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memri
March 23, 2003 No.
484

The Arab Press on the War and News from Iraqi Television

The Arab press continues to publish reports and analyses on the war in Iraq. While many of the editorials are stridently anti-war and anti-American, they contain little support for Saddam Hussein and his regime. On the contrary, many commentators blame Saddam and his government for implementing the policies that led to the war. The following are excerpts from various Arab newspapers on this topic:

Editorials in the London Arab Dailies

The political analyst of the London-based Saudi daily Al-Hayat , writing under the title "Saddam Hussein's Speech against George Bush's," maintained that Saddam's speech is the best propaganda for American war objectives. "Is it conceivable," he says, "that 22 million Iraqis are ruled by a mentality of the kind reflected in the speech?!"

"The ruler of Baghdad… has completed his total detachment from reality… He is ruled by narcissism which prompts him to read poetry to the world and to the Iraqi people! Osama bin Laden is also a pioneer in the use of poetry to deliver political messages… The danger for the Iraqi president lies in his attempt to restore the popularity he lost to bin Laden in the last two years."

"In his own way, the Iraqi president attempted to [kill] a number of birds with one stone. First, he appealed to Muslim sentiments. He opened with [a statement] on Islamic history and concluded with nervously repeating 'Allah Akbar.' Second, he addressed the sensitive Palestinian issue… and concluded, after denouncing Zionism, with a call for the rise of Palestine, side by side with Jihad and Iraq. Third, he obviously tried to revive Iraqi nationalism and to present it as an extended family or as an 'Iraqi family.' Finally, he did not forget public opinion in the West and the world and spoke of the 'causes of evil in the world.'"

"It is known that the Iraqi president is prepared to [adopt any ideology as his own]… Saddam, who is assumed to be a Pan-Arab[ist] and secular, turns into an Islamist the moment he believes he can benefit from it."

"Prior to the Iraqi president's speech, and immediately prior to the military operations, we heard the speech of President George Bush who promised 'to liberate the Iraqi people.' The evangelism of 'Iraq's liberation'… has historically unprecedented jaws of technology and converted Saddam's sword into a reason [to have mercy on him] rather than anger. What a distance had Bush gone to arouse mercy on Saddam!" [1]

On the pro-Iraqi end, Abd Al-Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi , incited against the Arab regimes in a series of articles which he has published since the beginning of the war.

Writing under the title "Unjust and Immoral War," Atwan wrote of a senior Iraqi official who told him: "We have disappointed you in 1991 for failing to rise to the level of fighting that you expected [of us] but we will make you proud this time because we know our enemy well, because we rely on ourselves and not on Arab brethrens. We have taken into consideration that the vast majority of the Arab regimes will stand in the enemy's trenches."

"President Hosni Mubarak, the president of a country which led all the Arab wars and sacrificed hundreds of thousands of martyrs, says that he has done all he could to save Iraq and he was comfortable in his conscience.
We ask President Mubarak to remind us of his efforts. Has he sent planes, tanks and soldiers to defend Baghdad without us knowing?"

"We wish to know what goes on in the minds of the Arab leaders as they watch the American forces defile the Iraqi land and their missiles harvest the souls of its sons. Do they feel a guilty conscious? We don't believe so because the national conscious of these [leaders] has died and they can sleep peacefully." [2]

The following day, Atwan wrote under the title "Baghdad Burns But There Is No Savior":
"I ask what the heroic Egyptian army, and we ask what the Syrian officers and soldiers, are doing these days, and we inquire about the Saudi armed forces and the billions spent on their equipment with the most modern tanks and planes. If these Arab armies do not move to defend a brotherly country and a people facing death by fire, when would they [move]?"

"Silence means collaboration [with the enemies], and the increase in the oil production in order to lower prices is more dangerous than participation in military operations. They have refused to use the oil in the service of the Arab causes. They said that oil is a commodity and its revenues are required to serve growth plans.
But [in fact] they use it to serve American aggression against Iraq."

