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March 3, 2004
BAGHDAD, KARBALA BOMBINGS AIM TO PROVOKE 'SECTARIAN CIVIL WAR'

March 3, 2004

BAGHDAD, KARBALA BOMBINGS AIM TO PROVOKE 'SECTARIAN CIVIL WAR'

KEY FINDINGS

** The "barbaric" attacks in Baghdad and Karbala are "most likely" the work of al-Qaida.

** The "clear intention" of the bombings is to spark a "sectarian war."

** Critics hold the U.S. responsible for turning Iraq into a "perfect battleground" for extremists.

** A "race is on" between stabilization and a descent into a "brutal civil war."

MAJOR THEMES

Attacks 'carry al-Qaida's signature'-- Global writers saw "all the hallmarks" of al-Qaida in the "appalling attacks" on Shiite pilgrims in Baghdad and Karbala. "Like a threatening shadow, terror follows every political success in Iraq," a German daily observed. The attacks, motivated by "hatred and fanaticism," revealed "more clearly than ever" al-Qaida's "ruthless and blasphemous" nature. "The beasts that perpetrate these vile crimes...pervert everything that Islam stands for in a mindless orgy of destruction," declared Saudi Arabia's moderate Arab News. "Their religion is chaos and nihilism," said France's Ouest France.

'The script for a civil war'-- Most viewed the bombings as directed not just at the Shia "but also at Iraq's difficult transition to sovereignty." The UAE's expatriate-oriented Gulf News argued that the terrorists are "clearly working to create the right conditions of mutual suspicion and hatred to start a sectarian civil war." Many agreed that "not much is needed" to light the fuse of Iraq's "ethnic-religious powder keg." Avoiding civil war--a "catastrophe" that would have "devastating effects" in the entire region--could depend on Shiite reaction to the "provocation"; if they retaliate, violence "may assume even more frightening proportions."

The 'incautious' U.S. 'uncovered a volcano'-- Critics cited the "inadequacies and illusions" of U.S. pre-war planning for the eruption of Iraq's "ancient rivalries and centuries-old grudges." The problems the Coalition has faced were "predictable--and mostly predicted," stated Lebanon's English-language Daily Star. Citing "unsuccessful" reconstruction, skeptics charged the U.S. had created the "perfect battleground" for Islamic extremists. "The Americans seem almost surprised that Iraq is now a magnet" for Islamic radicals, gibed Belgium's independent De Tijd. A leftist Swedish outlet asserted the U.S. was now "seeking to shirk responsibility for what its war brought about" as quickly as possible through the "earlier very despised UN."

'Iraqis must hold firm'-- Many writers saw "parallel" paths for Iraq--one leading to stability and prosperity, exemplified by agreement on an interim constitution and "the revival of the oil industry," the other to a "time bomb" of "sectarian division." Optimists believed that if the "spirit of compromise" that led to signing the interim constitution--the "first political success of the occupation"--could be "institutionalized," the terrorists' strategy would be defeated. "Bombs... can disrupt this development process of an awakening society, but they cannot stop it," Germany's right-of-center Die Welt maintained. Writers in Canada and Thailand agreed that Iraqis and their "political and religious leaders" must "stay the course" to defend "the prospect of a democratic Iraq."

EDITOR: Steven Wangsness

EDITOR'S NOTE: This analysis is based on 36 reports from 19 countries, March 3, 2004. Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date.

EUROPE

BRITAIN: "The Specter Of Civil War Hovers Over Iraq"

The conservative Daily Telegraph took this view (3/3): "Hard on the heels of Monday's encouraging agreement on an interim constitution comes a devastating reminder of what awaits Iraq if it falls into extremist hands. The failure of the occupying powers to stamp out terrorism raises the question whether the June 30 deadline for the transfer of power to the Iraqis should be put back. The target date fits the American political cycle...but does not necessarily suit the highly volatile situation on the Tigris. The same might be said about Afghanistan, where elections are planned for the middle of the year. In the case of Iraq, despite these incongruities, Washington should stick to its schedule. To postpone would lay Mr. Bush open to charges of being sucked into a second Vietnam. More important, it is essential that the formal occupation of Iraq be ended as soon as possible. If there is one thing on which its deeply divided population can unite, it is hatred of this subject status. Transfer of power does not mean military withdrawal.... Iraq is moving towards sovereignty in a parallel of fearful fascination: on one side, agreement on the interim constitution and the revival of the oil industry almost to pre-invasion levels, on the other, the portents of civil war. There is still everything to play for."

