The nations most threatened by and least capable of defending against Iraq are among those most vocally opposed to an American invasion. Right now, a U.S. invasion to rid Iraq of Saddam Hussein is about as popular in the Mideast as an Iraqi invasion of Chicago would be in the Midwest.
Each country in the area has its own reasons for opposing an invasion. Here's a look at some important regional players and the issues influencing their stance:
Turkey: Perhaps not entirely aware of how comical such a statement would sound to meat-eating Americans, Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit recently described the prospect of a U.S. invasion as a sword hanging over Turkey. As a member of NATO and host to our troops, Turkey is a key American ally and would surely be a base for any action against Iraq. An invasion of Iraq without Turkey is like, well, Thanksgiving without turkey.
Turkey's biggest problem with an invasion is Kurds. Turkey's border with Iraq is populated by Kurds. Turkey fears that if Saddam is toppled, Iraqi Kurds will declare an independent state, and that Turkish Kurds -- who live just across the border from Iraqi Kurds -- will fight to break off a piece of Turkey and join them. Sounding like a stern father at a dinner table scolding his kids for playing with food, Prime Minister Ecevit recently said of Iraqi Kurds that "we are telling them in clear language that we will not allow them to play games with Turkey." He then admonished them for not saying grace.
Iran: No country has more reason to hate Iraq than Iran. From 1980 to 1988, the two countries fought a bloody, World War I-style stalemate that left 1 million people dead. In Iran, the death of Saddam Hussein will likely be an occasion to brew tea, throw some kabobs in the grill, and have an Islam-a-lama-ding-dong of a party.
But, Iran is opposed to a U.S. invasion. An invasion would leave American forces almost completely surrounding Iran. We already have troops in Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Iran is worried that one of the membership benefits of being part of the "Axis of Evil" is that they'll be invaded once Iraq is taken care of. Iran's fears of invasion are perfectly justified. For much of the 20th century until the Islamic revolution in 1979, Iran was occupied and/or had its government essentially run by Russia, the U.K. and the U.S.
Israel: Big shocker, I know, but Israel is the only country in the Middle East that wants us to invade Iraq. Israel is the only nuclear power in the region and wishes to remain so. This whole "Iraq and weapons of mass destruction" thing isn't new to them. In 1981, Israeli jets attacked and destroyed Iraq's nuclear reactor to stop Iraq from making plutonium. If we don't attack Iraq, don't be shocked if Israel eventually does.
Saudi Arabia and Egypt: A pro-Western regime in Iraq would reduce the West's dependence on Saudi oil and lighten Saudi wallets. Where robe-wearing Saudis put their wallets anyway? Both countries are run by repressive, undemocratic regimes. Both are run by governments so widely considered to be American tools by their own people that they may as well have Black & Decker engraved on their foreheads. Like all autocracies, the Saudi and Egyptian regimes care about self-preservation above all else. An invasion might touch off political unrest that could lead to their overthrow. When you consider that 15 of the 19 hijackers came out of the current "pro-American" Saudi Arabia, I shudder to think of what might come out of an "anti-American" Saudi Arabia.