summit in Egypt to chart a unified policy on Iraq they hope can prevent war in the region, where anti-U.S. sentiment is on the rise over the Iraq crisis and perceived U.S. support for Israel against the Palestinians. [.....] http://www.gulf-news.com/Articles/news.asp?ArticleID=79125 * ZAYED URGES SADDAM TO RESIGN, GO INTO EXILE by Dahi Hassan and WAM Gulf News, 2nd March Sharm El Sheikh: The UAE called yesterday on the Iraqi leadership to step down from power and go into exile to spare the region from war. President His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, in a message to the Arab League summit at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh, proposed a four-point initiative that suggested the Iraqi leadership give up power in exchange for regionally- and internationally-binding legal guarantees from any form of prosecution. According to the initiative, Sheikh Zayed said the entire Iraqi leadership should leave Iraq within two weeks of adopting this Arab initiative. The UAE proposal suggested offering the Iraqi leadership "all suitable privileges". The initiative called for a general pardon for all Iraqis inside and outside the country. "The Arab League shall in cooperation with the United Nations supervise the situation in the country for a transitional period until Iraq could return to its normal situation according to the will of the brotherly Iraqi people," Sheikh Zayed proposed. The initiative was submitted to the Arab leaders to be examined by Iraqi, Arab and international parties. "It seeks to stop the Iraq crisis from drifting from bad to worse," he added. In reaction to the UAE proposal, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al Faisal said the idea would be discussed in detail. "We are sure that the United Arab Emirates under the leadership of President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan will not issue anything that is not in the Arab interest," he told reporters on the sidelines of the summit. Later, Arab leaders concluded the summit by expressing their rejection of any war against Iraq or threatening the security and peace of any Arab country. In their final communique, the Arab leaders agreed to form a committee consisting of the current, past and future summit chairmen and the Arab League secretary-general to present the Arab position to Washington, European capitals, the UN Security Council and consult with the Iraqi government. The leaders welcomed the guarantees offered to Syria, a member of the UN Security Council, that the UN resolution 1441 would not be used as a pretext for a war against Iraq. They welcomed Iraq's acceptance of the return of the UN weapons inspectors and giving them unfettered access to perform their duty. The communique praised the position of countries that rejected war against Iraq due to the dangerous implications it would have on the stability of the region and the world as a whole. The leaders demanded more time be given to the weapons inspectors to complete their work, calling them also to carry out their duties with professionalism and objectivity. They affirmed the responsibility of the Security Council to safeguard the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq as well the sovereignty and security of its neighbours. They urged all countries not to participate in any war that threatens the security, peace and territorial integrity of any Arab country. The leaders also affirmed the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to resist the Israeli occupation, and held Israel responsible for the collapse of the peace process due to its policy of occupation, destruction and killings. Later at a press conference following the closing ceremony of the summit, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa, when asked by Gulf News why Arab countries dealt only with how to avoid war and not getting ready to handle the situation if war starts, said: "We are not going to support war, but do you expect us to launch war against America?" He did not say what kind of action or response Arab countries will have if war erupts. Late last night, His Highness Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, returned home after attending the summit. Sheikh Maktoum and his delegation was received by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai Deputy Ruler and UAE Minister of Finance and Industry, and a number of officials. Full Text of Shekh Zayed Letter: Your Highness Brother Sheikh Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, King of Bahrain, Chairman of the Arab Summit, Your Highness, Excellencies, Kings, Princes, and Presidents of Arab countries, Developments move very fast and bring with them huge and serious dangers to the Arab nation and the world because of the level the Iraqi crisis has reached. This crisis is getting complicated day by day and hour by hour, threatening to bring very serious danger not only to Iraq and its people, but on all of us and the whole world in general. Holding the Arab Summit today (Saturday) provides a new