Iraq: July 5, 2002

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Iraq was not able to work out a deal with the UN to allow UN arms inspectors back into the country. The arms inspectors were forced out 3.5 years ago. Allowing the arms inspectors back in is Iraq's ultimate defense against an American invasion. Recent reports of an attack from three directions reminds us that it would not take much to defeat Iraq this time around. Saddam is much more unpopular and his armed forces are weaker than in 1990. What worries Iraq's neighbors is not a new leader there (no one likes Saddam), but the risk of Iraq coming apart. The Gulf Arabs see Iraq as their main line of defense against Iran. It's not for nothing the main body of water their the "Persian" Gulf. Iran has been the dominant power in the area for thousands of years, and half of Iraq's population are Shia Arabs who have historically been better treated by the Shia Iranians than the Sunni Arabs who run most of the Arab states (including Iraq.) In fact, similar portions of  the population in the oil producing areas of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States are Shia Arabs, angry Shia Arabs.  The Sunni Arabian Nightmare is that an attack on Iraq would put Shias in charge of Iraq, and give their own Shias troublesome ideas about political relationships with Iran and a Shia dominated Iraq. Iran, however, is currently on the verge of civil war. While Iran is the only real democracy in the area, there is a group of unelected clerics who have veto power over whatever the elected legislators do.

Nevertheless, Iraq will probably find that letting the arms inspectors back in won't stop an American invasion. For America remembers that even with arms inspectors in the country, the Iraqis can be maddeningly uncooperative.

 

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