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Updated: 17-Mar-2004

SHAPE News Summary & Analysis

17 March 2004

  • German anti-terror mission in Mediterranean to be extended until June
  • NATO vows solidarity against terror after Madrid bombings


  • Spain PM-elect firm on Iraq withdrawal


  • European distrust of U.S. role sharpens


  • Five persons reported killed as Serbs, Albanians clash in northern Kosovo


  • The anti-terror mission of the German Navy in the western Mediterranean will be extended until the end of June, reported Deutschlandfunk. The program quoted a Defense Ministry spokesman saying that with this decision, the German forces are complying with a request by NATO. The broadcast added that a contingent consisting of speed boats and a supply ships would leave the port of Rostock Warnemeunde on April 8. The approximately 200 soldiers are to cut off supply routes of terrorists to Europe and accompany ships through the Strait of Gibraltar, it continued.

  • According to Reuters, NATO nations vowed Wednesday to stand united against terrorism after last week’s Madrid bombings, though officials said the Alliance was not invoking its mutual defense clause as it did after the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States. Diplomats reportedly said Spain had not sought recourse to Article V. It adds that some argue, in theory, it is still active. The dispatch quotes NATO saying in a statement: “The North Atlantic Council … meeting today in its first regular session after the barbaric terrorist acts … expressed its full solidarity with the Kingdom of Spain…. NATO countries, and indeed all countries that share our values of freedom, tolerance and democracy, must win the battle against terrorism. Solidarity is and remains the essence of our Alliance.”


  • According to BBC News, Spanish Prime Minister-elect Zapatero told Spanish radio Onda Cero Wednesday his position on withdrawing troops from Iraq was unchanged, despite an appeal from President Bush. “My position is the same. The occupation is a fiasco. There have been almost more deaths after the war than during the war. The occupying forces have not allowed the United Nations to take control of the situation,” Zapatero reportedly said. The broadcast noted that Bush urged America’s allies Tuesday to stick together in the “war on terrorism,” saying Al Qaeda wanted to defeat “freedom and democracy” in Iraq. It added that a White House spokesman cautioned Spaniards and others against sending a “terrible message” by letting terrorists influence their elections and policies. A related article in The Daily Telegraph stresses, however, that the White House’s comments were softened by hints that Washington might propose a fresh UN mandate in Iraq, answering a major demand of new Spanish leader. According to the newspaper, the White House spokesman welcomed the “vital role” to be played by the UN in Iraq, adding that a new UN resolution before the handover of sovereignty in June “is something that certainly would be looked at.” Alternatively, he said, Washington was “willing to consider ideas for updating” the existing resolution authorizing Iraq’s multi-national occupation forces.


  • The International Herald Tribune reports a new survey of international opinion by the Pew Research Center, taken before the Madrid attacks and released Tuesday, found that a year after the Iraq war began, Europeans’ discontent with the United States and its policies had intensified, not diminished. According to the newspaper, the survey found European distrust of the U.S. has intensified, with sharp doubts among America’s closest allies of the Bush administration’s motives in the war on terror. The poll reportedly showed that the transatlantic confidence gap has deepened since a Pew survey carried out in the immediate aftermath of the war, when public ire over the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was still hot in Europe. The dispatch quotes Francois Heisbourg, director of the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris, saying that alienation is increasing in Europe “because there’s been no give on the Bush side…. There is a widespread perception in Europe that we have the choice of being treated as a vassal … or being treated as an antagonist.” The newspaper adds the survey found that in foreign policy in general, the view that the United States acts unilaterally is more widespread now than at the war’s end. In France, 84 percent said they felt the United States did not take their country’s interests into account in international policy decisions, up from 76 percent last May. Similar strong feelings were expressed by Turkey (79 percent), Russia (73 percent) and Germany (69 percent). According to the article, the survey found that “the transatlantic chasm” in thinking translated into desire in Europe for looser ties with the United States in security and diplomatic affairs. Majorities in France (75 percent), Germany (63 percent), Turkey (60 percent) and Britain (56 percent) said Europe should be more independent.

Claiming that “Europe and the U.S. are now adrift,” Martin Jacques, a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics Asian Research Center, writes in The Guardian that the Madrid bombings confirm the huge impact the Iraq war has had on transatlantic relations.
Jacques says: “Indeed rarely has a terrorist attack proved so effective in persuading public opinion to move in the perpetrators’ desired direction…. If it had been during the Cold War, the effect would have been the opposite. Now, though, we are in a completely different magnetic field: even though no one is quite sure what forces constitute the field…. European politics is going somewhere very different from what we have been familiar with for so long. Western European opinion is now adrift from, and inimical toward, the United States. It … abhors Israeli behavior and it therefore unsympathetic toward U.S. policy on the Middle East…. The gulf that opened up between European and U.S. popular opinion over Iraq could end up as a chasm over the Middle East too.”

A commentary in Sueddeutsche Zeitung argues meanwhile that western disunity on terror would serve Al Qaeda’s aims.
The article says: “An opinion that is now taking hold is that the Spanish government was punished by the voters for the pact it made with President Bush. The argument goes on to claim that only those who keep the United States at arms’ length will now themselves become targets of Al Qaeda. In other words, a security strategy tantamount to: ‘Keep your heads down, and keep quiet!’ The effect of this stance would be for Al Qaeda to have brought about, one year later, the very rift in the Atlantic Alliance which it suddenly seemed might divide the western community when the war was launched. Despite the persuasive simplicity of this argument, it is a perilous one. It would lead the West into a deep crisis, as it would imply the acceptance of the terrorists’ logic, and have given a victory to Islamist totalitarianism. The result would not be more security, but more threats, since Al Qaeda … would feel boosted to undertake further acts of murder.” The article warns that the election verdict in Spain is an alarming development for democracy as it was ultimately dictated by Al Qaeda’s bombs. The West—primarily the United States—must devise a common analysis of the threat, and a strategy to counter terror that are shared by the majority. If the West is disunited over the strategy, then Al Qaeda will have the power to use its bombs to split alliances and societies, the article stresses.


  • According to AP, five people were reported killed and dozens of other wounded in Kosovo Wednesday in an outbreak of violence provoked by reports that two ethnic Albanian youths who drowned were trying to escape angry Serbs. The dispatch quotes hospital personnel on the Serb and ethnic Albanian sides of Mitrovica saying two ethnic Albanians had died, apparently of gun shots, and three Serbs also were shot to death. The dispatch adds that in a separate hotspot, near Pristina, hundreds of ethnic Albanians broke through barricades erected by UN police and NATO-led peacekeepers to march on the Serb village of Caglavica. The dispatch stresses that the violence is a blow to UN and NATO officials running the province and struggling to get ethnic Albanians and minority Serbs to live together in peace.


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