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Arab World Remains Opposed to Iraq Attack, say Analysts - 2002-09-09

Political analysts in Egypt say even if there is compelling evidence Iraq is acquiring nuclear weapons, the Arab world is unlikely to support military action to oust Saddam Hussein.

Egyptian-based political analyst Mohammad Kamal says regimes throughout the Arab world will not support military action against Iraq because they have no fear of Saddam Hussein even if he is developing nuclear weapons.

"Arab countries don't perceive Iraq's weapons of mass destruction as a threat to them," said Mr. Kamal. "Actually, many Arabs believe that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction represent a balance to Israeli nuclear and other sorts of weapons of mass destruction. Also they're going to raise the issue of double standards in the U.S. position of why you talk about Iraq's capabilities and you say nothing about Israel's nuclear arsenal."

Political analyst Abdullah el-Ashaal, a Cairo-based expert on Arab affairs, says leaders in the region have no reason to believe Saddam Hussein would launch a nuclear weapon against an Arab state. However, he says, there is fear a U.S. led military campaign to oust the Iraqi leader could cause Iraq to attack Israel. If Israel should respond, he says, there would be a reaction throughout the Arab world that no government could contain.

"I'm afraid the Arabic streets would have the chance, at this time, to attack even the governments and to make unexpected behavior and this would mean general chaos would be prevailing everywhere in the Arab world," said Mr. el-Ashaal. "I'm afraid the repercussions in the street would be far away from any control of the Arab governments."

Mr. el-Ashaal says he believes it is too late for the United States to change the mentality of the people in the Middle East because, he says, everyone believes the U.S. is looking for excuses to attack Iraq. He says what Arabs would support is a plan recently put forth by French President Jacques Chirac that would give Iraq a three week deadline to allow the full return of U.N. weapons inspectors with a free hand to do their job.