opportunity for Arab leaders to contribute to finding a solution to this serious and complicated crisis. One that helps preserve the unity of Iraq and spare its people more losses and destruction; also help avert a war that undoubtedly will lead to the destabilisation in the region and the world. Hence, from the position of our full commitment to the unity of Iraq, and to the protection of the long-term interests of the brethren Iraqi people, from our absolute conviction that Arab leaders should play a key role in finding a peaceful settlement to the crisis, from our full realisation of the circumstances pertaining to the crisis and its local, regional, and global dimensions, and for all the complications surrounding the crisis and its impacts, we have opted to address you dear brethren putting before you some ideas, and perceptions which we feel that could contribute for achieving something we are all keen achieve: the protection of the Iraqi people, securing its future, the unity of its territories, its sovereignty, independence, and sparing the region the serious impacts that might be caused by huge build up for military action which nobody can predict its results on the ground. Brethren, Your Highnesses and Excellencies, I call upon the Arab Summit to announce an initiative that should focus on the following points: ‹ The Iraqi leadership decides to step down and leave Iraq within two weeks starting from its acceptance of the initiative on the condition that it enjoys all the suitable privileges. ‹ Providing legal assurances for the Iraqi leadership that it will not be subject any sort of legal action whatsoever, on condition that these assurances be respected locally, regionally, and internationally. ‹ Issuing a general and comprehensive amnesty that should include all Iraqis, inside or outside Iraq. ‹ The Arab League, in cooperation with the United Nations Secretary General, should take charge of supervising the situation in Iraq for a transitional period during which all necessary measures should be taken to bring things back to normal, the way the brethren Iraqi people opt to take. Brethren, Your Highnesses, and Excellencies, From the position of our sense of responsibility before Almighty Allah, and before our people, we hope that these ideas will receive your full care and concern. Peace Be Upon You Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan President of the United Arab Emirates http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/story.hts/world/1801119 * BAHRAIN, KUWAIT JOIN U.A.E. IN OPPOSING SADDAM Houston Chronicle, (from AP), 2nd March DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- The United Arab Emirates won support today from several Persian Gulf nations in its call for Saddam Hussein to quit power to avert a war, while Iraq poured scorn on the Emirates, calling it a tool of Israel. The king of Bahrain said he backs the call for Saddam to go, according to the Emirates state news agency. Kuwait's Cabinet also backed the measure, the official Kuwaiti news agency said. Kuwait has allowed tens of thousands of U.S. troops to deploy in its territory ahead of a possible invasion of neighboring Iraq. The tiny Gulf island of Bahrain also is a key U.S. ally, hosting the base of the American 5th Fleet. The Emirates' proposal -- first made Saturday at an Arab summit -- further highlighted the deep divisions in the Arab world over how to deal with the Iraq crisis and U.S. threats of war. Arab leaders Saturday refused to discuss the proposal, which was the first open call by an Arab nation for Saddam to go into exile. The Emirates on Sunday sought backing among its fellow Gulf nations, the most receptive audience in the Arab world for the Iraqi leader's removal. Other Arab nations, however, have rejected the idea of pressuring Saddam to quit, saying they cannot interfere in Iraq's domestic affairs. Several nations, led by Egypt and Saudi Arabia, want to press Iraq to comply with U.N. disarmament demands; another bloc, led by Syria, wants to express staunch support for Iraq and reject any war. The Emirates insisted Sunday that pressuring Saddam to leave Iraq was the only way to avert military action. "Rejecting these ideas put forward by the U.A.E. is acceptance of the remaining option, which is war," Sheik Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Emirates information minister, told The Associated Press. The Bahraini king, Sheik Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, met Sunday with the Emirates president in Abu Dhabi. The Emirates proposal "is the only Arab way out to protect Iraq and spare its people and the whole region the threats" of war, the Emirati agency quoted Sheik Hamad as saying. Bahraini officials were not immediately available for comment. Kuwait's Cabinet said the Emirates proposal aims to "spare the region a destructive war that would destabilize peace and security," the Kuwaiti news agency said. The Emirates submitted its proposal at a ministerial meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Doha, Qatar, on Sunday. It also plans to propose it at Wednesday's gathering of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, also in Doha. Iraq -- which has repeatedly said Saddam will not step down -- derided the Emirates. Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri said Sheik Zayed's proposal must have originated from Israeli leader Ariel Sharon. The proposal "found its way quickly to the garbage pail," Sabri said Saturday. "There's not one honest Arab who will accept a message from Sharon to the summit." In a front-page editorial Sunday, Baghdad's popular daily newspaper Babil, run by Saddam's eldest son, Odai, accused Sheik Abdullah of having "a Satanic U.S. heart and tongue." At the Sharm el-Sheik summit, Arab leaders rejected a war on Iraq and decided to send diplomats to the United Nations and to Baghdad to lay out the Arab position. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said Sunday he was working to settle the makeup of those delegations, which will leave "within days." But diplomats said questions still remained over what message the delegates would take to Baghdad. Arab diplomats said the delegation first would go to New York. The Baghdad mission will be more difficult, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The Arabs were divided over the purpose of a Baghdad visit or even whether to make one. Syria, Lebanon and Yemen proposed that a delegation head only to Washington with a firm anti-war message. But other Arab League members wanted a delegation to go to Baghdad to urge Saddam to cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors or advise him to step down. http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/EC04Ak02.html * ARAB IMPOTENCE AND MISGUIDED ANGER by Pepe Escobar Asia Times, 4th March CAIRO - It was certainly great theater. With a backdrop of anti-war demonstrations all over the Muslim world, leaders of the 22 member countries of the Arab League gathered an Saturday at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh - developed by Israelis - to exchange their usual elaborate courtesies in an "ordinary" summit. But then they sat down in their plush cream leather chairs just to watch Syria's President Bashar Assad passionately denounce American colonialism and say, "After Iraq, we're next." Then followed a call by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for Saddam Hussein to step down; a threat by the Iraqi delegation to leave the summit; Libya's flamboyant Muammar Gaddaffi and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah almost come to blows; and the Saudis then also threaten to leave. After so much adrenaline, they couldn't do better than settle for a bland resolution condemning war, but with a face-saving provision for the Gulf states - all of them bound by defense pacts with the US: in the event of war, these mini-monarchies can always say that they are not participating directly, and that US military operations on their soil are legitimized by a UN mandate. Furthermore, an Arab committee this week will explain the Arab position (which is no more than attached to the Franco-German-Russian position) to "international parties" before going to Baghdad for a last-second talk with Saddam Hussein. Too little, too late. Everybody knew in advance that the summit would be a failure because it was a meeting initiated by fear. Jordan entirely depends on Iraq for its oil. Syria fears an influx of Kurdish refugees. Lebanon and Jordan fear a mass "transfer" of Palestinians masterminded by an Ariel Sharon run amok. Egypt fears a loss of revenues in tourism and the Suez Canal. Countries with a Sunni majority fear increased Iranian influence with a larger role to play for Iraqi Shi'ites in the post-Saddam era. Gaddaffi, clad in a fabulous reddish-orange robe and clutching a red ballpoint pen, certainly remains a show-stealer. In the middle of the discussions, he chose to remind everyone how, when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the American military arrived in Saudi Arabia. "I told King Fahd that American forces are moving into Saudi Arabia. He then replied 'America is a big country and we cannot prevent it and it can come'. I told him, 'How can this happen to Saudi Arabia, which is an independent country'? After that, in a telephone conversation, the king told me that Iraq had the intention to invade the kingdom. I asked him how he knew. He said, 'We have seen the Iraqi forces deployed on the front. That means the Iraqi threat was a source of concern and threat for the kingdom and all the Gulf states. America has pledged to protect this region because it is an important source of energy'." This was enough to send Crown Prince Abdullah into a fit of rage. The prince cut Gaddaffi short and fired back, "Saudi Arabia is a frontline country for the Muslim nation. It is not a colonial agent. Colonialists are for you and others. Who exactly brought you to power? Don't say anything and don't interfere in matters in which you don't have any role. You are a liar. Your grave awaits you." All of this live on Egyptian TV, whose directors scrambled like mad to cut off the feed. The Saudis were so furious that they started to leave the meeting. