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Archive for Sunday, April 28, 2002

U.S. policy causes pause from Arab allies

Hostilities toward America seen mounting, cooperation in war on terror faltering

April 28, 2002

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— President Bush's stepped-up pressure on Israel to halt its military offensive in the West Bank may not calm growing Arab anger. Already, there are signs the hostility is leading to possible danger for Americans, and less cooperation in the war against terrorism.

After a two-week lull, guerrillas again are attacking Israel from another front, Lebanon. In Egypt, long allied with the United States, young people have tried to sneak into Israel to join the fight and there are worries they could turn their wrath on Americans as easily as Israelis.

U.S. officials say privately that Yemen is stalling plans to deploy U.S. military counterterror trainers because of the situation in the Mideast. In addition, Arab nations' cooperation in any potential U.S. plan to attack Iraqi President Saddam Hussein seems stalled.

"What Arab countries were telling us nine month ago was, 'We won't support you unless you tell us you'll finish the job"' and overthrow Saddam, said Antony Blinken, a former National Security Council official in the Clinton White House.

"Now they're saying, 'We won't help you at all,"' Blinken said.

Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, at his meeting Thursday with President Bush in Texas, warned that the Israeli-Palestinian fight has grave consequences for the United States, his spokesman said.

It "makes it more difficult for friends of the U.S. to stand up with the U.S.," said spokesman Nail Al-Jubeir. "It's going to antagonize both ends. It's going to radicalize both ends."

Abdullah and Bush reached no agreement on an eight-point plan presented by the prince that suggests an armed international peacekeeping force and other steps that conflict with U.S. policy.

Bush on Friday bluntly told Israel, "It's now time to quit it altogether," meaning its incursions into Palestinian towns.

The president's repeated urgings are losing effect, said Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., chairman of the House International Relations Committee. "I think it's unfortunate because it does diminish the impact of the president's wishes over in that part of the world," he said Saturday on CNN.

But Hyde said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon cannot be expected to "lay down or to take orders from us when his people are under such direct attack, so repeatedly."

The president did persuade Congress to delay a vote on a symbolic statement of support for Israel. "I also hope and believe that Congress recognizes we've got interests in the area, as well, beyond Israel that we have good relationships with the Saudis and the Jordanians and the Egyptians," Bush said.

He made clear to Arabs, however, that U.S. support for Israel is unequivocal, saying: "We will not allow Israel to be crushed."

Israel says its offensive in the West Bank is necessary to destroy Palestinian terrorists responsible for suicide bombings against Israeli civilians.

Many in Congress, sympathetic to Israel's situation, are certain to protest if Bush were to decide to apply any stronger pressure on Israel.

Yet not doing so might cause people in Arab and Islamic countries to become even angrier at the United States, and thus increase their illicit support for Palestinian extremists, many analysts believe.

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