Iraq has followed up its offer to hold talks on readmitting international weapons inspectors with a promise to allow them back in the country if certain conditions are met. Baghdad had earlier invited U.S. lawmakers to conduct their own inspection, a move Washington dismissed as a stalling tactic.
President Bush has made it clear that he believes Saddam Hussein's government is developing weapons of mass destruction and must be replaced. The president has said his administration is committed to a regime change in Baghdad. He has said there is currently no plan on his desk for attacking Iraq, but neither has he ruled out the use of military force as an option.
A potential U.S. military intervention in Iraq has raised concerns throughout the Middle East, with even the closest U.S. allies expressing their opposition to the idea.
Political analyst Abdel Moneim Said expressed a view held by many. He said he cannot understand why the United States is rejecting Iraq's latest offer for talks on letting the weapons inspectors back in. "I don't know why the United States is doing this," he said. "It now appears as if a strike against Iraq is a goal in itself, and that's how it will be received in the Middle East. It will be received as if the United States have a target to strike at Arab countries without sufficient reasons to do this."
Mr. Said, who is the head of the al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, said there is deep fear among Arab regimes that if the United States is willing to forcibly remove Saddam Hussein, it might be willing to remove other Arab leaders as well.
Hassan Nafae, the head of Cairo University's Political Science Department, said unless the United States is willing to show a good faith effort to peacefully resolve its dispute with Iraq, moderate Arab leaders will find themselves under increasing internal pressure to act against the United States. "I think this will help the opposition to grow even further. It seems that all the Middle East countries including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, will not at all welcome any strike against Iraq, especially with the situation in the Israeli occupied territories very tense," he said. "The policy of the United States looks awful in the eyes of the masses of the Arab countries."
Tuesday a group of six Americans staged a fast outside the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad to protest threats of U.S. attacks against Iraq and continued economic sanctions against Baghdad.