Raid on Iraq: Arabs states react with anger and embarrassment

THE air strike yesterday generated fresh anti-Western comments in mixed reactions by an already divided Arab world.

The fiery campaign unleashed in Baghdad's media yesterday has not been seen in the Iraqi press since the days of Um-al-maarek (the Mother of All Battles) two years ago. 'The treacherous people have returned after less than two years to commit aggression against Iraq to undermine what has been reconstructed by the brave mujahedin,' said Baghdad Radio one hour after the strike.

Other comments targeted President George Bush as 'criminal Bush'. Kuwait was the first Arab country officially to applaud the air strike. Its Foreign Ministry spokesman said he hoped the allied military action would prevent further 'miscalculations' by Baghdad.

During the days leading up to the confrontation, government- controlled media in the Arab world reported the official US State Department and British Foreign Office statements, and refrained from attacking Saddam Hussein or the Iraqi regime in the manner seen during Operation Desert Storm. However, opposition newspapers were full of anti- American rhetoric, accusing the West of 'double standards' and ignoring Israel's expulsion of some 400 Palestinians.

That was also said by the Iraqi government-controlled daily, al- Jumhuriyah. The editorial was written by the chief architect of President Saddam's propaganda machine, Abduljabbar Muhsen, who repeated Iraq's current line, which has been echoed in an increasing number of anti-US Arab media, that the crisis was of America's making. He ended his commentary, which was broadcast several times on Baghdad Radio, by saying: 'Saddam will remain, Kuwait will remain in Iraq's shadow.'

In a front-page editorial today, the London-based Palestinian daily, al-Quds, said: 'The Americans are repeating their grave error by opting for a military solution.'

Concluding that President Saddam would outlast President Bush in office, it said: 'If 40 days (in 1991) of concentrated aerial bombardment did not succeed in toppling Saddam Hussein how can the US hope to bring the downfall of Saddam by one air strike?'

The air strike was condemned in advance in Jordan's parliament. 'The new provocations are a continuation of the injustice inflicted on the Iraqi people since the start of the 1991 Gulf war,' said the lower house Speaker, Abdul-latif Arabiyat.

But the Jordanian government, whose sympathy with Iraq in 1990 cost it its rich Gulf Arab friends, reacted cautiously. 'We are still calling for settling any dispute through dialogue and negotiations, not through resorting to force to solve conflicts,' was the carefully worded statement by the Foreign Minister, Kamel Abu Jaber, read on state television and reflecting a desire to avoid opening old wounds.

Last night, too, some Arab diplomats described the air strike as 'embarrassing' for pro-Western Arab governments. They warned that it might provide Islamic radical groups, already at odds with most Middle Eastern governments, with further ammunition in their anti-Western campaign.