AMMAN, Jordan, March 16 (UPI) -- Arab press roundup for March 16
Jordan's semi-official al-Rai said in a commentary Tuesday that the fall of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar in elections was "a political and moral victory for the Iraqi people, and for all people who suffered and will suffer from to the American arsenal." The mass-circulation daily, partially owned by the government, said the Spaniards felt their government was not telling them the truth about the U.S. war on Iraq, which Madrid had joined. It said that Aznar was a leader "who does not respect the minds and hearts of the Spanish people and their country, he does not admit the facts, and continues with the false promotions." It accused the outgoing premier of following "the lies and allegations related to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein's relations with Sheikh Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida organization." It said the latest Spanish election was an opportunity for the Spaniards to tell Washington and London that they wanted out of Iraq. The paper insisted that Spain was "not an American state or a military base for the Pentagon. It is a European country that is respectable, independent and capable of taking the right decisions in the voting booths." The daily said the fall of Aznar's government was "not good for" President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, adding that it was an "important indication that the American voters will say their word in next November's elections."
The United Arab Emirates' al-Khaleej Times said in its editorial that "it took a tragedy of unthinkable proportions for the people of Spain to awaken to the poor judgment of retiring Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar." The English-language pro-government daily said that by aligning itself with the American administration's policies, Aznar's conservative government distanced itself from its European neighbors and drew the "wrath of the masterminds of Thursday's synchronized bombings in Madrid." The Gulf paper added that it was not surprising that the Spaniards "felt they had been made to pay a very high price for the lapses of their rulers, particularly in areas of foreign policy and domestic security." The paper said the Spanish people "took their revenge by tossing it out of power in an election that even till the morning of the Madrid massacre, had appeared to be a mere shoo-in for the conservatives." It added that prime minister-elect Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero sensed "the public mood of anger and vowed to bring Spanish troops from Iraq." It said that President Bush and Tony Blair "can already count Spain out of the coalition" in Iraq.
The London-based al-Hayat daily also ran a commentary on the outcome of the Spanish elections, saying they constituted a "loss to President Bush's administration." The Saudi-owned paper, however, asked whether al-Qaida network, if proven that it was behind the Madrid train attacks, had any impact on the results of the Spanish polls. It asked if that would "encourage transferring the experiment to move the war to the streets of countries that are allied with the U.S. in occupying Iraq or the war on terror." The Arabic-language paper asked if that meant the results would encourage bringing down the British and Italian governments by adopting the same method of terror attacks. The paper predicted that Europe would adopt stiff security measures, adding that this could also draw reactions from the common people. It feared that such measures would affect the Arab and Muslim communities in Europe, "bringing them under suspicion and accusations in the societies they live in, intensify hostilities against the immigrants, and start to be dealt with as if they are bombs waiting to explode." The daily insisted that if al-Qaida was proven to be responsible for the Madrid blasts, "Spain would have paid the price for its participation in the American adventure, and it is a heavy price." But it warned that targeting civilians "could cause the Arab and Muslim communities to pay a high price if the incident is repeated and if the Europeans feel that a handful of explosives planters are trying to seize their decision and affecting the foreign policies of their countries."
On the recent dual suicide attacks on the Israeli port of Ashdod, the London-based ash-Sharq al-Awsat quoted a spokesman for the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the military wing of the Fatah mainstream movement headed by Yasser Arafat, as threatening to escalate attacks in Israel. The Saudi-owned paper quoted the spokesman, identified as Abu Qusai, as saying that his group would target Israeli airports "if the aggression continued against the Palestinian people." He said the dual suicide bombings in Ashdod, claimed by al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and the Izziddine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, "confirms that the Israeli repression leads to a single result, which is pushing the resistance movements to develop their performance in a way that turns around all the Zionist calculations upside down."