March 21, 2003 Special Dispatch No. 482

Ultimatum to Iraq - The Reaction of the Arab Press

March 21, 2003
Iraq | Special Dispatch No. 482

President Bush'sultimatum to Saddam Hussein, ordering him to leave Iraq with his two sons[1] or face military action, has triggered varied reactions in the Arab press. Some of the most notable reactions appeared in the newspapers of Iraq. The following are excerpts from various Arabic newspapers on the topic:

The Egyptian Perspective

Under the title, "The world in the hand of a devil," Jalal Duweidar, the editor of the Egyptian government-sponsored daily Al-Akhbar, wrote that the world is now in the hands of a devil called the United States of America. The devil has "decided to act unilaterally outside the international legitimacy based on the unprecedented power under his control."

Turning his back on international legitimacy by waging a war on Iraq, the devil "wants to tell the world that there is no material or moral impediment ahead of him to sail with his enormous destructive inclination to carry out [a] selfish plan to strike at international stability and cause the international economy an added measure of decline and paralysis."

"We recognize," Duweidar added, "that what is happening is the result of the mistakes and insanity of the Saddamic regime which led [to] his crazy desire to invade Kuwait in 1990 and to open the doors of disasters on the Iraqi people and on all the Arab peoples. This has provided the United States the opportunity to control and to [exercise] hegemony on the Gulf countries which have two thirds of the oil reserves in the world."[2]

The Syrian Perspective

The ruling party's daily Al-Ba'th reported that President Bush's speech included a number of "grave misrepresentations which focused primarily on the allegation that Iraq has not cooperated with the international inspectors." These misrepresentations "transcend the propaganda limits into the level of fables and the stupefying of the world, with the Americans being in the lead."[3]

In the Syrian daily Al-Thawra, columnist Charles Ayyub reminded readers of a statement made not long ago by a Canadian member of parliament, Carolyn Parrish, who referred to the American officials as "bastards."[4]

In an interview with the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Abd Al-Halim Khaddam, Syria's vice president, hailed Turkey's hard bargaining position vis-à-vis the United States while the Arabs offered everything gratis ("balash").He described the Syrian position as "moderate, not extremist, and [seeking] the implementation of international legitimacy."[5]

Saudi and Gulf State Perspectives

In a short and measured speech to the nation by King Fahd, delivered on his behalf by Crown Prince Abdallah, the Saudi leaders reviewed their efforts to reach a peaceful solution. The speech made no mention of the American ultimatum but emphasized the Saudi's "total rejection" of efforts "to impinge upon Iraq's unity and independence." The statement also said that despite the many mistakes committed by the Iraqi government over the years, "the brotherly Iraqi people should not be made to pay the price."[6]

A critical editorial in the Saudi daily Al-Watan stated that the American decision to go to war has overlooked "the appeals from Christian authorities headed by the Pope, in particular, and from the Islamic authorities, in general." The decision has equally ignored the peoples of the world, beginning with the American people, followed by the people of Britain and Spain.[7]

The Qatari daily Al-Sharq expressed its regret that President Bush's ultimatum would lead to the collapse of the UN's credibility. If this is the path that the U.S. will follow in the future, there can be "no difference between Saddam's 'dictatorship' and the 'dictatorship' that the American administration applies to world crises."[8]

Under the heading "The Moment of Truth" the Kuwaiti daily Al-Rai Al-'Aam summarized the President's speech as well as the criticism voiced by Senator Daschle and Congresswoman Pelosi, the Democratic leadership in the Senate and the House of Representatives.[9]

The Iraqi Reaction

The immediate Iraqi reaction came from a meeting yesterday of the Iraqi leadership under the chairmanship of Saddam who donned the uniform of a field marshal (muhib), perhaps to dramatize Iraq's determination to fight.

While forcefully rejecting "the filthy ultimatum," the leadership declared that "the disappointed Bush was nursing his sick soul in the hope of achieving his evil intentions without fighting." The leadership meeting confirmed that "Iraq with all its sons is fully prepared to face and defeat the aggressors and the invaders under the banner of Allah Akbar [inscribed in the Iraqi national flag]."[10]

Under the title "The Fall Into a Downhill Path" the Iraqi government daily Al-Jumhuriya wrote that "In his criminal conduct, the criminal Bush the minion has continued to belittle the will of the international community."It concludes by promising that "Bush the minion will go to hell to endure the shame and disgrace forever."[11]

While the taking the U.S., U.K., and Spain to task for ignoring the will of the United Nations, the daily Babil, owned by Saddam's son Uday, reserved bitter criticism for Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the United Nations. Babil wrote: "The thing that is indeed sad and disgraceful is the visible weakness in the position of the secretary general Kofi Anan who has exceeded everything by obediently and unilaterally withdrawing the international inspectors and those working on relief and by his abrogation of the 'Oil for Food' agreement."[12]

The London-Arabic Daily Perspective

The London-based pro-Iraqi daily Al-Quds Al-Arabiargued that the decision of President Bush to go to war without a Security Council resolution "puts him in the corner of the Mafia leaders who take the law into their hands and behave without moral restraint."

The paper compared the positions of Mexico, a close neighbor of the U.S., Chile, which is in need of American aid, and Guinea, which suffers from abject poverty, with that of "Arab and Muslim leaders who opened their [military] bases for aggression and sought to send delegations to Baghdad to pressure its leader to resign and leave the reign of power in American hands without resistance."[13]

Jordanian Perspectives

In a commentary titled "The Imminent U.S. Aggression," Fahd Al-Fanik of he Jordanian daily Al-Ra'i, wrote:"The world has not witnessed such blatant aggression since the days of the Tartars. Under the pretext of liquidating the alleged weapons of mass destruction, the United States will use weapons of mass destruction. And, under the pretext of implementing the Security Council resolutions, the United States will sidestep the council, which is against war. And under the pretext of protecting Iraq's neighbors, the United States is threatening these neighbors if they do not offer the facilities needed for the aggression. Moreover, under the pretext of saving the Iraqi people, some 3,000 bombs will be dropped on Iraqi cities in the first few hours of the war."[14]

[1]Saddam Hussein has a third son, Ali, in his early twenties, but not much is known about him.

[2]Al-Akhbar, March 19, 2003.

[3]Al-Ba'th, March 19, 2003.

[4]Al-Thawra, March 19, 2003.

[5]Al-Sharq al-Awsat, March 19, 2003.

[6]Okaz, March 19, 2003.

[7]Al-Watan, March 19, 2003.

[8]Al-Sharq, March 19, 2003.

[9]Al-Rai al-Aam, March 19, 2003.

[10]Al-Thawra, March 19, 2003.

[11]Al-Jumhuriya, March 19, 2003.

[12]Babil, March 19, 2003.

[13]Al-Quds Al-Arabi, March 19, 2003.

[14]Al-Ra'i, March 19, 2003.

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