Jordanians Lament Iraqi Move for Early Withdrawal

THE jury is still out on whether Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is a hero or a failure among his supporters in the Arab world. As they try to make sense of Saddam's dramatic announcement Feb. 25 that he is abandoning Kuwait, many Jordanians say they remain faithful to the Iraqi leader. But shortly after the announcement, Jordanian government officials, who have been sympathetic to Saddam, said that he has effectively conceded defeat. Saddam is now likely to be perceived as having failed, they say.

``I think it has gone too far now,'' says a senior Jordanian official who has supported Saddam. ``You can't fool the Iraqi people.''

Jordanians in the street and even some officials were surprised and upset upon hearing of Saddam's announcement. ``Deep in their heart, they always wanted him to fight longer and harder,'' says a senior military source. ``I don't think he's bloodied [the coalition forces] as much as anybody would like to see.''

But despite the confusion, most still clearly support the beleaguered Iraqi leader. ``He will still be a heroic figure [in the Arab world]. They'll say he stood up to the West long enough that he didn't just give in,'' says the military source.

Jordan is also encouraging the United States-led coalition forces not to attack Iraqi troops while they're withdrawing and to accept a cease-fire.

``That's the position we have taken all along,'' says a senior government official. ``That's what they should do if they want peace and to stabilize the situation.''

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