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Foreign Media Reaction

January 7, 2005

IRAQ: HOLDING ELECTIONS 'PROBLEMATIC,' POSTPONING THEM 'EVEN WORSE'

KEY FINDINGS

** Elections "a race against time" between Iraqis "yearning for freedom" and those who fear it.

** Majority of analysts argue Iraq should "press on" with poll as scheduled despite "chaos."

** Citing violence, Sunni boycott, critics say not delaying vote is "sheer blindness."

MAJOR THEMES

'No choice' but to hold poll-- Those in favor of proceeding with the Iraqi election Jan. 30 judged that a delay would be "devastating" and be interpreted as "a victory" for the insurgents. Though it "is certain" that Iraq "will not calm down" by election day, changing the date "would not simply be an admission of defeat but would embolden the terrorists." While the elections "will be everything else but perfect" they offer "a chance that should be seized." Canada's leading Globe and Mail asked why "proponents of delay think security will improve in future if the foes of democracy triumph now?" A German daily agreed, arguing those counseling delay offer no more than a "vague hope" the security situation will improve. A leftist British daily, usually highly critical of U.S. policy in Iraq, concluded that "the sooner [the election] gets under way the better," since "forming a legitimate government" should blunt the insurgency's support.

'Two grim alternatives'-- Other writers confessed to be of two minds, confronting the same "tough choice" they perceived the coalition and IIG to be facing. Iraqis will need to demonstrate "exceptional courage" to vote in the face of "terrorist blackmail." The assassination of Baghdad's governor has "renewed fears surrounding the viability" of the elections even as the majority Shiites "are losing their patience." Portugal's moderate-left Público judged that delaying the election "doesn't guarantee that some months from now there will be better conditions" for holding them, but not postponing them could lead to "radical Shiites with ties to Iran" taking power. Some of these conflicted editorialists decided that on balance the poll should be put off or the question of timing reviewed by the UN; most, though, seemed to conclude, as did a Spanish daily, that a postponement "would resolve nothing."

Elections will fail to 'pacify,' prompt worse ethnic tension-- Skeptics argued that the idea of elections "in a state close to panic and where voting is equivalent to risking one's life" was "simply unimaginable" and denied an election delay would reward terrorists. Brazil's conservative O Globo asserted that putting off the vote "doesn't mean giving in" but "merely...recogniz(es) the complexity of the situation." Critics held that the election "will not fully reflect the national will" if Sunnis boycott the vote, rendering the poll illegitimate and increasing the prospect of civil war. A Hong Kong analyst criticized PM Allawi for "stubbornly" adhering to the U.S. "line" of proceeding on schedule, adding "any claim of a democratic process will be a sham" without full Sunni participation. Pakistan's center-right Nation bluntly declared the elections "will not deliver stability or peace" to Iraq "mainly because a large section of the population sees the quisling government as a collaborator."

Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, rmrmail@state.gov

EDITOR: Steven Wangsness

EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 55 reports from 27 countries January 2-7, 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.

EUROPE

BRITAIN: "Vote Against Violence"

The left-of-center Guardian editorialized (1/7): "Iraq faces many bad and difficult choices, and this is the biggest of them. The balance tops towards the argument that the election is the start of a long process, so the sooner it gets under way the better. Forming a legitimate government should blunt opposition to the occupation, the main spur to the insurgency. Remedies may be found for the absence of Sunnis by ring-fencing seats for them and staggering voting times in areas like Ramadi, Mosul, and parts of Baghdad--powerful testimony to the damaging errors of Donald Rumsfeld's occupation-lite and nation-building on the cheap. Astonishingly, the U.S. is still refusing to guard polling stations, leaving that to the fledgling Iraqi security forces. But the election should go ahead, on time, as planned."

"Delaying Iraq Poll Is A Bad Idea"

The independent Financial Times took this view (1/6): "Getting through this month--and after--will require exceptionally strong nerves. Ordinary Iraqis of all persuasions will also be required once again to demonstrate exceptional courage. As they do so, they should not be let down by a postponement lobby that--in parts of the U.S. administration and among Iraq's Sunni Arab neighbors--cannot stomach the idea that members of Iraq's Shia majority will almost certainly win the election. That is part of what democracy is about."

"Ballots And Blood"

The conservative Times editorialized (1/5): "For the moment, it is right to stick with the January 30 date. To move it would not simply be an admission of defeat but would embolden the terrorists. There is no guarantee that deferring the poll for three or four months would by itself make it any easier to conduct the election. A second postponement, or a contest that was held but regarded as an absolute shambles, would be devastating. Furthermore, the independent Iraqi Electoral Commission is today performing an heroic task in difficult conditions. It is understandably determined to complete its work as currently scheduled."

"Into The Abyss"

The conservative tabloid Daily Mail commented (1/5): "The situation is so out-of-control that President Ghazi-al-Yawar is putting pressure on Britain and America to postpone the January 30 vote. But if that happens, elections may never be held. And the coalition would have no chance of a negotiated withdrawal, because there would be nobody to negotiate with.... Having launched a recklessly ill-judged war supposedly to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq, the British and U.S. governments preside over ungovernable chaos. Have the architects of this debacle the faintest idea what to do next?"

"A Deadly Lie"

The center-left tabloid Daily Mirror judged (1/5): "President Bush and Tony Blair insist there are only a few rebels in Iraq.... Yet the head of Iraq's intelligence service has revealed there are now 200,000 deadly fanatics loose in his country--comfortably outnumbering U.S. and British forces.... Now there is talk of postponing the election due on January 30. Though that would be a humiliating political disaster for Mr. Bush and Blair.... But there is no easy way out for them or, more important, the Iraqi people.... They can't say there weren't enough warnings about their reckless invasion."

FRANCE: "Illusion"

Patrick Sabatier observed in left-of-center Liberation (1/6): "It will be much more difficult to put an end to the suffering of the Iraqis caught in the war than to the suffering of the survivors of the tsunami. President Bush is no longer talking about bringing democracy to Iraq or about rebuilding that country. His goal is to withdraw his troops from the quagmire he sent them to, but without conceding defeat in the face of a 'national Islamic' Iraqi resistance he cannot break. The January 30 elections were supposed to offer a way out, with the 'Iraqization' of the local government. This solution may be cut short by the intimidation techniques used by terrorist groups. It is not totally certain at this point whether the elections will take place. And if they do, it is even less certain whether they will serve any purpose.... There is no other conceivable end to this war than the implementation of a regime that fully represents all Iraqis and is able to secure the country all the while freeing it from foreign occupation. But organizing elections in a country at war, without any international control, with one fifth of the population excluded from voting by either terror or through a boycott, will result in a regime that will be considered to be illegitimate by the Sunnis, and therefore threatened by civil war. In such a case the elections will be nothing other than an illusion."

