IAIN WATSON: In London, Afghan refugees
are praying for those left behind in a country under bombardment. The reverberations
of this conflict are likely to be felt far and wide. Tony Blair says the
coalition against terrorism is getting stronger, not weaker - but with
all his shuttle diplomacy across the Islamic world, this coalition seems
to need as much care and attention as an ailing infant.
Support for action in Afghanistan across the Muslim world has, so far
been passive not active. But even this acquiescence could turn to disquiet
or even opposition; if more and more Afghan people are killed or forced
into exile; and there are fears the war may be extended beyond Afghanistan
to encompass other Muslim nations.
ONUR OYMEN: The important thing is that
for all Muslim countries that this fight should not damage civilians, should
not damage societies and everybody should be careful in targeting only
ALI MUHSEN HAMID: Help the Afghani people by stopping
the war, that's the most important thing.
WATSON: This devastation, first
broadcast on an Arab TV channel, was caused by a so-called Smart bomb,
which went astray near Kabul airport over the weekend, landing on a residential
area. The Allies have stressed that they are not targeting civilians, but
too many incidents like these and America's carefully constructed coalition
could itself be an early casualty of war.
ROSEMARY HOLLIS: The coalition hanging together
depends on how the operation in Afghanistan pans out. If it drags on,
if there are many civilian casualties then the coalition will get more
SIR TERENCE CLARK: There is a certain dichotomy
between the leadership who are in touch with other world leaders who have
their representatives at the United Nations, they know the arguments, they
see the logic of what is happening, whereas at street level they see rather
the suffering, they see Muslims suffering and they identify very closely
WATSON: Muslim fundamentalists
as far away as Indonesia are meting out rough justice to an effigy of President
Bush; and Britain's involvement in the Afghan conflict hasn't gone unnoticed
either. During the first week of military action, most opposition in the
Muslim world was seen on the street, not in the corridors of power. But
now, The twenty-two nation Arab league has begun to echo the demonstrators
HAMID: A whole village was destroyed,
mosques were destroyed in many parts of Afghanistan, so people are very
worried and don't support the war.
WATSON: Do you think the bombing
HAMID: I think it should stop.
WATSON: This girl is one of more
than a million refugees crammed into forty-eight camps along Pakistan's
north west frontier; and the UN says that a million more Afghanis may yet
be displaced. The border has now been closed to all but the old and the
sick. In the frontier regions demonstrations and unrest seem likely to
grow. Experts say the military regime of General Musharraf will weather
the storm - but not without consequences.
HAZHIR TEIMOURIAN: The sight of large numbers of
refugees coming into his own country, continual demonstrations by extremists
against the West and against his own regime, will be uncomfortable. But
I think he shows every sign of confidence that the army is with him and
if necessary he will massacre tens of thousands of demonstrators to show
a lesson to the others.
ATTIYA MAHMOOD: If any crowd becomes rowdy and
tries to destroy government buildings, cars, buses, transport, infrastructure
of course the government will deal with that accordingly.
WATSON: In this phase of military
action, using Cruise Missiles, may be coming to an end. But the Chief
of Britain's Defence Staff has warned that a ground campaign certainly
won't be over by Christmas; if it lasts well into next year more pressure
will build on Muslim states.
MAHMOOD: We have seen in the recent,
in the last weeks, since the attacks, the physical attacks, that there
are pockets of people who do not agree with that course of action. so it
would be good for I guess the whole world if I may say so, for the actual
physical attacks to end as soon as possible.
WATSON: If there's to be a long
war ahead, America would like to see Turkish troops like these more actively
involved, as no mainly Muslim nation has yet committed forces. But Turkey
may opt for a background role, possibly training Northern Alliance fighters
to take on the Taliban, using techniques deployed against Kurdish insurgents.
OYMEN: Our support will not be
a theoretical support. I can assure you that we will be with our American
friends in their fight against terrorism. Turkish troops are among the
most experienced in Nato countries in combating terrorism under difficult
conditions - we are of the opinion that we can share our experience with
those in Afghanistan fighting for their freedom and liberty in case we
are requested to do so.
HOLLIS: It is difficult to see
how Turkey can fulfil the role of America's need to have a Muslim state
demonstrably within the Alliance. Yes, it is a Muslim state but is also
a firm and long time member of Nato. This brings into question whether
it will serve the needs of convincing other Muslim states who are much
more overtly determinedly Muslim in their identity that this is not a
war of the West against Islam.
WATSON: Aware of the sensitivities,
Britain sought to reassure Muslim states today that the West doesn't want
to extend the conflict.
Iraq's invasion of Kuwait a decade ago united most of the Arab world against
it. But now the tables have turned. Relatively moderate Arab regimes fear
the reaction from their own more radical populace, if some in the US administration
prevail by going after Saddam.
TEIMOURIAN: If there were to be a landing
of American troops in Southern Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein in the
Spring, I think it's safe to say that the Arab street, so called, will
catch fire, there will be demonstrations everywhere. Maybe one or two
Arab governments might even fall.
HAMID: People will fight, will
resist and Arab countries will not stand idly by against such aggression.
All the Arabs will resist, will fight and then again we will have the same
premises, West against East, Islam against Christianity, Arabs against
and so on, that's what we want to avoid and enter into dialogue with the
WATSON: Relations with the Muslim
world are clearly strained. But if the West resists the temptation of opening
up a second front in Iraq - and becomes much more active in seeking a solution
to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict - then we may yet see the dawn of a
new era of co-operation.
But there's a much darker scenario. If resentment continues to grow in
the Middle East against British and American activities, then some experts
say that previously pro-western governments may have to reassess their
stance. And this could culminate in the nightmare of a new Cold War.
As the current Palestinian uprising, or intifida, moves into its second
year, Tony Blair announced that the Palestinian leader will visit Britain
tomorrow, and said that military action in Afghanistan has to be backed
by progress in the Middle East peace process; but some say this sympathetic
rhetoric must be matched by a commitment to real change.
CLARK: Clearly action on the Middle
East peace process is key to the long-term stability of the Middle East.
There has to be some clearly visible movement forward for example on the
question of recognised, recognition of a Palestinian state. I think that
would be a major step forward.
HAMID: If the West will address
the Palestinian issue, I mean I can say this will alleviate the resentment
in the Arab world.
WATSON: But if there's no substantial
progress in the Middle East, and no early end to the global war on terrorism,
some experts worry that Arab governments may distance themselves from the
West in an attempt to neutralise their own fundamentalists.
TEIMOURIAN: I do not believe that we are
going to convince these people that the British and Americans are really
genuine in their assertions - that it is not a war against Islam or against
the Arabs so I expect that, in fact, resentment and opposition to the West
across the Islamic world will grow over the next ten, fifteen years, even
if we didn't have this sort of spark to make it worse.
WATSON: Afghan refugees here in
London are worried about the risks faced by family and friends they've
left behind. but there's a wider fear that the action in Afghanistan may
herald a more dangerous era of distrust between East and West, which could
endure infinitely longer than the current conflict.