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Wednesday, 7 August, 2002, 12:35 GMT 13:35 UK
Iraq's nervous neighbours
Turkey Syria Jordan Egypt Saudi Arabia Iran Kuwait Qatar Oman

Before the Gulf War in 1991, the United States assembled a broad coalition and won a United Nations Security Council resolution approving action to remove Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

Many Middle Eastern countries took part in the action.

This time, as President Bush calls for a "regime change" in Baghdad, there is no such broad coalition and no clear Security Council resolution.

BBC News Online looks at the views of Iraq's neighbours as the US Government prepares to go to war with Iraq.

Click on the map to see the attitudes of Iraq's neighbours in detail.


Saudi Arabia

The Saudis have shown the biggest change since 1991. From being an active part of the coalition and provider of bases and forces for Operation Desert Storm, they are now far from supportive.

It is currently doubtful if the US would be able to use Saudi Arabia as a base of operations this time.

Apache helicopter
Saudi Arabia offered bases for US use in 1991
The Saudi Foreign Minister, Saud al-Faisal, said on a visit to Iran: "We have always opposed any attack against an Arab or Muslim country, and that also means Iraq."

Government unease about the growth of Islamic fundamentalism is an inhibiting factor.

The centrist paper Ukaz said of the American aim to remove Saddam: "Certainly this decision will lead the region into a catastrophe."

The Saudi press is pressing instead for resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But there is a hint that Saudi Arabia retains its underlying hostility to Saddam Hussein and so might eventually adopt a more understanding attitude.

The pro-government paper al-Watan said of Saddam Hussein: "He wants to sacrifice the entire Iraqi people in order to remain in power."

Kuwait

Kuwait, the victim last time round, remains the strongest supporter of action to remove Saddam Hussein this time, though formally it is opposed to an attack and its comments are sometimes shrouded in talk about only responding to Iraqi "threats" to Kuwait.

Kuwait would probably be the main base from which an invasion of Iraq would be organised.

Kuwait
Kuwait is the US' most sympathetic regional ally on the question of Iraq

The Kuwaiti defence minister Sheikh Jabir al-Mubarak al-Sabah has said that a new military camp south of Kuwait city would be at the disposal of American forces.

The only thing needed, he said, was to "link it to electric network".

The independent Kuwaiti newspaper al-Ra'y al-Am summed up the general attitude:

"The core of the Iraqi issue and its solution depend only on the downfall of the regime of Saddam Hussein and the establishment of a legitimate, constitutional and democratic regime and on saving Iraq from disasters and the Nazi dictatorship."

Qatar

Qatar would probably be the second - with Kuwait - major base for any American invasion. It provided an airbase in 1991 and the ruler Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa al-Thani might let it be used again.

But in the meantime, Qatar, like other Gulf states, would prefer a diplomatic solution to be found.

An editorial in the newspaper al-Sharq said that "any attack on Iraq will pose a greater threat to stability in a region where tension is already mounting as a result of the Israeli occupation of the Arab land in Palestine".

Qatar's attitude is reflected by Bahrain, which also allowed coalition aircraft to use its bases in 1991.

The Prime Minister of Bahrain Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa said that an attack on Iraq would be "a disaster" for the region.

Jordan

King Hussein was publicly, though not militarily, on Iraq's side in 1991 and his son King Abdullah is campaigning hard against a repeat of military action, taking his arguments in person to London and Washington.

He told the Washington Post that an attempt to invade Iraq would be a "tremendous mistake" and that it could "throw the whole area into turmoil".

King Abdullah of Jordan
King Abdullah adamantly opposes military action
He argued that the priority was to settle the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

This is having a major impact in Jordan where many Palestinians live.

Jordan was alarmed at reports that it was secretly preparing to let US forces use one of its bases for an invasion and it took reporters to the base to show them that nothing was happening there.

Jordan would almost certainly sit this war out as well.

Iran

Iran has always had an ambivalent attitude about attacks on Iraq.

At heart, it would be only too delighted to see Saddam Hussein removed, the man who launched an eight year long war against Iran in September 1980.

Iranian president Mohammed Khatami
Iran's President Khatami is treading a fine line between hardliners and reformists

It has refused to hand back to Iraq the aircraft which took refuge there during the Gulf War, so it clearly does not want to see him strengthened.

On the other hand, it does not favour the "great Satan" - the United States - being in the region at all. So its public comments are hostile.

The Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi said: "We are opposed to any attack launched against a Muslim country."

Iran would not therefore help any American invasion but it would probably not hinder one either.

Turkey

Turkey already allows US and British planes to use its bases from which to enforce the no-fly zone over Northern Iraq, but is very hesitant to join in an invasion of Iraq.

Its Incirlik base would be very useful in any such operation. The Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit has questioned what the political consequences of an invasion might be.

Incirlik air base
Incirlik base in Turkey would be vital in any attack on Iraq
Turkey's main concern seems to be that the Kurds of Northern Iraq might try to set up their own state and that this would encourage the separatist tendencies of Turkey's own Kurds.

However, a columnist in the Turkish paper Millyet remarked that Turkey had no choice but to join any military operation in exchange for being "drowned in money".

Turkey might also reckon it could more easily control what happens on its border with Iraq if it is itself involved.

Egypt

President Mubarak sent troops to fight with the coalition in the Gulf War but would not be expected to do so again.

Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak
President Mubarak is not expected to provide military backing
He has argued that the Americans should first tackle the Israel - Palestinian crisis.

The leading government newspaper, al-Ahram, commented that "it would have been better if President George W Bush had not preoccupied himself with the overthrow of the Iraqi regime... but concentrated instead on exploring ways to bring his vision of peace to the Middle East".

However, Washington is hoping that Mr Mubarak will at least give tacit approval to action against Iraq if and when the moment arrives.

Oman

Sultan Qabous has for long been one of the West's main allies in the Gulf region and supported the US led action in Afghanistan.

He also allowed British forces to carry out a huge desert exercise in Oman. But his ministers have been publicly opposing an American strike on Iraq.

His Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Yussef Bin Alawi Bin Abdullah said: "We are opposed to an attack on Iraq or any other Muslim state because we think that any differences with regard to the Middle East must be resolved under UN auspices."

Oman seems to be biding its time.

Syria

Syria has traditionally opposed Saddam Hussein and sent forces to the Gulf War in 1991. It is highly unlikely to do so again.

Syria has been offering its "good offices" to try to bring Iraq and Iran closer together. President Bashar al-Assad is more interested in the Israeli - Palestinian issue.

The government paper, Al Thawrah, has accused the United States of "a flagrant bias towards Israel."


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