With US election over, Arabs hope for Reagan moves in Mideast
Beirut — Moderates appealed for reactivation of American peace efforts in the Middle East. Militants predicted new ''plots'' to impose American hegemony on the Middle East.
And Islamic Jihad, the mysterious terrorist movement, used the occasion to call in yet another anonymous telephone threat to ''blow up all American interests in Beirut and elsewhere in Lebanon.''
Such was the variety of Arab reaction to the reelection of President Ronald Reagan.
But nations and parties on all points of the political spectrum anticipate a series of moves by the United States now that the campaign is over. They include:
* Renewed efforts to get moderate Arabs and the Israelis together at the peace table to settle the 36-year dispute over the issue of a Palestinian homeland.
* Behind-the-scenes involvement in winning withdrawal of foreign troops - Israeli, Syria, Palestinian, and Iranian - from Lebanon so the little nation can pull itself back together after almost a decade of war.
* Reestablishing relations with Iraq, which were broken off during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war as a protest against US support for Israel.
Those, at least, are the expectations.
After cabling his congratulations, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said he was convinced Mr. Reagan shared his view ''that the deteriorating situation in the region calls for urgent action by the parties most interested in achieving peace and security and furthering a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.''
Jordanian Foreign Minister Taher Masri said he hoped the reelection would ''signal a beginning for the US administration to reconsider some aspects of its Middle East policy, particularly regarding the Palestinian question.''
Beirut's respected Daily Star newspaper commented Thursday: ''There are many in the Middle East who nurture hopes that once the American elections are history, Washington will turn its attention to this region.
''But we are less sure,'' the editorial cautioned. ''President Reagan got his fingers badly burned in Lebanon and his 1982 peace initiative was spurned by the Israelis. Once bitten, twice shy, as the saying goes.''
Syria, until recently the US's arch-foe in the Arab world, also expressed doubts that there would be any change in the US position. ''The American policy during Reagan's first term was marked with failure and hatred toward the Arabs and overwhelming support for Israel,'' state-controlled Damascus Radio reported.
And Al Baath, the newspaper of Syria's ruling party, added that if Reagan intends to ''pursue this same policy in the next four years, he must expect an intensification of Arab resistance and confrontation.''
Yet the fact that even hard-line nations may be willing to give the US another crack at peace was reflected in the telegram from Syrian President Hafez Assad. ''On this occasion I want to express my hope that the forthcoming years will witness development of the relations between our two countries for the mutual benefit of our peoples, based on an objective understanding of the issues existing in our areas,'' he said.
Fears remain strong in the region, however, of military attack by US forces in retaliation for four terrorist bombings of American military and diplomatic facilities over the past 19 months.
For more than a week, the Syrian media have been predicting that after the election, the US would authorize a strike on bases of various Iranian or pro-Iranian groups in eastern Lebanon, which is under Syrian control.
Lebanese papers reported this week that additional US warships have been sent to the eastern Mediterranean in preparation for an assault. On Wednesday there was an additional claim that a contingent of Special Forces (Green Berets) had been sent to the area.
In was in that context of nerves that Islamic Jihad phoned in two threats within hours after the election, showing that pressure on Americans in the region may not let up after Tuesday's election as expected.
Just as the polls were closing in the US, a Beirut newspaper received a call from an Islamic Jihad spokesman claiming all US interests in Lebanon would be targeted. And as election results came in, another caller phoned the Associated Press to warn that ''nothing will go as the United States plans'' in the Middle East, presumably a reference to anticipated peace efforts. The voice added: ''we promise the world that the region will be set on fire.''
He also warned Lebanese participants in talks with Israel, which opened Thursday, that ''their fate will not be any better than that of the Americans from now on, and they will pay a high price'' for dealing with Israel.
Arab analysts expect the first US move to be resumption of relations with Baghdad after a 17-year break. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Murphy arrived in Iraq Wednesday on an unannounced stop to discuss ''bilateral relations and topics of mutual interest,'' according to the Iraqi News Agency.
That would help boost a slowly developing alliance among Iraq, Jordan, and Egypt, a major step in the advance work to peace negotiations with Israel. A stronger moderate bloc would also serve to counter the leverage of the militant alliance of Syria, Libya, and Iran.