Saddam Hussein’s death sentence on Sunday evoked satisfaction in countries he invaded, sorrow among his Palestinian admirers and resentment from some Arabs who see him as the victim of a U.S.-inspired show trial.
Kuwaitis, who suffered a seven-month Iraqi occupation in 1990-91, applauded the Baghdad court’s decision that the former Iraqi president should hang for crimes against humanity.
“This is good news,” said Kuwaiti political analyst and former oil minister Ali al-Baghli.
“Saddam deserves to be hanged because of the atrocities he inflicted on his people for the past 35 years and on his neighbors also. He sent millions of people to their deaths.”
Iran said it hoped Saddam, who was convicted over the deaths of more than 148 Shiite men from the Iraqi town of Dujail, would still be brought to book for offences it accuses him of committing during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.
“Saddam’s execution is the minimum sentence that should be issued, but it does not mean that his other crimes, particularly the imposed war, should be ignored,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said ahead of the verdict.
Ali Farhoudi, a 38-year-old veteran of that conflict, expressed a widely held view among Iranians that the noose was too merciful a punishment for the former Iraqi president.
“What I have suffered during the war will never be compensated, even if he is hanged 100 times,” Farhoudi said. Soroush Ramazani, too young at 17 to remember the war, said Saddam deserved to be tortured to death for his crimes.
“Maybe in the afterlife the tortures that God will give him in hell will be a better punishment,” said Hossein Vahidi, 24.
There was sympathy for Saddam, however, among Palestinians who had admired him for defying the United States and for firing missiles at Israel in the 1991 Gulf War. He also sent money to families of Palestinian suicide bombers.
“I am very sad today. Giving the death penalty to the Iraqi president is oppression, it is unfair,” said weeping housewife Najah Jabajy, 30, in the West Bank city of Nablus.
Osama Issa, a 23-year-old tradesman, said: “This is an insult to the Arabs. Saddam committed big mistakes. But look at Iraq today: blood and daily massacres.”
In Baghdad itself, gunmen in two Sunni districts battled U.S. and Iraqi troops shortly after the verdict was read out.
Shiites, the majority now dominating Iraq, swarmed into the streets, yelling in joy that the secular Sunni Arab who oppressed them for three decades is now likely to be executed.
The reactions underscored the deep sectarian divisions in Iraq more than three years after the U.S.-led invasion.
“This is the least Saddam deserved,” said Ali al-Dabbagh, spokesman for the Shiite prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki.
'He’s a fallen leader'
Elsewhere in the Arab world, reaction was muted, even though many view Saddam’s trial as a U.S.-orchestrated mockery.
Mustafa al-Sayyid, political scientist at Cairo University, described the trial as “victor’s justice”, adding: “The law on the basis of which this trial was conducted was not an Iraqi law but a foreign law, imposed by occupation authorities.”
Magdi Mohamed Ahmed, a 51-year-old Egyptian street vendor, decried what he called a “show trial sponsored by America” and said Saddam would die a “martyr for his nation”.
Hilal Khashan, a political science professor at the American University of Beirut, said such sentiments might be common, but that a humiliated Saddam could no longer move Arab masses.
“He is not seen as a hero, he’s a fallen leader who has exited Arab consciousness,” Khashan said.
Baghli, the Kuwaiti analyst, said other Arab leaders should take note of Saddam’s fate and realize their immunity from punishment might not last:
“You don’t know -- one day or another the situation will be upside down, like in Iraq”.