"Deadly Schism"

The conservative Times editorialized (3/3): "The appalling attacks on Shia pilgrims in Iraq...reveal more clearly than ever to the entire Muslim world the ruthless and blasphemous hand of al-Qaida. The suicide bombers...were motivated by a hatred and fanaticism that have appalled all pious Muslims, Shia or Sunni, across the world. The cynical calculation of the bombers was that the fury and grief of the stricken Shias would quickly be turned against Iraqi Sunnis. This in turn would provoke a nationwide civil war and put an immediate end to any American-backed plan for a new constitution and a stable and prosperous Iraq.... But the rest of the Muslim world is keenly alive to the dangers of such sectarian division.... Such sectarianism only adds to the turmoil currently racking much of the Muslim world and makes it hard to bring good and stable government to the Middle East and beyond.... British Muslims will be as disturbed as any others by al-Qaida's brutalities. Relations between Sunni and Shia here are, thankfully, almost exemplary, as they are in many other countries. What the bombers have done, however, is to show that their fanaticism knows bounds neither of humanity nor of religion. They must be defeated, within Islam and by Islam."

"Specter Of Civil War Hangs Over Iraq"

The independent Financial Times judged (3/3): "Yesterday's deadly attacks against Shia pilgrims in Baghdad and Karbala come at a time when Iraqis are showing signs of the sort of compromise needed to prevent the slide into civil war the bombers are trying to trigger.... Yet the Iraqi Shia, sensing they may for the time accede to power commensurate with their numbers, have resisted all provocations. Yesterday, they joined with Sunni leaders to condemn the attacks.... But the compromise--the first political success of the occupation authority in 11 months--postpones rather than resolves important differences on issues such as federalism and the role of Islam in law-making. Still, for the moment the autonomy of the Kurds has been preserved, and the claims of the clerics will be balanced against the full array of democratic freedoms. That spirit of compromise must be extended and institutionalized to have any chance of resisting the many more outrageous attacks that will surely be sent to test it."

FRANCE: "A War of Religion"

Patrick Sabatier held in left-of-center Liberation (3/3): "The carnage of yesterday's attacks in Iraq...confirms that the war did not end with Saddam Hussein's arrest. It has just taken on a different appearance, with different players and different stakes.... It is not yet certain that the Wahabis are responsible, but both the Americans and the Iraqis seem to agree.... The attacks carry al-Qaida's signature. Islamic extremists have found in Iraq the perfect battleground. They can hope to win easy victories, since the only thing they need to do is fuel the existing chaos in order for the Western coalition to be a little more mired or pushed to flee.... Whether a coincidence or a calculated response, the attacks came after the agreement on the Constitution reached between the different Iraqi religious groups. The terrorists are opting for a civil war instead of a return to Iraqi sovereignty. Their job is all the more simple because they are reopening centuries-old wounds. The Shiites and the Sunnis have been waging a war of religion since the seventh century, and not only in Iraq. The attack in Pakistan proves it.... With this massacre against the Shiites on their most sacred of religious days, the terrorists are igniting a time bomb in Iraq and beyond."

"A Divided Islam"

Jean-Christophe Ploquin commented in Catholic La Croix (3/3): "For the Shiites, yesterday was a somber Tuesday, both in Iraq and in Pakistan.... In numerous Muslim countries, the Shiites are considered dividers of Islam, and therefore quasi-traitors of Islam.... In Iraq, the latent tension between the religious factions is ready to explode.... Yesterday's attacks were aimed at the Shiites but also at Iraq's difficult transition to sovereignty.... The Iraqi Shiite strategy in favor of direct elections does not please those who want to plunge Iraq into chaos and who proved, with yesterday's attacks, that they are ready to use any means to reach their goals.... The risk for Iraq, with or without the Americans is that of a civil war."

"Holding Fast In Spite of Terror"

Joseph Limagne observed in regional Ouest France (3/3): "This new wave of terror takes on a special meaning. First because of its magnitude.... Second because it comes on the heels of the encouraging progress reached the day before on the constitution.... No matter how imperfect, the text is the result of a dialogue, opening the way to Iraq's sovereignty. Whoever is behind these attacks wants to sabotage the progress that was made.... The terrorists' religion is chaos and nihilism. For the Americans, the situation has become darker, just when they were beginning to see a glimmer of light.... The most important thing is still to encourage the Iraqis to stay on the road of political reforms. They need our support as well as our trust. They also need help in protecting themselves against the proponents of death and destruction."

