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Gulf Leaders Call for Saddam's Ouster, but What Impact Will it Have on Them? - 2003-03-03

Top officials from three Gulf states have expressed support for a proposal calling on Saddam Hussein and his government to quit and leave Iraq. But some political analysts in the region say it is risky for Arab leaders to make such a call in a region that is dominated by various forms of dictatorship.

Bahrain and Kuwait have joined a proposal made by the United Arab Emirates calling for Saddam Hussein to quit power in an effort to avert war.

The proposal was made by the UAE during Saturday's Arab League summit, although Arab leaders refused to discuss it at the meeting.

But on Sunday, Kuwait's Cabinet and the king of Bahrain, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, backed the proposal, saying it was the only way to protect Iraq and spare its people.

Some political analysts in the region say they were surprised by the proposal. Dan Tschirgi, the head of the political science department at American University in Cairo, says it violated an Arab code of conduct.

"I honestly don't understand why they would do this. I would have expected them to hold solid to the code, and there is a kind of code. If you remember the Arab cold war in the 1960s and 50s in the Arab world, the intense rivalries among rightists, leftists, traditionalists, etcetera, efforts to - and sometimes succeeding - to overthrow regimes by neighboring regimes were fairly common. Now, they have gotten away from that, and they have developed this code that you do not just call for, and hopefully, you do not work against, the existence of another regime," Mr. Tschirgi said.

Mr. Tschirgi also said it is risky business for Arab leaders to call for greater democracy in a neighboring Arab country, while the region continues to be dominated by what he says are various forms of dictatorship. To do so, he says, would risk inviting public demands for greater democracy throughout the region.

Mona Makhram Ebeid, a political science professor, also at American University in Cairo, said calling for the removal of an Arab leader is dangerous for two reasons. "It is looked upon by the peoples of the region, that this would be an interference in another country's internal affairs, and this is not very much appreciated. The second thing, that they (Arab leaders) would be reluctant, because it would set a very dangerous precedent, that any foreign country could ask for the removal of a leader, which does not suit their whims," Ms. Ebeid said.

Ms. Ebeid said Gulf states may believe they have greater authority to call for Saddam Hussein to resign, because many of them are hosting tens-of-thousands of U.S. and British troops, which are preparing for a possible attack against Baghdad.

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa said Arab leaders refused to discuss the UAE proposal during Saturday's summit because, he says, the majority of Arab leaders believe the issue is about ensuring that Iraq is disarmed, not about a change of leadership.