Defeats dismay Arab media
By Gerald Butt in Nicosia
(Filed: 07/04/2003)

Arab satellite news channels, broadcasting footage
of advances by coalition forces on Baghdad, are
beginning to question whether Saddam Hussein has
put up a proper fight against the allied advances.

Throughout the Arab world there is a mood of
disappointment. The initial resistance by Saddam's
forces raised expectations that he would put up a
tougher fight around the capital.

"Why is he letting the Arabs down now," a
Lebanese caller asked a phone-in programme,
"when his forces fought so bravely in the south of
the country?"

A presenter on the Dubai-based al-Arabiya television
network said the Iraqi leader had promised
"surprises" that would inflict huge losses. "Why
have we not seen the surprises?"

A military expert later wondered why the Iraqi army
had not concentrated on attacking the allies' supply
lines, rather than moving forces back to try to
defend Baghdad. "Saddam's fedayeen should be
attacking the trucks carrying food, water and fuel,"
he added.

"Why didn't Saddam order all the bridges to be
blown up along the route to the capital?" another
studio guest wondered.

Several Arab newspapers highlight the discrepancy
between Iraq's assessment of the war and that of
the coalition forces. "The information war is
intensifying," said al-Sharq in Qatar. In Jordan, al-Rai
asked "where the real truth lies amid the confusion
and contradiction of the news reports?"
Nevertheless, on its front page the paper's main
headline read: "Iraq retakes Saddam airport."

The Lebanese daily al-Nahar went one better,
saying that "Saddam led the attack to retake the
airport", while Akhbar al-Khaleej in Bahrain said:
"We have wiped out the invading forces at the

But other Arab papers adopt a more realistic line,
with al-Watan in Saudi Arabia declaring that "the
Americans have taken the airport and the Iraqis
have retreated into Baghdad".

Kuwait's Rai al-Am assessed the situation in three
words: "Baghdad's last stand."