GERMANY: "Terrorists"

Dietrich Alexander opined in an editorial in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (3/3): "These perfidious killings are to destabilize the country and provoke a civil war between Shiites and Sunnis.... But the attacks against the Shiite majority do not reveal strength but the helplessness of the terrorists. To attack Muslims on their highest religious holiday does not produce solidarity against the Americans but dismay at the murderers. Those who think that such means are necessary are fighting a losing battle. The Iraqis can now recognize their real enemies: extremists with a dubious agenda, may they call themselves al-Qaida or something else. Organized resistance against the occupiers has ebbed since Saddam's arrest. Attacks on oil pipelines and U.S. soldiers have considerably declined. And the Governing Council has found an agreement on a probably unprecedented constitution in the Arab world. The country has a future and an increasing number of Iraqis are beginning to believe in it. Bombs like the ones from Baghdad and Kabala can disrupt this development process of an awakening society, but they cannot stop it."

"In The Shadow Of Destruction"

Rolf Paasch argued in an editorial in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (3/3): "Like a threatening shadow, terror follows every political success in Iraq.... Here an encouraging success on the path to a democratic Iraq, there the killing of more than 100 people as a macabre sign of the dimension of this task. And this sequence is now threatening to turn into a pattern. The more successful the Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish representatives in the Governing Council, the more desperate the reaction of the profiteers from instability.... The brutal attacks make clear even to the last Iraqi that the dangers to peace and the existence of their state comes from the old regime and from the outside (i.e., al-Qaida)--less from the occupiers. Security will be decisive for Iraq's democratization. Who will protect the mosques in the future? GIs, Shiite militia forces or Romanian soldiers? In this situation, the sensitivity of the occupiers but also the reason of the Shiite leadership is now necessary not to misuse the justifiable need for protection among the people for the establishment of a private army. Instead of following the dates on the election campaign calendar, the U.S. withdrawal will have to follow the requirements for reconstruction in Iraq. Otherwise not only WMD but also the establishment of an Iraqi political order will turn out to be a chimera."

"Bloody Ashura Festival"

Wolfgang Guenter Lerch commented in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (3/3): "The attacks on the three largest Shiite shrines...are a declaration of war not only on Shiites but on all Iraqis. Although internal Shiite rivalries could be the reason, it is more likely that the assassins are of non-Shiite origin. Some suspect that the massive attacks carry the signature of the al-Qaida member Abu Masab Al Zarqawi, particularly because he recently threatened Shiites with new attacks. He wants to punish moderate Shiites supporting the sensible Ayatollah al-Sistani for cooperating with the Iraqi interim council and the Americans.... It might not be a coincident that the attacks happened a day before the American administrator Paul Bremer was to sign the interim constitution.... It cannot be ruled out that not yet captured representatives of the Baath regime logistically and organizationally support the attackers. They have oppressed Shiites brutally for decades and now realize how this Islamic confession sees a renaissance with the help of Americans.... The traditional political and religious rivalry between Sunnis and Shiites in Islam is often underestimated.... It is unlikely that the Americans took all this in to account when the started the war against Saddam in spring. It is now important to protect the positive beginnings of the new order and not to lose touch because of such bloodshed. A civil war between Sunnis and Shiites would be a catastrophe with devastating effects not only on Iraq but the entire region."

"Attack On Unity"

Peter Muench noted in an editorial in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (3/3): "The bombings on March 2 mark a new stage. This was no longer the endemic violence of post-war times, not part of a guerrilla war against an foreign power, no longer terror against the infidels. The victims from Baghdad and Karbala could rather enter the history books as the first people killed in an Iraqi civil war. This perfidiously orchestrated mass murder of Shiite pilgrims is a clearly targeted act of incitement of the people. The criminals and their masterminds, who must probably be sought in the unholy alliance between al-Qaida cadres and former Saddam supporters, are trying everything to spoil peaceful co-existence between the religious and ethnic groups.... For the Shiites, a new era has begun. They were promised democracy and this means that their suppression has come to an end and that power should be in the hands of the majority.... But the bombs convey a different message: the time when the Shiites had to pay dearly is still not over.... Now something could become a reality that was already planned and laid down in writing: the script for a civil war.... Violence is escalating and only with a tour de force will it be possible to prevent even worse developments. On the one hand, Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds must join forces against terror, especially now when terror is about to deepen existing antagonisms. On the other hand, the Americans together with the three ethnic groups must mobilize all forces for peace in Iraq--and this at a time when Washington only thinks about how to withdraw from Iraq."

