Allan Topol is a partner in a large Washington-based international law firm. He has a science and engineering degree from Carnegie Mellon, and a law degree from Yale University. For almost 40 years, he has been involved in issues at the height of the Washington power structure.
He is also a national bestselling novelist, using the thriller genre to explore international geopolitical and military issues. His 2001 novel, SPY DANCE, is about a former CIA agent on the run and Saudi Arabian oil. His 2003 novel, DARK AMBITION, deals with the corruption of power in Washington and China's threatening posture toward Taiwan. In January 2004, his new novel CONSPIRACY was released dealing with a foreign leader's attempt to influence an American presidential election and the possibility of renewed militarism in Japan.
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In a visit to Saudi Arabia last week, Secretary of State Colin Powell once again discussed with Saudi officials the possibility that Arab countries, with support from other Muslim nations, would send troops to Iraq. The objective would be to help stabilize Iraq. Past American efforts of this type have come up empty. There is little reason for optimism that this overture will succeed.
It is totally unconscionable and deplorable that the Arab nations haven't been willing to step up and help secure and rebuild Iraq. The unwillingness of the French and Germans to assist is petty and vindictive, but driven by political considerations of how they view their role in the Middle East, and resentments toward Washington. The same can't be said for the Arab nations.
With this second Iraqi war, the United States removed a cancer in the midst of the Arab world. If anyone questions this characterization of Saddam Hussein, then refresh your recollection by thinking about the first Iraqi war. There was no ambiguity in how it began.
Saddam seized Kuwaiti oil fields and challenged the rest of the world to respond. The United States was joined by a host of Arab nations, who recognized that the threat to them was immediate. In round two, they didn't see the wolf at their door so they let the United States and Britain bear the cost of the war in money and lives with help from a few other European nations.
The rationale of the Arab nations was short sighted. It was only a matter of time until Saddam promoted unrest in their nations, but they refused to believe it.
That was the war in Iraq. Now we come to the rebuilding phase.
There is absolutely no excuse or justification for the Arab nations not helping to stabilize Iraq. From a pan-Arab perspective, Iraq was the jewel of Arab civilization during its golden era for learning, culture and commerce a thousand years ago. Civilization was born at the juncture of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. There it reached its nadir.
Today, the vast majority of Iraqis are struggling to survive against a minority of thugs, some of whom are former supporters of Saddam, and others who are foreigners rushing into Iraq to deal a blow against the United States or just to make trouble. Notwithstanding the efforts of the United States, the thugs, called insurgents in the press, are having a major impact. Attacks on police recruits, on Christian churches, on Iraqi leaders and institutions are demoralizing the Iraqi people. They are also making it exceedingly difficult for a permanent Iraqi government to be formed.
Against this background, the United States is reaching out for help. Hence, the Colin Powell discussions in Saudi Arabia. It is almost criminal that the Arab nations are refusing to come to the aid of the Iraqi people.
Brother can you spare a few troops?
This is precisely the appeal that Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi made in seeking their assistance. Allawi said, "I call upon the leaders of the Islamic countries and the Arab countries to close rank because it is basically our fight."
Equally important, the leaders in Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries are being extremely misguided if they think that helping to create stability in Iraq by sending troops will weaken their own hold on power at home. The opposite is correct. If the insurgents prevail in Iraq and create chaos, then they will try the same tactic in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan and elsewhere. By defeating them in Iraq, those regimes will be more secure.
There cannot be an argument that sending troops will support the U.S. occupation in Iraq. Power has been transferred to Allawi's government. The multinational force now has U.N. approval.
This brings us to the fear factor. The kidnappings and beheadings are playing a role in deterring the other Arab governments from sending troops. But the way to deal with criminals is with strength, not cowardice. Arab troops could root out and kill the perpetrators of these heinous crimes easier than American forces for obvious reasons.
The time has come for the Arab governments to stop cowering and to enter the fray. The glory that was once Iraq could be put back on the path toward stability if their fellow Arabs would step forward. Secretary of State Powell has made it clear that the United States would welcome their support. So where are the Arabs?