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The Arab countries and the Iraq war: From opposition to resignation

Mike Sullivan sends an article titled "Riyadh Summit: From Opposition to Resignation" (21/4/03) with the comment: "It's amazing what happens when people fear you even though they hate your guts". Here is an extract: "Officials from countries neighboring Iraq, as well as from Egypt, met in Riyadh on April 18 to discuss the future of the Middle East. The shift in the atmosphere from the pre-war period was striking: There was deep unease with the U.S. victory in Iraq, but there appeared to be even more unease with confronting the United States too openly. Everyone was careful to hold their positions without irritating the powerful, unpredictable giant in their midst.

The foreign ministers of all countries bordering on Iraq met in Riyadh. These included officials from Kuwait, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan and, of course, Saudi Arabia. The foreign ministers of Egypt and Bahrain also were present. The goal was to craft a regional response to the U.S. conquest of Iraq. The results were interesting: There appears to have been a powerful shift in the atmosphere in the region following the Iraq war -- toward accommodation of the United States and away from confrontation. What was unthinkable before has now become reality, and it appears that countries in the region are learning to live with a massive U.S. presence on all of their borders. In sort, the Middle East has not gone up in flames. To the contrary, the Riyadh meeting established an air of cautious acceptance.

It was, it would appear, a lively conference. Instead of ending on April 18, it spilled over into the following day. The most interesting part of the meeting was that it occurred at all, indicating that there was already some prior agreement on basics. The second interesting thing was that everyone invited attended -- indicating that there was relatively broad agreement. Obviously, the main topic of conversation was Iraq. There was a general agreement that an internationally recognized government representing the Iraqi people needs to be established and have power transferred to it. There was no call for immediate elections, but essentially a call for a road map to such a government to take over from the U.S. military as soon as possible. The basic view seemed to be that expressed by Saudi leaders: While the goal has to be an Iraqi government, there is now a power vacuum in the country and the United States must fill it. There was some discussion over whether there would be direct, state-to-state dealings with the U.S. military government. Turkish officials opposed that possibility, while the Egyptians supported it. This disagreement was in some ways symbolic, but it did represent Turkish sensitivity about the future course of Iraq --particularly its territorial integrity".

Ronald Hilton - 4/25/03