ITALY: "Let's Not Just Stand There Watching"

Boris Biancheri opined in centrist, influential daily La Stampa (3/3): "Just as a ray of light was shining through, over one hundred Shiites were killed in explosions in Karbala and Baghdad during religious festivities, plunging the country back into the bloodbath that it appeared to be emerging from.... Whether the provisional constitution, which was to be signed at the end of the celebrations, will survive this tragedy remains to be seen.... It's inconceivable for the Americans to leave the country in the immediate future. The UN is the first to discourage them. But despite the opinions regarding past responsibility and on the causes of the present situation, it is just as inconceivable that the other authoritative members of the international community should just stand by watching the massacres that the opposition forces can unleash in Iraq."

"The Volcano Of The Post-War"

Bernardo Valli commented in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (3/3): "It's as if the Americans uncovered a volcano and now this volcano has begun to erupt ancient rivalries, centuries-old grudges, deep-seated fears, as deep as the history of Islam.... These rivalries, grudges and fears are emerging from the entrails of the Middle East, and the 500,000 soldiers of the U.S- led coalition, which incautiously made its way into that land, is not able to hold them back. [The coalition] guards Iraq, but it's unable to control it. They would like to be liberators, but they are seen as occupying forces. In the best of cases, they are seen as intruders.... But what is behind the attacks against the Shiites? The most obvious explanation is that terrorism creates chaos and chaos paralyzes the occupying superpower. It's a simple and efficient objective."

"Civil War Alert"

Alberto Negri judged in leading business daily Il Sole-24 Ore (3/3): "Those who want to destabilize Iraq know where to strike: at the heart of the Iraqi national issue, at the religious, political and cultural opposition that divides the Shiite majority from the Sunnis.... Our world radically changed after September 11, 2001 with the arrival of American and international troops first in Afghanistan and later in Iraq. Western forces intervened in a situation where all the ingredients for chronic instability were already present.... It would have been misleading to believe that Saddam Hussein had control of the situation: he did exercise control, but at the cost of strong repression, with hundreds of thousands of dead.... Under Saddam, Iraq was falling apart, now it's in shambles. It must be reconstructed from its foundations, and naturally at a high cost."

"The Latest Effect Of Bush's Doctrine"

Franco Cardini noted in conservative, top-circulation syndicate Il Resto del Carlino/La Nazione/Il Giorno (3/3): "Iraq is evidently going in the most probable of expected directions--the worst one, towards ungovernability. It is disintegrating and the guerrilla war and violence is becoming more widespread. Perhaps it is on the path to a civil war.... These are the results of Bush's unilateral decision-making and of the foolish race for oil and for dominance of the Near East that has been led by the president's neo-conservative advisers. It's almost too late to make amends."

RUSSIA: "Baghdad And Karbala Are Again In Blood"

Elmar Guseinov and Maxim Novikov wrote in the official Rossiiskaya Gazeta (3/3): "Killing Shiite Muslims on their holy day and in holy places can only be done by fanatic militants from al-Qaida or by the supporters of Saddam Hussein who have never believed in the Almighty. These explosions will cause only an upsurge of hatred on the part of the Shiite majority to those who in this way are trying to combat the Americans. 'The checks before death' is how in chess they call such desperate and senseless moves of a doomed chess player.... With these explosions the supporters of Saddam Hussein and the opponents of the Americans will hardly be able to intimidate the Shiites. The Kurds [and] the Shiites constituted two main communities of the country that were always opposed to Saddam. Both these communities support the establishment of a federal state in Iraq. Now the support that the Shiites were giving openly or indirectly to the Americans will become even more resolute."

"Price Of The Issue"

Gennady Sysoyev opined in reformist business Kommersant (3/3): "The horrible terrorist acts in Karbala and Baghdad will surely cause an explosion of indignation among Iraqi Shiites which threatens Iraq with serious destabilization. To prevent an inter-ethnic explosion, the provisional administration of the country will have to make serious concessions to the Shiites. For instance, to agree with their demand to hold direct elections in Iraq which will actually take Shiites, who constitute 60 percent of the population of the country, to power. So, it happens that the death of hundreds of Shiites may turn out to be profitable to the Shiite radicals. The price of the issue in this case will of course turn out to be colossal because it will be measured in human lives. However, it may not seem overly high for some. Indeed, the goal has been attained."

