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Thursday, 6 June, 2002, 15:06 GMT 16:06 UK
New US security measures anger Arabs
Muslims at prayer
Saudis say the plans are unfair to Arabs and Muslims

America's latest security precautions will not make it any safer, in fact they may make matters worse, according to Arabs both in the Middle East and the United States.


Arabs did not expect this backlash from a country that considers itself the harbinger of justice and democracy

Dubai's police chief
On Wednesday US Attorney General John Ashcroft announced plans to fingerprint and photograph thousands of visitors, focusing on those from the Middle East.

The plans have been denounced by civil rights groups as racist.

In the United Arab Emirates, Dubai's police chief was quoted on Thursday in the local paper Gulf News as saying that Arabs are shocked by the way Muslims and Arabs are being vilified and targeted in the US.

"Arabs did not expect this backlash from a country that considers itself the harbinger of justice and democracy," the paper quoted him as saying.

Accusations of bias

The Arab world has broadly rejected any connection between Islam and the attacks of 11 September.

In Saudi Arabia - where most of the 19 suicide hijackers came from - government officials persisted for months with a theory that "another power" - not al-Qaeda - was behind the attacks.

Today many Saudis and other Arabs resent Washington's new security measures as being unfair.

11 September attacks
There are fears of more attacks like those on 11 September
They say it is further evidence of US bias against Muslims and Arabs.

Almost inevitably, this feeling will feed through into the mosques and cafes where it will build on the brooding anti-US resentment felt by so many young Arabs.

Moderate Arab governments, who are themselves obsessed with security, may well understand Washington's paranoia, but their people do not.

More worryingly for the US Government though, is the fear that whatever measures it takes now may be too late to save it from further attack.

Saudi sources have told the BBC that al-Qaeda operatives had laid their plans for a new attack on the US even before 11 September.

They say the new measures will have no effect on those plans.

Race against time

The frightening truth for US security officials is that almost whichever way they turn, al-Qaeda appears to be one step ahead of them.

They never saw the East Africa embassy bombings of 1998 coming, nor the attack on the USS Cole in 2000.

By the time US troops got on the ground in Afghanistan in force last winter, members of al-Qaeda had largely melted across the border into Pakistan.

The revelations now coming out of the Senate Intelligence Committee hearings in Washington point to a monumental failure of US intelligence over 11 September.

Yes, there is a shake-up going on, yes, there is a recruitment drive for specialists. But these measures, like the fingerprinting and profiling of visitors, will take time to yield results.

And time may not be on America's side.


Key stories

European probe

Background

IN DEPTH
See also:

06 Jun 02 | Americas
22 Jul 02 | Americas
03 Jun 02 | Americas
09 Apr 02 | Americas
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