Countries Around Iraq
Will Pay Heavy Price
AMMAN, Jordan (AP) - Countries that border Iraq fear they would be the victims of economic and political fallout from an American attack aimed at forcing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to co-operate with UN weapons inspectors.
Jordan, Turkey and Iran again may have to deal with huge waves of refugees, as they did - with almost no international help - during the 1990 Persian Gulf crisis and 1991 Gulf War. Along with Syria, they have important trade links with Iraq. And all are watching with dismay as foreign tourists cancel reservations for what had been expected to be a lucrative spring season.
Only Kuwait, which hasn't forgiven Saddam for his 1990 invasion of the country, has offered to support an American-led military campaign. Neighboring Saudi Arabia, which participated with the U.S.-led coalition that ended Iraq's occupation of Kuwait, won't even allow its military bases to be used this time. Neither will Jordan or Turkey.
No one wants to get dragged into a conflict that most certainly would spread if Iraq retaliates by firing Scuds or other missiles at Israel - and, as promised, Israel responds with greater force.
"We all lived the burden of the (Gulf) War," Turkey's prime minister, Mesut Yilmaz, said earlier this month. "And we don't want to live it again."
Labib Kamhawi, a political science professor at Jordan University, said on Sunday that, in the short run, striking Iraq "will have a devastating economic impact that could trigger instability in the neighboring countries."
Jordan is almost entirely dependent on Iraq for oil, and Iraq is the main market for Jordanian-made products. Turkey complains it has lost $35 billion US in trade with Iraq since the Gulf War and encourages a daily procession of Turkish trucks to carry food and textiles across the border to Iraq and return with oil. Syria recently signed its first contracts to sell food and soap to Iraq under a UN-approved program.
Iran, though it fought a devastating war with Iraq in the 1980s, is selling more and more products to Baghdad. It also apparently is turning a blind eye to what Iraqi opposition groups say is the extensive smuggling of Iraqi oil through Iran's Gulf ports.
Many Arab leaders also must deal with their citizens' concerns that seven years of punishing UN sanctions have pauperized Iraq's 22 million people. Already there have been pro-Iraq - and anti-American - demonstrations in Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, Yemen and the Palestinian territories, despite government bans aimed at keeping emotions in check.
Worries that a U.S.-led strike could lead to a partitioning of Iraq - a major concern during the Gulf War - again are being discussed. It was no surprise that Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem, a mediator dispatched to Baghdad earlier this month, called for a regional security plan that would meet Saddam's "concerns for Iraq's territorial integrity."
Syria and the Palestinians, meanwhile, have watched the U.S.-brokered peace process stalemate following the election of hard-line Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in mid-1996. Now, they feel their cause has been relegated to the back burner.
"The United States and Britain are taking the limelight from the Palestinian issue and focusing world attention on Iraq," complained Omar Khatib, the Palestinian representative to Jordan.

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