Published on Thursday, August 1, 2002 in the Washington Post
Abdullah: Foreign Leaders Oppose Attack
Jordanian King to Urge Bush to Focus on Peace in Mideast, Not Invasion of Iraq
by Glenn Kessler and Peter Slevin
Foreign leaders are increasingly concerned that the United States is preparing for war against Iraq, and U.S. officials are making a "tremendous mistake" if they do not heed warnings from abroad against a military campaign, King Abdullah of Jordan said yesterday.
Abdullah, who is to meet with President Bush at the White House today to discuss the Middle East conflict, has long opposed military action against Iraq, which borders Jordan. But Abdullah, who arrived in Washington after meetings this week with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac, said the possibility of a U.S. military assault on Iraq has begun to deeply worry many of the United States' leading allies.
Abdullah, speaking in an interview in his suite at the Four Seasons hotel, said an invasion of Iraq could splinter the country and spread across the Middle East. He commented as the Senate held its first hearings on the wisdom of a military campaign to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Abdullah said a reluctance by allies to confront the Bush administration over Iraq may have left U.S. policymakers falsely believing that there is little opposition to a war. Many also may have believed that the prospect of war was far in the distance, though Abdullah said "all of the sudden this thing is moving to the horizon much closer than we believed."
"In all the years I have seen in the international community, everybody is saying this is a bad idea," he said. "If it seems America says we want to hit Baghdad, that's not what Jordanians think, or the British, the French, the Russians, the Chinese and everybody else."
While Blair is frequently seen as a close partner of President Bush, Abdullah said, "Blair has tremendous concerns about how this would unravel."
Abdullah dismissed the assertion of some U.S. officials that the rise of a democratic Iraq would lead to better prospects for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. "In an ideal world, that could be a possibility," he said. "Life being as it is, and so uncertain, very few people are convinced that that attitude would happen so easily. Our concern is exactly the opposite, that a miscalculation in Iraq would throw the whole area into turmoil."
In his meeting with Bush today, Abdullah plans to press the administration to focus first on solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in particular by detailing a plan that would guide the president's goal of establishing a Palestinian state in three years. "We have a light at the end of the tunnel, but we have no tunnel," he said.
Abdullah said he found "somewhat amusing" reports that U.S. military planners envisioned using Jordan as a staging area for troops fighting Iraq. Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher said, "Jordan has made it clear it cannot be used as a launching pad," adding that "we have not been asked."
As an alternative to war, Abdullah said that he favored using every effort to get Iraq to agree to new weapons inspectors and that he and other leaders were pressing Iraq to agree to regular weapons inspections. "If we were to get a proper inspection regime, that would give us some room to maneuver," he said.
But White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said yesterday that "the president's level of skepticism is high" that new inspections would be effective, because Hussein has repeatedly violated previous agreements.
At hearings yesterday, witnesses told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Hussein almost certainly controls weapons of mass destruction, but they differed on the threat to U.S. interests and the wisdom of a military assault to remove him.
The Iraqi leader has not used chemical or biological weapons against foreign foes, some specialists suggested, and he knows that such aggression would likely inspire a powerful U.S. military response. Yet, while the containment formula has worked to limit Hussein, the witnesses said, he has continued to acquire military equipment and likely has the know-how to build a nuclear weapon.
Military analyst Anthony H. Cordesman warned that Iraqi military forces are likely proficient at urban warfare, implying the need for a large U.S.-led force. He cautioned against expectations of large defections from Hussein's military and said civilian uprisings would be "very unlikely" in the core areas of the Iraqi leader's strength, including Baghdad.
"I think it is incredibly dangerous to be dismissive. It is very easy to send people home alive. It is costly to send them home in body bags because we did not have sufficient force when we engaged," Cordesman said. "And to be careless about this war, to me, would be a disaster."
© 2002 The Washington Post Company
Copyright 2002 AFP