"Terrorist Threats On Elections"

Renaud Girard argued in right-of-center Le Figaro (1/5): "Insecurity in Iraq continues to worsen.... It appears that the anti-American insurgents who are being recruited essentially from the Sunni community are increasing their military efforts in order to derail Iraq's elections. Insecurity in Baghdad is such that it is difficult to imagine how UN observers may be able to do their job. The newly trained Iraqi police and army which are not very motivated, poorly trained and often infiltrated by Islamic terrorist organizations, do not appear to be in a position to bring back security to Iraq. The Americans rarely come out of their protected zones, which has the advantage of limiting U.S. casualties but the inconvenience of creating a climate of insecurity which may lead to a high degree of abstention."

"Transatlantic Quarrels On The Wane"

Alexandre Adler wrote in right-of-center Le Figaro (1/5): "The Americans may have triggered a chain reaction with the election season in the Arab world, either because they are foolhardy or because they believe in a higher morality.... After the elections a new era will begin. This may be the time for the Europeans to bury the hatchet and bring the newly elected Iraqi government the help it needs. Such cooperation would allow George Bush to enter into a spectacular rapprochement with Berlin and Paris, a rapprochement he desperately needs."

GERMANY: "Greatest Possible Disaster"

Juergen Gottschlich opined in an editorial in leftist die tageszeitung of Berlin (1/7): "Hardly a day passes in Iraq without a bomb explosion, a suicide attack or clearly targeted attacks on military convoys. The country is de facto in a war, even though the great majority of victims are Iraqi civilians. It would really be absurd to hold elections in this situation. To go to the polls does not mainly serve to give one's vote to a certain political party but it is a demonstration for or against the occupying power. Washington has now understood this. The issue is no longer to give the Iraqi population the chance for the first free election in its history. Instead of postponing the vote until the preconditions for democratic elections have been created, the occupying power must show strength.... Currently, there is no relevant party in Iraq which defines itself across ethnic borders.... That is why the elections will further deepen the ethnic division of the country. They will take place because President Bush does not want to give in to 'the terrorists' and the largest ethnic group in the country, the Shiites, no longer want to wait to translate its numerical majority into political and economic power. For the United States the disaster could hardly be greater. In Iraq it did not achieve one of its goals, but directly or indirectly caused the death of hundreds of thousands of people and brought to power those against which it has been fighting in Iran for 25 years."

"No Choice"

Wolfgang Günter Lerch opined in an editorial in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (1/6): "The daily attacks on security forces and important 'pillars' of the government are beginning to take effect. But the United Nations, the Iraqis and the Iraqis would be ill-advised if they gave in to President Al-Yawer's suggestion to postpone the elections. It is certain that the situation in the country will not calm down by January 30, but it is also certain that a postponement would meet the terrorists' wishes. And they could even speculate that a postponement would later result in a cancellation of the elections if terrorist pressure is kept up. If the situation remains as it is, the election will not really be representative, because many will not go to the polls out of fear and because parts of the Sunnis plan to boycott the elections. But a postponement would be even worse. The population must get the feeling that a new order can be implemented even despite the fiercest terrorist attacks. For the Iraqis, there is no alternative to these elections."

"Attacks"

Michael Stürmer argued in an editorial in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (1/6): "The closer election day, the stronger the terrorist violence. It is to intimidate the voters and prevent elections.... If the elections do not form the bracket that maintains the country's unity, Iraq will again disintegrate into three parts, which the British united eight decades ago. In the north, we will have the Kurds...in the south the Shiites...and in the center the Sunnis.... Three conflicting fields are overlapping each other: the looming Iraqi civil war, the revolt of the Sunnis against the winners in the fight against their protector, and the Islamic campaign against...'Jews and Christians and their supporters.'< The dilemma is that, if the elections were postponed, terror would be rewarded. And to hold elections without the Sunnis would cause a civil war. To create democracy in this situation is presupposing the impossible."

"Undue Request Instead Of Courageous Moves"

Peter Münch had this to say in an editorial in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (1/5): "No one is any longer safe in Iraq.... There is no day without bombs in Baghdad and no day without thundering slogans from Washington to hold out. The slogan is: close your eyes and hope for the best until January 30.... But maybe the fatal attack on Baghdad's governor will promote the insight that it would be time to open one's eyes and accept reality. Chaos in Iraq is no fertile ground for the democracy that the United States promised, for democracy cannot be decreed nor can it be implemented with an election. It must grow, but since the precondition for this growth does not exist, the elections should be postponed.... The day for the election no longer mainly serves the interest of the people in Baghdad, Basra, or Mosul, but rather serves U.S. interests. Even many Shiites would be willing to accept a postponement of the elections, but...the Bush team does not want to leave itself open in view of the terrorist attacks, since a postponement could be considered giving in to violence. And second, the election is the only concept that is left to them in Iraq. The Americans want to leave the country as quickly as possible, a country which they wanted to invade as quickly as possible two years ago."

"To Go To The Polls Is The Only Choice"

Business daily Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg judged (1/5): "If evidence was necessary for the dramatic situation in Iraq, then it has now been presented by the killing of Baghdad's governor. A state, which, despite massive protective measures, is unable to prevent the killing of one of its most important representatives, is obviously going down in chaos. And such a state will hold elections that are supposed to lay the foundation for a better future? As paradoxical as it may sound...Iraq has no other choice: it must go to the polls.... Would a postponement of the elections really result in the hoped-for outcome? The advocates of this option cannot offer more than the vague hope for an improvement of the security situation. But the danger of a further escalation, even a civil war is also great.... At the same time, those would be disappointed who are pinning their hopes for a new beginning. The Shiites, who want to see their majority be represented in the government, could be prompted to use force to seize power. The Kurds in the north could try to secede if they can no longer hope for more rights in a democratic state. And many Iraqis will not believe that a postponement does not mean a cancellation. The upcoming elections will be everything else but perfect. But it is a chance that should be seized."

"Elections Are Unimaginable"

Centrist Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger of Cologne said (1/5): "The killing of Baghdad's governor a few weeks before the planned elections on January 30 is offering dramatic evidence of the fact that even massive U.S. military actions will be unable to break the resistance of Iraqi fighters. Under these circumstances, an election campaign and elections, which could form the basis for a new democratic Iraq, are simply unimaginable. There is no doubt that the rebels would consider a postponement of the election a victory. But it would be even more fatal for the future of Iraq if important religious and ethnic groups remained excluded from the democratic process. The gate to a civil war would then be pushed open."

