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Iraqi collapse shocks, dismays many Arabs

©Associated Press

April 10, 2003

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- The fall of Baghdad provoked shock and disbelief among Arabs, who expressed hope that other oppressive regimes would crumble but also disappointment that Saddam Hussein did not put up a better fight against America.

"Why did he fall that way? Why so fast?" asked Yemeni homemaker Umm Ahmed, tears streaming down her face. "He's a coward. Now I feel sorry for his people."

Arabs clustered at TV sets in shop windows, coffee shops, kitchens and offices to watch the astounding pictures of U.S. troops overwhelming an Arab capital for the first time. Feeling betrayed and misled, some turned off their sets in disgust when jubilant crowds in Baghdad celebrated the arrival of U.S. troops.

"We discovered that all what the (Iraqi) information minister was saying was all lies," said Ali Hassan, a government employee in Cairo. "Now no one believes Al-Jazeera anymore."

In a report from Baghdad, correspondent Shaker Hamed of Abu Dhabi Television said: "We are all in shock. How did things come to such an end? How did U.S. tanks enter the center of the city? Where is the resistance? This collapse is puzzling. Was it the result of the collapse of communications between the commanders? Between the political leadership? How come Baghdad falls so easily?"

The shock came after weeks of hearing Hussein's government pledge a "great victory" or a fight to the death.

Behind the disbelief lay a worry over the prospect of an American occupation of an Arab nation.

However, Tannous Basil, a cardiologist in Sidon, Lebanon, said, "I don't like the idea of having the Americans here, but we asked for it. Why don't we see the Americans going to Finland, for example? They come here because our area is filled with dictatorships like Saddam's."

For many Arabs, the overwhelming emotions were distaste and worry.

Three men having tea and smoking in a coffee shop in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, were unsettled as they watched television, even though they said they were against Hussein and felt sorry for the long-suffering Iraqis.

"I can't say that I'm happy about what's going on because these are non-Muslim forces that have gone in and I hope they will not stay," said Mohammed al-Sakkaf, a 58-year-old businessman.

In Jordan, hotel receptionist Wissam Fakhoury, 28, expressed disgust at the Baghdad crowds.

"I spit on them. Do those crowds who are saluting the Americans believe that the United States will let them live better?" Fakhoury said. Americans "will loot their oil and control their resources, leaving them nothing."

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