Jordanian ambassador warns against U.S. invasion of Iraq

Elizabeth Dunbar

A war in Iraq would be a blow to peace and stability in the Middle East, Jordan’s ambassador to the United States said Tuesday.

Karim Kawar described Jordan’s reasons for opposing a U.S.-led war on Iraq to more than 100 people at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. The event was sponsored by the institute and the Minnesota International Center.

“A war on Iraq distracts attention to the heart of the problem, which is the Arab-Israeli conflict,” Kawar said, explaining that he thinks the United States should focus on peace between Israelis and Palestinians instead of disarming Iraq.

In addition to bringing more instability to the region, Kawar said a war in Iraq would have a negative effect on Jordan both economically and politically, and he expressed Jordan’s desire for peace with its neighbors.

“Jordan will not be used as a launch pad for strikes on any of its neighbors,” he said.

Another problem with a war on Iraq, Kawar said, is it would fuel more anti-U.S. sentiment in the region.

“It would be perceived as an American war against an Arab nation,” he said. “Right now it’s important to build on our commonalities rather than focus on the differences.”

Kawar cited the assassination of a U.S. diplomat Monday as an example of anti-U.S. sentiment but said he hopes it was an isolated incident.

“This incident was shocking to us,” he said while adding “there will be more people attempting to do this” in the future if the growing anti-U.S. sentiment doesn’t stop.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that dozens of Islamic extremists were taken in for questioning about the assassination, but no one had been charged.

Kawar said the key to improving relations will come by addressing the young Arab population’s problems.

“The war on terrorism has not addressed the root causes,” he said. “As long as young Arabs are on the street Ö unfortunately terrorism will grow.”

Sulieman Nader, a human resources senior from Jordan, said he agreed with Kawar’s statements.

“I think he was very courageous to say there is a lot of anti-American sentiment among Arabs,” he said, adding he thinks Kawar clearly and accurately presented Jordan’s reasons for opposing a war on Iraq.

“I was impressed with his positions,” said Eric Silva Brenneman, a first-year graduate student at the Humphrey Institute. “I think a war in Iraq would have a huge ripple effect.”

J. Brian Atwood, Humphrey Institute dean, said like Kawar, he is concerned with how a war on Iraq would affect the Israeli and Palestinian peace process.

“I think the peace process would be suspended even more than it is now,” Atwood said.

Kawar said Jordan supports the Saudi plan, or Arab initiative, which calls for a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians.

Atwood and Kawar both said the United States needs to play a crucial role in the peace process.

“We have to create a new basis for peace talks,” Atwood said. “Today the (United States) is the only nation that can play that role because of its influence over Israel and over Arab nations.”