Analysis: Iraqis say other Arabs no help

By DALAL SAOUD  |  Feb. 11, 2003 at 1:07 PM
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BAGHDAD, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- Iraqis are bitter that the Arab countries, unlike some European governments, were incapable of taking any action that could help deter the United States from going ahead with its war plans.

"What is happening now shows that no one (of the Arab leaders) cares about Iraq," said Mohammed Mozaffer al Adhami, a member in the Iraqi National Council (or Parliament).

Al Adhami told United Press International the majority of Arab leaders were behaving as if "war is undoubtedly going to take place and could not be avoided."

For al Adhami a clear example of apparent Arab lack of commitment was the recent Istanbul meeting of the foreign ministers of Iraq's immediate neighbors, plus Egypt. When Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the two non-Arab neighbors Iran and Turkey, plus Egypt met to discuss the Iraq crisis, he maintains, the United States managed to prevent them from issuing a condemnation of the war.

"All they did was to ask Iraq for more cooperation (with the United Nations)," he said.

There was no indication at the time that Washington had influenced the outcome of that meeting. The general consensus was that the ministers failed to agree on a common policy because of the divergent interests of some of the participants.

With the countdown of war on Iraq starting, Iraqis believe attempts to hold an Arab summit to discuss their crisis were unlikely to be successful.

"I don't believe that there can't be such a summit," al Adhami said. "If by any chance it takes place, it's unlikely that Arab leaders will confront Washington with regard to its war plans."

Only last March, Arab League leaders meeting in Beirut adopted a resolution saying any attack against an Arab country would be considered an aggression against all Arab states. The same Beirut summit, incidentally, also witnessed a reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Iraq, when Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, the country's de facto ruler, and Iraqi Vice President Izzat Ibrahim al Douri embraced.

A few Arab leaders such as Lebanese President Emile Lahoud -- who is the president of the Arab summit -- have reminded Arab states of this recent commitment. Moreover, the Beirut statement has "teeth" in the shape of an earlier Arab joint defense agreement. But this accord has very rarely been put into effect.

In Baghdad, there is a widespread conviction that Iraq might be the immediate target, but the real target of the United States is the whole Arab region.

They see that Syria is the only Arab country that appreciates the real nature of the threat and has been engaged in intense diplomatic efforts to avert the war.

"Others seem to have simply given up," al Adhami said.

Arab officials were not addressing the United States but Iraq, which has already "offered many concessions and proofs that it is cooperating over the issue of weapons of mass destruction."

Both U.S. and other Western leaders have said Saddam Hussein's cooperation with the U.N. weapons inspectors falls short of what is required in U.N. Resolution 1441, which sent arms inspectors back to Iraq after an eight-year hiatus and calls for full disclosure of Iraqi stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.

Al Adhami said that last weekend's meeting among Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, his Syrian counterpart Bashar Asssad, and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi at Egypt's resort of Sharm el Sheikh seems to have been a substitute for the possible Arab summit.

Al Adhami is not specific about what an Arab League initiative would actually change in the current standoff, but "if the Arabs adopt a strong position, they might shake up the Americans a bit," he says.

According to an Iraqi political analyst, it would be hard to convince the Bush administration to change direction from its war plans. The analyst -- who asked for anonymity -- said the Iraqi crisis is "a war of interests" and "each party is trying to secure its own share."

Al Adhami agrees.

"Iraq is a lake of oil, with good gas potential," he said. "Its oil is of an excellent quality and not expensive to produce. One barrel is around half a dollar."

The one who would seize Iraq's oil would "thus control the oil market and Europe," he said. "The (U.S.) plan is to partition the region along ethnic and racial bases to facilitate the control of oil. And this won't be limited to Iraq."

Iraqis weren't surprised that Turkey supported the U.S. position despite the fact that the new government in Ankara is Islamist.

"Turkey is controlled by the military and they decide (its policies)," al Adhami said.

Turkey has been the third country after Russia and France to largely benefit from the U.N. oil-for-food program since it was adopted in 1996. Turkish trade with Baghdad is estimated at $3 billion a year, and half of Iraq's oil exports -- amounting to $62 billion since 1996 -- passes through Turkey's Ceihan port.

By supporting the United States, Turkey -- whose losses from the 1991 Gulf War onwards were estimated at $40 billion -- has undoubtedly been promised more financial backing from Washington.

So, with friends and foes distancing themselves more and more, Iraq prepares itself for the U.S. strike. If war breaks out, it won't be as easy for the United States as it was in Afghanistan. That is the wish of many here.

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