"Mounting Pressure"

Business daily Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg concluded (1/5): "A postponement of the elections would be the wrong signal, for everything that delays the plans to turn Iraq into a democracy in the long run, would only further destabilize the region. The first free election in Iraq since the abolition of the monarchy in 1958 should create a success story not only for the U.S. government, but they are also indispensable for the Iraqi interim government under Premier Allawi. The elections should prove that an Arab country, despite all crises and despite the permanent threat by terrorism, is able to form an opinion in a democratic way. But it is also clear that the killing [of Baghdad's governor] has strengthened doubts about the ability of Iraq's security forces to offer sufficient protection for the candidates and voters at election day. The killing will now increase pressure on the United States to send even more soldiers to Iraq--at least until January 30."

"More Attacks Ahead"

Center-right Thueringer Allgemeine of Erfurt noted (1/5): "We do not hear too much about the new U.S. offensive against the rebels around Baghdad. But we hear instead much more about the terror actions to which, among many others, Baghdad's governor fell victim, too. The shootings and bombings will continue like crazy before January 30.... The terror networks want to see the United States suffer, regardless of how many Muslim lives this will cost. That is why no Iraqi was behind the attack on the governor, but an al-Qaida group, which is led by a Jordanian, took over responsibility for the attack."

ITALY: "Annan's And Solana's Silences"

Elite, liberal Il Foglio observed (1/7): "The date of the elections in Iraq is getting closer and closer and the silence from the EU and UN looks gloomy. The stake is clear: on the one side, all the political forces that opposed the Saddam regime, supported by the U.S., want to ensure that people go to vote. On the other side, a complex mix of forces, supported by Syria and Iran, aim at hampering it.... But the UN is silent and has sent only some 30 officers to Iraq.... Javier Solana has no excuses for his silence. While many European governments have sent military to Iraq to ensure that the elections take place, Mr. 'Pec' (Common European Policy) deals with every issue but Iraq.... He seems totally supportive of the Chirac and Schroeder stands.... This sounds like a rearguard approach, since the aim of President Bush's imminent visit to Europe and of his invitation to French President Chirac is to reach a turning point."

AUSTRIA: "Elections In Iraq, Against All Odds"

Foreign affairs editor Gudrun Harrer opined in liberal Der Standard (1/5): "Not only the U.S., but the Shiites, too, insist on holding elections.... There are several reasons why Allawi is adamant about going ahead with the vote: he is well aware of his ambiguous role as the 'Americans' guy,' and wants to rid himself of the image of a man trying to remain in power without the backing of a poll for as long as possible. Even more decisive is the pressure from the U.S. Not only for political reasons is it important for Washington to give its project a label--preferably a grandiose one like 'Iraqi democracy.' The U.S. also needs a partner rooted in international law, in order to be able to conclude valid contracts. In the long run, the legal gray area of America's substantial involvement in Iraq can only be considered uncomfortable. Mostly, however, it turns out both the U.S. and the Iraqi interim government are at the mercy of the wishes of the Shiites, who no longer want to be kept from power.... Thus, unless we are faced with a catastrophe on an unprecedented scale that makes putting off the elections unavoidable, Iraqis will go to the polls this month."

BELGIUM: "An Impossible Task"

Foreign affairs writer Marc Van de Weyer observed in conservative Christian-Democrat Het Belang van Limburg (1/5): "Even the U.S.-selected president of Iraq believes that this may not be the right moment for elections. The prospect of elections has widened the religious and ethnic divisions in Iraq dramatically. While a wave of attacks is claiming more and more victims in the Sunni heartland the Shiites are losing their patience: this majority sees the elections as a step towards power. The American guardians of the new Iraq are confronted with an impossible task. Every smart observer knows that a fair ballot is impossible in the current circumstances. A postponement, however, will spark a radicalization of the Shiites. The Iraqi project has become a bottomless pit that devours human beings and billions of dollars. All that money can be used in a much better way--for instance, for the victims of the tsunamis in Asia."

CZECH REPUBLIC: "Elections? Definitely!"

Frantisek Sulc editorialized in center-right daily Lidove Noviny (1/5): "More and more often the demand is appearing to postpone the general elections in Iraq. However, such a step would have adverse consequences for several reasons: It cannot be guaranteed that in a month or half a year Iraq will be more secure than now--postponing the elections would have only played into the hands of terrorists and others who do not want them to take place. It would confirm the suspicion of ordinary Muslims that Americans do not want a free and independent Iraq. It would be perceived as a failure of the U.S. in particular, but also of Europe and also as confirmation of their inability. Thus, the elections should be postponed only for technical reasons and at most by a couple of days."

POLAND: "Terror Defeated Democracy"

Editor-in-chief Grzegorz Jankowski remarked in tabloid Fakt (1/5): "The assassination of the Baghdad governor is the greatest success the terrorists have scored in yet another year of bloody carnage in Iraq. The goal of the terrorists is clear. They want to thwart the Iraqi elections. The people of Iraq are supposed to start to hate democracy even before they manage to taste it. And the terrorists perceive democracy as American heresy. Al-Qaida realizes how important the elections are for the future of Iraq. Conducting them is deadly dangerous to the anarchy they unleashed. For the time being, though, the terrorists have gained the upper hand.... The Americans' prestige has suffered a defeat. They did not manage to eliminate the terrorists. It will be hard to convince the Iraqi people now that the elections will change anything in their lives."

PORTUGAL: "The Iraqi Dilemma"

Editor-in-chief José Manuel Fernandes noted in influential, moderate-left Público (1/05): "Realizing elections in Iraq on the 30th of January could be a serious error, but delaying them, besides equaling ceding to terrorist blackmail, also doesn't guarantee that some months from now there will be better conditions for solidifying them.... Not delaying them could precipitate the rise to power of radical Shiites with ties to Iran. Since a simple response doesn't exist, what has been agreed upon should thus follow--realize the elections, above all because the Kurds and Shiites desire it and would react negatively to the delay--at the same time, all efforts should be taken to realize these elections with the largest normality possible.... Afterwards, and more importantly, it is crucial to guarantee that the winners respect the losers and that they share power with them. That is, that systems of sovereignty sharing and balance of power are established which will prevent the Sunnis from feeling marginalized. Which means that the post-electoral period and from it the appearance of good governance is the real key to success. Here, the UN and the coalition have a fundamental role to perform, that could require years [to complete]."

