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Arab Military Aid Offers Get Cool Response from Iraq - 2004-07-05

Some Arab nations have begun making separate offers of military assistance to Iraq, but analysts say they are not getting an eager response from the new interim government in Baghdad.

Jordan, Bahrain and Yemen are all offering military help to Iraq's new government.

Academic and political analyst Jassem Hussein, a lecturer at the University of Bahrain, said Bahrain's offer Saturday to support and train Iraqi naval forces showed its good will toward Iraq, as well as demonstrating its close relationship with the United States. "I think the message really is that Bahrain is extending friendship hands to Iraq. At the same time, it reflects the strong relation that Bahrain enjoys with the U.S. And you know the king has just arrived from the G8 summit in [the U.S. state of] Georgia. So, strangely, not just Bahrain, but also Jordan and Yemen, the other two which were really at the G8 summit, also announced some sort of contribution to Iraq," he said.

But Mr. Hussein said that public opinion in Bahrain is not very supportive of the decision.

Neither are all the offers getting a warm response from Baghdad. One, from Jordanian King Abdullah, was turned down by Iraq on Sunday.

Meanwhile, in a statement Sunday through Arab League headquarters in Cairo, League Secretary-General Amr Moussa called for broader coordination between Arab countries in addressing the question of sending peacekeeping troops to Iraq.

But political analyst Uraib El-Rantawi, the director of the Jerusalem Center for Political Studies who is based in Amman, said Iraq is cool to the idea of accepting troops from its immediate neighbors. "The Iraqi officials, [Prime Minister Ayad] Alawi, [Foreign Minister Hoshyar] Zebari, they mention it many times that the neighboring countries are not the best option for them to bring troops. Because there is a lot of sensitivities between Iraq and the neighboring countries, and there is a certain demographic formula in Iraq, which makes it difficult for any neighboring country to send troops there," he said.

But Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Alawi has sent requests for assistance to other, more distant countries, such as Morocco and Egypt. A political analyst and military expert at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, General Mohamed Kadry Said, thought it not unlikely that Egypt might make a contribution. "I think Egypt is putting that on the agenda. I can't say that they will say, yes definitely, but I think that it is taken as something probable, and also something, which can be developed. I mean, they can start in limited assistance, and then, with time, and with improvement of the security situation, they will raise it to higher levels," he said.

But General Said expressed misgivings about the public opinion problems that the Egyptian government would face if it sent troops.

While the U.N. Security Council's endorsement of the new Iraqi government has given it added legitimacy in Arab eyes, many in the Arab world will think, said General Said, that Arab troops are going to Iraq to help the Americans rather than the Iraqis.