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Barbara Plett reports from Baghdad
"The general perception in Iraq is that America rules the world"
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Wednesday, 21 February, 2001, 15:06 GMT
Eyewitness: Iraqi anger
Street protests soon followed the raids
Street protests soon followed the raids
Barbara Plett in Baghdad gauges the strength of feeling following the bombing of targets near the Iraqi capital.

It is late afternoon and Salah Mohammed and his friend, Marah Hamdi, are playing video games. I'm not sure who is winning but they pause politely to talk about the Friday bombing.

"My first thought was to take revenge against those who attacked us," said Marah.

Distract attention

Salah, an electrical engineer, adds that he expected nothing less from an enemy but it wasn't a very constructive way to make a point.

"I'm not surprised but why? I ask why?" he said. " If they want anything, if the United Nations want anything, tell us. But why?"

A woman chants anti-Western slogans in Baghdad
A woman chants anti-Western slogans in Baghdad
I point out that the UN has been saying a lot about an unresolved issue over weapons of mass destruction but he dismisses that - they have been dismantled, he says.

His opinion is that the US wants to distract world attention from the Palestinian uprising against Israel.

In another venue for older men, a traditional coffee shop ringing with the sound of domino games and hazy with pipe smoke, Kheis Janabi is a playwright having a cup of tea before he heads home.

'Silent partner'

"The attack was unexpected because there was no obvious tension between Iraq and the US," he says.

"We had hoped that there would be some change with the new American administration, but that's not the case and the Iraqis are very disappointed with George W Bush."

Abdul Zarah Dawarwi works at the Oil Ministry. He tells me he lives a kilometre away from the bomb site.

Saddam Hussein stares out from a poster in the Iraqi capital
Saddam Hussein stares out from a Baghdad poster
But the government has not talked about the extent of the damage so he won't either.

Like many here, he thinks Israel was the silent partner in the attack, pushing Britain, and especially its close ally America, to get tougher with Iraq.

"USA and the British, with Israel - they want to destroy any strong Arab country. Well, they found that Iraq has become strong," he said.

So a resurgent Iraq threatening the regional balance and international interests that needs to be cut down to size? It's clear to poet Jihad Mufsen.

He said it was well known that American policy is based on national interests - in Iraq's case oil - so the US does what it can to make Baghdad weak.

Big change

He did think, however, that the strong international condemnation of the attack was significant.

"We believe that these denunciations of the American aggression represent a big change," he said.

"This is very much to our advantage. We don't think the Europeans are only saying words. They believe in what they are saying.

"The denunciations mean the whole world has now recognised the injustice to the Iraqi people."

Some Iraqis feel the attack will undermine forthcoming talks with the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan - a recent move towards dialogue as a solution to the dispute.

One told me though that such efforts were a waste of time.

It will never work, he said. Iraq sees the issue in black or white - lift the entire sanctions or nothing. There is no room for compromise.

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See also:

20 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Iraqi sanctions under review
19 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Iraqi raids 'self-defence'
20 Feb 01 | Middle East
Iraq strikes timed to 'avoid Chinese'
17 Feb 01 | Middle East
Iraq defiant as allies strike
17 Feb 01 | Middle East
Iraqi press calls for revenge
17 Feb 01 | Middle East
Little support for Iraq attack
16 Feb 01 | Middle East
Analysis: A tougher line?
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