PULLMAN, Wash. — During a presentation on the growing crisis with Iraq, Washington State University students, faculty and staff members were apprised of the complicated nature of the conflict and the historical perspective of the Middle East. In the presentation Dec. 5 in Todd Hall, history professor and Middle East expert, Marina Tolmacheva, spoke of the history of the country and political factions readying themselves behind the scenes should the regime of Saddam Hussein be deposed.

Professor Thomas Preston of the Department of Political Science, an expert on American Strategic Policy, gave his perspective on the realities of a conflict and a possible, worst case scenario in which Al Queda, could stage a “mass casualty attack in the midst of a conflict causing a global recession.”

“A war on Iraq has nothing to do with a war on terrorism,” he said.

On the topic of the impending United Nations deadline for Iraq to disclose details of biological and chemical weapon development, Preston said, “there are many vital questions yet to be answered. How will we determine whether Iraq has lived up to its end of the bargain? Will we attack based on what they say, or what we believe is the truth? If they report they have no such weapons, will we attack because we don’t believe them?”

According to Preston, the biggest question of all is: How badly does the White House want this war? “The primary policy goal of the Bush Administration is to remove Saddam Hussein from power and change regimes. Period,” he said.

So what should we expect politically in the Middle East if there is a regime change in Iraq? Professor Tolmacheva spoke of distinct factions who are already vying for U.S. favor. Kurds account for 10 million of Iraq’s population of 25 million people “and they expect to secede from Iraq as soon as possible and that is not likely to happen,” she said.

“We expect,” says Tolmacheva, “if the Saddam regime is eliminated, it will leave the possibility of another religious group, likely Shiite Muslims, to exercise their will. We have to acknowledge, if we want a democracy, we will have to tolerate the dominance of a group we may not favor.”

Created geographically in 1918, Iraq won its sovereignty from Great Britain in 1958. It is a land locked country with fewer than 50 miles of coastline. At one time or another, Iraq has been at odds with all of its seven neighboring countries including an eight-year war with Iran. In the summer of 1990, Iraqi aggression against Kuwait prompted U.S. involvement in a conflict called Operation Desert Storm.

“Would there be sympathy for Saddam?” That question from the audience prompted Tolmacheva to smile and say, “Saddam’s sons have stolen enough oil money, and there are many countries — Arab, Muslim and European — that would be happy to let them spend their money there.”

“A war on Iraq has nothing to do with a war on terrorism,” said Preston also debunks the notion that the conflict is a Bush Administration attempt to control Iraq’s oil. “I think there is a sincere idea and belief on the part of President Bush that Saddam is a threat and needs to be disarmed.”