Office of Research
Foreign Media Reaction
March 22, 2005
IRAQ'S SECOND ANNIVERSARY
** Rebuilding Iraq is "still in its early stages" with "nothing new on this anniversary."
** Iraqis "risked their lives to vote" to create a parliament now "stuck in arduous talks."
** Writers pan "sluggish and divided" factions in Iraq and inveigh against U.S. "objectives."
** Critics seize on "troop withdrawals" as coalition breaches and call for a total foreign exit.
Iraq is 'not over the hump yet'-- Worldwide media cited "mixed results" in Iraq. They found that, after "two years of occupation" with infrastructure and services "a little above zero," the road ahead "could be bumpy"; or as a French writer remarked, democracy is "still in the making." While a Hong Kong independent outlet termed Iraq today, a "magnet for insurgents" opposed to "American influence in the Middle East," Britain's conservative Times judged that Britain, America and Australia saying "they will not leave Iraq until it is stable...is right."
'The Iraqi national assembly...convened on March 16'-- Observers acknowledged postively that some eight million Iraqis voted. Japan's moderate Yomiuri wrote that Iraq's elected lawmakers "must strive to swiftly establish a transitional government" since the people "defied terrorist threats to vote" and Iraq's independent Ad-Dustoor scored Iraqi politicians who "have not fulfilled their promises." A Polish analyst determined that Iraqis "are becoming a bit irritated with their representatives," upholding Ad-Dustoor's view that delay in establishing a government could "cause more bloodshed" or "lead to disaster."
The Iraqi people await a 'solution to end the violence'-- Poland's liberal Gazeta Wyborcza noted "rebels do not negotiate, they set bombs and shoot" and added that Iraq suffered as its elected representatives haggled, leaving citizens without electricity, proper sewage, and other services. Spain's centrist La Vanguardia asserted that, given existing conditions, the U.S. has not "been able to win the postwar." Pro-Islam Pakistani and Indonesian outlets railed against "U.S. aggression" and the "occupation" of Iraq, while Turkey's leftist Cumhurriyet alleged the U.S. has swapped "political colonialism" for "economic colonialism" in occupying Iraq. The West Bank's independent Al-Quds asserted U.S. actions have deepened "tribal and ethnic differences" in Iraq. Mexico's left-of-center La Jornada judged "Iraq now is more chaotic, more violent and uncontrollable than ever before."
Coalition countries are 'facing difficult steps and decisions'-- Global observers focused on coalition troop pullouts especially when Italy's Silvio Berlusconi stated on March 15 "that Italy will pull out of Iraq in September," only to, as Russia's reformist Gazeta highlighted, "within 24 hours" reverse his position on withdrawing. Initially, Italy's Corriere della Sera remarked that "suddenly Italy is standing alongside Holland, Ukraine, Poland, Portugal, Hungary and Bulgaria, who with different timelines are packing their bags," and Il Riformista declared harshly "the coalition is not falling apart, it is disappearing." France's Catholic La Croix referred to "an alliance in tatters" and center-right Pakistan assailed the U.S.-led coalition stating, now, after two years, "foreign troops must withdraw from Iraq."
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, firstname.lastname@example.org
EDITOR: Rupert D. Vaughan
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 54 reports from 24 countries over March 16-21, 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed in the most recent date.
BRITAIN: "Iraq's Stalemate: Kirkuk Issue"
The independent Financial Times editorialized (3/21): "The Kurds and their allies should realise that this is dangerous brinkmanship. There can be no pre-emptive allocations of territory or resources if an already fragmenting Iraq is to have any hope of holding together. Turkey, already paranoid about the exemplary effect a largely independent Kurdistan in north Iraq will have on its own restive Kurdish population in southeast Anatolia, has threatened to intervene if the Kurds press their ambitions as far as Kirkuk. Nor can the Kurds, their hopes for freedom so often betrayed by western allies, rely on open-ended U.S. support."
"Italian Reverse: The implications"
The conservative Times editorialized (3/17): "The danger...is that withdrawals have been linked not to any security improvement but to the political timetable in Iraq. The pressure to leave soon after the constitutional referendum in October will grow, and by the planned general election in December may, for most countries, become irresistible. Britain, America and Australia have made clear that they will not leave until Iraq is stable. That is right. Italy's withdrawal makes their stand harder and lonelier."
FRANCE: "An Alliance In Tatters"
Bruno Frappat remarked in Catholic La Croix (3/17): "While it is too early to say that soon only American soldiers and Iraqi soldiers will be left to 'finish' the job, that prospect is getting closer.... Until recently, Bush could count on the solid support of two important European allies: Great Britain and Italy. Now Berlusconi is wavering, and Tony Blair looks more and more isolated in Europe... The original 'alliance' had three missions: to chase Saddam, to rid Iraq of WMD, and to establish democracy. The first goal has been reached, the second, obviously, will never be reached. As for the third, it is still in the making."
