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March 26, 2003

Some of Hussein's Arab Foes Admire His Fight

Most Arab elites want Saddam to go. But they also want him to "punish" America. An article that reveals another aspect of the strange arab mind, appearing in The New York Times
DAMASCUS, Syria, March 25 — Normally the appearance of Saddam Hussein on television prompts catcalls, curses and prayers for his demise from a regular gathering of about 20 Saudi businessmen and intellectuals, but Monday night was different. When he appeared, they prayed that God would preserve him for a few more weeks.

"They want Saddam Hussein to go and they expect him to go eventually, but they want him to hold on a little longer because they want to teach the Americans a lesson," said Khaled M. Batarfi, the managing editor of the newspaper Al Madina, describing the scene in a sprawling living room in Jidda, Saudi Arabia.

"Arab pride is at stake here," he added, describing a sentiment sweeping the region from Algeria to Yemen. "American propaganda said it was going to be so quick and easy, meaning we Arabs are weak and unable to fight. Now it is like a Mike Tyson fight against some weak guy. They don't want the weak guy knocked out in the first 40 seconds."

From the outset, there has been a certain ambivalence in the Arab world toward the war in Iraq, an ambivalence tipping toward outright hostility as Baghdad, the fabled capital of "The Arabian Nights," shudders under American bombing.

The region's governments, edgy about the idea of a United States-inspired change of government in Iraq, have been trying to placate Washington and siphon the anger off their streets, although they have permitted larger demonstrations than usual. [more]