Wrapping up an emergency summit in Cairo, Arab foreign ministers issued a resolution yesterday rejecting war against Iraq and urging Arabs abstain from supporting any such aggression.
The Arab League statement reaffirmed, “the commitment of the Arab states to maintain the security and safety of Iraq and Kuwait,” and called aggression against either a “threat to the national security of all Arab states.”
The resolution warned the international community of the “dangers” and “grave implications” of military aggression against “Iraq, its people and its territorial integrity” and war against the region overall, which the resolution asserts continues to suffer “as a result of the continued Israeli policy of occupation and destruction against the unarmed Palestinian people and their legitimate national rights.”
In a further anti-Semitic slam, the foreign ministers called for implementation of Article 14 of U.N. Resolution 687 – passed at the end of the Persian Gulf War which seeks to make the Middle East a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone – by specifically targeting Israel, which the ministers claim “is the only one which owns all these types of destructive weapons.”
After welcoming “Iraq’s continued cooperation with the [United Nations] inspectors,” the League urged members of the Security Council to give inspectors “enough time” to complete their mission set under Resolution 1441, and maintained an attack against Iraq would be a “discrepancy” with the U.N. Security Council and a “failure” of the international community as a whole.
Ministers pledged to intensify their international efforts aimed at sparing Iraq war and, in a slap aimed chiefly at Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, stressed Arab states should abstain from providing any help or “facilitation to any military actions that will be conducive to threatening security and peace of Iraq and its territorial unity.”
The resolution followed a similar – but more forceful – message from terror mastermind Osama bin Laden, who lashed out at Saudi and other Gulf leaders yesterday in a new audiotaped message posted on the Internet.
In the recording purported to be of bin Laden, the Saudi-born leader of the al-Qaida network decried the Arab supporters of a looming U.S.-led invasion of Iraq as U.S. puppets comparable to Afghanistan’s president Hamid Karzai.
“Who installed the rulers of the Gulf states?” bin Laden asks. “It is the Crusaders. Those who installed Kabul’s Karzai and confirmed the Karzai of Pakistan in office also installed the Karzai of Kuwait, the Karzai of Bahrain and the Karzai of Qatar. They also installed the Karzai of Riyadh, bringing him back after he was a refugee in Kuwait a century ago to fight with them against the Ottoman state,” he continued in an apparent reference to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdul Aziz al-Saud.
Bin Laden then condemned the Saudi Mideast peace plan proposed last year as having “sold the blood of the martyrs and the land of Palestine in order to please the Jews and America.”
“Such rulers have betrayed the [Islamic] nation,” he declared and urged Muslims to disown “these impotent and treacherous rulers.”
The division among Arab states over Iraq played out in headlines across the Middle East today. Egypt’s Al-Ahram declared, “Arab Foreign Ministers Reject War,” the Jordan Times reports, “Arabs Reject U.S. Military Threats, Build-up Despite Kuwait Anger” and Lebanon’s L’Orient-Le Jour carried the front-page headline, “Arabs Repeat Rejection of U.S. Military Campaign.”
Meanwhile, Kuwait’s Al-Qabas newspaper retorted, “Kuwait Disappointed With Lebanon, Surprised by Proposal Supporting Iraq,” and a front-page editorial by the editor in chief of the Arab Times likens Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to Hitler.
“The Iraqi leadership is not different from Hitler ideologies. Stability in the Middle East region is an impossibe mission without war and giving the Iraqi leadership more time will be useless,” writes Ahmed Jarallah.
Arab criticism against Saudi Arabia stems from the kingdom’s offer to allow the U.S. to use bases on its territory to launch an attack against Iraq.
Defending its support, a Saudi Arabia’s Arab News headline resolutely states, “Foreign Powers Can Not Meddle in Kingdom’s Internal Affairs.”
The Saudi media has been increasingly critical of Hussein in recent weeks, reports the Middle East Media Research Institute, with columnists urging Hussein to abdicate his presidency.
In the most strongly worded article to date, according to MEMRI, which was published in the Saudi daily al-Jazeera, D. Ali bin Shuwail al-Qarni, Chairman of the Board of the Saudi Society for Information and Communications and an associate professor at King Sa’ud University, called on Saddam to commit suicide.
“As far as Iraq is concerned, the change [in regime] is inevitably coming with or without a war,” said al-Qarni. “If Saddam chooses not to abdicate he has no other choice to save the world of a disaster but to reach out to the suicide revolver and fire the shot of mercy to finish the tragedy which he has started.”
Despite the warring headlines, the military build-up in the Gulf region continues. The Arab Times reports some 70,000 U.S. troops are now based in Kuwait and double that amount is en route.
The Pentagon has also significantly bolstered its firepower in the region. Tanks, howitzers, and amphibious assault vehicles have been added to battalions standing on alert across a half-mile frontline in the deserts of northern Kuwait, according to the paper.