SPAIN: "Voting In Iraq, Death Hazard"

Independent El Mundo judged (1/5): "For the U.S., any modification of the calendar is ruled out, because this would be easily understood as a victory for the insurgent terrorists. The question is whether holding the election on January 30, in a state close to panic and where voting is equivalent to risking one's life, will also mean success for the insurgents, by sowing doubt on the validity of the results.... We face then the worst possible scenario, because whether the election is held on the date planned or not, insurgent terrorism has all the tickets for getting a victory. This is the regrettable but predictable fruit picked by those who decided to plant democracy with the force of bombs."

"Walking The Tightrope"

Conservative ABC argued (1/5): "If the electoral timeline is postponed, there is no indication to think that within one month, or three months, the security conditions will be different than they are now.... Holding the election in Iraq is an objective in itself that should help Iraqi society to find its own path in this globalized world. Before giving up, the U.S., as the occupying power, should make a last effort, no matter how expensive it might be, to try and keep its word given to the Iraqis and to the world."

"Iraq, Impossible Elections"

Conservative La Razon editorialized (1/5): "In a country where the balance among different religious persuasions is absolutely essential, it's necessary to guarantee that all citizens can go, on an equal basis, to vote. Not doing this could open a wound of serious consequences in civil society. For this reason, logic and common sense seem to advise a delay to the January 30 elections, because it has been proven that the minimum demands of security do not exist. This, far from being a defeat before the terrorists, would mean a strengthening in the final victory; later, yes, but firmer, something that wouldn't be anything other than letting the Iraqi people vote in peace and with freedom."

"Violence And Elections"

Left-of-center El País took this view (1/5): "Although they don't mean the end of violence and resistance, the elections should mark a period of before and after. Their postponement...would resolve nothing. The final decision doesn't belong to the UN...but to the Independent Electoral Commission. And to Washington.... Once again in this war, it is not seen that Washington has a defined strategy either for the elections and for the day after."

TURKEY: "Iraq And The Elections"

Mensur Akgun wrote in the economic-political Referans (1/7): "Iraq is moving closer to the election date, but the potential for ethnic and religious conflict is also growing. Iraq has not yet equipped itself with even the basics of a working state system. Security remains the biggest problem. The occupation regime cannot even protect its own police force, let alone the recently assassinated governor of Baghdad. Despite numerous military operations, terrorist acts continue to spread. January 30 is approaching, but it is still not clear whether the elections will even be held. In any case, an election postponement would serve only the interests of resistance groups and terrorists. Carrying out the elections will help the new Iraqi government gain some degree of legitimacy, despite the expected low turnout in some areas. There are groups which have already announced their intention to boycott the elections, and the legitimacy question remains a serious one. In the event the elections are postponed, the hand of terrorist groups will be strengthened."

"The Test Ahead In Iraq"

Erdal Safak commented in mass-appeal Sabah (1/6): "Uncertainty regarding the upcoming Iraqi elections is a reason for concern both in the West and in the Islamic world. The circumstances in Iraq have created a dilemma: holding elections will be problematic, but even more problems could be seen if the elections are postponed. The election results will not fully reflect the national will unless the Sunni Arabs, who constitute the second largest ethnic group in Iraq, reverse their decision to boycott. This scenario has the potential to increase the threat of Sunni armed resistance. The other scenario--if the elections were to be postponed--would serve to benefit resistance groups and Usama bin Laden. In short, the situation is a classic vicious circle which caused divisions even with the current Iraqi administration. Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi wants the elections to be held on time, while President Al Yawer prefers a postponement.... In any case, we believe the elections in Iraq should be held on January 30 as scheduled. Afghanistan successfully completed an election process despite threats from bin Laden and the Taliban. Iraq should follow the same example and pass this test."

MIDDLE EAST

IRAQ: "Be Courteous With The Election"

Dr. Ali Khalif penned this editorial in Al Adala, affiliated with SCIRI (1/6): "We have heard many calls recently that are focused solely on one issue: whether to hold the election on time or to postpone it. As Iraqis, we respect all opinions that are aimed at preserving Iraq's unity, saving Iraqi lives, and extending active participation in the political process. However, the one fact that cannot be disregarded is that Iraq comprises different sects and not every sect is calling for postponing the election. There are several political parties that have not called for postponement.... Yet, there is a small minority within these political parties that insists on postponement. It is unfair to satisfy a minority at the expense of the majority. However, rather than focusing all discussion on whether or not to postpone the election, there are several other important issues that merit attention. For example, the blood of innocent people that is being shed everyday is more important than the issue of postponement. Who will be responsible for the blood of innocent Iraqis that will be shed after the election is postponed? Those who want to postpone the election must understand that the next national assembly will draft a permanent constitution for Iraq.... The constitution will represent the ultimate source power in the country.... If those who now call for postponing the election object to the constitution, they will have the right to vote against it. It is for these reasons listed above that we must first look after our citizens who are being killed daily under the pretext of preserving their interests.... The Iraqi people want someone to help them to rebuild their country based on democratic foundations. At this time, we do not need to create disputes and confusion among the Iraqi people. We must call on solidarity to help the innocent, poor, oppressed, and every honest Iraqi."

"Is Postponing The Election A Good Idea?"

Adnan Hussein wrote in independent, London-based Asharq Al Awsat (1/5): "It is no longer useful to call for postponing the Iraqi election. Two or three weeks ago, calls for postponement seemed reasonable.... In every democratic country, elections must be held in a free and secure environment.... The Iraqi government and democratic and secular political parties should have not become subjected to the sectarian Shiite political parties that have ties to Iran. They should have insisted on calling for postponing the election in order to guarantee the establishment of a real democratic government that will be acceptable to the Iraqi people. Instead, the election has become a ransom held by terrorists, Saddam loyalists, and radical Islamists who infiltrated Iraq. This unstable situation has been exploited by sectarian Shiite political parties in order to help establish an Islamic regime similar to the government in Iran. Today, calls for postponement are no longer useful. Postponing the election cannot be possible unless a unanimous consensus exists throughout Iraq. Postponing the election at the present time will only deliver a victory to the terrorists. We must concentrate on defeating them at the present time. All democratic political parties must call on all Iraqi people to participate in the upcoming election. This election will annihilate the terrorist plans that are aimed at demolishing the political process in Iraq.... Full participation in the election will prevent sectarian Shiite parties that are loyal to Iran from dominating the new government.... All Iraqis (should) participate in the election. Our goal is to have an elected and transitional government that is completely legitimate."

