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Arabs fear the war against terror may strike home

Arabs fear the war against terror may strike home

Author: Vasantha Arora
Publication: The Economic Times
Date: December 11, 2001

As the war in Afghanistan draws to a close, there is reportedly increasing fear in Iraq and other Arab countries that the US and the West might be out to 'suppress the Muslim world. The Arab League and several Arab governments have given a clear warning to the West: 'Attack any Arab country, and you'll lose our support for the war on terrorism. The international coalition will unravel.

For the moment, the threat of an attack on Iraq appears to have receded. US secretary of state Colin Powell has said that no decision had been taken on the next phase of the campaign.

But it's fair to assume that plans for military action in several countries are being drawn up. If rightwing hawks in Washington have their way, Iraq will top the target list. It is suspected of rebuilding its weapons of mass destruction and is refusing to let in UN weapons inspectors.

Couple that with the West's dislike for Saddam Hussein, and some circumstantial evidence linking Iraq to Al Qaida, and it's easy to see why Iraqis are nervous.

When Iraqi foreign minister Naji Sabri was asked in a BBC report if his government feared an attack, he flinched before saying, 'Iraq has done nothing wrong'. It was all a Western plot to subjugate his country, he felt.

On the streets of Baghdad, people were worried. The official media is preparing the population for another bombardment, along with the usual rhetoric about resistance and America's ultimate defeat. If Washington does decide, against the advice of its European allies, to attack Iraq, it's expected to he more than a few pinprick bombing.

But Iraq is an Arab country and most Arabs think it has suffered enough.

A United States attack could force even moderate Arab states to renounce their US ties. Then there's the problem of actually winning the war. Iraq's armed forces are not the Taliban. They're vast, well armed and mostly loyal to Hussein.

There's no Northern Alliance, waiting to go in and do the job on the ground. Even if the war was won and Hussein was killed or captured, there follows the problem of holding the country together afterwards. There are, however, other more attainable targets in the region. And they wouldn't necessarily mean picking a fight with the government concerned.- IANS
 


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