GERMANY: "The Fruits Of War"
Mariam Lau noted In right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (3/21): "Two years ago, the first U.S. bomb was dropped on Baghdad. We can still not talk about peace.... But there is no reason to be fatalistic.... There are still long lines in front of police recruitment offices.. Eight million Iraqis risked their lives to go to the polls; checkpoints are filled with Iraqis; newsstands with new newspapers criticize every step of the government; in the National Assembly, there are more women than in the U.S. congress.... Colleagues from neighboring countries report that in the cafes ranging from Dubai to Cairo, President Bush's threat to Syria are appreciated with great respect. It may not have been the original intention of the war against Saddam to spread this kind of unease in the region. So what?"
Arnd Festerling opined in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (3/21): "Thousands of people took to the streets to protest the Iraq war.... The Iraqis are now in a fatal situation. They can now ponder whether the price they pay for Saddam's expulsion is not too high. Those who were persecuted by the minions of the dictator are likely to come to different conclusions than the people who remain undisturbed, but have to adjust to every day life in the midst of the terror of bombs. In the United States, support of the war has dropped. This will not be changed by the fact that President Bush again said the American people live more safely now. At least the uniformed parts of the American people who are deployed in Iraq may have a different view. That is why everything remains as it was before. The war opponents are not heard despite better arguments. Iraq is not safer than it was a year ago, and democracy does not make progress, while the firing, bombing, and killing continues. Unfortunately, there is nothing new on this anniversary."
Right-of-center Fuldaer Zeitung of Fulda argued (3/21): "What remains is a Pyrrhic victory, which has seriously damaged the political reputation of the United States and which has polarized the western world and Iraq. Saddam Hussein's dictatorship was replaced by the dictatorship of terror and exchanged for a little sensitive regime of the occupiers. Is that the freedom, we think of? It is a high price for the meaning the U.S president has of it."
Thomas Schmid commented in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (3/17): "It was the unfortunate result of the Sgrena case that caused the government's U-turn. The government and opposition unexpectedly stood united during the whole month while the Italian journalist was kept as a hostage, but the unsolved death of the intelligence service agent suddenly changed everything.... Opposition leader Prodi thought it is time to make the demand of an immediate withdrawal an election issue. Now, there are two winners: Italy's small Communist party, which pushed for this policy, and the terrorist enemy of a democratic Iraq."
"The Coalition Of The Willing"
Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger asserted in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (3/17): "By referring to the importance of the public opinion, Berlusconi did not at all help Prime Minister Blair in the run up to Britain's general elections. America's main ally faces a sort of sentiment that is getting very similar to that of the European continent. Given that Blair is a strong leader, he will not give in to this sentiment, but he will not be able to prevent that the doubts about his Iraq policy--the motives and costs of the mission--will become the dominant election issue. However, Washington's reaction is remarkable. There was not a single word of condemnation, like after Zapatero's withdrawal, but the commitment of Italian soldiers was appreciated. Was this the reward for Berlusconi's faithfulness in the past? Or does Bush believe the Iraq mission is on a steady course--so positive that he himself is slowly considering pulling out?"
Business daily Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg editorialized (3/17): "Washington and Baghdad will politically and militarily cope with the Italy's and the other nations' withdrawals from Iraq. In 2003, George W. Bush needed the coalition of the willing to create the impression the Iraq war was not a unilateral move. This justification is no longer necessary, apart from intellectual discussion boards, where it might remain an issue. No one can deny the signaling effect of the elections in Iraq, and there was the first seating of the Iraqi parliament yesterday. Politically, Berlusconi is no longer necessary in Iraq. What is about Italy's troops? There is no doubt that the U.S. has problems to find replacements for their 150,000 GIs in Iraq. The withdrawal of seven thousand troops is not peanuts, but Italy will pull out successively and not over night. This is different from Spain and the Philippines. Americans can use the remaining time to build up local security forces. Even the Iraqi-phobic Germans will begin to train Iraqi soldiers in Hamburg this summer. No one must be irritated by Berlusconi's move. Italians have done their job, they can go home."
"Two Years After"
Christoph von Marschall noted in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (3/17): "In the past, the withdrawals have not threatened the rebuilding of Iraq. In many regions, the situation has slowly improved. The regular attacks in the Sunni triangle conceal that the situation is relatively peaceful in the Kurdish north and the Shiite south. Troops are pulling out there. Why shouldn't they? Iraq totally depends on the following moves: the election of the head of state and the government leader as well as the vote on the constitution. Germany, where there was no insurgency after WWII, only managed that four years after the end of the war."
