Skip to comments.Iraq War's Impact Spreads in Arab World
Posted on 05/03/2003 8:00:48 AM PDT by kattracks
Iraq War's Impact Spreads in Arab World
By PAUL GEITNER .c The Associated Press
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - While President Bush has declared major fighting over in Iraq, the repercussions of the war for the rest of the Mideast are just starting to be felt, and it's an open question about whether for better or worse.
Radical regimes in Syria and Iran are suddenly toning down the anti-U.S. rhetoric and urging dialogue. Authoritarian leaders in Egypt and Jordan are talking - with varying degrees of enthusiasm - about democratization, while militants in the streets of Cairo and Amman predict a wave of new recruits to fight the American occupiers and their supporters.
``Announcing the end of the military operations doesn't mean the end of the war,'' said Tareq Masarweh, a prominent Jordanian columnist who foresees ``popular resistance'' as long as the U.S. military remains in Iraq.
How the replacement of Saddam Hussein with a presumably pro-U.S. government in Baghdad will affect regional politics is one of the biggest uncertainties.
Awed by Washington's display of firepower in Iraq, no one looks likely to claim Saddam's mantle as leader of defiance to the West.
Even Syria, which likes to refer to itself as the ``heart of Arabism,'' welcomed U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell this weekend for tough talk about its own weapons program, allegations that Damascus aided Saddam's regime and links to terrorism.
``The U.S. doesn't need to invade any more countries,'' said Iman Hamdi, an expert on Mideast affairs at the American University in Cairo. ``We've got the message.''
Lebanon also has felt the heat because of the presence there of the Syrian- and Iranian-backed Hezbollah guerrilla group, which is on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations.
Beirut regards Hezbollah as a legitimate resistance movement against Israel. But Hezbollah's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, seems worried too.
``In the end, we are facing a new reality,'' he told supporters after the U.S. victory in Iraq.
Iranian hard-liners are signaling a new willingness to consider the possibility of restoring ties with Washington, cut since the 1979 Islamic revolution and hostage-taking at the U.S. Embassy.
Iran's former president threw his weight last month behind the idea of a referendum on restoring ties - an idea believed to have broad popular support despite official opposition.
After Washington charged Iran was trying to promote an Iranian-style theocracy in Iraq, Tehran was quick to deny it.
``Tehran does not want any friction with Washington over issues concerning Iraq,'' said Hasan Rowhani, secretary of Iran's powerful Supreme National Security Council.
Some have suggested Washington's professed determination to establish a democratic government in Iraq could have a domino effect in the region - depending on how it goes.
``If it fails and Iraq descends into civil strife ... the effect would be devastating,'' said Fawaz Gerges, professor of Mideast studies at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. ``Militant forces would be strengthened. America's vital interests and local allies would be endangered.''
Some of those moderate allies have been taking democratic steps, even if small ones.
Bahrain had its first parliamentary elections in three decades last October. Qatari voters approved their first constitution this week and the first parliamentary elections are expected next year.
In Jordan, which has been without a parliament for two years, King Abdullah II promises elections will finally go ahead June 17.
``That'll get us back on the right track as quickly as possible,'' he said in a CNN interview. ``We're not looking over our shoulder. I mean we're looking to the future and moving.''
By contrast, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak dismissed the notion that ``imposing democracy by force'' in Iraq would result in wholesale reforms in the Islamic world or a lessening of fanaticism.
He said Wednesday that Arab countries were trying to bring democracy ``according to their own standards.''
Mubarak wields ultimate control in Egypt under emergency laws in place since the 1981 assassination of his predecessor, Anwar Sadat, by extremists opposed to the peace deal with Israel.
Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy, is also feeling rattled.
Just before the war, the ruling family allowed human rights teams to visit and meet with reformers, a signal that it senses change is the best way to protect its rule.
Mass popular disillusionment with Arab governments after the Iraq war could also undermine the already divided 22-nation Arab League.
Rounds of summitry over the Iraq crisis degenerated into bickering and name-calling. Joint pronouncements against the war were undermined by some members who helped the U.S.-led invasion force, whether overtly or quietly.
The league's ``teeth are made of flesh,'' said Ayed al-Manna, a political analyst in Kuwait, which has sharply criticized the league.
Some analysts say the main impact of the war may be to force Arabs and their leaders to address their problems - and the rest of the world - more honestly.
``The only positive thing in the long run is it's going to make people here wake up to all the illusions they have with the West,'' Hamdi said. ``It puts things in perspective and maybe then we can find a way to better serve our own interests.''
05/03/03 10:34 EDT
So, where's the "worse"?
That says it all.
I somehow doubt the terrorists (media militants) are gonna be as prolific as the media hopes. Terrorist attacks last year dropped to their lowest levels since 1968 or '69. Binny's stronger horse. Arab leaders have definitely taken note. Not just of US strength, but of the possiblity that THEY can now begin cracking down on the worst of the Islamakazis in relative safety. The 'Arab street' will simply blame the unjust war on terrorism.
Does anyone still wonder about the real purpose of the war?
But there are risks
``If it fails and Iraq descends into civil strife ... the effect would be devastating...Militant forces would be strengthened. America's vital interests and local allies would be endangered.''
That would entail taking at least partial responsibility for their actions. The Islamakis prefer to whine, cringe and blame US 'imperialism' for their atrocities.
It's reminiscent of one of those made for TV Gunsmoke movies when Matt Dillon (Jim Arness) rode into town with three lynching victims slung across horses. Then he went into a saloon and killed two other guys. One of the town's people went to the deputy and said Dillon had to be arrested. The deputy said, "Hold on there. He came into town trailing three dead bodies. He's just accounted for two more, and it ain't even noon yet! You want him arrested, you arrest him!"
Let's ALL go back to the forcing down of that American plane in China, shall we? Remember all the conservative hawks were clamoring for war and "making China pay?"
Bush quietly, almost embarrassingly, spoke of the Chinese as our "friends" and that this issue would be resolved. It finally was.
Then Bush dropped the other shoe. He sold a slew of weapons (although not Aegis class anti-missile ships) to Taiwan, but even more important, he announced that any attack on Taiwan would initiate immediate American involvement in defending Taiwan! Buh=bye "one China" policy. Attention, "friends": you do not screw us and get away with it.
Their boy Saddom lost bad, really bad, and it's time they realize this. This "victory through defeat" argument they try to pump into their people is a looser, and people are seeing it live.
Yep. All socialists, really.
And America showed once more that conquest was not on its agenda but rather showing the world a path to new levels of peace, progress and wealth.
God, please make it so.
Actually Bush quickly retrenched and declared there hadn't been a change in our China policy. He only said that the US will do "whatever it takes" to keep Taiwan safe, which doesn't quite kill the ambiguity over what we'll do if China attacks. And after 9/11 he had to go back to talking to China as if it were our partner.
The decision not to sell AEGIS radar - even though Taiwan had requested it - was yet another compromise made to limit the damage to US-China relations.
On top of that, Taiwan's expected attack submarines haven't materialized because Germany and Holland have refused our request to construct the boats on Taiwan's behalf - we no longer build diesel-electric subs ourselves. Have we punished Germany and Holland for placing China's interests before ours?