"We are not asking the kingdom of Abd Al-Aziz to suspend the export of oil as King Faysal had done in 1973 in solidarity with Egypt and Syria in the 1973 war. But we are asking it not to increase its oil production by 1.2 million barrels [a day] as is happening now to reduce price and support American aggression." [3]

From the Egyptian Press

Editorials in the Egyptian and Saudi official newspapers emphasized the war's "lack of legitimacy." However, following clashes between demonstrators and security forces on the streets of Cairo, they underscored the importance of maintaining the unity of the "national front."

Galal Duweidar, the editor of the Egyptian government daily Al-Akhbar, wrote: "In the face of the total darkness which engulfs the Arab world, following the unjust American attack on Iraq, we emphasize the importance of protecting the Egyptian national front. It means it should be protected in the framework of the supreme national interest and [we should] frustrate any conspiracy against the Arab nation… We must stand firm against any violation of our national security that takes advantage of the tragedy of this war. We must all join hands and cooperate to protect our national front and oppose any action that would affect our security or stability." [4]

Writing in the official government daily
Al-Ahram under the title "Primary Responsibility for the War: On Whom Does It Fall?" D. Ali Al-Samman wrote: "It is not possible to separate the current crisis from the crisis and the Gulf war of 1991. For those who suffer from a weak memory, let me say: the first and only responsibility for initiating the aggression, attack, and occupation of Kuwait without any justification other than the desire for expansion and hegemony and the violation of international and Arab legitimacy… came from those who ruled Baghdad. Let me then summarize this point: I say that the primary responsibility carries the names of a person who made the tragic decision in 1991 and carries his name twice and thrice—Saddam, Saddam, Saddam." [5]

Editorials in Saudi Press

The Saudi editorials have also stressed the need to protect "the national front." An editorial in the Saudi daily Okazfocused on fighting "the rumors spread by hostile elements who try to arouse alarm, fear, and disagreements with a view of crushing national unity." [6]

The Saudi government's daily Al-Riyadhwrote: "It is a surprising historical paradox that the most modern civilization is fighting the most ancient human civilization with false arguments and in an attempt to vie for its resources. This is strange. The North has always accused the South [of being] backward and primitive, but now it is clear that the man with AWACS, bombs, missiles and the modern scientific discoveries is the same man from the stone age…" [7]

An editorial carried by the Saudi government daily Al Watan sought to dispel the notion prevalent in the Arab press that the war will not stop at the Iraqi border and that it is the beginning of an American strategy to redraw the map of the area and, therefore, it would affect other countries as well. The editorial read:
"We do not believe that this analysis is justified because the redrawing of the regional map is not governed strictly by military considerations or the result of a military action against one country in the region. There are political, military, economic, and geographic considerations intertwined with international factors…"

"In the Iraqi case, it is a country which placed itself in a serious predicament because of the [ideas] that governed its leadership since it took power. President Saddam Hussein has exceeded the boundaries of the international political and military game and led his country first into war with Iran… Then he led the country into another disaster… which is the occupation of Kuwait, which turned Iraq into an outlaw country, internationally ostracized and politically, economically, and militarily besieged…"

"These historical errors have become mortal errors which led the regime to where it is today. Iraq is not like Saudi Arabia or Egypt. These two countries are stable countries in terms of regime, economy, and political and religious harmony. Additionally, they have firm relations with other countries. This is true to some extent with regard to Iran as well, despite its problems with the U.S. These countries have immunity that protects them from conspiracies regarding the redrawing of the region's map. This immunity does not exist with regard to Iraq." [8]

Editorials in Lebanese and Syrian Press

In the Lebanese daily Al-Safir, editor Talal Salman wrote: "George Bush loves fire games. Instead of offering his mother flowers during the holiday he offers burned cities from far far away, from the heart of the deep-rooted human history, and from the depth of the human civilization among which one is 'Baghdad,' a second called 'Babel,' and a third called 'Nineveh,' and fourth whose name he could not remember because of its difficult [spelling]."