Birgit Schoenau wrote in center-left, weekly Die Zeit of Hamburg (3/17): "The reduction of troops beginning in September is not a U-turn.... The tragedy in Baghdad has forced Berlusconi to call for a quick investigation with a self-confidence that he should have shown to the U.S. before, for instance with a clear information policy. This would have told Berlusconi earlier that those who negotiate over kidnapped civilians or even pay ransom money cannot eternally stay in the coalition of the willing."
"Old Italy, New Europe"
Michael Braun opined in leftist die tageszeitung of Berlin (3/17): "Berlusconi can sell his withdrawal to Bush by claiming that this is the way to prevent the left-wing opposition from wining the elections and Italy from falling into the hands of the Franco-German camp. He might win at home, but he will have to pay a price abroad. With the Spanish withdrawal, Zapatero became unpopular with Bush, but he achieved an increase of Spain's importance in Europe. Berlusconi can expect less Italian influence in Washington without gaining a new position inside Europe."
ITALY: "If The Prime Minister Hits Reverse"
Opposition representative Gian Giacomo Migone stated in centrist, influential La Stampa (3/18): "Everybody in the world knows, by now, that [Berlusconi's] U-turn was prompted by President Bush's telephone call and Tony Blair's clarification.... What is really dangerous to our country's reputation is a Prime Minister who disavows his own commitment, backpedaling after pressure from a major ally.... If one unilaterally disavows his pledge...ceding after strong reaction from the more powerful, the damage to our country's international reputation will be serious and long-lasting."
"Italy-Iraq, Berlusconi's Double Track"
Prominent commentator Stefano Folli remarked in leading business daily Il Sole-24 Ore (3/17): "The only certain thing is that a representative of the Italian government will have to go to Parliament to speak clearly about the Italian mission in Iraq. Mincing one's words on TV is no longer enough.... But let's be careful not to consider the whole thing to be the result of mere misunderstanding. Berlusconi was fully aware of what he was saying, and the essence of his message was confirmed the day after, the electoral angle being evident. What is not true, and could not possibly be true, is the picture of Berlusconi who suddenly turns into a new Zapatero.. Italy is not hastily withdrawing from Iraq in the wake of Calipari's death.. Yet Berlusconi believes he has given enough in the name of his friendship with Bush's America. He has been examining the terms of an exit plan for a few weeks. Calipari's death .has convinced him that, from now on, the Italian presence in Iraq will have too high a cost vis-à-vis public opinion."
"Berlusconi Leads The Coalition Of The Semi-Willing"
A front-page editorial in elite, center-left daily Il Riformista (3/17): "Berlusconi forced both Downing Street and the White House to address in concrete terms the 'exit strategy' from Iraq, a key issue which, so far, has been hanging around and has been de facto postponed, with the formula 'we will leave when the work is done.' OK, but when?... U.S. and British irritation is understandable, just like the objections voiced by the center-left opposition. But the substance is that, since Zapatero's 'break,' all European allies have begun to pack up. The coalition is not falling apart, it is disappearing.... The pressure of public opinion on European governments has become unbearable."
Lucio Caracciolo opined in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (3/17): "If there's one thing we can say about Berlusconi, it's that he is strongly pro-American. So why did he announce his intention to begin pulling troops out of Iraq in September, surprising the United States and Great Britain? Because his main priority is...to win the elections.... Unfortunately, the unfolding of the Iraq campaign confirms the impediments to Italy staying on course. We did not participate in the war on Saddam because the majority of Italians were against it. We did, however, offer Bush unequivocal political support.... Now, if we read Berlusconi's letter to Il Foglio, which corrects what he said on Porta a Porta, 'we can begin to talk in terms of mission accomplished.' But the term 'mission accomplished' should be used only after the mission has been accomplished, not before.... A simple analysis of the facts should lead us to consider that Iraq is not yet stable and that democracy has not been achieved, and that a critical phase is beginning, during which it is fundamental to reaffirm the allies' commitment to finish the job. Since the January 30 elections opened a window of opportunity, it's best to fully support--politically, economically, and militarily--the difficult road for the constitution. Otherwise, that hope will be shattered by the Sunni guerillas and Jihad terrorism."
"The Ambiguity Of A Quasi-Shift"
Franco Venturini commented in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (3/17): "Our unconditional solidarity goes to the U.S. and British ambassadors in Italy. They will be the ones who will be most asked to advise whether Berlusconi's position has or hasn't changed.... Washington's and London's telephone conversations with Palazzo Chigi must not have been enough to clear things up.... Suddenly Italy is standing alongside Holland, Ukraine, Poland, Portugal, Hungary and Bulgaria, who with different timelines are packing their bags.... The leader of a serious country cannot give in to ambiguous statements on a topic of life and death for many human beings. He can't suddenly place 'the expectations of the public opinion' before the policy he...followed when the elections were far away."
"Bush, Hot Line With The Premier - 'He Tells Me Nothing Has Changed'"
Alberto Flores D'Arcais from New York in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (3/17): "Seen from the White House, Berlusconi's televised announcement is a tempest in a teacup, with a couple of officials willing to say 'that there's nothing to comment on,' 'nothing happened.' Condoleezza Rice dictated the line in Washington before sunrise. The Secretary of State, who is in Asia grappling with more serious problems than Italian statements,...did not seem concerned about the news coming from Rome: 'I'm certain that...any decisions the Italians make regarding their forces will be fully coordinated with U.S. so as not to jeopardize the mission.' While the U.S. Administration sees no problem in what happened, Bush's other loyal ally, the British government, seems a little confused about the possible withdrawal.... Washington does not intend to pay too much attention to the controversy under way in Europe."
RUSSIA: "Aggression Fails"
Nationalist opposition Sovetskaya Rossiya ran a piece attributed to A. Safarin (3/22): "Bush and the Bush poodle, British Prime Minister Blair, have bogged down in a war they cannot win. The cruise missiles, precision bombs and other 'toys' that excite the average American so much useless in this kind of war. As its allies flee, the United States will have to face theenraged Iraqis on its own. The rational Yankees want one half of Iraq to be slaves and the other half overseers.< This is a fine illustration of the U.S.-proposed Greater Middle East plan. To sum up: two years after America's 'victory' in Iraq, the rebels don't stop their activities for a day. The U.S. plan to reach a political 'settlement' through elections fell through, as pro-American parties won a majority.< It is becoming evermore apparent that America has suffered a defeat in Iraq. Thousands are demonstrating against the colonial war back at home. Many speak of the Iraq adventure as the beginning of the end of the American Empire. How very true."
Veniamin Ginodman said in reformist Gazeta (3/18): "Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's maneuvers don't quite befit the leader of a major power. On March 15 he stated that Italy will pull out of Iraq in September, adding that he had coordinated with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Within 24 hours of that sensational statement, a chain of events happened, as the Italian Prime Minister talked to Tony Blair and George Bush on the telephone and changed his position on Iraq."
"Berlusconi To Pull Troops Out Of Iraq"
Georgiy Stepanov opined in reformist Izvestiya (3/17): "Until recently the United States could rely on the 30,000 Italian troops in Iraq as much as on its own, seeing Berlusconi as the most loyal and consistent of its allies. That is history now. All ends sooner or later, which also goes for being blindly and unreservedly committed to allied relationships. The way--studiedly friendly, condescending, almost family-like--Berlusconi has treated the Bush Administration must have turned out badly.< At some point he obviously realized that, after a short while, his fellow countrymen might turn away from him for good. So, the Prime Minister took his choice. The Italian withdrawal will make a breach in the Coalition. It looks as if the Tigris and Euphrates are in for an early mass exodus from their inhospitable banks."
"Berlusconi Finds Way Out Of Predicament"
Mikhail Zygar suggested in business-oriented Kommersant (3/17): "Given his unpredictable character, the Italian Prime Minister may change his mind several times. There will surely be a follow-up. Mr. Berlusconi certainly knows that, lately, especially since the kidnapping of an Italian journalist and the death of the man, an agent of Italian special services, who saved her life, the Iraq war has been very unpopular in Italy. Were Berlusconi to get in serious trouble at home, the immediate troop withdrawal would be the only way for him to stay afloat."
"Berlusconi Robs Bush Of Strength"
Giovanni Bensi filed from Rome for centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (3/17): "The Iraq war is very unpopular in Italy. Pope John Paul II once spoke out against it, too. While the Italian mission is peaceful officially, it is not so legally: the Italian military supports one of the warring factions, the U.S.-led Coalition."
AUSTRIA: "Iraq Is Not Over The Hump Yet"
Foreign affairs editor Gudrun Harrer editorialized in independent daily Der Standard (3/21): " Iraq, whose liberation from the terror regime of Saddam Hussein took place two years ago and whose democratization process started at the end of January, is not over the hump and won't be for some time to come. No doubt, Saddam's fall and the parliamentary elections have contributed to the dynamic development within the Middle East. However, it is still a long way before Iraq, as supported by the U.S., will have reached the stage where it is regarded as the cradle of democracy and stability in the region. The scenario of a 'failed state' that drags its neighboring countries down with it, however, nowadays appears to fade in view of a new, pragmatic class of politicians that is determined primarily by Shiites and Kurds--even considering the fact that corruption and mismanagement are still alarming, not to mention the security situation. What is still completely open is the question of how Islamic the new Iraq will turn out to be--and with which consequences for its neighbors.... This must not be taken as a reason by the Arab world not to go the road of freedom and democracy. However, the road could be bumpy--and freedom could also mean Western hegemony."
