Gulf States Applaud Air Strikes

OFFICIALS in the Gulf states said they were pleased with the success of allied air strikes on Baghdad and that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was on his way to defeat. ``He is collapsing,'' said one senior Dubai official. ``He claims to have weapons, but where is he hiding all his rockets?''

The official felt that the US forces would wait for the outcome of the air strikes before sending in the ground forces in Saudi Arabia. ``They are waiting for the Iraqi armed forces to collapse,'' he added.

The optimism about the apparent initial successes of the air strikes, however, was tinged with nervousness about a possible Iraqi response. Local residents felt it strange that Iraqi retaliation had been sominimal. Missiles directed at Bahrain, and an oil refinery in northeast Saudi Arabia all apparently missed their targets. Local reports said that no damage was done and oil loading was proceeding.

Still, Gulf bankers remained nervous. ``It won't last, this one-sided war,'' said one.

During the early hours of the morning, the sound of continual air activity reverberated throughout the southern Gulf state of the United Arab Emirates. There are two air bases in the Emirates, where American F-16 aircraft are stationed.

Flights out of the Gulf were severely restricted, though, and only a handful of planes took off from Dubai, all of them heading east. Incoming flights from Europe were all stopped, as Saudi Arabia and Jordan announced that their airspace was being closed. Schools were ordered to close down indefinitely. Local residents stayed at home, listening to radios and in Bahrain, banks were closed as most scuttled to air raid shelters.

Refugees from Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have been fleeing into the southern Gulf for the last few days. Most headed for Abu Dhabi and were also trying to enter Oman, though visa regulations remained tight.

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