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Experts: Iraqis May View Assassination as Punishment for Collaborators - 2004-05-17

News of the killing of the head of the U.S. appointed Iraqi Governing Council is reverberating throughout the Arab world. The assassination of Izzidin Salim is being viewed from many different perspectives in the Arab world.

Public opinion expert and Egyptian columnist Sa'id Sadek Amin says reaction on the streets of the Arab world will depend on one's political feelings about the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq.

"You have anti-war forces who would always gloat on every failure of stability in Iraq, he said. "They would be very happy whenever any American is killed or Iraqi is killed. They would like destabilization. But, any person who really wanted stability in Iraq and wanted to restore law and order and make Iraq successful would not be happy today."

According to the head of the political science department at Lebanese-American University in Beirut, Sami Baroudi, public sentiment is already generally opposed to the Iraqi Governing Council because it is U.S. appointed.

"So, in one sense, I think people would say that this is basically some kind of just punishment for collaborators," said Mr. Sami Baroudi. "But at the same time, I think people are rational enough to realize that what this is going to do is add to the chaos of Iraq. And, already people are beginning to see that while there are supporters of the resistance against the United States, at the same time I do not think many Arabs wish chaos on Iraq."

There are many scholars and analysts in the region who believe that with each incident of terrorism and militancy in Iraq, the regimes of other Arab countries become increasingly more vulnerable to similar acts of violence. The head of the al-Quds Center for Political Studies in Jordan, Uraib el-Rantawi, is one of them.

"For many of the fundamentalist movements and the terrorist groups among our societies, in particular the political Islam movement, they were encouraged by what is going on there," he said. "And, this will encourage the fundamentalist movement among our society, the political Islam, Muslim Brotherhood, they will raise their demands and voices. This will also encourage Islamic terrorist groups."

Political science professor, Walid Kazziha at American University in Cairo, agrees. He says unrest in Iraq has other Arab leaders deeply concerned about the stability of their own regimes.

"I think what is happening in Iraq may embolden and encourage people in the region to not only serve notice to their leadership but also make some, perhaps, successful threats," he explained. "I think most Arab leaders are witnessing this and are, to a large extent, scared by what is happening."

But Mr. Kazziha also says continuing instability in Iraq could embolden some Arab leaders to take an even tougher line against any opposition. He says they may conclude that if the United States can not bring democracy to Iraq peacefully, they will not have to respond to calls from the West to bring democracy to their own countries.