"Silvio Surprises Friend And Foe Alike"
The foreign affairs writer for centrist daily Wieland Schneider commented (3/17): "With his Iraq decision, Silvio Berlusconi has surprised not just his foes, but above all his friends.... It was a slap in the face of the U.S. President, whose coalition of the willing is decreasing further. The engagement in Iraq has always been a thorn in the side of the Italians. However, Italy's Prime Minister had always affirmed its importance: It was necessary to bring freedom to Iraq and prevent international terror, he maintained. However, there was another decisive factor for the media czar with his taste for profiling: He wanted to make Italy great again, wanted to sit at the same table with the world's most powerful man. Now, everything has changed: The great world is of little use if nobody loves you at home."
BELGIUM: "Two Years After: A Balance Sheet With Mixed Results"
Middle East Affairs writer Baudouin Loos remarked in left-of-center Le Soir (3/21): "International law was flouted. The concept of 'preventive war' that President George W. Bush invented did not take the UN into account, and the reasons that Washington used to wage its war in Iraq--weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and Iraq's connections with Al-Qaeda--melted away like the snow. But the world--and especially Iraq--got rid of one of the worst criminals of the end of the 20th century. Elections--although partial and imperfect--even took place in Iraq on January 30.... Iraqis are opening their eyes and discovering the internet, satellite television, and brand new cars. Newspapers are even showing their independence. Enthusiastic, Bush sees what is going on in Iraq as an example for the entire region. Yet, given what the reality is, one should be more cautious. The Arabs' thirst for freedom existed before the American crusade--as illustrated by the fact that Arab prisons are crowded."
Foreign editor Gerald Papy commented in independent La Libre Belgique (3/19): "It would probably be excessive to speak about democratic contagion. But it is undisputable that, mainly under pressure from the United States that had the project of a democratic Greater Middle East, progress has been made in several countries of the region, to begin with Lebanon and, to a lesser extent, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. But the war in Iraq had also as a result that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has taken over from Usama ben Laden as the leader of Islamic terrorism....< And the coalition forces appear unable to eradicate this plague.... This inability, in addition to human rights violations in Abu Ghraib and other prisons, has weakened the credit of an American superpower that claimed to be the champion of democracy."
BULGARIA: "Two Years Since The U.S., UK And Australia Attacked Iraq"
Largest circulation daily Trud penned (3/17): "The insurgency in Iraq will most likely force the U.S. and the UK to stay in Iraq longer than they would have wanted to and therefore pressure on Bulgaria to stay loyal to the coalition will increase. What is happening in Iraq now is a fait accomplit, but nothing is final yet. The countries involved in the conflict are facing difficult steps and decisions."
"The Issue Is Not If But When"
The second largest circulation daily 24 Hours asserted (3/17): "The issue is not whether to pull out of Iraq, but when would be the best time to announce it and how to do it best.... The timing of the announcement is very important.... If done well, this could bring benefits for the country, which would serve the national cause, not domestic political interests."
LUXEMBOURG: "Let's Go Boys, We Have To Go Back!"
Francis Wagner wrote in socialist Tageblatt (3/18): "It is almost like the time when the Anglo-American Allies pushed the troops of another Italian loudmouth at another desert front to retreat after retreat. But only just, because this time they need to make Marshall Berlusconi retreat from the retreat. This is, of course, something completely different. Opportunists, as populists generally are, want to be on the side of the winner. If they mess up, they will be between the hammer and the nail. As is Marshall Berlusconi at the moment: the Italians are increasingly unhappy with his military escapades, and so he thinks out loud about a possible way out of the Iraqi adventure. But Bush and Blair have apparently made the cowardly, shrinking Cesar (or perhaps one should use the expression 'tabloid Cesar' which is more in tune with current times) understand what punishment awaits the coward. And now he has the choice--if he stays in Iraq, his Romans will chase him out of the city according to antique custom; if he leaves, Bush and Blair will have him tarred and feathered and he will never be allowed back to Crawford, Texas. So, whatever happens to him, he deserves it."
MALTA: "Not So Willing Any More"
The independent English-language daily, The Times editorialized (3/18):< "Mr Berlusconi announced on Tuesday that the Italian troops in Iraq would start pulling out next September. A White House spokesman tried not to see a connection between the pull-out and the shooting. What could he say? Most people have concluded that the two go together. Mr Berlusconi would not have withdrawn them unless the political damage stemming from the death of Mr Calipari left him no option. And a general election is round the corner in Italy. The withdrawal is not good news for the coalition. It will be seen by the Americans as an unfortunate decision coming as it does when matters in the Middle East were starting to be regarded with more optimism than has been the case for a decade. Indeed, during his State of the Union message last month President George W. Bush, buoyed by the elections that had been held in Iraq and Palestine, felt confident enough to declare: 'The only force powerful enough to stop the rise of tyranny and terror, and replace hatred with hope, is the force of human freedom.' Later on in Brussels at the start of a five-day visit to Europe, he urged, among other things, support for 'the world's' newest democracy' and added: 'All nations now have an interest in the success of a free and democratic Iraq, which will fight terror, be a beacon of freedom and be a source of true stability in the region'. It would seem that all talk of an 'atlanticist' meeting of minds, bridging of differences in the new situation that had arisen.was more talk than substance. Not all European nations seem to have understood their 'interest in the success of a free and democratic Iraq'....< It would have made no sense for them to do that. Yet it can be argued that it makes less sense for countries that have contributed militarily and successfully to the creation of a new Iraq to desert that place at a time when their presence was needed to help the new state come into full being."
