Defense Secretary William Perry won only lukewarm support from Middle East allies and headed home Monday with his enthusiasm for a U.S. military buildup against Iraq noticeably deflated.
Perry began his trip last week promising a powerful response to what the United States sees as Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s provocations. But by the end, the prospect of renewed air strikes against Iraq had been downgraded to a mere “possibility.”
Many Arab governments - and even more so, their news media - have portrayed recent U.S. actions against Iraq as heavy-handed.
There also is a perception that the United States is intruding on an internal Iraqi matter - a civil war between two Kurdish factions.
Several major Arab countries that were part of the Persian Gulf War coalition against Iraq - including Egypt, Syria and Jordan - have been less than supportive of the U.S. buildup.
Saudi Arabia and Turkey, both important U.S. allies, refuse to allow anti-Iraq strikes to be launched from their territories.
U.S. troops and planes, however, can use the small gulf states of Kuwait and Bahrain.
The motivation for Bahrain’s cooperation is unclear. The tiny island emirate usually takes its political cues from Saudi Arabia.
The support from Kuwait had been expected: That oil-rich emirate relied on U.S. forces to end a 1990-91 Iraqi occupation.
Kuwait said Monday it will allow additional American ground troops to be based on its territory. The approval came a day after Perry had asked. Kuwait said the lag was procedural, not because it had any hesitation.