Arab governments in the Persian Gulf find the U.S. naval presence oppressive at times but do not plan to start opposing it because an American warship shot down an Iranian airliner, diplomats said Saturday.
There also are no signs of a major shift in public opinion in the week since missiles fired by the cruiser USS Vincennes destroyed the Iran Air jet over the gulf, killing all 290 people aboard.Iran reported Saturday that navy divers pulled five more bodies, all men. The bodies were taken to the southern Iranian city of Bandar Abbas for identification. The airliner took off from the city's airport before it was downed.
One body was identified as that of Jamshar Morad Ibrahim, a citizen of the United Arab Emirates, according to an Iranian TV report monitored in Nicosia, Cyprus. Previous Iranian reports said less than 200 bodies had been recovered and only 150 identified. Thirty-eight of the passengers were foreigners.
Some statements by governments and editorial writers criticize the U.S. action for causing loss of life but generally express the view that the culprit is the Iran-Iraq war rather than the United States. The two Persian Gulf neighbors have been at war since September 1980.
Public attitudes appear to reflect that sentiment, said editor Mahbub Jamal Zahedi of the Khaleej Times, a major newspaper in the United Arab Emirates, just across the southern gulf from Iran.
Sympathy for Iran's point of view is perhaps stronger in the Emirates than in any other Arab gulf state. About 150,000 Iranian citizens and many other ethnic Iranians live in the federation, which has close commercial ties with Iran.
"The widespread feeling is that the tragedy should not have taken place," Zahedi said. "It would not have taken place if the war had stopped. As long as the war continues, such things will happen."
Seventeen residents of the Emirates were on the passenger list of last Sunday's Flight 655 from Bandar Abbas across the Strait of Hormuz to Dubai.
Zahedi's newspaper printed a full page, black-bordered "thanks for condolences" ad Saturday signed by a ranking police official of the Emirates, whose father was among the dead.
Khaled Abdul Latif Ahmed, a young Kuwaiti staying at a hotel in Dubai, said the tragedy "made people in the Emirates very angry." When asked whether the U.S. fleet should be withdrawn from the gulf, he replied: "No. But maybe there is a problem between Iran and America."
Most editorials have stressed the need to end the war, but some newspapers took the opportunity to condemn the United States for a Middle East policy built around support for Israel, the universal Arab enemy.
The United States "downed the whole region decades ago," said Al Khaleej, published in the Sharjah emirate.
Many Arab officials say the U.S. military commitment has helped bring stability but they find the Navy's presence sometimes difficult to bear.
On Monday, the day after the Iranian plane was shot down, an Arab diplomat said privately that a broadening U.S. role "can only mean more explosive situations."
A Western diplomat whose territory includes most of the gulf, from Kuwait in the north to Oman on the Strait of Hormuz, said most officials with whom he deals feel the war is to blame for the disaster.