"George Bush loves fire games. Yesterday he let go of his gigantic air fleets, those seen exceeding sound barriers and those like ghosts which cannot be seen dump their bombs which weigh tons over the dreams of the children and the young…" [9]

From Iraqi Television

As has been the case in the last few days, Iraqi Television broadcast interviews with clergymen, "Arab volunteer suicide-fighters," and citizens. The recurring motif in all of them was "Iraq is Saddam and Saddam is Iraq."

Interviews of Iraqi Soldiers

An Iraqi soldier said: "…Iraq is Saddam and Saddam is Iraq, the nation, and the entire human race. This message is intended for the whole world; we are the sons of this land, we are the sons of the glorious Iraq, we stand steadfast and with conviction, we will defend glorious Iraq and our entire Arab nation…"

Another Iraqi soldier said: "We are ready to sacrifice for mighty Iraq and for the leader Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein is Iraq and Iraq with its people, mountains, and trees is Saddam Hussein. Little Bush came to us and demanded some things, and made some false accusations… But we tell him… you will not succeed in hurting even an inch of Iraq, no matter how strong you are… who is America?!! Siding with America is disgraceful, because the whole world is against this attack."

A citizen said: "In the 1920's we taught the conquerors a lesson. And today, we – the sons of the Iraqi people – are ready, under the leadership of our warrior commander Saddam Hussein, may Allah bless him and protect him, to fight the enemy and teach him a lesson. Here I tell the conceited American enemy that he will shatter himself against a proud mountain called Iraq. This proud mountain symbolizes the might of this nation, the entire human race, and the spirit of Islam, just as the warrior comrade Saddam Hussein said, may Allah protect him and keep him [well]…"

Another soldier said: "With the will of Allah, Iraq will turn into a graveyard for the Americans and their allies. And we, the Iraqis, the people of the 1920 revolution, will defend it and [will defend] the honorable President and leader Saddam Hussein… We are the drawn swords in the right hand of the honorable leader Saddam Hussein." [10]

Interviews of Iraqi Women

A female citizen said: "We have had poetesses and we have had [female] fighters since the 1920 revolution. Mothers encourage their sons to seek martyrdom and to carry out acts of Fedayeen [self sacrifice]."

Another [female] citizen said: "We, the glorious women of Iraq stand side by side with the men to defend the honor and the land of Iraq, the land of glory, the land of the prophets, the land of Saddam Hussein. We condemn the American threats and the threats of Bush the criminal that are directed at our great leader, the courageous leader who is the apple of the eye of all Iraqi men and women. We condemn a thousand times this criminal… they will not step on Iraqi soil, except as dead bodies. Bush should prepare coffins for his soldiers along the Iraqi borders…"

An Iraqi soldier said: "I say to the contemporary Holago [the Mongol leader], Bush the criminal, the murderer, the aggressor who attacked Iraq, the Iraqi people and the Iraqi leader, Bush the criminal the contemporary Pharaoh, that in Iraq there are 26 million Saddam Husseins…" [11]

Interviews of Clergymen

Muslim clergy accused the U.S. of "burning the Koran." One Muslim clergy said while holding a sword: "These infidel sinners started their war against us in this country of Jihad . We witnessed with our own eyes Koran books being torn apart by their war fires and their abominable bombs."

Another clergyman said: "…The truth is that this crime that was committed by the enemies of Islam, the infidels and the polytheists… demonstrates the sentiments of the infidel enemy towards Islam and Muslims. Islam's message is the most important monotheistic message. The enemy wants to obliterate Islam, to obliterate Allah's edicts, to obliterate everything that Islam brought about… He burned the Koran, and by that wanted to burn the faith of Muslims and their ties with Allah. This crime is no different than the rest of their crimes against Islam and Muslims. We are not surprised by this crime, because the enmity towards Islam and Muslims is apparent. Their attempt to burn the Koran is as severe as their attempts to kill the Muslim nation and to shed Muslim blood… All these acts demonstrate the animosity of the infidels towards Muslims in general, Arabs in particular, and particularly towards Iraq…"

