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Arab Media Prominently Feature Attacks on US Soldiers in Iraq - 2003-07-14

The Arab media is giving extensive coverage to the ongoing attacks against U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Experts are offering varying explanations for the prominent coverage.

For the past several weeks attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq have been drawing front page headlines throughout the Arab world.

Arab media analyst Said Sadek Amin, who is based in Cairo, believes many Arab governments fear the spread of democracy and, as a result, are using their state-run newspapers to send a message to Washington.

"You have to understand that Arab media are tools of Arab regimes. And, before and after the Iraq war, tensions between Arab regimes and the United States was the highest," he said. "The United States has been talking about democratization, human rights, subjects that are embarrassing to some of these regimes. And, so these regimes interpret such talk as a threat to them and so these regimes are playing the role of spoilers, agitating public opinion against the United States to defend themselves. It's a way to tell the U.S. we can agitate against you if you continue talking about accountability, transparency, democratization, human rights. You talk democracy, we talk Iraqi resistance."

Not everyone agrees. Sami Baroudi, who heads the political science department at Lebanese-American University in Beirut, says Arab news organizations are simply trying to appeal to an Arab public that was stunned by the speed of the U.S. military victory in Iraq.

"It's more sort of reflecting a popular mood where basically people would like, sadly, to hear those stories that there's resistance for the Americans because it was a shock for most Arab people to see the regime defeated so quickly, the country occupied so quickly," he said. "So now that's basically reassuring the people that the Americans are not having an easy time there. So it's more to appeal to the sentiments of the people rather than a way of political pressure."

But whether it is an effort to appeal to the public, or attempts by various Arab governments to put pressure on Washington, both analysts say the prominence Arab media are giving the attacks against American soldiers in Iraq is fueling anti-American sentiment in the region.