POLAND: "What If Bush Was Right?"
Mariusz Zawadzki wrote in liberal Gazeta Wyborcza (3/21): "If in ten years Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine are stable democratic states that constitute an example for the entire region, then we should apologize and say, 'Yes, Bush was right!' If it ends in blood, then we could say, 'Didn't I tell you?' For the time being, we must root for the President's team rather than stubbornly scold the coach.... Bush must be helped, even if he was not right --lest the Iraqi suffering be in vain."
"It's All In The Hands Of The Kurds"
Mariusz Zawadzki wrote in liberal Gazeta Wyborcza (3/19): "Seven weeks after the elections, the Iraqi parliament finally managed to convene. It has been their only measurable achievement so far.... The winners of the elections: the Shiites and the Kurds, got stuck in arduous talks about the coalition...with the Kurds forming new, much tougher conditions.... The Iraqi voters who risked their lives by going to the polling stations on January 30th, are becoming a bit irritated with their representatives. The rebels do not negotiate, they set bombs and shoot. Average citizens have no electricity, and the streets are full of sewage. But despite complaints, most Iraqis would rather see the decisions be made by their deputies--as sluggish and divided as they are--than by Saddam or the White House. The chance for Iraqi democracy lies in this."
"First Steps Of Democracy In Iraq"
Jan Skorzynski wrote in centrist Rzeczpospolita (3/17): "On their new parliament's first day, the Iraqis could already see that democracy is not an ideal system. The political haggling between the Shiite alliance and the Kurdish groups thwarted the selection of a president and prime minister.... To create a system of peaceful coexistence between various religious factions is a matter of life or death for Iraq. Dividing the state's highest positions among the Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis, would be an example of such a system. It is worth sacrificing more long hours of political negotiations to make sure that all the parties will accept this compromise power split. The Iraqis aren't the only ones watching the first steps of Iraqi democracy. The example of Baghdad--positive or negative--will influence all Arab countries governed by authoritarian regimes."
SPAIN: "Two Years After"
Left-of-center daily El País penned (3/21): "The war started over assumptions that have been proved absolutely false.... And it is still to be seen what happens in the subsequent argument over the 'Arab spring' that marks the democratizing initiative in Middle East. There have been many movements in the last few months and many of them are positive.... Iraq is in the middle.... The credibility of the initial U.S. project has suffered such that is extremely vulnerable in spite of the advances that it claims to have obtained.... President Bush has changed his speech giving priority to freedom and even the utility of the multilateralism that he once scorned. But (Bush) yesterday made clear that he has no intention to revise his policy of these past two years and that he considers them reaffirmed by the facts and ratified by the will of the Americans in their last elections. Unfortunately, he talks less about human rights and the firm will that his administration should have had to defend them.... It's regrettable, and it also makes difficult relations with societies as the Europeans.... At least this is how the Spanish public opinion sees it, they massively support Bush's objective to promote democracy in the world, but yet more massively express their skepticism, when not their absolute incredulity, in respect to the objectives over President Bush's foreign policy for its second mandate."
"Two Years Of War"
Centrist daily La Vanguardia wrote (3/21): "As time goes along, it's confirmed that the only truth that the dictator of Baghdad predicted is that Washington was going to pay dearly for the intervention. It's true that (the U.S.) won the war in only three weeks...but it is also true that they still have not been able to win the postwar.... The unilateral intervention is questionable, but once it happened an immediate retreat would have turned the civil war that the country suffers into an open conflict.< In these two years, under the Anglo-American military tutelage, Iraq has managed to minimally organize itself and, at least, held elections two months ago.... The Iraqi way to democracy inexorably passes through an agreement that includes all the ethnic and religious groups.... The U.S. is condemned...to remain in Iraq for much time to finish with what it started, to control the second largest worldwide reserves of oil, to press for the democratization of the countries of the area, to avoid an hypothetical alliance between the Iraqi and Iranian Shiites in Middle East...and to protect Israel."
SPAIN: "Berlusconi And Iraq"
Left-of-center daily El País wrote (3/17): "Berlusconi is managing politics. His decision, improperly announced in a popular TV show and not in parliament..., shows that 'Il Calvaliere' feels the pressure of the upcoming regional election next month....< No one can accuse Rome of failing to fulfill its part in Iraq. Nor of being sensitive to a climate of anxiety about its military presence in a chaotic country.... Italy did not participate in the invasion, but keeps 3000 soldiers in Iraq, the fourth international contingent in number, and has paid its quota in lives and kidnappings. Also, the evolution of the situation allows Berlusconi to keep his commitment with Bush in the idyllic terms expressed yesterday. There are very few signs that the Iraqis can protect themselves in a term reasonable for western wishes.... Without a strong executive, Iraq will not be in a position to drive itself out of its black hole."