AUSTRIA: "A Cruel Lesson"

The liberal Der Standard judged (3/3): "Yesterday's terrible events in Iraq are made even worse by their predictability: it was foreseeable that, during the biggest Shiite celebrations, when hundreds of thousands of people flock to their places of worship, those who are intent on destabilizing Iraq would strike. The only--cynical--question that remained open was: when and where it would happen exactly, and how many people would be left dead. It is a cruel lesson in terrorism: in an environment such as that of Iraq, the biggest superpower in the world can't do anything but watch helplessly when the suicide attackers get started. It is too busy trying to protect itself.... The large majority of Iraqis only wants the peaceful coexistence of all ethnic and religious groups. But parts of Iraqi society, which is severely damaged by a decade-long dictatorship, by wars and sanctions, are radicalized--across all ethnic groups and confessions. These parts of the population can be mobilized easily. The fact that the Shiite leaders have so far succeeded in controlling their own young radicals is an impressive indication of just what a strong power of order the religious Shia is. This stronghold of peace was severely shaken on Tuesday."

BELGIUM: "Civil War"

Foreign affairs writer Erik Ziarczyk opined in independent financial daily De Tijd (3/3): "It is a fact that Iraq is the ideal action area for Osama bin Laden's terrorist network. The Americans themselves are responsible for that. The Americans seem almost surprised that Iraq is now a magnet for every radical Muslim with a sense for adventure.... There is major disappointment about what is going on in Iraq. The economic recovery and the reconstruction of Iraq are unsuccessful. That causes tensions, especially among the main ethnic groups.... In such circumstances, not much is needed to ignite the flames. It cannot be denied, the Iraqi resistance is doing its utmost to start a civil war--with or without al-Qaida's support."

"Ethnic Powder Keg"

Foreign affairs writer Maarten Rabaey contributed this to independent De Morgen (3/3): "Clearly, not enough was done to remove the fuse from the ethnic-religious powder keg. Not enough was done to launch a reconciling dialogue between the oppressed Shiite and Kurdish minorities and their former Sunni oppressors. Consequently, it will not suffice for U.S. Administrator Paul Bremer to transfer power to the transitional government, which has already been stigmatized as a Washington 'puppet regime.' The bombers will succeed in finding more unstable souls who are willing to blow up themselves--if the people do not have the feeling that they can control their own future and that there is an alternative to violence. That is why Iraq must be helped by the United Nations during its transitional phase."

CZECH REPUBLIC: "The Evil Plan Works"

Pavel Masa wrote in center-right Lidove noviny (3/3): "Yesterday's bloodshed in Iraq and in Pakistan differed only in 'technical details.' They were evidently initiated from the same source, whose ambition is to pose the Shiites against the Sunnis, the Iraqis against the Americans and the Pakistanis against their own government. The stones [the mob was throwing on the U.S. soldiers in Iraq yesterday] showed that this plan is rather successful. Reinforcing the 'policeman' role of the West in [Arab countries] is not a way of dealing with the devilishly effective tactics of the terrorists. Increasing support for the most endangered countries so that they can deal with the threats themselves would be more efficient. The longer the international forces stay in Iraq, the worse it will get."

IRELAND: "Message Behind Iraqi Tragedies"

The center-left Irish Times editorialized (3/3): "These horrifying attacks are intended to disrupt fledgling democratic politics ahead of the handing back of sovereignty to Iraqis.... Much remains to be worked out in this political transition, notably on the respective roles of the United States and United Nations in organizing and overseeing it. But undoubted progress has been made in recent months.... Neither the surviving Ba'athists nor fundamentalist Sunnis have an interest in seeing Iraq make a successful political transition. Its emerging success has been very much facilitated by the political skills of the Shia religious leader, Ayatollah al-Sistani. He refused to drop the demand for elections before a transfer of sovereignty until there was United Nations confirmation that they are not practicable in the immediate future. The U.S. occupation authority had no option but to meet this condition. In the same way the progressive compromises made in the new basic law reflect a burgeoning political process which must be encouraged and protected from extremism over coming months. Ayatollah al-Sistani yesterday warned that U.S. forces are not providing sufficient security and blamed them for delays in restoring Iraqi police and military forces. Now more than ever he must be listened to."

SWEDEN: "Future Freedom At Stake In Iraq"

Conservative Svenska Dagbladet editorialized (3/3): "An uncertain race for the future is going on in Iraq. In a pessimistic scenario, the murders in Baghdad and Karbala might result in an escalation of violence that runs the risk of turning into a brutal civil war. But another, equally realistic, scenario is the symbolic path of the new constitution: a slow but steady stabilization of the security situation in combination with the development of institutions that will secure democracy and peaceful coexistence.... Much is at stake and more international support and a deeply involved UN are needed. Should the U.S. fail in Iraq, it would also put a stop to the policy that aims at forging democracy in the region (and in addition remove one of the bases of terrorism)."

