Arab states vent rising wrath
The Mideast crisis has prompted varied steps against Israel and US. A regional roundup.
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Analysts here say that Mubarak may have needed to snub US Secretary of State Colin Powell during his Mideast diplomatic mission last week in order to shore up his reputation as a leading statesmen for an Arab world increasingly hostile toward the US. More concretely, Egypt's cancellation this month of regular flights to Israel by the semi-official airline Air Sinai may be one of the most significant moves against Israel to date.Skip to next paragraph
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In addition to the pressure posed by growing calls in Egyptian streets for concerted military action against Israel,President Mubarak is now facing mounting losses in his tourism industry, exacerbated by the Middle East crisis.
But the regimes of Egypt and Jordan have left the decades-old idea of economic boycotts in the hands of private citizens and nongovernmental organizations, and many Arab analysts are scoffing at the efforts as damaging to local economies and unlikely to bring about real change. If Israel's closest ally was anyone but the US, it might be easier.
"The foreign policies of Arab states are subject to serious constraints," says Dr. Korany, the professor of international relations. "The US is still the big guy in the region and many countries like Egypt and Jordan count on Washington for help and aid."
In addition to being the region's biggest consumer - in terms of oil supplies - the US is also its biggest arms dealer. Moderate and radical Arab states have built of large arsenals in recent decades with Washington's help.
Last Friday, the US Defense Department explained in a memo to Congress that a sale of an advanced long-range radar to Jordan was due to that country being threatened by Iraq, a "hostile neighbor with credible air and land forces.
Saudi Arabia is regarded as Washington's strongest Arab ally in the Middle East. But that relationship grew strained when it emerged that 15 of the 19 hijackers who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks were Saudi nationals. The kingdom's reputation in Washington sank further with a Saudi government telethon, which raised more than $100 million for the families of Palestinians including suicide bombers killed in the intifada. In a sermon on Friday carried by Arab satellite television networks, a leading Saudi cleric asked God to "terminate" the Jews and called for an end to peace efforts with Israel. Saudi leaders have warned the US that it must take a stronger stand against Israel or face losing Arab support, a message Crown Prince Abdullah, the de facto ruler of the kingdom, will relay to Bush this week.
"The Gulf regimes have been put on the defensive by the reaction from their people," says Nizar Hamzeh, head of the political science department at the American University of Beirut. "The Gulf rulers are having a tough time explaining why they should continue to support American policy."
However, the Saudis have confirmed that there will be no repeat of the 1973 Arab ban on oil sales.
"This is like cutting off your nose to spite your face," Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said Friday.
Crown Prince Abdullah has attempted to reposition Saudi Arabia as a key peace-maker by offering Israel full normalization with the Arab world for full Israeli withdrawal from occupied land. Washington has lent tentative support for the offer, which was adopted by the Arab League last month, even though Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon rejected it.
Some of the most violent demonstrations in support of the Palestinians in the Gulf have occurred in the island of Bahrain, home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet. The capital, Manama, has witnessed almost daily clashes between demonstrators and police, leaving one Bahraini dead and hundreds wounded.
Several Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, have sent millions of dollars to the beleaguered Palestinians. On Friday, Oman transferred $6.6 million to the Palestinian Authority, part of a $330 million donation pledged by the Arab League. Just two days earlier, the Defense Department said it was ready to sell up to $42 million worth of bombs and bullets for F-16 fighter jets to Oman. An Kuwait appears prepared to plunk down 1.2 billion on US-built Apache gunships.