"Italy Wants To Live Iraq"
Centrist daily La Vanguardia remarked (3/17: "The international coalition that invaded Iraq and helped to 'pacify' the country is starting to break up.... Although (Berlusconi) denies that the death of agent Calipari...has anything to do with this announcement (to withdraw troops from Iraq), it is certain that the legislative election planned for next year obliges him to make the decision of which he informed Bush and Blair. It is the electoral horizon what makes Berlusconi get rid of a heavy burden that may complicate his reelection.... After the announcement by Italy, all eyes are set on London."
"It Is Not The Same"
Conservative daily ABC wrote (3/17): "The decision to repatriate the Italian troops deployed in Iraq...reflects the evolution of events in that country and the gradual achievement of the objectives marked by the coalition lead by the United States. But it is also evident that Silvio Berlusconi might take this step after an analysis of Italian public opinion, to which he appealed in order to justify his decision.... In view of the conditions under which the withdrawal by Italy might take place, it would be reckless to expect a retroactive validation of the withdrawal of Spanish troops.... The main difference is the loyalty with which Berlusconi has acted to his allies.... Italy has kept its commitments...and thanks to this attitude, similar to the one of the rest of countries of the coalition, it has been possible to open the ballot boxes to the Iraqis and not to give terrorism what would have been a disastrous victory for the democratic community and the aspirations of millions of democrat Muslims.... The risks for Iraqi democracy have not disappeared, but the clichés about the legitimacy of 'resistance', which 'is resisting' by using terrorism against the multinational force supported by the United Nations, are."
TURKEY: "The War Has Not Brought Peace Yet"
Sami Kohen commented in the mass appeal Milliyet (3/22): "Although the declaration about the end of the Iraq war was made three weeks after it began, in fact, after two years' time the war still continues in different ways. Given the circumstances, the Iraq war has not yet brought peace and stability.... Time has shown that besides the official reasons expressed by the Bush administration to initiate the war, there were some other secret and selfish intentions attached. Washington, under the influence of 'hawks,' sketched a new order for the region, including Iraq, and designed it according to US interests. This apparently was the major motive to attack Iraq. This plan was so important for Bush that he defied warnings from friends and allies and implemented it.... Today the result is not promising: At least 100,000 Iraqis have died to date along with demolished towns and the resurrection of religious and ethnic conflicts. The U.S. has lost 1,500 soldiers and experienced a heavy fiscal burden. Moreover, Washington has lost the support and trust of its allies as well as Iraqis. Under current circumstances the only way out is to speed up the Iraqi rebuilding process and terminate the occupation as quickly as possible. The second anniversary of the Iraq war brings to mind a question: Is the Bush administration going to take lessons from what has happened so far and act realistically?"
"Two Years Of Occupation"
The leftist nationalist Cumhuriyet opined (3/21): "President Bush defended the occupation of Iraq and talked about the liberation of Iraq while the U.S. action was being protested on a global scale. These opposing viewpoints require a closer intellectual examination. The logic espoused by President Bush was that 'threats against the United States must be overcome before they result in attacks.' This sums up the reality of the new world order.... Bush, in a very clear way, repeatedly mentioned the threats against the U.S. and talked about taking action. This logic seems to apply mostly to the Muslim world at the moment, but in fact it is valid for potential threats all around the world. The new world order stands on this principle. The U.S. has declared its right to occupy any country that may seem dangerous. All of this brings a question to one's mind: is Turkey exempt, or does this general rule apply here as well?... Political colonialism ended in the aftermath of World War II. However, economic colonialism continues to exist as a natural consequence of capitalism. Developing nations are in trouble. This is another aspect of the new world order: the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Problems will only increase as technology develops and the world becomes more globalized. As time goes by, the real reasons behind the rhetoric claiming that the U.S. is 'under threat' will be clearly understood."
WEST BANK: "Two Years After The Invasion Of Iraq"
Independent Al-Quds editorialized (3/20): "It's normal that whoever wants to rebuild Iraq, has to do that through contracts with American firms without bidding or auctioning while offering small bits to companies from countries who participated in the occupation or supported it.... The rebuilding is still in its early stages, electrical networks barely function, the infrastructure is a little above zero and oil production and returns are only transparent to certain people.< The occupation has made deeper the tribal and ethnic differences between Iraqis and has divided the positions and councils between Shi'ites and Kurds while ignoring the Sunnis, whom, they claimed, are the backbone of the resistance.< The American administration forgot or pretended to have forgotten that the U.S. itself first came to be because of its resistance to English occupation. President Bush himself did not forget to mention that resisting the occupation is an understandable legitimate right."