"Closed Elections"

Shakir Al Jiburi argued in independent, anti-coalition Al Fourat (1/5): "The current Iraqi situation is truly one of a kind. Because of the cronyism that exists in Iraq, we have to hold closed elections. Voting will be conducted under mysterious conditions as Iraqis will elect party lists rather than individual candidates. We are afraid of this strange electoral experiment. Iraqi voters do not know anything about the candidates' electoral programs or their personal histories. Perhaps this lack of information is a result of security precautions. However, all of these issues show that the Iraqi citizen has become the first victim in this democratic experiment. In the past, the Iraqi people could not elect their president directly. In the new era, they are forbidden to know the names of the candidates.... The goal of holding the election remains unclear as many Iraqi citizens do not know if this election is aimed at choosing a new prime minister or a president. They do not know if this elected government will draft a permanent constitution or whether it may ask foreign troops to withdraw from Iraq.... This is an extremely difficult problem, one that is much more complicated than the justifications of the absence of electoral programs and names of candidates.... How can we know the candidates if they are placed inside a glass house? What will the relationship be between an anonymous candidate and a voter who is mad about his or her confiscated rights? Who is benefiting from the announced timing of the election? There are many questions that need answers. The Iraqi citizens are sick of delayed solutions."

"The Election Is The Gate To A Free Iraq"

Muhammad Al Rimawi wrote in independent, anti-coalition Al Fourat (1/4): "The Iraqi people are preparing to participate in a public election that will be subject to international standards for the first time since the era of military coups began in 1958. If we look at the large number of electoral candidates, we can accurately state that there will be widespread participation. However, the deterioration of the security situation represents the main obstacle leading up to the election. This poor security situation has been caused by the occupation and the continued resistance. These insurgents have targeted Iraqis more than American soldiers, conducted sabotage, and damaged churches and mosques. It is apparent that the Shia are more interested in participating in the election than the Sunnis. The Sunnis have many patriotic electoral lists, including the list under the leadership of Adnan al-Pachachi. But the problem is that the Pachachi list and other Sunni lists would not achieve true Sunni representation because the majority of the Sunnis are not going to vote. This severe lack of representation will consequently affect the results of the election. The Jordanian king has recently called on all Iraqis to participate in the election. If some Iraqi groups refrained from participating, then the next Iraqi parliament would not be entirely representative of the Iraqi people. The Sunni must not be marginalized in the upcoming election. We should preserve Iraq's pan-Arabism by maintaining Iraq's nationalism and prevent foreign intervention from interfering in Iraq's internal affairs.... Establishing an elected parliament that enjoys legitimacy will represent an important political tool for extracting independence and establishing a modern democratic government that is acceptable to the majority. If this experiment were broadly supported by the world and the region, then the Iraqi people would have a chance to establish real, sovereign state."

ISRAEL: "It Is Time For The Americans To Understand"

Middle East affairs commentator Guy Bechor wrote in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (1/6): "The Americans are slowly losing their illusions regarding Syrian President Bashar Assad. After four years, he appears in their eyes not as a great hope but as a bitter disappointment and even a threat.... Just as Hafez Assad undermined Lebanon's internal stability from the outside and encouraged terror and violence to the point of civil war there, the Syrians are now trying to do the same in their eastern neighbor, formerly their fierce contender for regional hegemony.... In light of Iraq's historical standing in the Middle East, elections in this country are expected to have a dramatic effect on the future of democracy and the regimes in the entire Middle East. For the sake of this critically important experiment, for the sake of unfortunate Iraq, and what is no less important for the Americans, for the sake of their downtrodden soldiers, it is time for the Americans to understand that in the Syrian case, severe reprimands will not be enough. Even sanctions will not do."

TUNISIA: "Iraq Of Resistance And Iraq Of Terror"

Borhane Besais wrote in privately owned, Arabic-language As-Sabah (1/5): "Arab regimes have clearly withdrawn from the Iraqi issue and have not even clarified the most basic of positions either condemning the colonization or supporting the present situation. The upcoming elections represent a real opportunity to transfer Iraq to a new situation where in it may ask the American administration to fulfill its promises linking the end of the colonization and the return to Iraqi sovereignty to the democratic election of a new Iraqi leadership.... It is important to make a clear difference between supporting the work of the resistance, aimed at eradicating the colonization, and the horrible terrorism that is undertaken in the name of fighting the American colonizer but includes as its achievements a far greater number of Iraqis killed than American soldiers. Those who support killing Iraqis do not understand the aspirations of a new Iraq, but they prolong the Iraqi suffering. President Bush, the terrorist groups and the former Iraqi regime share the responsibility of suffering for the Iraqi people."

UAE: "Press Ahead With Poll"

The English-language, expatriate-oriented Khaleej Times commented (Internet version, 1/7): "We agree with Iraq Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's view that January 30 election should go ahead. Allawi is right in arguing that pressing ahead with the poll is the only way forward.... Violence in Iraq is a fact of life. It's no one's case that peace is prevailing in the war plagued country and conditions are conducive to hold an election in Iraq.... Interim President Ghazi Al Yawer and other leaders of Sunni political parties have argued in favor of delaying the elections pointing out that a free and fair poll is not possible when fear and terror grip the country. The argument is valid. Despite the overwhelming presence of the U.S.-led coalition troops and their long and bloody campaign against the resistance, their writ hardly runs in Iraq. Post-Saddam Iraq is a lawless land and violence is the order of the day. These are not the most ideal conditions for a free and peaceful democratic exercise. However, postponing the poll is no way of dealing with the situation. Further delay...is not going to bring down the violence or dramatically improve the conditions on the ground. The Iraqi people have to go ahead with the poll. Because the alternative to the election is utter and horrific chaos. Any delay of vote means perpetuating the prevailing anarchy.... Doubtless, these are testing times for Iraqi people. They have to cross the bridge of Jan 30 vote to choose their own destiny. The interim administration and other political players must cooperate with each other to deal with the challenges ahead. Collective democratic will can frustrate the designs of those who do not want peace and stability to return to Iraq.... Not only neighbors have big stakes in Iraq's democratic transition, but a peaceful poll in the country known as the cradle of civilization is in the interest of the international community."

EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC

AUSTRALIA: "Iraq Is The Failure That The U.S. Had To Have"

Owen Harries, senior fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies, opined in the liberal Sydney Morning Herald (1/7): "In terms of its declared objective--the creation of a democratic Iraq--the war in that country is doomed to fail. The conditions for such a democracy simply do not exist and cannot be created any time soon. But...there is a good chance that failure will be more than compensated for by the restoration of sanity to American foreign policy.... The outcome of the Iraq war will be a defeat whose good consequences will outweigh its bad ones because it will destroy illusions of omnipotence and restore a sense of limits, restraint and balance to American foreign policy--and that is essential for world order.... Perhaps Iraq has been the failure that the U.S. had to have. A quick and easy success, had such a thing been possible, would have confirmed its worst instincts and led it further down a disastrous path. As it has turned out, it is having a salutary and relatively cheap lesson concerning the limits of its own power, the intractability of the world, and the importance of allies. In short, a lesson in the danger of hubris and the wisdom of modesty."

