August 08, 2006

What You Are Not Seeing On US TV News

Arab anger at pro-US governments:
As their anger against Israel and America swells, protesters across the Middle East are also increasingly venting their frustration at their Arab rulers, especially in moderate countries whose governments have been reliable U.S. allies.

Nearly four weeks of fighting between Hezbollah and Israel have aggravated a summer of discontent over the bloodshed in Iraq, stalled democratic reforms and price increases. Angry at their governments, demonstrators are praising a new hero: Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah.

"The whole region has been engulfed in anger since the war on Iraq more than three years ago," said Diaa Rashwan, an Egyptian analyst with the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. "The frustration is just huge."

The rising resentment is weighing heavily on Arab leaders as their foreign ministers gather in Beirut on Monday for an emergency meeting. Moderates like Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia may want a halt to the fighting, but they can't be seen as backing a U.S.-promoted cease-fire plan that Hezbollah has depicted as a surrender.

Even more worrisome for Arab leaders is the possibility violence may turn on them. On Saturday, al-Qaida announced that an Egyptian militant group had joined the terror network. While the group denied it, many fear that public anger could nonetheless boost militants around the region.

Demonstrators have denounced leaders of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia for blaming Hezbollah — sometimes implicitly, sometimes overtly — for starting the fighting by snatching two Israeli soldiers in a July 12 cross-border raid.

Three straight days of protests broke out last week among the normally quiet Shiite minority in Saudi Arabia, where demonstrations are rare, though protesters were cautious not to criticize the ruling family. Hundreds of Shiites waved posters of Nasrallah, chanting "Oh Nasrallah; oh beloved one; destroy, destroy Tel Aviv."

Cairo has seen nearly daily demonstrations against Egyptian President
Hosni Mubarak for what protesters see as his failure to support Hezbollah. On Sunday, demonstrators held up a poster of Mubarak with a Star of David on his forehead, labeling him "the enemy of the Egyptian people."

Last week, more than 1,000 protesters rallied in downtown Cairo, burning Israeli and American flags. "Arab majesties, excellencies and highnesses, we spit on you," one banner read.

Similar protests have erupted in Jordan and Kuwait, where anti-U.S. demonstrations are rare.

Lebanon may be the spark, but there's plenty of tinder for the discontent, particularly the situation in Iraq and domestic economic strains.


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