The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Arab troops in Iraq

Following Ursula's recent post from the Sharm Al Sheikh conference -- and her revelation that Iraq may publicly accuse neighboring countries of aiding the insurgents -- I'd like to add a little informed speculation about another possible outcome.

I read Middle Eastern news pretty thoroughly on a daily basis, and there is an important item that's been unreported in the mainstream press. In fact, I only found out about it last week from the British satirical magazine Private Eye, the best publication available in print in my opinion and the only one I subscribe to. While a lot of Private Eye is humor, they do an excellent watch of British politics and media and also have regular coverage on the murky connections between diplomacy, finance, arms trading and such. In this month's issue they have a short article about an offer made to President Bush in July by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah to offer Arab peacekeeping troops from several countries, but only on the condition that they be under the command of the UN rather than US. Bush refused.

Considering the developments since the summer, that it is becoming increasingly clear that another 40-50,000 troops are needed to control the uprising, that Poland could get out of Iraq soon (following Hungary) and that France and Germany still seem against the idea of sending troops, he may have to change his mind. The Saudi offer story has recently been confirmed by an Arab source, who said it might come back on the table.

One last thought: if Arab countries do send troops (and perhaps other Muslim countries like Pakistan), they will try to exact a high price for their collaboration. Specifically, they will expect at the very least less pressure on democratization.