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October 29, 2005
Arab States Wanted Iraq War

A news report from The Australian and Al-Arabiya indicates that the United States had negotiated a peaceful exit for Saddam Hussein from Iraq -- but that the Arab League torpedoed the deal, leading to the Iraq War in March 2003 (h/t: Daily Scorecard):

Deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had secretly accepted a last-minute plan to go into exile to avert the 2003 Iraq war, but Arab leaders shot the proposal down, Al Arabiya television reported today. UAE President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahayan made the proposal for Saddam to go into exile at an emergency Arab summit just weeks before the US-led war began in March 2003.

But the 22-member Arab League, led by Secretary-General Amr Moussa, refused to consider the initiative.

"We had got the final agreement from the different parties, the main players in the world and the person concerned Saddam Hussein within 24 hours," Mohammed bin Zayed, deputy head of the UAE armed forces and crown prince of Abu Dhabi, told the UAE-based channel in a documentary.

The Al-Arabiya documentary includes remarks from Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak that indicates the Bush Administration would have accepted a permanent exile for Saddam's government in exchange for a peaceful transition. The Arab nations apparently refused to accept Saddam's exile, and for some reason that sank the agreement at the last moment.

Why would the Arab League reject the deal? Probably because the surrender of Saddam Hussein would result in the deconstruction of the largest military force in Southwest Asia facing the US and Israel. Up to the final moments, they hoped that Saddam could lead the Arabs out of their also-ran status against the West. They also may have hesitated to host the notorious al-Tikriti clan, whose tastes ran from the cruel to the bizarre, and who could have garnered a following for an political uprising. As I read the article, though, it appears that the UAE was prepared to take that risk.

Does the Arab League bear ultimate responsibility for the war, and did the US almost finesse Saddam out of Baghdad? We may never know for sure, but if this report is accurate, it would show that the Bush administration was willing to accept a solution short of war that removed Saddam and his sons from Iraq.

UPDATE: Daily Scorecard, not Daily Pundit -- I had the link correct but not the name. Sorry!

UPDATE II: This is what the League said shortly after the invasion:

Amr Moussa, the league's secretary general, said: "I salute the Iraqis and wish them victory."

Moussa, Lebanese Foreign Minister Mahmood Hamood and others at the meeting say the war is an example of renewed Western imperialism.

They say the war is part of a long-term plan is to change the Middle East map and remove national leaders such as Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.

It looks like the Arab League didn't want national leaders removed even if they agreed to leave, regardless of the crimes they committed on their own people. They must have felt that (a) the Bush Administration was bluffing, and/or (b) Saddam could beat the Coalition in the field. Maybe they can explain to the Iraqis who have died in the war that followed exactly why they called Bush's "bluff" with Iraqi blood. It certainly seems, with al-Arabiya's latest reporting, that the Arab League represents the dictatorships at the expense of the Arabs -- not that that should come as any surprise.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 29, 2005 2:32 PM

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