CHINA (HONG KONG SAR): "Time To Eat Humble Pie"

Foreign editor Peter Kammerer argued in the independent English-language South China Morning Post (1/7): "The terrorist group al-Qaida's claim this week that it had more fighters in Iraq than the U.S. has soldiers could well be an idle boast, but with rising numbers of officials succumbing to bombs and knives, only the foolhardy would test its validity. Daily attacks claim the lives of dozens of Iraqis. Why, in such circumstances, Mr. Allawi is stubbornly echoing the American line that the January 30 election will go ahead regardless of the threats is mind-numbing. Bringing about democracy, the reason the U.S.-led coalition gave for invading Iraq 21 months ago, will be impossible with so much of the electorate too frightened to vote. Many leaders of the Sunni Muslim minority have refused to participate unless there is a delay. Without them, any claim of a democratic process will be a sham. That the issue has been firmly pushed to the bottom of the international news agenda by the Indian Ocean tsunami exacerbates the problem."

JAPAN: "Legitimacy Of Elections Questioned"

Liberal Asahi observed (1/6): "Terrorists in Iraq continue their attacks ahead of the January 30 elections. Despite confirmation by the Iraqi interim government that the elections will be carried out as scheduled, a Sunni boycott could hinder the entire democratic process. The failure of the elections poses a risk to the legitimacy of a future Iraqi government. With elections now three weeks away, Iraq appears to be facing widening turmoil."

INDONESIA: "Doubt Arises Over Prospects For Iraqi Elections"

Leading independent Kompas commented (1/6): "The mounting security threats have given rise to doubts about the prospects for the election in Iraq. There have been concerns as to whether the elections could be held on January 30 as scheduled. The doubts mounted after Baghdad Governor Ali Radi al-Haidri was fatally shot by unidentified persons.... Haidri's murder was seen as reflecting the fragile security system before the election. If in the upcoming three weeks security cannot be guaranteed, the elections would, worrisomely, not be carried out. In fact, many parties wish that the new government from the election will be able to bring changes and improvements by removing the Iraqi people from the siege of political, economic and security chaos."

PHILIPPINES: "The Quicksands Of Iraq"

Columnist Teodoro Benigno wrote in the independent Philippine Star (1/5): "America would elevate...a blunder into a historic catastrophe by remaining in Iraq as a colonial or occupying power. The excuse is that, like President William McKinley of yore vis-a-vis the Philippines, the U.S. has a bounden duty to democratize Iraq and transform it into a glittering citadel of freedom. This way, Iraq would spread democracy and liberty throughout the Middle East.... More than a hundred years after the U.S. hornswoggled the Philippines from Spain, democracy remains a mirage in the country.... And thus I find America's mission to democratize Iraq a lot of pap and sheer humbug. Oh yes, there will be elections this January.... But they will find out soon enough that Iraqis will remain Iraqis, will not surrender their culture and civilization to the Yankees.... This, the Americans do not understand or refuse to understand."

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

INDIA: "In A Cleft Stick"

The centrist Hindu commented (1/6): "The United States thought that many of the problems it has encountered in its illegal occupation of Iraq would be solved once an elected government was installed in Baghdad. Now, with less than a month to go before the parliamentary election, the indications are that the occupiers will not only have to contend with the difficulties they currently face. They are guaranteed an even more complex situation in the post-poll phase. Having earlier thought of delaying the elections by a few months, the U.S. and the puppet regime apparently concluded that this would not be a wise move. A change in the schedule of the polls on account of the insurgency could have come across as an admission of defeat that would only embolden the resistance. The U.S. and several members of the transitional government have proposed that the Sunnis should either be allocated a certain number of seats irrespective of the poll performance of their parties or be included in the post-poll cabinet even if they did not contest. Shia politicians have not rejected this proposal but they are unlikely to gloss over it either. The four Shia parties that have come together to make a common list of candidates are well poised to win a large share of parliamentary seats and form the government. On the other hand, the U.S. will be sorely displeased if the Shia alliance wins the polls."

"Elections Will Be Held In Iraq, But Will They Have Credibility?"

The Mumbai edition of centrist Gujarati-language Gujaratmitra editorialized (1/6):< "The decision of the U.S. and its puppet administration in Iraq to hold general elections in the war-ravaged country...have raised questions about the credibility of such elections. Both America and Iraqi interim prime minister Allawi are firm on holding the elections by hook or by crook as this has now become a prestige issue for both of them. America will get an opportunity to defend globally its actions in Iraq if these elections pass off smoothly. Although the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein has been apprehended by the U.S., there are still a large number of Saddam loyalists and other dissident groups who have been opposing the U.S. occupation of Iraq. These elements are determined to create hurdles during the elections. The terrorists and their affiliates are creating fear among the Iraqis and warning them against participating in the elections. For the past couple of days, the Al-Jazeera news channel has been running a survey report which states that 80 per cent of the Iraqi population may not participate in the elections. If such a thing happens, then the credibility of the elections will receive a jolt.... All is not well in Iraq. The U.S. has lost the sympathy and support of other nations for its Iraqi adventure and that it has also failed to establish peace, security and stability in this region. It seems Iraq is turning out to be another Vietnam for the U.S., as the situation in Iraq may not settle down in the near future."

"Jimmy Carter's Fear For Iraq"

The centrist Urdu-language Azas Hind of Calcutta editorialized (1/5): "Now the question is, how can anyone venture out for electioneering in such a volatile situation in Iraq? And also, how would the voters be able to exercise their rights? [Jimmy] Carter's...decision has certainly given a big blow to the Bush administration that has continuously and falsely publicized that it has broken the backbone of Iraqi resistance.... But certainly Carter's concern will fail to impact the administration as it obstinately sticks to the dictum of 'might is right'."

PAKISTAN: "Iraqi Elections And Increasing Bloodshed"

The Lahore-based independent Urdu-language Din held (1/7): "Anti-U.S. resistance in Iraq is gaining momentum as the elections draw closer. This increased resistance shows that American and Iraqi forces have failed to curb attacks by militants who wish to de-track the electoral process.... The direction in which Iraqi affairs are heading shows that the elections would not fulfill the hopes President Bush and his nominated Iraqi government have pinned on them."

