The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
Email This Page

Pandemonium broke out — first in the Arab League and then in the Muslim summit over Iraq. Arabs, after all, are famous for their rhetoric and collective failure to solve most things Arab. Or would the Palestinian problem still exist'

But, to come back to Iraq. It is primarily an Arab state, and if Saddam Hussein poses a threat, it springs from his innate urge to be the most powerful Arab ruler and turn his country into the most powerful Arab country. The war against neighbouring Iran was to overcome one of the Arab world’s principal enemies.

Before the United States of America led the attack on Iraq, the United Nations security council stood firmly divided, with the US and Britain advocating war while China, France and Russia opposed it. The onus of taking up a position fell on the hapless elected members of the UN — none of whom wield any real clout, while all have the threat of financial aid being cut off. The Arab countries could have worked this scenario to their advantage and taken up an honest position which could set the agenda for the other nations. Ironically, non-Arab countries like Turkey and Malaysia have displayed more guts.

Getting away

Let us see what the Arab countries did. The United Arab Emirates proposed, with the support of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, that Saddam Hussein and his top aides should step down and go into exile. Saudi Arabia wields enormous clout in the Arab and Islamic world, having the largest oil reserves and as the custodian of the two holiest Muslim shrines of the world. It is also one of the US’s closest allies in the region. It was Saudi Arabia which presented the bold Saudi peace plan to settle the Arab-Israel conflict. Most Arab states were willing to fall in line.

Thus, Saudi Arabia had the powers to avert the war. But it may have had its own reasons for not doing so. A regime change in Iraq could well have given a fillip to a similar demand in its own kingdom, which is as repressive and tyrannical as Iraq, and has one of the worst human rights records.

When Iraq first went to war with Iran, countries like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait cheered it on, and got Iraq to do the dirty work of containing Khomeini’s Shiite revolution from spilling over into their territory.

Al Qaida’s Saudi roots are well known. It reportedly received $ 500 million from the Saudis, and funding still continues. It should also not be forgotten that it was Saudi Arabia, not Iraq, which was one of the three countries in the world to have links with the pariah taliban regime in Afghanistan.

Next target'

Iraq’s other crime is aiding families of Palestinian suicide bombers. Last year, a Saudi telethon raised more than $ 100 million for Palestinians and voiced support for the suicide bombings. Also, Westerners have quite often been targeted in Saudi Arabia, but never in Iraq.

Is it possible that the ongoing US offensive on Iraq could also have some designs on Saudi Arabia' After all, a Pentagon leak last year named Saudi Arabia as the “kernel of at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot-soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader”. Besides, if oil is the real issue, as experts think it is, the Arabian kingdom still is the world’s largest oil exporter with the largest reserves of oil and natural gas.

How simple, then, is it for Iraq to be substituted by Saudi Arabia, as far as the US and its goals are concerned.

Countries in the Arab world, such as Saudi Arabia, may in future have to pay for their hypocrisy of verbally rejecting war, while simultaneously extending all support to the US. While relations with the US are important, the Saudis, along with rulers of countries like Qatar, Kuwait, UAE are becoming the butt of hate and scorn in the Arab world.

The real issue is one of setting a precedent, and also of judging which country qualifies most for regime change. The answer may well point away from Iraq.

Email This Page