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Syria's Assad and Lebanese President Emile Lahoud did everything they could to calm the Saudis down. The session only resumed after a very tense 20-minute interruption. A key Saudi-Egyptian-Jordanian plan discussed at the summit called for the formation of an Iraqi national unity government, with Saddam as a sort of figurehead, and with representatives of all ethnic and religious Iraqi groups. It's obvious that Saddam and the Ba'ath Party leadership will never agree to such an arrangement. Saddam has repeatedly said that he would rather die like the last Abbasid Caliph (facing the Mongols in the 13th century) than go to exile. In London, Prince Turki al-Faisal, the Saudi ambassador to the United Kingdom, reinforced the idea that even with a second United Nations resolution, Arab countries will keep trying to convince Saddam to step down. But much more important was what he said concerning the American presence in Saudi Arabia. According to Turki, Saudi Arabia will open talks on US troop withdrawal immediately after the war. "If there is no longer any need for a no-fly zone in Iraq, then the discussions would take place between us and the US about the removal of those forces from the kingdom." This is extremely significant because it comes from none other than the man who sent Osama bin Laden to fight a jihad in Afghanistan in the early 1980s. And this development - American forces leaving the "land of the two mosques" - is exactly what bin Laden had wanted all along. After the Gaddaffi-Abdullah exchange and before the release of the final summit declaration in Sharm el-Sheikh, some Arab diplomats and commentators - who insisted on remaining anonymous, and obviously fired by Gaddaffi's intervention - went into back to the future mode, trying to shed some light on recent history. All agree that Saddam invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990 after misinterpreting a series of dubious American signals. Saddam thought that he would be able to get away with it. All remember the 1980s when the Arabs - ostensibly - and the US - more or less discreetly - supported Saddam in the bloody eight year-war against Iran. The Saudis thanked Iraq for defending the eastern flank of the Arab nation from the Persians with cold hard cash. And the Americans praised Saddam for doing the dirty work of containing the armies of the Islamic revolution- selling loads of military equipment and chemical and biological material to Iraq in the process. But when Saddam invaded Kuwait, King Fahd was tricked by US intelligence into believing that he was next in line after the emir of Kuwait - although Iraq had explicitly promised that it would not attack Saudi Arabia. Diplomats remember George Bush senior called Fahd on August 3, 1990, and telling him that the Iraqis were about to invade Riyadh - while Jordan's King Hussein was trying everything he could to solve the crisis peacefully among the Arabs themselves. The Arab League met in Cairo on August 3, and bowing to relentless American pressure it passed a resolution, with a feeble majority, condemning the invasion. On August 5, Saddam said that he agreed to withdraw his troops and negotiate. But Bush senior said it's a lie, and was about to order American forces to rush to the Gulf. Fahd at this point still does not want American troops on Saudi soil because he views his role as a mediator capable of solving the crisis. But the US shows him doctored satellite photos as evidence that Iraqi armies are massing at the gates of the country. According to diplomats, Fahd says "yes" on the same day that Saddam guarantees to an American charge de affaires that Iraq will respect Saudi Arabia's sovereignty. On August 6, American forces start disembarking in Saudi Arabia to mount operation Desert Shield. That's where bin Laden comes in. Immediately after the invasion of Kuwait, he sent a message to the Saudi royal family. He would be able to raise a force of at least 10,000 mujahideen to confront Saddam's Republican Guard in the event that the Iraqi leader had some ideas. Bin Laden deeply believed a Muslim army should defend its homeland if attacked. He thought that Riyadh was considering his offer. But on August 7, bin Laden finally learned that American troops would be in charge of the security of Saudi Arabia's oil. He was assured that the Americans would leave after Kuwait was "liberated". They didn't. So bin Laden broke with the Saudi royal family. Later, he said, "They had betrayed Muslims, had become dependent on Christians and Jews and couldn't be the custodians of the holy places any more." He was ordered to leave Saudi Arabia - so he went to develop al Qaeda in exile in Sudan and Afghanistan. Back to the summit. As far as the UAE proposal was concerned, UAE President Sheikh Zayed ibn Sultan al-Nahayan sent a message asking for the entire "Iraqi leadership to step down and leave Iraq ... within two weeks of adopting this Arab initiative". Iraq then should be governed jointly by the Arab League and the UN and return to "its normal situation in accordance with the will of the brotherly Iraqi people". Zayed was careful to add that the Iraqi leadership should be given legal guarantees that it would not face prosecution. On hearing this, furious Iraqis, led by vice president Izzat Ibrahim, threatened to leave the summit. But this time it was Mubarak and Gaddaffi's turn to calm down the Iraqis, and the proposal was formally withdrawn. Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri described the proposal as "US-inspired bilge". The UAE were dejected. According to their Information Minister, Sheikh Abdullah ibn Zayed, Gulf states are in favor of the arrangement because it "could spare Iraq the torment of war". After the summit, Kuwait and Bahrain - hosts to the awesome American military machine - officially supported the proposal. Politically, Gulf states are worried about the consequences of an armed and dangerous US in their vicinity, while in economic terms regime change couldn't be a more popular arrangement. Small Gulf nations are already profiting from a war that has not even started. With oil prices shooting up to almost US$40 a barrel, the UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have nothing to lose. They also have their eyes set on the endless golden opportunities in terms of economic reconstruction and long-term foreign investment in the post-Saddam era. Businesses in the Gulf are already planning for a mini-boom starting on the second half or the end of 2003, and accelerating in 2004 towards 2005. Iraq's reconstruction will be financed not only by Iraq's oil revenues, but most of all by a mix of international aid and soft loans from Arab nations. There will be a construction boom for Gulf-based contractors, suppliers and consultants. Much will be financed by Gulf banks. Kuwaiti traders have been praying for Saddam to bow out for more than two decades. But the economic hub of the UAE, Dubai - which will become the gateway to Iraq - will probably be the biggest winner. Where does this all leave the Arab street? Moroccan sociologist Mohamed Tozy offers an explanation, "People in the Arab world simply don't accept the US linkage of Islamism terrorism-Iraq. They can't stand this kind of confusion. Anti-American sentiment at the same time is comforted by the anti-Americanism of non-Arab societies: this is not merely an Arab or Muslim sentiment any more. Now, many pin their hopes in a sort of global conscience incarnated by mass movements in different capitals. There's a feeling that the Arab world is being reinserted back into the world. We are not the only ones concerned about what's happening. We see this paradoxical mix: on one side, the despair and impotence of an Arab world which cannot trust a summit any more, nor any Arab resolution; on the other side, a real hope carried through by this alternative globalization, this global civil society who says 'no' to the United States." Even the not-exactly-free Arab press mirrors these feelings. The point is made by an editorial of the Saudi English-language daily Arab News, "Bush is one of America's least traveled presidents. It seems that he only knows of the Middle East that which is whispered in his ears by his largely Zionist-influenced advisers. The subtleties and complex history of our region are entirely beyond his ken. He thinks in terms of the good guys and the bad guys. Saddam is the bad guy and the Iraqi people need to be bombed into liberation and freedom from his clutches. Pax Americana will afterward be delivered to the wreckage, on Washington's terms. Every item on this potentially catastrophic agenda entirely ignores the wishes and concerns of every other country in the region. A US-occupied and destabilized Iraq will become a breeding ground for the botulism of terrorism, far more deadly in nature than anything that the world has yet encountered." Which leaves Arab intellectuals in a terrible impasse. In Sharm el-Sheikh, many posed three crucial questions. Is Arab nationalism really dead? Or if it means the defense of a status quo which allows dictators like Saddam to remain in power, what is it good for? And how is it possible to subscribe to a democratic project supposedly entertained by the Americans, when their attitude towards the Palestinian tragedy and their support of repulsive dictatorships around the world for decades totally destroys American credibility? Gaddaffi may have blamed Saudi Arabia for the Arab world's current predicament, but that may have been just the tip of the iceberg - or the sand dune. The crisis of the Arab world is now so severe because there are no political or social institutions capable of framing the terms of the debacle. There's nothing for the Arab masses apart from engaging themselves in what for many is a very remote idea, the global anti-war movement. It may not be enough as too much Arab