Fury and frustration as the US goes to war

28 March 2003
The Middle East reacted to the outbreak of war in Iraq with violent protests in several capitals and predictable - though understandable - outbursts of anti-American rhetoric in newspapers. The official reaction was more muted. Having failed to avert a war, governments focused their diplomatic efforts on bringing the conflict to a speedy conclusion, with calls for a ceasefire from across the region.

Saudi Arabia submitted proposals to both Iraq and the US aimed at ending the war, Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told reporters on 25 March. Speaking on his return from the Arab League summit in Cairo, Prince Saud said: 'The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is calling once again for peaceful negotiation and. go ahead to the UN with a collective solution within the framework of the Security Council so we can preserve Iraq's territorial integrity and protect its people. We have made the proposal and we are waiting for a possible response.' There was also an urgent need to heal the 'unfortunate rift' that had developed in the international community over the war, he said.

On the domestic front, Arab governments had to deal with a number of violent demonstrations, with clashes between security forces and protesters reported in Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Manama and Sanaa. The public mood was, however, reflected in a number of government-owned newspapers, with most editorials focusing on familiar allegations of American imperialism and the 'double standards' applied by the US in its dealings with the region.

Syria's Al-Thawrah daily offered a 'salute to the patriotic Iraqi people for their brave resistance in the face of the most arrogant colonial power. This resistance is a symbol of Arab firmness. which will have positive effects on the national Arab struggle against all the plots being hatched to threaten their destiny and future.'

The overwhelming US firepower displayed in Iraq, allied to the first pictures of civilian casualties, inevitably invited comparisons with the heavy-handed tactics used by the Israeli government in its continuing onslaught in the Occupied Territories.

'If Tel Aviv were to be hit with three Tomahawk missiles, it would bring out its nuclear bombs from where they are hidden,' said the daily Al-Hayat al-Jadidah, which is owned by the Palestinian Authority. 'However, Iraq is being hit with 3,000 Tomahawk missiles, but weapons of mass destruction are not being found.'

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