March 20, 2003 Special Dispatch No. 481

On the Eve of War: Editorials in the Arab Press

March 20, 2003
Iraq | Special Dispatch No. 481

Sensing the approaching winds of war, editorials in the major Arab dailies have provided a wide range of opinions, often reflecting those of their governments, on the pending American war on Iraq and its implications for their countries. The following is a brief review of such editorials:

Chirac: 'The Western Saladin'

On one extreme is the title of an editorial in the Syrian government daily Teshreen, which characterizes the tripartite meeting in the Azores on Sunday as "The Summit of the Bloodthirsty."[1]On the other extreme is an editorial in the Kuwaiti daily Al-Watan which calls on Saddam Hussein to "Leave or You Will be Dragged,"[2]a reference to a known event in Iraq's modern history when its leader's (Nuri Sa'id) corpse was dragged behind a car in the streets of Baghdad amongst the enthusiastic cheers of the crowds. In between, there are many balanced views and one view which is characteristically Libyan. The official paper of the Libyan regime, Al-Jumhuriya, chose to bestow on President Jacques Chirac of France the great honor of "Chirac Al-Ayoubi,"[3]after Salah al-Din Al-Ayoubi—known in the West as 'Saladin'- who is considered the greatest Arab military leader for defeating the Crusaders in the Battle of Hittin in the twelfth century.

The Syrian Perspective

Writing in Teshreen, Dr. Turki Saqr opined: "The results of the summit in the Azores were not surprising. The very choice of this isolated place indicates a fear [of] the international anger which unprecedently and strongly opposes those who convened in those remote islands. It was, in fact, the summit of the isolated and the rejected…"

"The anticipated aggressive American war on Iraq will intensify terrorism rather than put an end to it; it [terrorism] will be more extensive than before and its seeds will find fertile grounds in many parts of the world…"[4]

The Syrian daily Al-Ba'ath, the official paper of the ruling Ba'th party, accused "a handful of employees in closed and secret offices in the Pentagon who do not distinguish between a war and a computer game... This is not just an imperial expansion of old age but the use of brute and violent force devoid of any rationality."[5]

The Iraqi Perspective

The Iraqi government daily Al-Thawra published an editorial titled "The Victory of Iraq… is a Victory for Mankind." The editorial stated:

"When the American president declares that his evil administration does not make its decisions under the [pressure of] mass demonstrations here and there, he is in fact contradicting the false democratic values which he glorifies in every opportunity in his statements and speeches which are based on lies and deception…"

"Having failed to convince the world about the real motives of the U.S.'s aggressive threats against Iraq, which represent [envy of] Iraq's oil and strategic position, the administration of evil has begun to reveal with all the conceit and haughtiness its readiness to take a unilateral decision."[6]

Gulf States' Perspective

Writing about "The Undeclared American Losses" in the Omani daily Al-Watan, Muhammad Abd Al-Khaleq discussed the "unjust military campaign" from a different perspective. The many reserve soldiers and officers who were mobilized are employees in corporations which are required to continue paying their salaries while they are mobilized. As a result, "some corporations are asking for a share in the Iraqi oil after it comes under the control [of the U.S.] to compensate for some of their losses. This is tantamount to what the Syrian foreign minister described as 'armed robberies.'"[7]

In an editorial in Akhbar Al-Khaleej of Bahrain, the paper called on the American people to move quickly "in any way possible— let it be demonstrations, protest against sending your boys to occupy our land" and to prevent the breakout of war "on our peaceful Muslim peoples."[8]

Under the heading "Many Questions Seek One Answer!" the Qatari daily Al-Sharq asked "the simple question: if the Iraqi president Saddam Hussein abdicates now, does it mean that the United States will not invade Iraq. And if the Iraqi president abdicates now, and the United States will not invade Iraq, who will be the substitute president." The editorial concludes with an appeal to the United States to assure everyone that Iraq will be "in good shape."[9]

Saudi Perspective

The Saudi daily Al-Watan drew historical lessons from the Yalta conference which convened in 1945 "to divide the world according to a new map." Two of the three participants in Yalta, the United States and the United Kingdom, took part in the Azores summit. Spain replaced the Soviet Union as the third party. Al-Watan wrote in its editorial:

"The enormous failure of three 'axis of war countries' to extract a war resolution against Iraq has led them to convene a war council and [make] decisions under the banner of ridding the world of weapons of mass destruction. It means that the issue does not concern the three countries alone but the entire world. ...This style of managing world crises threatens world security and threatens world equilibrium when three countries make decisions and proceed without paying attention to the entire world and without giving peaceful efforts a greater chance to avoid the dangers of war."[10]

On the other hand, a group of Saudi Islamic scholars issued a Fatwa (religious edict) warning Muslims and their rulers that it was a "deadly sin" to help a U.S.-led war on Iraq.[11]

Jordanian Perspective

Following the same line of argument used by Al-Watan, the Jordanian daily Al-Dustour sees such an attitude as reflecting "a new proof of the weakness and disintegration of the official Arab position to defend its national security and strategic interests."[12]

Egyptian PerspectiveJalal Duweidar, editor of the Egyptian daily Al-Akhbar, wrote in an article: "the dictator Saddam Hussein has outlived his usefulness and it is time to get rid of him."[13]

[1]Teshreen (Syria), March 18, 2003.

[2]Al-Watan (Kuwait), March 18, 2003.

[3]Al-Jumhuriya (Libya), March 18, 2003.

[4]Teshreen (Syria), March 18, 2003.

[5]Al-Ba'ath (Syria), March 18, 2003.

[6]Al-Thawra (Iraq), March 18, 2003.

[7]Al-Watan (Oman), March 18, 2003.

[8]Akhbar Al-Khaleej (Bahrain), March 18, 2003.

[9]Al-Sharq (Qatar), March 18, 2003.

[10]Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), March 18, 2003.

[11]Reuters, March 17, 2003.

[12]Al-Dustour (Jordan), March 18, 2003.

[13]Al-Akhbar (Egypt), March 18, 2003.

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