repressed anger and frustration is about to explode. http://www.jordantimes.com/Tue/homenews/homenews2.htm * ANALYSTS DISAGREE ON WHETHER ARAB SUMMIT ROSE TO PEOPLE'S EXPECTATIONS, AGREE LITTLE COULD BE DONE TO AVERT WAR by Francesca Sawalha Jordan Times, 4th March AMMAN ‹ Analysts disagree on whether Saturday's Arab summit rose up to people's expectations and regional circumstances, but agree that, in practical terms, there was little it could do to avert a war on Iraq. Although powerless before a perceived US determination to strike Iraq, Arab leaders should have come up with a stronger final communique and taken more concrete steps against war, some say. According to others, leaders did all they could, given their historic divisions, the dependence of many countries on the US, and mounting pressures by the Arab street. To some analysts, the Arab League's 15th ordinary summit should have been more courageous, by issuing a firm condemnation of US policies. To others, the summit should have been more courageous, too, but by entertaining proposals for a regime change in Baghdad. Equally discordant are analysts' and politicians' assessments of the by-now-famous war of words between Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah Ben Abdul Aziz, which caused the summit to be suspended for half an hour and resumed behind closed doors. "Too little too late," comments former Prime Minister Taher Masri, arguing the summit should have convened earlier. "I don't think the conference offered what was required from it by the situation: It rejected war, but it did not take any practical steps to stop the war." Arab leaders gathered in Sharm El Sheikh "completely rejected" war, asserted their "refusal to participate in military action," and called for a peaceful solution to the Iraqi crisis under UN auspices. After intense negotiations over the wording of the final communique, a Syrian draft asking Arab states not to extend any assistance or facilities to the US in waging war against Iraq was amended to assert instead their "refusal to participate" in the war. Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher has praised the summit for uniting behind a rejection of a US-led war on Iraq and "preserving Arab ranks following fears of divisions." The summit produced "frozen statements and paralysed decisions," declares Abdul Latif Arabiyat, president of the Shura Council (the legislative body) of the Islamic Action Front. "Arab leaders will be responsible for what is coming," as they failed to take strong enough stands against it, Arabiyat states. While the IAF leader accuses the summit of having "disappointed and embarrassed" the street, politician Mamdouh Abbadi describes the final communique as a "very strong rejection of war." "Let us be honest: They [Arab leaders] can do nothing to stop the war," continues Abbadi, a political leader of the traditional, democratic left. "But they did what was expected of them, they managed to come up with a good statement." Two other prominent leftists, Jamil Nimri of the Democratic Party of the Left and Mohammad Ouran of the Arab Land Party (ALP), also declare themselves satisfied with the anti-war message that emerged from the summit. "It was what the Arabs wanted to hear," says Ouran, who is president of the Jordan Medical Association and a former Lower House deputy, in addition to being the ALP's secretary general. "Perhaps the statement could have included a stronger message to the US that enough is enough, that Washington should listen to the millions of people everywhere in the world, and in the US, too, who are speaking up against war. But, all in all, it was a good communique." Nimri, who is also a popular columnist, stresses that the final communique was "strong and clear" in rejecting Arab countries' participation in the looming war. "More than this, they [Arab leaders] couldn't do," he says. Still, the summit missed an opportunity to strengthen the anti-war camp in the international community, especially France and Germany, by failing to translate into a concrete proposal the "widespread perception that the regime of [President] Saddam Hussein needs to be changed." "This [need for a regime change] is quite a common stand, but the summit did not have the courage to translate it into a plan," Nimri contends. Arab League Secretary General Amr Musa said the summit decided not to examine a letter by United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Zayed Ben Sultan Al Nahayan proposing that President Saddam step down to avert war. "This is a paper that comes from [Israeli Prime Minister] Ariel Sharon," Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri told reporters on Saturday in reaction to Sheikh Zayed's letter. The UAE letter envisaged a "general amnesty for all Iraqis, inside or abroad," and suggested Iraq come under temporary UN and Arab League administration. "A proposal coming from the UAE is a proposal stemming from the desire to act in the interest of the Arab nation," Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Faisal