"More Blood"

The center-right national English-language Nation concluded (1/6): "As elections draw closer, insurgents seem to be demonstrating their determination and the vulnerability of some of the most security-wrapped people and places in Iraq. Possibly they want to demonstrate the hollowness of the U.S. claim that Iraq is moving towards stability and wake up world opinion, lulled into insensitivity by regular footage of bloodshed, by providing incidents that shock and awe.... In either case the message is obvious. The planned Iraqi elections will not deliver stability or peace to the traumatized country mainly because a large section of the population sees the quisling government as a collaborator and regularly targets its members for assassination.... Yet, despite this raging violence and low visibility of the campaigning process, Washington is quick to air its determination to go ahead with the election, with London acting as an echo. Either the Bush government is too eager to get out, leaving the country in the hands of those it finds acceptable no matter what; or it is bent on staying on by finishing off those that oppose its intervention, even if it involves decimating the population and destroying major Iraqi cities. These are facts and objectives Washington and its allies need to seriously review."

"More Clouds Over Iraq Elections"

Lahore-based liberal English-language Daily Times remarked (1/6): "As the polls draw near, the terrorists are able to strike more telling blows, falsifying the American strategy of attacking the militias in the 'Sunni triangle'. The destruction of Fallujah, far from lessening the intensity of terror on Iraqi citizens, has been followed by more suicide and other targeted attacks.... The terrorists are keen to get the elections postponed. A number of Sunni religious leaders who had earlier agreed to participate have now withdrawn for various unspoken reasons, one being fear of getting killed. Several Shia religious leaders, including the chief Ayatollah Sistani, have opted for postponement too (sic).... Just three weeks before the polls, there is a proposal to expand the program providing 10-man teams with 45 existing and 20 emerging national-guard battalions. Will these new battalions 'emerge' in time to save the voters from being gunned down? Any way you look at the prospects, elections in Iraq are not going to pacify the country in the foreseeable future."

"Murder Of Baghdad Governor And Proposed Iraq Election"

The second largest Urdu-language daily Nawa-e-Waqt editorialized (1/6): "The murder of Baghdad's Governor is proof of the failure of insecure Iraq government, established by the U.S. military.... Why does the U.S. Secretary of State insist on an election that is opposed by the majority of the Sunni population? According to some sources, even some high officials of the interim Iraqi government are opposed to the holding of election. It can't be ruled out that America wants to foment Shia-Sunni rift.... Iraqis are resisting because they want to expel American occupation forces from their country; only then they would be able to hold their country's election and establish a government of their choice."

AFRICA

SOUTH AFRICA: "War And Peace"

The liberal Cape Times noted (1/5): "The assassination of [Baghdad governor] al-Haidri ...renewed fears surrounding the viability of the Iraq elections.... If the intention of the attackers is to derail the planned election, the attacks are sure to grow in number and become even bloodier as the election date approaches.... It is a tough call: if the election does not go ahead as scheduled, those behind the attacks will regard the postponement as a victory. However, if the election does proceed as planned and voters stay away from the polls in substantial numbers out of fear, the election will be a failure anyway. [Iraq President Ghazi] Yawar is right to look to the UN...to review the timing of the election. The U.S. and its allies have already made it clear repeatedly that they want the elections to go ahead as scheduled. But they should not ignore the UN a second time."

"Iraq 2005"

Centrist, Afrikaans-language Die Burger observed (1/4): "If there is one country where the month of January 2005 will be of crucial interest is Iraq. At the end of this month elections will be held in the country that will determine in which direction its future will go.... The largest organized Sunni party has already indicated that it will boycott the election. Worse still...America can lose the war.... It is clear that the American strategy, to militarily defeat the rebel army on the battlefield is not working. And of the efforts to win hearts and minds of the Sunni population...they are also coming to nothing. But it is still early days.... In Afghanistan the elections...against all expectations...proved a watershed. Who knows, that could happen in Iraq as well."

TANZANIA: "America Shoulders Heavy Burden In Baghdad"

Independent Kiswahili-language tabloid Mwananchi editorialized (1/5): "As the January 30 elections draw near, the violence in [Iraq has so greatly intensified and Iraqis are concerned whether the elections will be conducted peacefully.... Since the war officially ended in Iraq, violence has spiraled and there is no respite in sight. The United States and its principal ally Great Britain have been giving out statistics of coalition and Iraqi troops killed across the country. But since hostilities started, no one has bothered to issue statistics of civilians that have perished. It is obvious that public anger against America and its allies is rising, as many people continue to lose their fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and children.... Although it is difficult to admit, the truth is that the American-led invasion of Iraq was a historical mistake that will continue to haunt the superpower and damage its relationship with other countries around the world. To effectively counter the widely held belief that America is a bully that does not care about the interests of other countries; a country that thinks it is always right, a solution to the conflict in Iraq must be found. The work of seeking this solution lies solely in the hands of America, which deliberately plunged itself into a pit of fire. America must find its way out."

WESTERN HEMISPHERE

CANADA: "The Blind Election"

Editorialist Serge Truffaut wrote in liberal Le Devoir (1/6): "The number of attacks committed since the beginning of the current year leaves no room for doubt: with the election approaching on the horizon, radicals...have decided to spread terror. They are even promising to attack those who, among the Sunni community, frequent polling stations next January 30. While we wait for this threat to materialize, one fact remains: insecurity is such that it forecasts an election stripped of all credibility. Well aware of the dangers that will emanate from this vote, members of the current provisional government believe the election should be postponed, indeed are demanding it.... By refusing to listen to reason, for now at least, coalition forces, the Americans first and foremost, are showing signs of stubbornness more than of certain truths inherent to political realism. If we draw an inventory, be it only partial, of the acts committed because of this electoral rendezvous, one conclusion is obvious: it must be postponed as quickly as possible.... Logically, the vote, if it is held, will deeply marginalize the Sunnis. The way things are now, it is even probable that the number of their representatives at the provisional assembly will not correspond at all to their demographic weight.... In choosing...a [proportional representation electoral] system, supported by London and Washington, the Iraqi provisional government has purposefully chosen to ignore ethnic, religious and regional distinctions.... For the White House, the current situation presents quite a conundrum. If President Bush gives satisfaction to those wanting a postponement, he will alienate the entire Shiite population.... Now if he maintains the present calendar, he will encourage the rebellion to intensify and condemn himself to recognize a government we already know will have no credibility.... As for the Constitution that the provisional assembly will be asked to draft by the middle of next summer, it will be rejected by the Sunnis. Between the growing insecurity griping a third of the country and the almost complete absence of democratic mechanisms to ensure the legitimacy of the assembly, we can only hope for a postponement. Choosing the opposite would be sheer blindness."