An Iraqi officer, who stood in front of a group of soldiers engaged in marching drills, said: "Oh, Jihad fighters and Arab believers… we greet you with the greetings of Arabism and Islam. We are happy to show you some of the drills of our brothers the Arab volunteer." [12]

Interviews of Suicide Volunteers

After suicide volunteers were shown marching in formation and chanting "Allah Akbar," the Egyptian " Jihad fighter" Muhammad Ridha, whose nickname is Abu Abd Al-Rahman, said: "I, thanks to Allah, arrived in June to volunteer in the 'Jerusalem Army.' I returned [to Egypt], but Allah decreed that I return [to Iraq], and I thank Him for that… I returned to fight the Jihad , and left behind in Egypt four daughters and a son… I came to fight [the war of] Jihad and I take an oath in front of the leader Saddam Hussein that I will die as a martyr and that I do not want to return to Egypt. I say to all the Arabs and Muslims that Jihad is our duty…"

A suicide volunteer, Abd Al-Karim Abd Al-'Azzam, from Aleppo, Syria said: "I want to send a message to our Muslim brethren throughout the world… Brothers, we are not defending Iraq only, but all the Muslim countries. It started in Iraq, but Syria, Lebanon, and other Muslim countries will follow.
How long will we keep silent, how long will we wait? America and the Jews may decide next to bomb Mecca and Al-Medina, what are we waiting for? Are we waiting for them to enter Al-Medina?"

A suicide volunteer, Abdallah from Algeria, said: "I call upon the entire Muslim nation to stand as one and defend the Muslim nation… truth is ours…"

The suicide volunteer Abd Al-'Aziz Mahmoud Hawash from Syria said: "We are here, and we left the wife and children in order to defend the Arab and Muslim nation…
We came as ' Shuhada ' [martyrs] and we pray that Allah accepts our martyrdom for Him…"

Another volunteer suicide-fighter from Syria said: "I came from Syria to fight along with our Iraqi brothers because this land is the land of the prophets and is the natural treasure of the Arabs… The Americans, Zionists, and the British want to control the oil and the natural resources of the Arab world. They say that Iraq has arms, but it is a lie. They want the oil and they want a crusade, but we will be the drawn swords in the hand of the Jihad fighter Saddam Hussein."

Another suicide volunteer, who did not say where he was from, said: "… I send a message to the blood-shedding criminal Bush, and to his servant Tony Blair, and his new servant the Spanish P.M., you want a crusade and we are ready for that, with the help of Allah…
Oh [Muslim] nation, [which] is a billion and four hundred million strong, don't you see what is happening in Palestine? What happened to the boiling Arab blood in your veins? We hope that you will come to the training camps in Iraq…"

Another suicide volunteer from Syria said: "Listen Oh Bush, and listen America… we are not the aggressors, you crossed the ocean and came here to slaughter our children and our women, and the most important thing that they came for is this religion… We came to seek martyrdom and to raise the chant: Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar."

Next, a few dozen of the volunteers fighters were seen training, boarding a plane, and jumping with parachutes, or descending from a helicopter by ropes, riding motorcycles in pairs, stopping and firing shoulder rockets, running away, and then firing again. [13]


[1] Al-Hayat (London), March 21, 2003. According to the March 21, 2003 issue of another London-based Saudi paper, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat , Saddam read from the poem "The Camel" by Abd Al-Razzaq Abd Al-Wahed which begins: "Patient, oh you camel." The poet is known as the "President's poet" or the poet of "the mothers of all battles." Others attribute the lines to the poet Ra'd Al-Badr who has gained the title of "the poet of battles" while the Iraqis call him "the palace poet."

[2] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), March 20, 2002.

[3] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), March 21, 2003.

[4] Al-Akhbar (Egypt), March 21, 2003.

[5] Al-Ahram (Egypt), March 21, 2003.

[6] Okaz (Saudi Arabia), March 21, 2003.

[7] Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), March 21, 2003.

[8] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), March 21, 2003.

[9] Al-Safir (Lebanon), March 21, 2003.

[10] Iraqi TV, March 21, 2003.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.