had commented 10 minutes after the Emirati message was delivered to summit's participants, on Saturday. The Sharm El Sheikh resolution rejected "all attempts to impose changes in the region" ‹ an apparent reference not only to US determination to remove Saddam from power, but also to the UAE message. Politicians generally praise the summit's decision to send a troika, including former Arab League president Lebanon, current president Bahrain and next president Tunisia, on a peace mission to Baghdad and "international parties," starting from the UN Security Council. "This was a fine step," comments Masri. "But I doubt this Arab delegation will have time to make its trips before a war." Others doubt that the troika's composition would give it enough weight to effectively lobby for peace. "The Arab heavyweights are not in the troika, which is bound to weaken it," points out Nimri. The mandate and very destinations of the peace delegation remain largely unclear, analysts stress. Some Arab countries would like the troika to go to Baghdad to maintain pressure on Iraq to offer utmost cooperation with UN international inspectors. But Baghdad has said it would only accept an Arab delegation expressing solidarity with Iraq. Jordanian officials have also indicated Washington ‹ another possible destination of the Arab troika ‹ might not be inclined to receive a delegation mandated with blasting its policies. Muasher has stressed the "practical proposal" to set up a troika "provides a chance to talk to all the parties in order to examine the possibilities of solving the crisis through diplomatic means." The foreign minister has expressed hope the committee will start on its peace mission "as soon as possible because time is running out and the chances for a peaceful solution are slim." As for the incident that already threatens to characterise the summit in the Arab collective memory ‹ the row between Qadhafi and Prince Abdullah ‹ politicians remain split on its relevance. "It happens everywhere else in the world," Ouran comments on the heated exchange between the two leaders, who traded accusations of pro-Western servitude. "Why shouldn't it happens to us [Arabs]?" According to Arabiyat, however, the row "projected a very negative image of the Arab world and weakened the summit as a whole." http://www.dailystar.com.lb/opinion/04_03_03_d.htm * WHY WE CAN TRUST BUSH THIS TIME by Saad Mehio Lebanon Daily Star, 4th March President George W. Bush has finally used language other than that of war. At long last, Middle Easterners heard him reassure them that the day following Saddam Hussein's exit would not witness the return of colonialism but a new dawn for democracy. "A new regime in Iraq would serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom to other nations of the region" and "could also begin a new stage for Middle Eastern peace, and set in motion progress toward a truly democratic Palestinian state." That's what Bush told the American Enterprise Institute annual dinner on Feb. 26. - words as wise, at least linguistically, as those uttered by Zarathustra 3,000 years ago, Jesus a millennium later, and the Prophet Mohammed 600 years after that. All these wise men, as is well known, came out of the Middle East and conquered the ancient world with their smooth talk and enticing promises. This is not to say that George W. is about to be canonized just for saying these words - far from it. In fact, many people believe Bush's words were meant more for British and French ears than for those of the peoples of the Middle East. He felt that his only ally in his impending Middle East adventure, Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, needed such verbal logistical support, especially after more than 120 members of Parliament from Blair's own Labor Party rebelled against him on the question of war on Iraq. Bush also realized that French President Jacques Chirac was riding a wave of "non-Americanism" (not "anti-Americanism"). To be even more frank, we in the Middle East have never trusted the words of American governments. Arabs have been eating promises since the days of Woodrow Wilson early in the 20th century, through J.F. Kennedy's presidency in the 1960s. During this time, American policy in the region reeked more of motor oil than the holy variety. Nevertheless, Bush's words this time around are believable for reasons to do with America proper rather than anything else. For the first time ever, hundreds of thousands of young American men will be stationed in the wider Middle East, from the mountains of Afghanistan to Iraq and the Arab heartland. This will cause a major change in American thinking. From now on, ordinary Americans will become far more interested in Middle Eastern affairs; many of them will feel closer to Baghdad, Cairo, Damascus and Rabat than to Paris, London or Bonn. For similar reasons, the US administration will no longer be able to make hasty political, military and economic decisions regarding this region, for the lives of young American servicemen