"Iraq's Deadly Holidays"

Social Democratic tabloid Aftonbladet remarked (3/3): "The militant opposition against the U.S. occupation is practicing a bloody terror strategy that targets not only foreign troops, relief workers, and collaborators within the Iraqi police, but also the native population.... Behind the suicide bombings one can likely find foreign terrorists, who have become more frequent and considerably stronger than during Saddam Hussein's rule.... The conflicts between Iraqi ethnic groups are growing into bloody terror and the population, which suffers great economic and social need, has no elementary security. The U.S. is seeking to shirk responsibility for what its war brought about as soon as possible. The earlier very despised UN now is given primarily responsibility. One year after the outbreak of war, malgovernment and terrorism are pushing Iraq ominously close to a state of civil war."

"Death In Iraq"

Independent, liberal Stockholm tabloid Expressen editorialized (3/3): "The U.S. dream of transforming Iraq into a model democracy in the Arab world appears more and more remote. It is true that Iraq now has a democratic--although provisional--constitution, but the question on how power should be handed over in June is up in the air.... The U.S. is struggling against time in Iraq. The earlier it can hand over at least part of the responsibility to the UN, NATO, and the Iraqis themselves, the greater the chance to save the vision of a democratic Iraq."

"Violence Rules In Iraq"

Independent, liberal Dagens Nyheter opined (3/3): "In Iraq there are forces that oppose every step towards normalization, that attacks fellow countrymen, relief organizations, and American soldiers. The common denominator is to create chaos, and prevent any Iraqi move in the right direction.... It is obvious that the constitution is a step in the right direction. But difficult issues have been woven into the future.... Grand words on a piece of paper are worth nothing unless they are implemented. Still it is all about joint and persistent action by the international community."

MIDDLE EAST

SAUDI ARABIA: "Time For Calm"

The pro-government, English-language Arab News commented (3/3): "Iraqis must hold firm. The beasts that perpetrate these vile crimes will and must be hunted down. It is now increasingly clear that they are a tiny remnant of the old Ba'athists in an unholy alliance with al-Qaida-like extremists who pervert everything that Islam stands for in a mindless orgy of destruction. For Iraqi to strike out now against Iraqi would carry the devastating blasts from Karbala and Baghdad into every Iraqi home and injure all decent citizens, who are the overwhelming majority in Iraq. The terrorists must not be given this victory."

"Bloodshed And Disorder"

Riyadh's moderate, Al-Jazirah editorialized (3/3): "The recent blasts did not exclude any sect in Iraq. Iraqi leaders should work together to stabilize the situation since they are capable of managing their own internal affairs. Steps to accelerate the transformation of governing control should be adopted without hesitation. Justifications to extend the presence of occupying forces in Iraq should stop, because it only complicates the current deteriorating situation. Iraqi leaders should assemble themselves under one umbrella. They should reject internal conflicts and agree on a fair constitution that satisfies all sects in Iraq."

LEBANON: "The Heavy Price Being Paid For Poor Planning In Iraq"

The moderate, English-language Star editorialized (Internet version, 3/3): "The devastating explosions that rocked Iraq Tuesday were clearly the consequence of criminal minds determined to cause death and confusion. They were not the first such terrorist acts and will not be the last, and their cumulative impact will probably not vary much over time. The majority of Iraqis are determined to fight criminal terror, build a new state and remain united. But at another level, the terrible suffering that happened Tuesday...is only making more clear the initial faults in the whole Iraq adventure that was unleashed last year.... Most of the problems that have bedeviled Iraq were predictable--and were mostly predicted: ethnic tensions, religious-secular disputes, federalism, majority rule, minority rights, the role of the U.S., and other such issues. Terrorism and resistance were high on that list, and they are making themselves felt in a very painful way.... The lessons of the violence that bedevils Iraq must remind all concerned that nation-building is not an easy process, and it cannot be done whimsically or on an ad hoc basis.... Nation-building in most parts of the world where national institutions and identities are strong took centuries to succeed. The poor planning that went into the U.S.-run adventure in Iraq assumed that a few months and a show of force with many tanks would do the job. The bombs Tuesday shattered that illusion, along with the calm of two Iraqi cities. The bombs that are certainly now being planned for future events in Iraq will only be averted by a more responsible, intelligent kind of nation-building that draws on the strengths of Iraqis themselves, and minimizes the inadequacies and illusions of poor planners and flawed anticipations in faraway lands."

