U.S. newspapers reported without irony that most U.S. allies approved unequivocally of missile attacks on targets in Afghanistan and Sudan. That may be true of Israel and U.S. allies in Europe, but in the Middle East, anger and condemnation were the rule. Here’s a little taste of how our Middle Eastern “allies” responded:
Pakistan is noted for being a strong U.S. ally in the region, but they were highly upset to learn that U.S. warships had fired 70 or more Tomahawk cruise missiles directly over their airspace without asking permission first. They were even more incensed to learn that the flight-path was directly over the Indus River valley, which includes the most highly-populated areas of Pakistan. In addition, the Afghan targets were 600-700 miles from the Arabian Sea, where the missiles were fired, and the Tomahawk has a range of only 700 or so miles.
“The government of Pakistan expresses indignation at the U.S. strikes at Afghanistan and Sudan,” Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz said, while thousands of demonstrators burned effigies of Bill Clinton in Karachi. Aziz went on to say that the U.S. had not asked to use any facilities in Pakistan to help with the attack, and: “In future also we would not provide any such assistance. We call upon all countries to respect the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Afghanistan and Sudan, and express our solidarity with their peoples.”
The Egyptian government refused to make any statement about the attacks, but Egyptian newspapers were not so quiet. An editorial in al-Ahram al-Massai read: “The agents of terrorism have given Washington the reason to exercise the arrogance of power when it gave itself the right to strike two sovereign states without the permission of the (U.N.) Security Council.” Hussein Amin, a lecturer on Islamic studies at the American University in Cairo, said: “What happened will certainly accelerate terrorism. Moslem nations are powerless before the might of the United States and find terrorism their only way out. This will happen as long as America stands over the world, ready to strike its enemies with a big stick.”
The government of Jordan also remained silent, but emphasized the need for dialogue and not and escalation of violence.
Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had condemned the attacks on the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, also had harsh words for the U.S. attack, saying it violated “international norms and human rights.”
Qatar’s independent newspaper, al-Sharq, said that by launching the missile attacks, the U.S. has resorted to the “law of the jungle in handling international problems.”
“Clinton attempts to cover up scandal with aggression against Sudan and Afghanistan,” read the headline of Lebanon’s most widely-read newspaper, as-Safir.
Recognizing that the missiles are a signal to Arab governments in the region that they should acquiesce to U.S. demands, Senior Palestinian negotiator Hassan Asfour said: “We are against any attack on any Arab state by the United States or by any other country … Terrorism has many manifestations. Killing of Palestinians by Israeli settlers was another way of terrorism. I call upon the international community to put limits on the American explanation for the term terrorism.”
In Africa, the widely-respected Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which has worked for decades for peace in Africa, condemned the attacks and called instead for a coordinated fight against terrorism, rather than a unilateral response by the U.S. only. An unnamed African diplomat expressed his opinion about the attack on Sudan: “It’s going to improve the position of the Sudan government, at least in the short term. The way I see it is that America is losing the image battle in the Middle East and North Africa and it’s getting worse after this Sudanese attack.”
And then, finally, there are statements from the governments of Afghanistan and Sudan. Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar in Afghanistan responded to the attacks: “This attack is not against Osama but it is a demonstration of enmity for the Afghan people.” Sudanese Information Minister Ghazi Salahuddin said this about the bombed factory: “It has been visited by heads of state. We condemn this criminal act.”
But the Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir had the final word, saying that Sudan “reserves the right to respond to the American attack using all necessary measures.”
Now is that any way to make peace in the Middle East?
Quotes for this article came from: “Pakistan says hit by U.S. strike, outraged” by Raja Asghar, Reuters, Aug. 21; “Arab world enraged by U.S. missile strikes” by Michael Georgy, Reuters, Aug. 21; “OAU deplore civilian casualties in U.S. attacks,” Reuters, Aug. 21; “Yemen condemns U.S. missile attack in Sudan,” Reuters, Aug. 21; Afghans, Sudanese Respond With Defiance,” Reuters, Aug. 21; and “Sudanese Gather at Bombed Factory” by Mohammed Osman, Associated Press, Aug. 21.