will be at stake. It is important to stress that the Americans (and others) would be greatly mistaken if they thought the US would be able to "do the job" in Iraq in weeks and months. In fact, the United States will have to stay in Iraq for at least five years in order to ensure that the country is rebuilt on foundations that "will enhance US interests," as Secretary of State Colin Powell recently pointed out. During these five years, Washington will be responsible for ensuring the security of its forces in Iraq. This means the Americans have to create a new strategic reality in the Gulf region and in the countries surrounding Iraq - the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states (namely, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE), as well as Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan and Israel. For that to happen, America has to decide what regional role (if any) Egypt and Turkey would be able to play. Washington would also have to deal with Iran, which was recently described by Newsweek as the real font of terrorism in the region. These conclusions might sound exaggerated, but the picture is not like that at all. It is naive to believe that such a large number of troops from a superpower can be withdrawn from the region without first effecting fundamental change. Look at the changes wrought by the presence of American troops in Japan and Western Europe after World War II, as well as in Turkey, Greece, Bosnia and Kosovo. There is another, objective, reason why Bush's words are more believable this time: The Middle East "continent" (for that is what it is if Central Asia and North Africa are included) is set to become the world's major focus of instability and conflict, inheriting the role Europe played for the last 50 years. For it is in the Middle East that the new world order that is supposed to replace the Cold War system will be defined. It is the Middle East that will spark either major new global confrontations or great new global alliances. To understand the last point, consider this: In their attempts to forge a new European identity, France and Germany - rather than choosing such issues to challenge the US as NATO expansion, Turkey's role in the European Union, the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, or relations between Russia and the West - picked out Iraq as a battleground to assert their independence from Washington. Why? Because suspicions of American imperialist intentions are more obvious in Iraq than anywhere else. The Russians and Chinese meanwhile saw in North Korea's attempt to sidetrack the US while it is preoccupied with Europe and the Middle East a good opportunity to exploit the Iraq issue to the utmost. There is no doubt that it would be in Beijing's interests for Washington to expend most of its energies in the Middle East; that would help China achieve its aim of dominating the Far East. As for the Russians, they seem to be waiting for the Americans to dig themselves deeper in the Middle East quagmire before taking any steps. Even India is lying in wait. The Indians are hoping that America's preoccupation with the Arab and Muslim worlds will facilitate its drive to undermine Pakistan's role in Kashmir. Delhi also hopes Washington will appoint it as a regional client not only in South Asia but also to confront China. It is not unlikely that even Japan might rediscover its military and nuclear potential - if the current Iraqi and Korean crises reveal America's reluctance to engage in two confrontations simultaneously. The strategic implications of direct American involvement in the Middle East make clear that not only the future of Iraq (nor even of the entire Middle East) is in the balance, but the fate of the global Pax Americana itself. If the US succeeds in its Iraqi/Arab enterprise, this would then guarantee that the 21st century would be an American century. If it fails, however, America would then have to accept Henry Kissinger's advice to become the first among (five or six) equals in a new multipolar world order. I used the term "US," and not "the Bush administration" in this discourse for good reason: Once the Americans invade Iraq, there will no longer be Republicans and Democrats. Both parties will be involved in the Middle East, and neither could afford to pull out without achieving something to ensure US world leadership. Those then are the reasons why we tend to believe Bush is serious this time vis-a-vis the Middle East. He is now compelled to rethink all Washington's policies regarding Middle Eastern dictatorships and will find himself forced to come to grips with the Palestinian Israeli conflict - a conflict described by Gerard Baker, the Washington bureau chief for London's Financial Times, as being "the great cancer in the world's political anatomy." This, in fact, is our only reason for feeling optimistic. Saad Mehio is a Beirut-based Lebanese journalist and writer. He wrote this commentary special for The Daily Star _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk