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Arab World Reacts to Iraq Inspections - 2002-11-27

U.N. inspectors have resumed work in Iraq after a four-year break.

The Arab world seems to view the inspections as little more than a formality, a set piece in a stage play with a foregone conclusion.

The prevailing opinion in newspapers and among intellectuals is that war is coming and the consequences will be bad.

Arab affairs expert Sayyid Nassar has just returned from Baghdad, where he interviewed Saddam Hussein. He described the Iraqi leader as composed and in charge, and firm in his conviction that the inspections are only a pretext for a U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Mr. Sayyid adds that no one he talked to, not even Saddam Hussein, thinks Iraq can withstand a U.S. led attack. But he says that if war comes the end result will be disastrous.

Mr. Sayyid says there would be chaos, not only in the Middle East, but beyond, and he predicts a total destruction of American interests in the region. The economic impact will be a disaster, he believes, with a catastrophic reduction in oil production.

That assessment is shared by other analysts, including Al Ahram newspaper's Atef el-Ghemary who also considers the inspections nothing more than a prelude to an unjustified American-led invasion.

Mr. el-Ghemary rejects the Bush administration's argument that Iraq poses a serious threat to the region and to American itself. He says it would be suicidal for Iraq to even consider attacking the United States.

He and other analysts see another motive behind the U.S. attitude toward Iraq. They argue that the Bush administration is responding to pressure from Israel, which may have a justifiable reason to see Iraq as a threat.

And they warn the Americans may not fully understand the consequences of their Iraq policy. Sayyid Nassar put it bluntly.

He says America is going to antagonize 300 million Arabs just to satisfy six million Israelis.

Though many Arabs believe a U.S. military campaign against Iraq is inevitable, U.S. officials say there will be no attack if Iraq cooperates completely with the inspectors.

Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says the resumption of the U.N. disarmament mission in Iraq got off to a good start.

Over the next few weeks, as many as 100 inspectors are expected to be operating in Iraq.