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Anti-US feelings rise in West Asia
Shyam Bhatia in Kuwait |
March 30, 2003 18:20 IST
Saudi Arabia's formal protest against US cruise missiles landing on its territory is indicative of how the war in Iraq is affecting regional sensibilities.
Missiles have also landed in Iran, Syria, [where five bus passengers were killed], Turkey and along the Jordan border [killing a Jordanian student].
Angry villagers stoned US soldiers who tried to retrieve pieces of the missile that landed in Turkey on Saturday.
Concerns that the war is spreading beyond the borders of Iraq have been heightened by US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's statement that Iran and Syria are helping the Saddam Hussein regime.
Rumsfeld told Tehran that it would be held responsible for the actions of hundreds of armed fighters from the Badr Corps, who have crossed into Iraq.
He accused Syria of sending military supplies, including night vision goggles, to Iraq.
US officials fear that the movement of Iraqi and Iranians Shiite members of the Badr Corps into Iraq could further complicate the war effort.
They suspect the Badr Corps of trying to create a zone of influence in Iraq and take control of the oil fields there.
The Badr Corps is the military wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the main Iran-based Iraqi opposition movement.
According to sources, it is a trained fighting force with between 10,000 and 15,000 men.
SCIRI is one of many anti-Saddam groups that make up the Iraqi opposition, which the US has been cultivating up to now.
But because SCIRI is based in Iran, which Bush has named in his "axis of evil" list along with Iraq and North Korea, Washington is trying to maintain distance from the Badr Brigade.
Iranian government spokesman Abdollah Ramazanzadeh dismissed Rumsfeld's warnings, saying, "The Badr Brigade's decisions have nothing to do with Iran. They are independent, like any other Iraqi opposition group.
"Rumsfeld is making propaganda to cover up his lack of success in this war. We won't go into this meaningless war, neither for or against either side."
Rumsfeld's allegation has also prompted an angry reaction from Syria.
Syrian officials claim that they were misled when Damascus became the only Arab member of the UN Security Council to vote for Resolution 1441, which paved the way for the resumption of weapons inspections in Iraq. Syria was told that voting for the resolution would avoid a war, they say.
Despite rivalry between Damascus and Baghdad, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad hopes that the US will fail to oust Saddam.
He has predicted that Washington will become bogged down in Iraq, just as it did in Vietnam.