by Emad Mekay
(IPS) CAIRO --
United States is turning to Arab regimes for military support against spreading armed resistance in Iraq.
A source close to the Egyptian foreign ministry confirmed to IPS reports that surfaced in the Arab press last week that the United States has asked Cairo for Egyptian peacekeeping forces.
"The Americans raised the issue," said the official who wished to remain unidentified. "They were testing our pulse." He declined to reveal what the Egyptian response would be.
A U.S. congressional delegation arrived in Cairo from Baghdad earlier this week for talks with Egyptian officials on Iraq. Chairman of the House intelligence committee, Florida Republican Porter Goss, led the team.
"The escalation in attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq was at the center of Goss's talks with Egyptian officials," the official source said.
The U.S. Senate called last week for NATO and United Nations troops to be sent to Iraq. Spain, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Slovakia, Hungary, the Baltic states and possibly the Philippines, Thailand and Mongolia may agree.
The Lebanese newspaper al-Kifah al-Arabi reported Saturday that the United States is seeking troops also from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a regional grouping that includes Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.
Earlier this week, the London-based pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat reported that the United States was seeking Egyptian help to "win the support of other Arab states." Al-Hayat reported that the U.S. wanted Egyptian support in persuading other Mideast countries to accept ambassadors appointed by the new U.S.-created governing council in Iraq.
L. Paul Bremer III, the U.S. governor of Iraq, needs an Iraqi governing body to share responsibility -- or blame -- in establishing post-war order, and he needs Arab backing of these polices for the same reasons, Egyptian analysts say.
A 25-member transitory council in Iraq appointed by the U.S. held its inaugural session Sunday. One of its first decisions was to celebrate April 9, the date the U.S. troops entered Baghdad, as a national holiday, and to cancel holidays of the Saddam Hussein era.
"The problem with the recently appointed council is that it is not elected," Hafiz Hussein, former head of the Nasser Academy for Strategic Studies in Cairo told IPS. "It is not representative either. And it is the first council to celebrate the date of the start of an occupation. This is not a good start."
The council comprises officials representing several religious and ethnic groups. It has been asked to map the path towards elections, not planned for at least a year.
Most Arab regimes have publicly said they cannot accept U.S. forces ruling Iraq because this would legitimize U.S. occupation.
"The bitter fact is that the council would still be a cover for decisions made by the Anglo-American occupation authority," commentator Saeed Ahmedi wrote on the al-Jazeera.net. "Definitely, an Arab face for security and peace-keeping would take the sting from any Iraqi resistance operations."
Analyst Anas Fouda wrote on the popular bab.com website that Egypt helped persuade Palestinian groups to stop resistance violence against Israel, and that Egyptian support for the U.S. presence in Iraq could be calculated to have a similar effect.
"But this time if Arab countries send troops to protect the Americans, the public will not look at this as effort to establish peace but as an effort to legitimize American occupation," he said.
On Tuesday, a previously unknown Iraqi resistance group warned foreign countries, including Arab nations, not to give in to U.S. demands to send troops to Iraq.
"We will resist with weapons any military intervention under the umbrella of the United Nations, the Security Council, NATO, or Islamic and Arab countries," the group calling itself the Iraq Liberation Army said in a statement broadcast on the Dubai-based al-Arabiya television.
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