AFP: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak warned Saturday Iraq was in the middle of a civil war that threatened the Middle East and expressed alarm about Shiite Iran’s influence in the Arab world. by Sam Dagher
DUBAI, April 8, 2006 (AFP) – Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak warned Saturday Iraq was in the middle of a civil war that threatened the Middle East and expressed alarm about Shiite Iran’s influence in the Arab world.
“There is effectively a civil war underway now (in Iraq),” Mubarak told the satellite news channel Al-Arabiya.
“If the Americans left now, it would be a catastrophe because the war will get worse and Iran and others will interfere and the country will become the theater of an ugly civil war and terror will eat up not only Iraq but the entire region.”
A suicide car bomber killed six Shiite pilgrims south of Baghdad Saturday one day after 79 worshippers were killed in a triple suicide attack against one of the capital’s main Shiite mosques.
“I do not know when the situation in Iraq will stabilise. I personally do not see a solution to the problem in Iraq, which is practically destroyed now,” Mubarak said.
“If Saddam was more just none of this would have happened,” he added referring to the dictatorial rule of ousted President Saddam Hussein.
He said Iraq’s situation was made worse by the mix of Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds and other groups living there.
Mubarak said the Islamic Republic of Iran exerted a huge influence over Iraq’s majority Shiite population and Shiites living in Arab countries.
“There are Shiites in all these countries (of the region), significant percentages, and Shiites are mostly always loyal to Iran and not the countries where they live,” he said.
“Naturally Iran has an influence over Shiites who make up 65 percent of Iraq’s population.”
Iraq’s top Shiite political parties, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and Dawa, were based in Iran before the fall of Saddam in 2003.
There are also significant Shiite populations in Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. In particular, Iran has close ties with the Lebanese party and militia Hezbollah.
Tehran cut diplomatic ties with Cairo after then Egyptian president Anwar Sadat made peace with Israel in 1979.
Receiving about two billion dollars a year, Egypt is the largest recipient of US foreign aid after Israel and Iraq.
Mubarak is not the first Sunni Arab leader to raise concern about Iran.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II warned in an interview with the Washington Post in December 2005 that Iran wanted to create “a Shiite crescent” linking it with Iraq, Lebanon and possibly Syria.
“Even Saudi Arabia is not immune from this. It would be a major problem. And then that would propel the possibility of a Shiite-Sunni conflict even more, as you’re taking it out of the borders of Iraq,” Abdullah said at the time.
Analysts and Western officials worry if Iran were to obtain a nuclear bomb it could spark an arms race between the Shiite and Sunni worlds. Iran denies its nuclear programme has any military purpose.