Terror, death and chaos - scenarios of an Iraq war

By Dorothea Huelsmeier, dpa

Berlin (dpa) - German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer wrinkles his brow whenever he ponders the consequences of a possible war against Iraq.

Profound scepticism overcomes him. He remembers his visit to Washington a week after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. capital and New York.

Fischer learned then that the U.S. wanted to take aim not only at Afghanistan, but also Iraq.

With the massive deployment of both U.S. and British troops to the Gulf in preparation for a possible military strike against Iraq, the front of those opposed to a war has steadily grown.

The German government has repeatedly voiced its concern about a war against Iraq ever since the crisis began.

The minister sees two major risks in such a confrontation: the threat of destabilisation of the entire Mideast region and the disintegration of the anti-terrorism coalition which the U.S. forged with numerous Islamic countries in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

Fischer thinks the U.S. priorities have been incorrectly set. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians could escalate as a backdrop to a war against Iraq, he believes. He also sees no new, clear evidence of Saddam Hussein's increased armament with weapons of mass destruction.

The question of what would happen after a military strike sees a divergence in the German and U.S. governments' stances. While the U.S. hopes that toppling Saddam would unleash democracy in a domino chain reaction, many Mideast analysts warn about the effects on the power structure in the Arab world.

A wave of protests and violence could not be excluded in the event of a war against Iraq which could endanger Western-orientated governments.

Volker Perthes, Mideast expert from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), has drawn a worst-case scenario.

In such a scenario, King Abdullah of Jordan could be toppled, Saudi Arabia and Egypt destabilised and countries such as Iran and Syria could rush to the aid of Iraq.

War always implies dead and injured people plus destruction. Most experts think the U.S. could triumph swiftly over Iraq and within the space of a few weeks.

If it ever came to a bitter ground war and house-to-house combat in Baghdad, more than half a million civilians could be wounded, a United Nations study has found.

Approximately 1 million people would flee to neighbouring countries, another 2 million refugees would roam around Iraq, according to these estimates.

The picture looks just as gloomy as far the multibillion dollar costs of a war on the oil-producing nation goes and its possible effects on the global economy.

Sceptics do not give the divided exiled opposition, which is supported by the U.S., a chance when it comes to filling the vacuum left in Iraq, if Saddam Hussein is overthrown. Neither do experts feel such a vacuum can be filled from inside the country, a multi-ethnic and multifaceted mixture of different beliefs.

If a puppet government was established in Baghdad, a scenario such as that in Afghanistan would loom where President Hamid Karzai practically controls only the capital, Kabul.

Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq is divided into Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite Moslem regions. At worst, secessionist movements could emerge from a power struggle.

The former Saudi Arabian oil minister Ahmed Zaki al-Yamani warned in the German weekly, Der Spiegel: "That is what makes this war so dangerous. Its consequences have not been fully thought out.''

dpa dh hi pb ms

AP-NY-01-22-03 2106EST

Copyright (c) 2003 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH
Received by NewsEdge Insight: 01/22/2003 21:06:24


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