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IRAQ - Peace In A Post Saddam Scenario?

The prospects for a different approach by Iraq, or for an end to its opposition to the peace process, could improve in a post-Saddam scenario. Many external observers, especially in the West, tend to take this viewpoint. This may explain the strident US (and British) position towards Iraq so long as Saddam Hussein remains in power. Whether a different approach will emerge in a post-Saddam scenario would depend on both regional geo-politics and the internal situation.

In terms of regional geo-politics, Iraqi public opinion is likely to go along with the situation in other Arab states - i.e. if Israel has managed a deal with Syria by then, few in Iraq would see any purpose in being the only Arab state overtly hostile to the Jewish state. But a deal with Syria is not a certainty, now that late president Hafez Al Assad's son and heir apparent Bashar needs some time to consolidate his power base (see Diplomat's News Service, No. 25). Another problem is in Israel itself, with the coalition government of Premier Ehud Barak coming under a slow but gradually intensifying threat of collapse.

Nor can the possibility of a drastic reversal of the existing positive trend in the peace process be ruled out, especially if there is an unbreakable deadlock on the question of Jerusalem. The solution of the Jerusalem issue is a highly sensitive matter for the entire Arab World and to the broader Islamic World in general. Much will depend on how well the Israeli side is able to convince the Palestinians to accept what they are prepared to give.

Most countries in the Muslim world can be expected to go along with a solution that is acceptable to the Palestinians, and Iraq may do so as well. But it is important to note that on the Palestinian side things can change very suddenly and dramatically given President Yasser Arafat's uncertain state of health. The Palestinian leadership succession in the post-Arafat period is not likely to be as smooth as has been the case so far in other parts of the Arab World, notably Jordan, Morocco and Bahrain.

Within Iraq, it is far from certain that the political situation in post-Saddam Iraq would be conducive to a change in Baghdad's attitude towards the peace process. Among all the possibilities for a change, the highest probabilities are for a military coup backed by key elements in the Baath Party, for a fratricidal event within the Takriti elite, or for a sudden assassination of the Iraqi leader by a "lunatic". In all these cases, the basic structure of the existing Baath regime is likely to be carried forward.

As such, the prospect for an improved outlook towards Israel is not assured. But it is possible, nevertheless, because whoever assumes power after Saddam may be more willing to join Pax Americana in order to get the UN embargo lifted. This possibility will be enhanced considerably if the geo-political situation is also positive, i.e. if Israel has managed to work out a peace deal with Syria and the Palestinians.
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Title Annotation:Saddam Hussein
Publication:APS Diplomat Strategic Balance in the Middle East
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Jun 26, 2000
Previous Article:IRAQ - Opposition To Middle East Peace Ending - Part 12.
Next Article:IRAQ - Iraq's Unique View Of Israel.

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