February 14, 2003 No.

Iraq Crisis (4): Al-Ahram Editor: The Iraqi Regime Is to Blame For the Crisis

In an editorial published in the Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram, the paper's editor Ibrahim Nafi' launched an attack on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his regime, blaming him for the crisis and citing Iraq's non-cooperation with the United Nations.Arab writers and politicians, even when criticizing Saddam Hussein, typically insist that he should not be replaced; Nafi' made no such demand. The following are excerpts from the article:[1]

'The Iraqi Regime Drags the Region into a Destructive War'

"…From the atmosphere in the American capital, it is reasonable to assume that President George Bush's administration has already made the decision for war… While the major Arab countries, headed by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria… invest faithful efforts towards resolving [the crisis] through peaceful means – and to persuade the American administration not to close the door on diplomatic efforts - the Iraqi regime continues its policy of arrogance and empty obstinacy and does all it can to thwart these efforts. The Iraqi regime is like someone galloping, with a driving force that is unclear, on the path of annihilation, while dragging the region yet again into a destructive war."

"While regional and international forces act to open a window of hope to diplomatic efforts, the Iraqi regime misses opportunity after opportunity by continuing its policy of statements of pseudo-heroism ungrounded in objective foundations or realistic considerations. It has reached the point where I can almost say that the Iraqi people and its well-being are not a consideration for the Iraqi leadership, which excels in games, maneuvers, and even in arrogance over the powers genuinely striving to defend Iraq … from maltreatment by a leadership that cannot read reality."

"All the signs show that both sides of the crisis – that is, the Iraqi regime and the American administration – are galloping fiercely towards war. While the American military establishment – the most powerful in the world – continues to mobilize for war with great professionalism, the Baghdad regime carries on with the only policy in which it excels: statements of pseudo-heroism and arrogance over everyone. It threatens to cause the American forces a bitter defeat at the gates of Baghdad, and attacks the Arab countries acting in Washington to enable diplomatic efforts…"

"The countdown to war has begun, and its wheels have begun to turn. It is absolutely clear that stopping them is not a simple matter, but they still have not reached a stage at which [stopping the war] will be impossible."

'Iraq's Non-Cooperation Is the Main Reason for the Crisis's Escalation'

"In my opinion, a serious attempt to spare Iraq and the region from being burned in the fire of a new war obligates the Iraqi regime to launch a great initiative that will rise above the level of the dangers lying in wait for the Iraqi people and its resources."

"This initiative must be characterized by transparency in all things concerning cooperation with international bodies and by compliance with all demands included in the Security Council resolutions and the international inspectors' reports. The Iraqi leadership must provide accurate and specific answers to the questions asked about the weapons of mass destruction that Iraq had [but] whose fate is not known, and [which] the Iraqi regime has not shown [evidence] to convince the inspection team that they no longer exist. [The lack of evidence regarding this question] lent a measure of credibility … to the words of Secretary of State Colin Powell in his report to the Security Council, according to which these weapons are concealed, one way or another, in the vastness of Iraqi territory."

"Similarly, Iraq's refraining from cooperating transparently in this issue gave some elements, like Israel, an opportunity to weave miscellaneous tales about the transfer of [some] of the weapons to Arab countries, primarily Syria, in a clear attempt to cause a rift between Washington and Damascus, and to actualize its plans regarding the region."

"There is no doubt that Iraq's refraining from cooperating with the UN in the matter of WMDs is the main reason for the crisis's escalation. Had Iraq cooperated transparently with the international inspection teams, the reports by Blix and Al-Barad'i would not lay on it a share of the responsibility and state that Iraq did not present transparent answers to the inspectors' questions… Although much of Colin Powell's evidence can be questioned, and arouse much amazement, Iraq's refraining from cooperating with the UN from the outset lent Powell's words credibility, as far as international circles are concerned. Similarly, the UN shares the opinion of the American secretary of state, that Iraq has chemical and biological weapons, thus the Iraqi statement that these weapons do not exist is unconvincing…"

'As Long as Iraq Does Not Present Clear and Unequivocal Answers to the Questions Regarding Its Prohibited Weapons, This Will Be the Direct Casus Belli…'

"As long as the Iraqi regime does not present clear and unequivocal answers to the questions raised regarding its prohibited weapons, this will be the direct casus belli… The Arab and international talk about the Iraqi people being helpless in the event of war and the first victim of any military activity – because Saddam will flee with his supporters to the shelters prepared especially for this purpose, and will abandon his people to deal alone with the annihilation – made the U.S. draw up specific plans to supply humanitarian aid for the Iraqis and to any Iraqi city that the American forces enter."

"Nevertheless, the possibility of solving the crisis by peaceful means has not yet disappeared. It is still possible to solve the crisis by peaceful means and to spare Iraq and the Iraqi people the horrors of the new war that the world's leading superpower will launch with the cooperation of sizeable international forces. It is clear that the option Egypt is trying to promote is the option of preventing the war by acting together with the major Arab forces and with the active international forces to persuade the U.S. to give diplomacy a chance and find a peaceful solution to the crisis …"

'The Main Obstacle to a Peaceful Solution Is the Leadership That Was Cast On the Iraqi People'

"A peaceful solution to the crisis is still possible, but the main obstacle is the leadership that was cast upon the Iraqi people and the entire Arab region."

"The Iraqi leadership is characterized by great pride combined with total ignorance. When these two traits are joined, they cause the [kind of] disasters and crises that Saddam Hussein's regime has brought upon us time after time."

"In my opinion, we must focus on defending Iraq as a country, and the Iraqi people and its future, which are in danger due to the misjudgment of a leadership characterized by recklessness and ignorance. The Arab position must be clear and specific, and it must be based on principles that cannot be compromised:"

"First, the unity of Iraq's lands and its territorial integrity. There must be no compromise whatsoever on this matter."

"Second, any military action to disarm Iraq must be done in accordance with a new Security Council resolution, which will also include [a] time frame enabling the Arab countries and the large international forces to invest effort in persuading Saddam Hussein to cooperate fully with the UN. This period must include sending of an Arab delegation to Baghdad, as a last-chance delegation…"

"Third, we must act to protect Iraq's resources, primarily its infrastructure, so that its society will not be harmed and the human condition will not deteriorate any more than it has under Saddam's rule.At this point, the importance of protecting the state institutions must be emphasized; we must think of a way to demand a new UN resolution for a general pardon for the heads of the Iraqi regime that states that they will not stand trial in an international court."

"If all these efforts fail and a new resolution is passed by the Security Council to disarm Iraq by force, it must be clear that the task of the forces is to disarm Iraq, not conquer it, and that the U.S. will not repeat the Afghan experience and will not become a ruling power, but that this will be assigned to an international force which will take it upon itself to manage Iraq for six months at the most, and then the responsibility will be passed on to the Iraqis."

"Finally, there must be an active Arab initiative aimed at renewing the process of solving the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the U.S. must fulfill its promises to implement the 'road map' and to establish a Palestinian state in 2005. Similarly, there must be moves to disarm the region of WMDs – and I refer specifically to Israeli WMDs…"

'The Only One Who Can Stop the War Wagon is Saddam Hussein. The Decision is In His Hands'

"The war wagon has begun to move, but there is still hope of sparing it for the sake of the Iraqi people, its resources, and its history, and for the sake of the region."

"The decision rests in the hands of Saddam Hussein; we demand that he rise above the level of the dangers lying in wait for Iraq and the region, and stop his maneuvering and his games and fully cooperate with the UN. The U.S. is completely convinced that Iraq has chemical and biological weapons, and the American file is not based on assessments but on information handed over by American companies that had in the past ties with Iraq [in the area of chemical and biological weapons]… and are now fully cooperating with the American security apparatuses…"

"The only one who can stop the war wagon is Saddam Hussein. He must stop the games, cooperate with the UN, and answer this question: 'Where are the chemical and biological weapons that Washington knows Baghdad has?'"

"Without a clear and precise answer, and without cooperation with the international inspection teams, war on Iraq will come. The decision is in Saddam's hands. What will he do to himself, his people, and the region this time?"

[1] Al-Ahram (Egypt), February 14, 2003.