President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt has said that the entire Arab world stands against an attack on Iraq by the United States. It’s not a terrifically surprising statement, but it is worth looking into the issue of why the Arab world is so opposed to such actions.
It isn’t out of any particular love for Saddam Hussein. He’s more of a meglomaniac than a pius Muslim, and his brand of ultra-nationalism makes him at best a caged tiger. The only thing that keeps him from re-invading Kuwait or lunging for Saudi Arabia is the threat of the US smacking him down again, and this time we wouldn’t turn around before Baghdad.
So if not that, then why?
The answer is one word:
As much as the Arab world distrusts Saddam Hussein, the hatred of Israel is the one thing that unites most of the Arab world. If Saddam Hussein gets his hands on a nuclear device, that gives them greater leverage over Israel than they have now. A single nuclear-equipped suicide bomber in Tel Aviv could turn the tide of a war between Israel and the Arab states, something that they have never been able to do before. It’s has little to do with some kind of pan-Arab unity and everything to do about getting leverage over Israel.
That’s why it is imperative that we do not allow Saddam to get his hands on weapons of mass destruction. At best it would leave the Middle East as Kashmir writ large, with a long-lasting cold war that would take decades to resolve. At worst it would lead to a nuclear exhange that would kill millions, destroy the world’s oil wells, and throw the entire world into a global depression. Neither of those scenarios are acceptable to the interests of world peace.
The Arab world knows that the only tools at their disposal are diplomacy and obstruction. If we want to depose Hussein and remove his ability to develop these weapons, we can do it with or without the support of the world. That’s why they’re lobbying Europe so hard, and trying to do whatever they can to prevent this attack. They can’t use oil as a weapon, they need the revenue more than we need the oil. They can’t use their military forces, because they would quickly be crushed. This is there only option.
The risks of inaction are far less than the risks of action. We must move against Saddam and defuse this situation before it blows up in our face once more.