TUNISIA: "Who Benefits From These Crimes?"

Senior editor Chokri Baccouche wrote in independent French-language Le Quotidien (3/3): "The main question here is who benefits from these series of synchronized attacks that took place in Iraq? The American military spokesmen and head of the Iraqi Shiites point towards al-Qaida.... One wonders if it is a plot against the Shiites, with the purpose of stirring up the flames of conflict between Iraqis and throwing the country into the torments of a civil war, thereby justifying a long time foreign military presence. It is evident that the persons behind these crimes are not angels. They insist upon sowing chaos and launching a fratricidal war, increasing the country's instability and harming its hypothetical reconstruction. The final goal is to make sure that any government allied to the U.S. be prevented from taking power either today or in the future.... One thing that is sure is that the coalition in Iraq is far from winning the security fight and the situation on the ground is becoming increasingly more difficult."

UAE: "Anger, Discontent Still Seethe In Iraq"

The expatriate-oriented, English-language Gulf News commented (Internet version, 3/3): "Whoever was responsible for the bloodletting yesterday is clearly working to create the right conditions of mutual suspicion and hatred to start a sectarian civil war. It is vital that all Iraqis work together to resist that terrible fate. There are far too many unscrupulous people who favor their own ill-considered ends and want to profit from chaos. A responsible and socially complete society can only grow in a calm and peaceful atmosphere, one which will allow Iraqis from all sections of the population to grow together naturally without the unifying force of dictatorship.... The attacks have been condemned by leaders of all Iraqi groupings, as well as throughout the Arab and Islamic world by both Sunnis and Shiites.... The hard work of the governing council has brought about a new draft constitution which was agreed to by all parties. Solid progress is being made as these important steps to creating a stable and successful Iraq are taken. The constitution defines the broad parameters for a new federal system, and gives women a defined and significant role in running the country. All this is anathema to those who want the American-led occupation to fail, and Iraq to plunge into desperate chaos. The way that all Iraqis respond to this tragedy will set the tone as to how Iraq will move forward."

EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC

AUSTRALIA: "Iraq Wavers Between Triumph And Tragedy"

Melbourne's liberal Age editorialized (Internet version dated 3/4): "In news of Iraq, human disaster screams with the power of tragedy.... The deadliest day of violence under U.S.-led occupation showed terrorism has a hold on Iraq, regardless of whether terrorists could be conclusively linked to the prewar regime. Suicide bombers, who had focused on US forces and driven out the United Nations last year, have turned their attention to Iraqis in recent months. This has been widely interpreted as a strategy to foment conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims and destroy plans for democratic government, replacing one rule by fear with another. The reactions of Iraqis are both revealingly ambiguous and reassuring. Those who did not directly blame U.S. forces, indirectly blamed them for creating the conditions that allowed the attacks, a response that underscores the urgency of restoring some sense of Iraqi ownership of their country and affairs. Iraqis must be persuaded the world is acting to help them. That process has begun in earnest, hastened by increasing U.S.-UN cooperation.... Another encouraging sign is that a mood of conciliation between Sunnis and Shiites appeared to survive the slaughter on the day of Ashura.... Even more compelling are the compromises Iraq's power blocs have made in their positions on elections and a transfer of power, and in finalizing an interim constitution this week.... In Iraq and internationally, this resolve to compromise in the interests of political progress while standing firm against terrorism holds the key to the country's future. Its tragedies and challenges are daunting, but a series of achievements tells a story of hope for the new Iraq."

"Slide To Civil War In Iraq"

The liberal Sydney Morning Herald commented (Internet version dated 3/4): "Responsibility for the bloodiest day of violence in Iraq since the U.S.-led occupation began is, in broad terms, hardly in doubt.... The sophisticated planning of the latest blasts...has led American officials to suggest they were the work of al-Qaida.... Without a doubt, murdering Shiites on their Ashura holy day is a sure way to deepen Sunni-Shia division.... Not surprisingly, U.S. security forces are being blamed by Shiite leaders for failing to prevent Tuesday's terrorist blasts. That is hardly fair given the Americans' concern to keep their distance and respect the Sunni worshippers in their sacred places on the day. The Sunnis themselves must take some blame for their failure to take greater care to guard against infiltration of places under their control. Like many terrorist acts, these have among their intended effects the destruction of trust, the heightening of old suspicions and the sowing of discord. The first task now of the U.S.-led occupation authorities and the leading elements of Iraq's several religious and ethnic communities is to come together to restore calm and avert the slide into civil war.... Much good work has been done towards getting Iraq back on its feet. It must not be allowed to be destroyed by terrorism, from any quarter."

