Sunday, January 30, 2011

Some Iraqis say Tunisian & Egyptian protests inspired by fall of Saddam

'BAGHDAD: Iraqis on Saturday welcomed the revolt in Egypt that threatens to topple President Hosni Mubarak, with some claiming the tremors shaking Arab rulers had begun with the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

"Saddam was their teacher, and all of these dictators are his little pupils," declared Hussein Mohammed, taking a break from loading boxes of imported toys into a truck.

"The dictator (Mubarak) must leave -- all dictators must go," the 55-year-old added, noting that he stayed up until 4:00 am listening to the radio for news from Cairo.

"From Morocco to Saudi Arabia, we Arabs want all dictators out."

Other Iraqis remained glued to their television sets throughout the day, with electronics store owner Maher Minjal tuning four televisions to different Arabic news channels reporting events in Egypt.

"The fuse was lit by Iraq, because we became the first Arab country to achieve democracy and get an elected government," said Minjal, 28, from his store in Baghdad's commercial Karrada district.

"If the regime in Egypt falls, all other Arab regimes will fall, because Egypt is the biggest and most powerful country in the Arab world."

Anti-regime riots that raged Saturday for a fifth straight day in Egypt, inspired by the overthrow of Tunisian strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali earlier this month, have sent shockwaves across the region.

At least one Iraqi political analyst agreed with the assessment that Iraq had begun a process that seemed to be spreading across the Middle East.

"It is absolutely true that (former US president George W.) Bush was right when he said that democracy in Iraq would sweep through the Arab world," Baghdad-based analyst Ihsan al-Shammari said.

"In fact, Iraq was the first democratic regime in the region, but we are different from Egypt and Tunisia in that we were changed by foreign forces (the US-led coalition) and they are being changed by popular uprisings.

Iraq's al-Mashriq newspaper pejoratively referred to Mubarak as a "Pharaoh," and said the day of reckoning had come for a leader who had been a friend to the enemies of Arabs, which it said were Israel and the United States.

"The American ally and the friend of Israel has been ruling Egypt since 1981, but the ground is shaking beneath the feet of the Pharaoh," the Arabic-language newspaper said in an editorial.

Read more: Egypt, Tunisia inspired by Saddam's fall: Iraqis - The Times of India

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