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Thursday, 5 September, 2002, 16:42 GMT 17:42 UK
Why Arabs fear Iraq attack
Kuwaiti Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Mohammed Sabah Salem al-Sabah (right) greets Lebanese Foreign Minister Mahmud Hammud
Arab leaders are worried about their peoples' reaction

Arab states fear that Saddam Hussein's regime might not be the only one which is changed if there's a US-led assault on Iraq.

That is what is behind the head of the Arab League Amr Moussa's statement that war against Iraq would "open the gates of hell" in the Middle East, with instability across the region.

Countries like Jordan and Egypt know they would face an eruption of domestic anger if they did join an American military coalition.

They are trying to head off having to make such a choice by defusing the crisis now.

That means persuading the Iraqis to let the UN weapons inspectors back in to do their work.

The Iraqis say they agree in principle, but the US and Britain say Baghdad's promises are meaningless and that words should be matched with deeds.

Arab democracy

The first Gulf war was about liberating one Arab state - Kuwait - from occupation by another Arab state, Iraq.

Arab governments worry that this war, if it happens, will look like an Anglo-American effort to install a client regime in Baghdad - and that their own peoples will punish them for supporting it.


The Arab League repeats the formula that the stability of the whole Middle East is at risk if America goes to war with Iraq

Even if an independent and open society emerges from the ruins of post-Saddam Iraq, many rulers around the region do not want to encourage such aspirations.

Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf monarchies are nervous about the threat posed by Saddam; they might be more nervous about the idea of Iraq as a beacon for Arab democracy.

Syria's fear is that Iraq could disintegrate into Kurdish, Sunni and Shia entities. It does not want to see partition on ethnic and religious lines given the similarities in the two countries' populations.

And then there is the fear of what Israel will do.

If attacked by the US, Saddam will attack Israel.

Stability

Ariel Sharon has said he will hit back - unlike his predecessor in the first Gulf War, Yitzak Shamir, who obeyed the order from Washington to do nothing.

Ariel Sharon
Israel's Ariel Sharon has said he will hit back
That is a scenario for another Arab-Israeli war - one which Arab states fear Israel would use to redraw the Arab map, forcing Palestinians from the West Bank into Jordan.

These concerns are never baldly stated. Instead the Arab League repeats the formula that the stability of the whole Middle East is at risk if America goes to war with Iraq.

Arab regimes certainly do not like Saddam, but many fear for their own survival if he is toppled.


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05 Sep 02 | Middle East
04 Sep 02 | Middle East
05 Sep 02 | Politics
05 Sep 02 | Americas
21 Sep 01 | Country profiles
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