Saddam Hussein may have felt justified in annexing Kuwait because he is an Arab and not because he wants to take over the world.

People need to look at the history of the Arab people to understand Saddam's actions, said Muhammad Hallaj, director of the Palestine Research and Educational Center, who discussed an Arabic view of the situation in the Middle East at BYU Thursday."Iraq did commit aggression (when it annexed Kuwait)," Hallaj said. "But should they be obligated to live in a system that has been created by others?"

Saddam and the Iraqi people believe that small city-states like Kuwait are a part of the larger Arab nation, he said. "The Iraqis just felt they were uniting the Arab culture."

Americans and Europeans have a hard time understanding this point of view, he said.

Hallaj said he believes that many of the problems in the Middle East persist because of the the clash between the West, which wants to maintain the system, and Arab people who believe the system is harmful to them.

"They (the Arabs) see the 20 divided Arabic states as a weakness in the eyes of the world," he said. They savor the idea of a united Arabic region.

In an effort to unite the Arab world, Palestinians have been killed in Jerusalem and other parts of Israel in recent months, Hallaj said. There is a discrepancy here.

He said he believes it is not right for the U.S. government to maintain recognition of a non-Arabic country that has occupied Arab land for many years and then react so violently to and Arabic country that does the same thing to unite its lands.

The Israelis and the Palestinians have been fighting over the West Bank area of the Middle East since the 1940s.

"The United States needs to facilitate change and oppose occupation in every case," he said.

There are other factors, Hallaj continued. The Arabs are not primitive tribes squabbling over minor issues, they have advanced societies.

"I submit that the Middle East has its problems, but the problems began where the Western, civilized lifestyle began," Hallaj said.

When Europe was in the Dark Ages, the Middle East preserved and made new discoveries in medicine, science, mathematics and philosophy, he said. "It is a troubled region, but there are not signs of irreversible decay."

Hallaj said he believes that "an elementary lesson from history is that the oppressed rebel."

That is what is happening in the Middle East, he said. "We need to understand the Arab's way of thinking and point of view."