"Horns Of A Dilemma"

The nationalist Ottawa Citizen opined (1/6): "Iraq faces two grim alternatives: go ahead with national-assembly elections on Jan. 30 and risk more bloodshed and uncertainty, or postpone the vote until security improves and appear to be caving in to the insurgents.... If the Iraqi government decides to proceed with the vote as planned, the U.S.-led coalition will have an even harder time protecting its own troops and Iraqis from violence.... Holding an election that is not perceived to be legitimate could discredit the idea of democracy among Iraqis and plant seeds of authoritarianism in those who win power. A hasty and unsuccessful election, held for the sake of meeting the Jan. 30 deadline, could create the impression that the United States wants to cut and run from Iraq as soon as possible, leaving behind a legacy of anarchy, or something worse. But postponing the election would have costs too, not least of which would be to create suspicion among some Iraqis that the Americans want to occupy their land for the long term, rather than help Iraq reach a point where it will rule itself. Postponement could also be seen as a surrender to the goals of the insurgents--indeed, it would be hard to see an election delay as anything but an acknowledgement of some level of failure. Nonetheless, if lives can be saved and democracy served by acknowledging that now is not the time for an election in Iraq, then a postponement would be the right thing to do. But given the impossibility in predicting when the coalition will be able to stabilize the country, a key question will be: for how long? The simple, if somewhat glib, answer is: for as long as it takes to ensure the vote is truly representative of the wishes of the Iraqi people."

"Damn The Insurgents, Let The Iraqis Vote"

The conservative Gazette of Montreal editorialized (1/5): "U.S. officials have been predicting for months that the pace and scope of terrorist bloodshed in Iraq would increase steadily as election day approaches. Now, less than four weeks from the Jan. 30 voting day, their warnings are being vindicated daily. Wrong about so much in Iraq, the Americans have been dead right about this.... [Yesterday's bloodshed] stories have become the small change of daily news from Iraq, crowded off front pages around the world not only by the disaster in Asia but also by the sheer frequency of the reports.... The...message behind this campaign of slaughter is obvious: cancel the national assembly elections. The appropriate response is equally obvious: hell, no. It's easy to understand why nerves are frayed within the interim Iraqi administration. So it is hardly surprising senior officials are looking for a political solution that would include a delay.... It's remarkably easy to reject such temporizing from far away in Canada, but rejecting it is the proper course all the same. The whole point of terrorism is to alter government action: if the elections are 'delayed' then--to use a phrase made trite by ironic repetition but valid, nonetheless--the terrorists will have won. Demand will follow demand, bomb will follow bomb, and the resolution that has brought the country this close to elections will drain away.... The Shiite majority, as well as Kurds and other minorities, share a true hunger for the first free elections in a lifetime. And some Sunnis, at least, will vote. United Nations officials are moving to allow registration on voting day itself in Sunni areas where prior registration efforts did poorly. This is wise: anything that can be done to increase voter turnout absolutely should be done. The new assembly will no doubt be remarkably ragged and crude, by our standards. But it will be elected, and if the rookie lawmakers it creates can take advantage of opportunities to compromise, these hard-bought elections will have created a new, legitimate national instrument the bombers can never hope to match."

"Iraq's Jan. 30 Election"

The leading Globe and Mail opined (1/5): "Each violent assault, suicide bombing and political assassination in Iraq brings renewed calls to postpone the election set for Jan. 30. That, of course, is precisely what the insurgents are seeking and why they have stepped up their attacks on overwhelmed Iraqi security forces, government officials and civilians.... Proponents of delay argue that Iraq simply is not ready for a democratic election, that the infrastructure is not in place and that the risks, both of failure and of escalating conflict, are simply too great. An election held now, they say, would be unfair and unrepresentative, because parts of the country are so unsafe that most voters will heed the insurgents' warnings to stay home. But what makes the proponents of delay think security will improve in future if the foes of democracy triumph now?... The sooner the Iraqi people have an accountable government and a constitution that guarantees basic democratic rights and freedoms, the sooner they can confront those who would deprive them of those rights and who would keep them living in constant fear."

"Democracy In A Month?"

Columnist and political science professor Salim Mansur wrote in the conservative tabloid Ottawa Sun (1/4): "The Iraqi election scheduled for Jan. 30 will be a pivotal moment in Arab-Muslim history. It is not well understood in the West why the mere fact of a free and contested election to a 275-seat transitional Iraqi national assembly has galvanized the entire spectrum of Arab-Muslim opposition against it. But the reason for this is simple: a free and democratic Iraq will become an irresistible force for change in a part of the world that has remained most resistant to the core principles of freedom and democracy we take for granted.... In the month ahead, what is at stake is the potential of a new future opening irreversibly in a strategically important resource rich country--or that future being denied by the spiraling cost of violence. The election has become a race against time between those Iraqis yearning for freedom--the Kurds in the north and the Shiites in the south--and those fearing freedom--the Sunni tribes who were loyal beneficiaries of Saddam Hussein's bloody regime, joined by fascist thugs from around the Arab-Muslim world.... The Iraqi Shiites and Kurds instinctively understand what is at stake.... They have learned from their bitter experiences how history happens to be ironic and often unpredictable. This is why the Iraqi Shiites and Kurds are equally determined to defeat the fascist thugs by remaining firmly committed to the election in one month's time. And they also know, despite the pervasive cynicism in the West, that without the determination of U.S. President George Bush and the sacrifices of American and coalition soldiers in Iraq, they would not have had this chance to acquire the first taste of true freedom in their history."

BRAZIL: "Haste"

Conservative O Globo editorialized (1/5): "President Bush thinks that delaying the elections in Iraq would be a sign of weakness. However, it's becoming clearer every day that the country is unprepared for a general and universal election on the 30th. If the Governor of Baghdad was killed yesterday while traveling through the capital in a well-armed convoy with armored vehicles, how is it to be believed that, 25 days from now, the Iraqi people will be able to vote without running the risk of being blown-up? Delaying the elections doesn't mean giving in; it's merely a way of recognizing the complexity of the situation and preparing oneself better to face it."

VENEZUELA: "Bush In 2005: Certainties And Uncertainties"

Sergio Muñoz Bata wrote in leading liberal daily El Nacional (1/2): "For 2005, President Bush's agenda centers on two main issues.... The uncertain one is the future of Iraq.... The next year will be key for the Bush administration to lay the foundations to establish the first democratic regime in the history of Iraq or to have its army withdraw from the territory with some sort of dignity. A democratically elected government would be a great progress for Iraq and for the whole region."

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