London, April 10 (Reuters): Concerns about Iraq’s future and where the US might next unleash its awesome military might tempered widespread relief today that Saddam Hussein’s grip had fallen away so easily.
His 24-year reign appeared to have ended yesterday when US troops swept into the heart of Baghdad and jubilant Iraqis danced on a toppled statue of their ousted leader.
But relief in many countries that Baghdad had fallen without a bloodbath mingled with mistrust of the US in parts of Europe and Asia, shock and anger across West Asia, and barely concealed satisfaction in Israel.
Some wondered whether President George W. Bush, emboldened by military success, would turn his attention to other nations Washington has accused of pursuing weapons of mass destruction.
Syria, Iran and Libya have all drawn US censure, along with North Korea.
The New York Times said the collapse of government authority in Baghdad “constitutes the high-water mark for a new American determination to use the nation’s military might to project its power around the world”.
Prince Hassan of Jordan told the BBC: “There are jitters throughout the region about the possibility of (US) threats to Syria and possibly Iran resulting in the domino effect.”
That view was echoed even in Britain, the US’ staunchest European ally and its partner in the Iraq war.
“This unprecedented show of US offensive power sends a daunting message. Who knows which way the Abrams tank barrels will swivel next'” the left-leaning Guardian newspaper asked.
Israeli defence minister Shaul Mofaz hammered home his government’s wish that the US-led war on Iraq would not only eliminate one of Israel’s sworn enemies but also chasten Palestinian militants into laying down their arms.
“I hope that in the era after the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime, the Palestinians will understand that the world has changed,” he said.
France, a vociferous opponent of the conflict, said “bravo” to the end of the war and fall of Saddam Hussein.
A statement issued in the name of President Jacques Chirac said: “France, like every democracy, welcomes the fall of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship, and hopes there will be a rapid and effective end to the fighting.”