THAILAND: "Attacks Must Not Hurt Interim Charter"

The independent, English-language Nation observed (Internet version dated 3/4): "The attacks in the two cities...had all the hallmarks of having been carried out by a terrorist group with a high degree of organizational skills and the expertise needed to cause such dreadful carnage.... Its intention was clear: to cause a sectarian conflict among Iraq's Shiite majority and the Sunni Muslims and ethnic Kurds.... Tuesday's violence reflects a failure by both the international forces and Iraq's fledgling security services to bring peace to the war-ravaged country.... For the time being, members of the [Governing] council appear to be committed to the Herculean task of building post-Saddam Iraq into a democratic and prosperous country with a high degree of social harmony among its sometimes contentious sectarian and ethnic groups.... The Iraqi people must set aside any residual resentment or hatred of their fellow citizens of different sectarian orientation or ethnicity. Such divisiveness was the legacy of the evil Saddam Hussein regime, which must be rejected in its entirety to pave the way for a nation-building process to be participated in fully and equally by all Iraqis. No one...can...guarantee that further attacks by terrorists or incitement to violence by zealous religious or ethnic leaders will not happen again. But the Iraqi people's best hope for a better future now lies with the successful promulgation of the interim constitution, which...guarantees freedom of religious practice and grants special rights to women and a high degree of autonomy for Kurds.... At this juncture in the history of modern Iraq, the political and religious leaders of the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds owe it to their people to stay the course, exercise good sense and remain united in the pursuit of peace, security and national reconciliation."

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

INDIA: "Freedom In Chains"

The nationalist Hindustan Times editorialized (3/3): "Two events that began this week may point to what's in store for Iraqis. If they couldn't have imagined a worse Ashura--one of the holiest Shia ceremonies--when multiple blasts tore through Shia crowds in Baghdad and Karbala, neither could they have foreseen a cruel irony cloaking the bloodbath. For it came just a day after they had a taste of real freedom in 30 years in the form of a caretaker constitution. The interim constitution...is supposed to lead to a new government in Baghdad. Besides giving signal representation to women in the new parliament, the document guarantees free speech and religious expression, and is key to U.S. plans to hand over power to Iraqis by the end of next June.... Council members have worked out a compromise formula, which makes Islam a source of legislation, albeit not the only one. But the Kurdish issue appears to have been left hanging. The ersatz Constitution endorses the Kurds' autonomy, and leaves it to a new government in Baghdad to decide the exact nature of Kurdish self-government. This may not delight the Kurds, but under the circumstances this is perhaps the best deal they could have hoped for."

WESTERN HEMISPHERE

CANADA: "Don't Let The Attacks Halt Iraq's Rebuilding"

The leading Globe and Mail editorialized (Internet version, 3/3): "One of the risks cited by critics of the war in Iraq was that the country would disintegrate without Saddam Hussein's iron fist to maintain order--that it would fragment along religious and ethnic lines and become a quagmire of sectarian violence. Yesterday's horrific attacks on Shia Muslims on one of their holiest days offered a glimpse of what that kind of future might hold. At the same time, however, there were encouraging signs amid the rubble and bloodshed--signs that members of the Iraqi Governing Council and other key groups are determined not to let such attacks derail the process of creating a democratic government for Iraq. They appeared to see them for what they almost certainly are: an attempt to destabilize the country at a crucial time by inciting a bloody religious war.... After yesterday's carnage, several members of the Governing Council, including both Sunni and Shia representatives, spoke out against what they said was an obvious attempt to derail the progress of constitutional discussions.... Religious divisions that are more than 1,400 years old may be impossible to overcome entirely, but the prospect of a democratic Iraq is too important to let it be overtaken so easily. If anything, the recent attacks are evidence that terrorist forces are becoming increasingly desperate as that prospect comes closer to reality. Iraq must stay the course."

BRAZIL: "Iraq Vs. Iraq"

Liberal Folha de S. Paulo editorialized (3/3): "Everything indicates that the intention of the perpetrators [of yesterday's attacks against Shiite Muslims in Iraq] is to launch a large-scale civil war. In addition to causing physical destruction, the attacks against Shiite mosques had a symbolic aggression.... The barbaric attacks, almost certainly carried out by Sunnis, have demonstrated that fanaticism is not the prerogative of Shiites or Sunnis. What remains to be seen is how the Shiites will respond.... If they retaliate against the provocation--most likely the work of al-Qaida--violence in Iraq may assume even more frightening proportions."

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