In Middle East, Israel alone backs U.S. attacks Many predict heightening of anti-American feeling

August 21, 1998|By Ann LoLordo | Ann LoLordo,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

JERUSALEM -- Israel -- alone in the region -- quickly applauded last night the U.S. bombings in Afghanistan and Sudan, but others in the Middle East predicted the attacks would only increase anti-American sentiment in the region.

And the leader of the militant Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas threatened retaliation in Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the U.S. decision to strike terrorist installations in Sudan and Afghanistan, according to statement from the prime minister's office.

Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai said the fight against terrorism "wherever it is" is "essential in order to ensure security and stability in the world."

In the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of Hamas, spoke out against the U.S. attacks, characterizing the raids as "criminal and unfair aggression."

In an interview with United Press International, Yassin said the attack "is not only against Arab and Islamic countries, it is against all of the Moslem and Arab nations of the world."

Yassin told UPI that if Hamas retaliates, "it will be against the Israeli occupation that is supported by the United States. Israel and the United States are two faces of the coin."

Hala Mostapha, a political scientist at the Al Aharam Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, Egypt, expressed concern last night that the U.S. attack would provoke more anti-American reaction in the Arab world.

Mostapha, a specialist on Islamic militants, said public opinion in the Arab world is "already anti-American because of Israel. They are already predisposed, especially since the political discourse is dominated by the nationalistic voice and the segments of the Islamists."

Iraqi state television characterized the U.S. strikes as "systematic international terrorism." Iraq stood "ready to cooperate with any Arab and international countries to confront U.S. hostile policies," according to a statement from the Iraqi Revolutionary Command Council read on Iraqi television.

Libyan leader Muammar el Kadafi expressed support for Sudan in its fight against U.S. aggression, according to a report on Libyan state television monitored by Reuters in Tunisia.

Radwan Abdullah, a political scientist in Amman, Jordan, said the U.S. military response would only "fuel the trend toward radicalization" in the region.

"In this part of the world, you are either a radical or you are a moderate. If you are a radical, what happened only reinforces your image of the United States as an aggressor or your determination to resist," said Abdullah. "If you are a moderate, you are worried about instability. You are worried about increasing radicalization of the region, about terrorism, about the status quo, which is extremely precarious nowadays."

Abdullah attributed the extent of radicalism and anti-American feelings in the region to U.S. Middle East policy and poor economic conditions.

"The only way to tackle this, really, is to address the root causes," he said in a telephone interview. "Bombing does not address the root causes of all of this."

In Iran, a state commentary noted President Clinton's need to refocus attention on something other than his troubles with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

"It is worth mentioning that following Clinton's domestic defeat in his recent court case, some international news agencies and publications raised the probability of a foreign military move by America aimed at covering up and overshadowing his problem," said an Iranian state radio report monitored by the British Broadcasting Corp. in London.

Others called attention to the similarities between the present scenario and the Hollywood movie "Wag the Dog." In the film, presidential advisers fabricate a war in Albania to divert attention from a White House scandal.

Last night, not one copy of the movie was available at the Blockbuster video store in Jerusalem. They had all been rented.

Pub Date: 8/21/98

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