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Amr Moussa to Asharq Al-Awsat: The Wound has not Healed, Political Miscalculation Led to Iraq's Fall

Amr Moussa to Asharq Al-Awsat: The Wound has not Healed, Political Miscalculation Led to Iraq's Fall

Sunday, 19 March, 2023 - 08:45
The former Arab League Sec-Gen, Amr Moussa (Getty Images)

Meeting the veteran diplomat, Amr Moussa, always clarifies historical events, especially that for decades, he was a maker and a witness to the course of Arab politics, whether as the head of Egyptian diplomacy (1991-2001) or during 2001-2011 when he was the Arab League Secretary-General.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Moussa discussed the two decades that followed the US invasion of Iraq (2003), "the defining event," noting that its "wounds have not yet healed," and contemplating the path that led to the invasion and its impact on the Arab structure.

He reviewed the event, combining the skill of the politician, the diplomat's wisdom, the intellectual's rationality, and the enthusiasm and pain of the Arab citizen.

Amr Moussa bases his recapture of the US invasion of Iraq on a previous one, which he deems necessary for a correct understanding of the developments.

He reviewed the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait (1990-1991), which "revealed the truth about Saddam Hussein's expansionist project" that afflicted the Arab system and spread a state of skepticism among the countries that Saddam sought to attract to form an Arab cover for his ambitions, namely Egypt.

Moussa believes the Arab and international coalition formed to liberate Kuwait established a new reality regarding the region's security and ended Saddam's ambitions.

He stressed that Saddam's aspirations "did not stop at Kuwait and that Syria was the next stop," adding that there were common assumptions among politicians and diplomats that he would move later towards all the Gulf states.

Profound transformations

Mousa reviewed the changes that followed the invasion of Kuwait, leading to the US invasion of Iraq, saying that September 11, 2001, was at the forefront of those transformations "which the Iraqi regime at the time misinterpreted," stressing that it changed the course of US policy and led to the use of force.

Asked whether the Arab countries were aware of the seriousness of the situation before the US invasion, Moussa explained there was clear information, some of which even appeared to the public.

He indicated that Washington was preparing for the invasion, coordinating with Iraqi opposition leaders, and the Arab intelligence services were active in this direction.

Saddam Hussein believed Washington would not carry out its military intervention, which was strange and risky.

Meanwhile, most Arab leaders either did not care about Saddam's fate or thought he had it coming and expected it, according to the diplomat.

The gates of hell

Asked about his position as a Secretary-General of the Arab League racing against time trying to avoid the US invasion, Moussa said he acted upon considerations stemming from the role of the League and its mission in defending Arab interests.

He recalled his famous statement warning of the invasion of Iraq, which he believed would "open the gates of hell."

The second path was 14 months before the invasion, when he met the Iraqi President in January 2002, confirming that "Iraq does not possess weapons of mass destruction or nuclear reactors." The meeting also stressed the need to resume visits by international inspectors.

Saddam told Moussa that he trusted his nationalism and Arabism, and that he would not conspire against Iraq.

Moussa told Saddam that he would report that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction to the UN Secretary-General at the time, Kofi Annan, who told him he was authorized to speak on behalf of Iraq.

The third track was based on implementing several Arab and international consultations and plans to save the situation while the US was moving towards mobilizing global public opinion for the war, said Moussa.

Regarding the atmosphere within the Arab League during the invasion on the night of March 19-20, 2003, Moussa said the organization was in permanent session at his request.

He recalled that on the day of the invasion, the officials were following the news with mixed feelings, noting they were enthusiastic about reports of resistance. However, the comments of the former Information Minister, Mohammad Saeed al-Sahhaf, made them laugh.

"Kidnapping" Iraq

The former Sec-Gen touched on the "state of complete chaos" that Iraq entered after the invasion, believing the plan to "kidnap Iraq" and forcibly erase its Arab identity was done by political components and the neighboring countries, referring to Iran.

The Arab League played a pivotal role in bringing together all the Iraqi components for the first time. Moussa recalled his intervention to preserve the Arab identity in the Iraqi constitution, which was being discussed at the time.

He coordinated with Iraq's new leaders, regardless of their political and sectarian affiliations, aiming to preserve the Arab identity of Iraq, adding that they all acknowledged it was not in the country's interest to deny its reality.

Moussa asserted that after 20 years of the invasion, its wounds have not yet healed, noting that reconstruction requires time and the country is moving in a clear path towards reform.

Moussa called for presenting a new vision of Arab nationalism that fits the 21st century, based on the common interest.

Moussa called for a new vision of Arab nationalism that fits the 21st century based on the common interest, noting that the future should be based on common interest, reforming the conditions of the Arab citizen, and good governance.

The absence of good governance made the Arab world fertile for creative chaos, said Moussa.

Asharq Al-Awsat asked Moussa whether the invasion of Iraq could be repeated regionally, he explained that political miscalculation leads to the same results.

"It is inconceivable that anyone would commit the same mistakes and expect positive results."

He indicated the Israeli government and others are demanding to target Iran, noting that the lesson of the US invasion of Iraq remains valid for all: no ruler or state should overestimate their power.

Moussa stressed that Tehran's destabilizing behavior in the region is unacceptable, adding that reports claiming that Iran is running four Arab capitals are "an insult to Arabs."

The diplomat believes the world would witness a "cold war," whether a Western-Russian war or a US-Chinese one, adding that Arab countries are currently weak regarding global political weight.

"We must be part of a larger global movement, which is the Global South movement, and we will find countries like India, Brazil, and others next to us in this path," said Moussa, noting that these groups are still maturing.

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