Hamid, a Qatari fisherman, has some advice for US President
George W. Bush: "Get your big fish, but don't kill all the minnows
when you cast your big net," he says over a cup of tea as the sun
sets on dozens of wooden dhows lining this small port on the Persian
Gulf. "At least, this time go after Saddam Hussein - and get him,
but you don't need to kill tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers as
you did in 1991."
The burly fisherman, who preferred to give only his first name,
voiced concern for Hussein's foot soldiers and Iraqi civilians,
saying: "Hey, we are all Arabs, and we like the Iraqi people - they
are good people."
The Qatari fisherman's views typify the confusion in the Arab
world over the broader goals and objectives of US foreign policy. As
it continues to plan possible military action against Iraq, the Bush
administration issued a 33-page document late last week outlining
its new doctrine for preemptive strikes against threatening foes.
While Hussein himself is far from popular, many here in the Arab
world worry about the broader direction of American policy. "Arabs
respect force, and if you go in and take out Saddam Hussein
powerfully and cleanly, there won't be much to object to, but it is
the bigger issues of war and peace that bother many in the Arab
world," says Charles Heyman, editor of Jane's World Armies, who
recently returned from a tour of the Middle East.
What many Arabs want - first and above all - is peace in the
Middle East. They question why Washington - which many consider the
only power capable of putting an end to ethnic and religious
violence in the Middle East - has not yet tackled the fighting in
Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, but now wants to
open a new front in its war on terror - a struggle they worry could
spark far greater instability.
"Right now, the US is behaving like a bull in the china shop,"
says Mawafak Tawfik, an Iraqi writer and journalist, who was
deprived of his Iraqi citizenship several years ago.
"Many Arabs are saying that the US has finally gone crazy," Mr.
Tawfik says, "but if Washington really spoke of regional
disarmament, all of us would be happy to go along."
Washington's eagerness for a regime change in Baghdad has
heightened a mood of anti-Americanism across the Gulf region,
particularly in fundamentalist Islamic circles.
In a typical view alleging a US-led conspiracy, Egyptian Yousuf
Al Qaradawi, tiny Qatar's most prominent Islamic cleric, charges
that the US plans against Iraq are all about helping Washington's
"They want to actually wipe out Iraq to help Israel," he tells
his followers during a sermon held in the country's largest mosque. …