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A Eurasian perspective on war in Iraq

26 March 2003

Afghanistan was the setting for the last major US campaign and is now being closely watched for its reaction to the Iraq crisis. Generally speaking, the situation appears calm as the Afghan people continue with recovery and reconstruction priorities. Whether remnants of the Taliban and al Qaeda still pose a threat is unknown. President Karzai has said that these remnants are an effete force and have accomplished very little in the last year. The present circumstances will certainly test this hypothesis. Funding for continuing humanitarian work has been assured for the time being although whether Afghanistan will remain a priority in the wake of the situation in Iraq remains to be seen?

In Armenia, international organizations such as UNHCR and OSCE predict that many of the Armenian minority population in Iraq will try to flee for safe havens. The Armenian government has started preparing to receive potential refugees and UMCOR is presently discussing the type of assistance that can be offered to these victims of the war if and when they arrive. The Armenians are concerned about side-effects the war may have such as the environmental consequences if Iraqi oil wells are set on fire, as was the case in Kuwait during the Gulf War. There is also fear that heavy bombing may have seismographic consequences for the region, particularly worrying as Armenia's nuclear plant is built in a zone sensitive to earthquakes.

Christian and Muslim responses throughout Eurasia to the crisis appear to have been moderate. UMCOR in Kabul reported that prayers were said for the Iraqi people in mosques across Afghanistan last Friday but there was no call to support Sadam or condemn the US and UK. The one notable exception, at a major mosque in Kabul, was met with disinterest from the congregation.