US-Iraq: Reaction from the streets of Arab capitals

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Khalil Marwan

Dhu al-Qa'dah 17, 1418 1998-03-16

Occupied Arab World

by Khalil Marwan (Occupied Arab World, Crescent International Vol. 27, No. 2, Dhu al-Qa'dah, 1418)

Nowhere in the Middle East was the anger of the masses at yet another threatened strike against Iraq by US-British forces more apparent than in Jordan. From the slums of Cairo to the dusty streets of Sana’a, the Muslim masses shouted with one voice: down with US imperialism.

Lest it be misunderstood, the Muslim masses were not demonstrating in support of Saddam Husain of Iraq; their anger was directed at the American-British imperialism and their arrogant side-kick, Israel.

So despised is Uncle Sam in the Muslim world that were a dog to bark at an American official, he would immediately be proclaimed a hero. Jordan’s case also reveals another factor in the tortuous history of the Middle East.

King Husain of Jordan is the most subservient Arab ruler. He is viewed as having completely sold out to US-Zionist interests. Since Jordan is a front-line State, with Palestinians forming the majority of its population, events in Palestine cast an immediate shadow over its affairs. Two other issues have also contributed to anti-Zionist and anti-American feelings.

First, last September the Zionist spy agency, Mossad, was involved in an unsuccessful bid on the life of Khaled Meshal, one of the leaders of the Palestinian Islamic Movement, Hamas. The Jordanian monarch was clearly implicated in the botched-up affair. Only a week earlier, he had entertained Mossad’s chief, Danny Yatom and his wife, at his palace in Aqaba (Yatom has since resigned after an inquiry commission implicated him in the September 1997 attempt and another botched-up attempt, this time in Berne, Switzerland, last month). Such coziness between Husain and the Zionist’s, while spread over decades, had remained outside the public domain. The attempted assassination of Meshal brought this into the open.

The king panicked and the Israeli spies, despite being caught by Meshal’s alert bodyguard, were quickly released. The Israelis tried to present it as a swap for Hamas leader Shaikh Ahmed Yasin but the fact is that the zionists were concerned about the ailing shaikh’s health and were looking for an excuse to release him anyway.

The other factor that has contributed to the Jordanians’ anti-American feelings is that only a month earlier, Laith Shubeilat, one of the most popular persons in Jordan today, was able to secure the release of hundreds of Jordanians from Iraqi jails after meeting Saddam. Leading a caravan of buses, Shubeilat caused a major embarrassment for the king.

In Baghdad Shubeilat and his entourage also witnessed the suffering of the Iraqi people as a result of UN sanctions. This must have had a profound effect on them. Renewed American/British air strikes would have added to the misery of the Iraqi masses.

The people of Jordan have seen no benefits, only more humiliation from the so-called peace treaty with the Zionists. Given the intransigence of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and America’s unwillingness to exert pressure on him to abide by the terms of the so-called peace treaty, has added to the resentment in Jordan.

This is not to suggest that feelings in other Arab capitals were any less hostile to US-British-Zionist threats. The Saudi rulers were worried by the fallout from yet another strike against Iraq, as were the rulers on the western shores of the Persian Gulf. Even Kuwait was forced to announce that no strikes against Iraq would be initiated from its territory. These regimes, however, clamped down hard on any protests. Yasir Arafat, the self-styled president of the Palestinian Authority, did likewise. In his little kingdom, Arafat acts no less brutally than other Arab dictators or the Zionists.

The resentment in Muslim capitals is not because people sympathize with Saddam or view him as a hero. This is a misrepresentation the western media deliberately make in order to project Saddam as a hero. The truth is that he is as much despised as the other tyrants in the Muslim world. The sympathy of the Muslim masses lies with the long-suffering people of Iraq who are pilloried both by Saddam and the western-led sanctions.

Muslimedia: March 16-31, 1998

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