The Republican victories in U.S. midterm elections drew expressions of concern today from people in many foreign countries that a triumphant and less-fettered Bush administration will have a green light to wage war against Iraq.
Other people, noting that both houses of Congress had already given President Bush the authority to commit U.S. forces against Iraq, dismissed the results as having little effect on the outlook for war. But other foreign voices welcomed the outcome, saying it could help Bush solve specific problems between their countries and the United States.
Arab political analysts said they feared that GOP control of both houses would lead to fewer checks on policies toward Iraq and Israel. "The first reaction is not positive," said Abdel Monem Said Aly, director of the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. "To consolidate this administration with a majority in both houses tells us we probably will not get the most wise decisions from Washington in the next few years."
An Arab diplomat in Cairo said he worried that the Democrats' loss of the Senate would mean "a green light for invading Iraq."
In Kuwait, where hatred of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein runs deep because of the Iraqi invasion in 1990, Fouad Hashem, a columnist for the newspaper al-Watan, said he was overjoyed with the GOP's success. "The news made me very, very happy," Hashem told the Associated Press. "Now we just have to count the days for when the Iraqi people and the whole area will be saved."
Officials in Israel said the elections would make little difference.
In Germany, where relations with the Bush administration have been chilly in recent months over the Iraq issue, Bela Anda, spokesman for Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, said, "Naturally the chancellor will congratulate the president in an appropriate manner."
Bush had pointedly not congratulated Schroeder on his reelection victory in September because of the perceived anti-American tone of the campaign, in which the German leader vehemently opposed military action against Iraq. Some German officials are hoping Bush will accept a congratulatory phone call from Schroeder, which would be the first time the two leaders have talked since the German elections.
Another Schroeder aide expressed concern that the results will reaffirm positions that many people in Europe oppose. "The likelihood that the American president will feel even more self-confident about his own views than prior to the election is great," Karsten Voigt, Schroeder's coordinator on U.S. affairs, told the Reuters news agency. "I think he needs to convince Europeans. And so far as military action [in Iraq] is concerned, he has not convinced the Germans -- yet."
Other European officials depicted the vote as a purely internal American affair, with little relevance to foreign affairs in general and Iraq specifically. "Bush seemed to be going ahead, whatever the election's results," said an official in the Italian Foreign Ministry.
In London, officials of Prime Minister Tony Blair's government, which has been Bush's strongest foreign supporter, said they did not believe the results meant war was inevitable. They cited Washington's support for a new U.N. Security Council resolution on weapons inspections in Iraq as demonstrating the administration's commitment to first seeking a diplomatic solution.
Others were less sanguine. Robert Worcester, chairman of the London-based MORI polling company, said he attended a private luncheon here at which politicians, business people and journalists "were unanimous in expressing worry because of President Bush's perceived lack of understanding or consideration for European public opinion and sensibilities."
Neither Bush's politics nor his personal style translates well outside the United States, Worcester said: "They don't like Texans, they don't like oil people, they don't like Stetson hats and cowboy boots. His whole approach just alienates them. And this result just increases their fears."
Some foreign officials and analysts suggested that Bush's triumph would give him greater freedom on other issues as well. Russian, Canadian and Mexican commentators said they hoped the president would now ease trade restrictions on their countries, and Mexicans said he might be less reluctant to reform immigration policies.
"I think it helps Mexico, because now President Bush will have an easier hand in doing what he wants to do," said political analyst Sergio Sarmiento. "He can't say now that he can't change immigration law because of the Democrats."
Correspondents John Ward Anderson in Jerusalem, Rajiv Chandrasekaran in Cairo, Peter Finn in Berlin, Kevin Sullivan in Mexico City and Daniel Williams in Rome contributed to this report.