| Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon: Big winner
Cairo, April 15 (Reuters): Arab leaders who braved hostile public opinion to help the US in the Iraq war stand to be big winners in post-war West Asia, provided a stable government emerges in Baghdad, analysts say.
Countries such as Jordan, the smaller Gulf states and Egypt, which discreetly or publicly facilitated the US-led campaign to overthrow Saddam Hussein can expect political and financial rewards, trade benefits and a role in reconstruction.
But if post-war efforts to stabilise Iraq go wrong and lead to prolonged US military occupation or to civil strife, those rulers could face new threats in a radicalised region.
For now, Syria is shaping up as a big loser. It is under fierce US pressure over alleged help for Baghdad, shelter for fleeing Iraqi officials, suspected chemical weapons and support for anti-Israeli militant groups. It also faces severe economic losses from the end of cheap Iraqi oil and cross-border trade.
Non-Arab Turkey too is set to miss out financially, at least short term, after parliament refused to let US troops enter northern Iraq from Turkish soil, forfeiting a big aid package.
Ankara has also had to watch Kurdish gains in northern Iraq without intervening militarily at US insistence.
But its port of Iskenderun may be a key reconstruction gateway.
The stunning three-week US victory in Iraq is potentially uncomfortable politically for Saudi Arabia’s absolute monarchy, even though Western diplomats say Riyadh was far more helpful to the war effort than it has acknowledged publicly.
The ruling al Saud family faces US and internal pressure to liberalise politically and modernise an Islamic education system, which Americans say produced the militants who attacked the US on September 11, 2001.
Every Arab commentator sees Israel as the biggest winner in the US strategy to reshape West Asia. Without lifting a finger, it has seen one long-time Arab foe smashed and another bitter adversary, Syria, placed under severe US pressure.
But Prime Minister Ariel Sharon may not be able to celebrate for long if US President George W. Bush makes good on his pledge to pursue Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking, requiring Israel to make concessions on Jewish settlements.
For non-Arab Iran, the war has been a mixed blessing. Tehran has watched with quiet satisfaction as its long-time US foe destroyed the Iraqi ruler who invaded Iran in 1980 and fought a bloody eight-year war.
Iran stands to gain influence from a likely increase in the political power of the fellow Shia majority in Iraq. But the Islamic republic now has US forces on both sides — in Iraq and Afghanistan — and may face more pressure from a Bush administration flushed with victory over its avowed nuclear programme, which Washington says is aimed at making a bomb.