- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 26, 2002

KUWAIT CITY As U.S. troops prepare for war with Iraq, a series of attacks on Americans in Kuwait and elsewhere in the region have sparked fears that even friendly nations are no longer enclaves of safety.
"The thing that is scary, that's different this time, is that it seems more organized," said Felix Reinberg, an American engineer who has spent 11 years working in Kuwait. He spoke just days after two U.S. soldiers were injured in the highway shooting Thursday. "They've never really targeted Americans or Westerners in Kuwait."
The Kuwaiti government, eager to keep good relations with Washington, has portrayed the shooting as the act of a single, mentally ill man, not a reflection of broad anti-American feelings. But local press reports say the suspect, Khaled Shimmiri, told investigators he hated Americans and Jews.
Many here fear the attack Kuwait's second in which American troops were shot will not be the last.
"It's obvious these incidents will happen, and will continue to happen," said Abdullah Sahar, a political scientist at Kuwait University. "Kuwait is a very small society, and this is a very small country, and the Americans are everywhere: You go to the markets and you see Americans, you go on the street and you see Americans, maybe your neighbors are Americans."
Kuwait is, in many ways, emblematic of how complicated America's image problems and security concerns can be in the Middle East.
The vast majority of this oil-rich nation is pro-American, grateful to the U.S.-led coalition that drove out Saddam Hussein's army in the 1991 Persian Gulf war. Thousands of American workers and more than 10,000 U.S. troops have been welcomed.
Even America's harshest critics want those troops to remain though they insist a deep hatred lies beneath the placid surface.
"Most Kuwaitis want America to stay in Kuwait because they don't trust Saddam," said Abdul-Razzak Shayegi, an Islamic law scholar. "But how can I want America to be in Kuwait and shut my mouth about what they are doing in Israel? How can I give America our land to attack Iraq?"
In Jordan, where diplomat Laurence Foley was killed in October as he walked to his car, the U.S. State Department has authorized the departure of nonessential personnel from the U.S. Embassy.
On Saturday, the Peace Corps announced it was suspending operations in the Arab kingdom.
As in Kuwait, there is little open anti-Americanism in Jordan. But many Jordanians share an anger common in the Arab world over U.S. foreign policy particularly U.S. support for Israel.
"I like the Americans, they are nice people and I respect them," said Eva Iffat, 24, an accountant. "But the American administration is the one which has created sentiments of hatred and anger by the Arab people against it."
The most recent incident came in Lebanon on Thursday, when Bonnie Penner, a nurse at a Christian missionary clinic was shot by a gunman who knocked at the clinic door. Lebanese security officials say their investigation is focusing on the possibility that Mrs. Penner's slaying was the result of "mounting anti-American sentiments in the Middle East."
Since September 11, American embassies have sent notices to thousands of expatriate Americans worldwide, warning them to keep a low profile.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide