Arab League demonstrates its utter impotence over Iraq crisis

Developing Just Leadership

Our Own Correspondent

Dhu al-Hijjah 27, 1423 2003-03-01

Occupied Arab World

by Our Own Correspondent (Occupied Arab World, Crescent International Vol. 32, No. 1, Dhu al-Hijjah, 1423)

The impotence of Arab regimes was again on display on February 17, when foreign ministers from the 22-member Arab League gathered in Cairo for an "extraordinary" meeting, not to formulate a common response to the invasion of Iraq, but merely to agree on a date for an "emergency" summit. The Cairo meeting ended in chaos without the foreign ministers agreeing a date. Instead, they sought refuge in the excuse that since the Arab League was scheduled to hold its regular summit in March anyway, the Iraq crisis could be discussed then. As Crescent went to press, there was no official response to a later Bahraini proposal that the scheduled summit be brought forward to March 1, and held in Cairo instead of Manama, base of the US Fifth Fleet.

Saudi foreign minister Saud al-Faisal, who had left the Cairo meeting for a "luncheon appointment" (naturally lunch is more important than Iraqi lives) was reported by the Saudi daily Okaz on February 19 as saying "there is no need to hold an emergency summit after the extraordinary meeting of Arab foreign ministers." His remarks were published some hours before the Lebanese chairman of the League, citing "time constraints", ruled out an early special summit. The Saudi foreign minister offered the excuse that "holding a summit without first issuing a resolution on the Iraq crisis agreed unanimously by Arab countries may worsen the situation." The summit is unlikely to avert the attack; both Mubarak and king Abdullah have said that there is little they can do, so why bother?

The disarray in Arab ranks became evident when Kuwait accused the League’s chairman of steamrolling a statement critical of Arab states that have allowed US forces on their soil for an attack on Iraq. Foreign diplomats in Arab capitals, meanwhile, revealed that no date was fixed because a number of Arab countries expressed concern that the proposed summit might take a pro-US stance. The Saudi foreign minister, however, tried to gloss this over by saying: "It’s enough to have held the preliminary [foreign ministers’] meeting now and to focus on making the regular summit in March a successful meeting, while continuing to urge Iraq to cooperate more with UN inspectors," (Okaz newspaper, Riyadh, February 19).

The Saudi regime is not in a position to refuse the US; its existence depends on American good will but, given the current mood in Washington, where superhawks are in control, there will be no stopping the US war-machine. The hawks have made no secret of their desire to "redraw" the map of the Middle East; Iraq is merely their launching pad. Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Pakistan are all on their list. If Washington succeeds in imposing a military regime on Iraq, it will embolden the cowboys in Washington to intensify their campaign; only a major military or political setback might put the brakes on its agenda. In reality, it is not even Washington’s agenda; its real architects are the zionists in Tel Aviv. Led by Ariel Sharon, they have already succeeded in smashing what little was left of the Palestinian Authority (PA), confining Yasser Arafat to a house in Ramallah, and forcing him to announce the appointment of a prime minister. This is just part of the zionist agenda being imposed on the Middle East.

It is, however, no use looking to the Arab regimes for leadership. Responsibility for saving "Arab" Iraq has fallen to Islamic Iran, whose ambassador at the UN, Dr Javad Zarif, made an eloquent and moving presentation on February 18 arguing against military action. Speaking at the Security Council, Dr Zarif said that Iran had suffered directly from Iraqi chemical and nerve-gas attacks and that Iranians were still suffering their effects 15 years after the end of the war. Thousands of Iranians perished in chemical attacks in the Iraqi-imposed war (1980-1988); thousands more continue to suffer horrible after-effects. Dr Zarif, alluding to America’s use of depleted uranium shells (they were used during the war against Iraq in 1991), urged that no more weapons of mass-destruction be used in the region. He also categorically rejected the US argument that war is the only way to deal with Saddam Husain.

His presentation visibly moved the usually unflappable diplomats at the UN, who could see that he was speaking from his heart and was expressing the genuine sentiments of the people of Iran; what he said was not motivated by ulterior motives, or national interest. As a victim, Tehran should have been vociferous in calls to punish the Iraqi regime, especially Saddam, for the crimes he committed against Iran, but Dr Zarif was also exposing the hypocrisy of the west, which was instrumental in supplying ingredients for chemical and biological weapons to Saddam’s regime in the eighties. It is this hypocrisy that millions of people have now realised.

The Arab regimes that now demand that Iraq must disarm financed Saddam’s war against Iran . They bankrolled his war-machine and urged Washington and other western countries to help Saddam against Islamic Iran by supplying him with chemical and biological weapons, as well as data from AWACS planes. The Arab regimes and the west were determined to prevent Iran’s victory because it would have led to the liberation of the Muslims in the Middle East. By backing Saddam, they made possible the invasion and occupation of Kuwait (1990), the Gulf War (1991), followed by 12 years of sanctions that have resulted in nearly 1.5 million deaths, and now another invasion of Iraq.

Nobody should lament the demise of these regimes, but it would be for the wrong reasons and by wrong methods. It is not America’s business to determine who should rule in the Middle East or anywhere else; only the people who live there should decide who leads them. The present configuration of the Middle East is the result of the colonial carve-up by Britain and France, giving birth to Israel; now the terrible trio (the US, Britain and Israel) are planning to rearrange the political map of the region. What new monsters will emerge from this enterprise, one wonders.

Iraqi opposition-groups that worked so enthusiastically with the US have just discovered that America has a different agenda. It is not to liberate Iraq or usher in democracy but to impose an American military regime on the country. Ahmad Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), said on February 20 that the US plan was "unworkable and unwise." Writing in the Wall Street Journal on February 20, he said, "American help is essential—and is welcomed—in winning the fight" against Saddam, but a military occupation would be disastrous. A planned meeting of Iraqi opposition groups in Irbil, northern Iraq, on February 20, did not materialize because of wrangling between various groups as well as with the US. Eventually these groups will be discarded by the US.

If the future of Iraq, and the Middle East in general, is dependent on such groups as the INC and Arab League, then their future is bleak indeed.

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