The idea that Arab opinion is monolithic has just received a shattering blow. A Kuwaiti daily newspaper has published a series of articles startlingly critical of Syria, French President Jacques Chirac’s favorite-of-the-week. The all-out editorial attack on Syria by a pro-Kuwait government paper comes at a time when Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has been warned, sweetly by Secretary of State Powell, harshly by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld to get out of the Baath-tub and consider the looming possibility of “regime change.” No American official, from President Bush down, would dare say the things that this Arab daily has written about Syria including accusing President al-Assad and his family of personal corruption. Nor would any American official dare say publicly that Syrian leaders are “leading the Syrian people to suicide.”
The articles, written by the editor of the Kuwaiti daily, Ahmad Al-Jarallah, start with this headline: “If Syria Follows Iraq ‘s Example, It Will Share Iraq’s Fate.” Interestingly, the writer criticizes the U.S. and the Coalition in the first Gulf War in 1991 for not having continuing on to Baghdad and overthrowing the Saddam regime. Writes Mr. Al-Jarallah: “Now there are critics who are saying, ‘You liberated the Iraqi people, why didn’t you complete the mission and liberate the Syrian people?’ ” Obviously, if the writer is reflecting Kuwaiti government opinion, Kuwait would welcome Syrian regime change, by force if necessary.
Another article, titled “More Criminal than Saddam Hussein” is extraordinary in its violent language to describe Syria:
This regime is identical to the regime of Saddam Hussein. The two regimes are the two faces of the same coin. This regime established a party that claimed, in its sources and its principles, to be the party that defends freedom, human rights, national dreams, and pan-Arab hopes…Yet after the party seized control and established the regime, it quickly cut itself off from its principles…The Syrian regime is built in the image of the collapsing Saddam regime. It is no different from it at all. The morality and behavior of its members differ not one whit from the morality and behavior of the Saddam regime…The men of the regime and their cronies spread corruption and humiliate and torture the people.
Kuwait, of course, was the casus belli in 1991 after Saddam Hussein invaded neighboring Kuwait and committed unbelievable atrocities. And had it not been for American intervention there would be no Kuwait today. The Kuwaiti government looks upon Syria as an enemy country.
The articles in Al Siyasa, which ran between April 15 and 19, have been translated by the Middle East Research Institute.
— Arnold Beichman, a Hoover Institution research fellow, is a columnist for the Washington Times.