Arab observers, speaking immediately
after Monday's attacks in Baghdad, say that although many in the Arab world would
condemn attacks on civilians, most Arabs would also have some sympathy for those
fighting to end what they see as the U.S. occupation of Iraq. The observers also
say that public animosity in Arab and Muslim countries toward U.S. foreign policy
is so great now, that it is difficult to publicly show any sympathy at all for
the U.S. effort in Iraq.
The Director of Cairo University's Political Science Department, Hassan Nafae,
said the increase in civilian deaths in attacks by anti-U.S. forces in Iraq
has not changed widespread Arab opposition to the U.S. presence there.
"This is an occupation, and it will continue to be perceived as an occupation,
and the solution is to either transfer the whole file to the United Nations
to direct it, or to withdraw completely from Iraq," said Mr. Nafae.
Mr. Nafae said many in the Arab and Muslim world do not believe the United
States' declared motives for invading Iraq, partly because the coalition never
found the weapons of mass destruction it claimed Saddam Hussein was hiding,
and partly because of past U.S. cooperation with the now deposed Iraqi leader.
"I do not think that a lot of people here will believe that the Americans
came for democracy in Iraq, or just to topple the Iraqi regime," added Mr.
Nafae. "The United States has cooperated in many occasions with the Iraqi regime
and even during the gasification [gassing] of the Kurds, the Iraqi regime was
still enjoying the American support because he was fighting against Iran."
The deputy director of Cairo's Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic
Studies, Taha Abdel Alim, says another major reason for the mistrust of U.S.
motives in Iraq is what is widely perceived in the Arab and Muslim world to
be the United States' unconditional support of Israel.
"We have to understand why Iraqi people, why the Arab people are not believing,
are not accepting, are not buying the points of view of the United States in
the region, because they are seeing Israel is occupying and the United States
is doing nothing to end this occupation," explained Mr. Abdel Alim.
According to Mr. Abdel Alim, U.S. criticism of several Israeli policies,
including settlements and home demolition, and its sponsorship of the Roadmap
peace plan, have not made much of an impression among ordinary Arabs throughout
"It is not a problem of the Arabs, it is the problem of the United States,
that for the Arabs it is very clear, their territories in Palestine are occupied
by Israel, and the United States is continuing supporting Israel," he said.
Those who disagree with the prevailing Arab views on the United States and
Iraq often find it difficult to speak out. One of those who does is Tawfiq
Abu Baker, head of Jenin Center for Strategic Studies in Amman. He says he
is among a small group of Arab intellectuals who support the U.S. policy in
Iraq because it got rid of Saddam Hussein's regime, and because they believe
the continuing occupation is preventing a bloodbath among Iraq's ethnic groups.
But Mr. Abu Baker, a syndicated commentator for five Arab newspapers, says
Arab and Muslim public opinion is so opposed to the United States that it is
very difficult for anyone in the Arab world to be openly sympathetic to anything
American at this time.
"If I have now some of my colleagues, some of my journalist friends, come
to my office, he will say if the Americans leave Iraq now there will be a civil
war, but the majority of them do not write in the newspapers because they do
not want to be against the public opinion," continued Mr. Abu Baker.
Mr. Abu Baker says in his columns he has urged other Arab supporters of U.S.
policy not to go along with public opinion if they know it is wrong. But he
says his colleagues have been difficult to convince.