IRAQ: "Oh America, May You Form Our Government!"
Dr. Hamid Abdullah stated in independent Al-Mashriq (3/21): "The Iraqi people will have to demonstrate in the streets carrying slogans that call on our beloved ally, the United States, to form a government for us after the discussions of our own politicians have proven worthless. Do not be surprised; many people think that the U.S. can resolve any problem. Without America, we will never be able to accomplish anything worthy. America librated us and now teaches us about democracy and human rights, organizes our traffic, and provides us with water, food, and security. Perhaps it will even take over the responsibility of picking up Baghdad's garbage since the municipality has proven incapable of providing services for its citizens. Do not blame America if it loses patience and interferes in the political process to appoint a suitable prime minister, president, and ministers who are capable of serving the new Iraq. Do not blame America if it is forced to tell the new Iraqi politicians that they will never reach an agreement, they will lose Iraq, America will lose its interests and projects, and the billions that were spent on Iraq's liberation will be lost. As a result, the blood of thousands of foreign troops will then turn fruitless. Do not blame America if it tells the Iraqi politicians that they are unqualified to lead Iraq, unable to reach an agreement, and unable to sacrifice their own positions and interests for the sake of establishing a government that can protect them and that brought them out of exile back to Iraq. Do not blame America if it interferes in the mundane details of Iraqi life because it can see that the Iraqi people are divided. Do not blame America if it interferes to provide security, govern the country, determine curriculums, manage judicial affairs, settle real estate issues, run civil affairs, work on water issues, and improve the transportation system. Do not blame America if it has to divide the water of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers according to sectarian, ethnic, and nationalist bases. Do not blame it America if it distributes air on the bases of patronage, which was invented by Paul Bremer. It is rumored that Mr. Bremer is now in Baghdad to help Iraq escape from the current crisis after its Iraqi politicians proved unable to find a solution. Do not blame America, say hurray to America!"
"A Second Anniversary Of The war"
Bassem Al-Sheikh remarked in independent Ad-Dustoor (3/21): "The second anniversary of the first day of Iraq's occupation passed yesterday. Two years ago, most of Baghdad's citizens were fleeing to open areas in order to escape from the dreads of war. Some of these citizens were taken in as guests by friends living in cities outside of Baghdad. Those families who hosted citizens of Baghdad did not care if their guests were Shiite, Sunni, Kurd, Turkmen, or Assyrian. They welcomed their guests with unity and fraternity. These hosts shared their own rooms with their guests. They shared their bread, oil, gas and their own television sets so that all could watch the news of the ongoing battles. These families have given Iraq an excellent lesson in unity and love by ignoring sectarianism. This is a term that was largely established from the slogans of politicians as a means to serve their personal profits and interests. Perhaps our politicians obsessed over these disputes in the past and are now feeling like strange dwellers. These politicians initially planted these imaginative barriers in our society thinking that the Iraqis would help to solidify them. Unfortunately, the Iraqi people have been disappointed because they hoped the politicians would make real changes. Two years ago, the Iraqi citizens were living under a cloud of war that was raining bombs on their country while their politicians were waiting at their resorts for war's end. They were waiting for the butcher to complete the slaughter of the ewe so they could savor it together. The Iraqi people have been waiting for two years and, still, the politicians have not fulfilled their promises. The Iraqi politicians believe that their personal interests and profits are more important than the interests of the Iraqi people. It seems that they are not concerned about the delay in announcing the new government--as if they are unaware that such an act could cause more bloodshed. Indeed, an extraordinary delay may lead to disaster. Today, the Iraqi people, who bore the consequences of a violent war for twenty days, are waiting for a solution to end the violence. They are also waiting for the formation of a government that cares about them. The Iraqi people have grown tired of speaking about politics and government issues because they have already discussed these issues at length without realizing that they had already been settled. This is a dangerous feeling, one that all politicians should be responsible for its consequences."
"Iraqi Politicians Praise The Resistance"
Hamid Abdullah wrote in independent Al-Mashriq (3/20): "We have begun to hear some Iraqi politicians changing their tone when they speak about resistance. Over the past several months, they were clearly against the resistance. Now, some of these politicians are describing it as a legitimate national resistance. Others are stating that it is 'honest and brave.' n fact, we even heard some of them say that they would join the resistance if they lose everything in the future. Indeed, most Iraqi politicians placed their eggs in the American basket without ever thinking that this basket might break and result in the shattering of all eggs. However, I do not think it is strange to stand side-by-side with governments because history tells us that this is a strategy employed by politicians to gain more positions, privileges, and interests. When politicians lose power, they join the opposition. This represents the game of politics. As we know, democracy includes opinions and opposing opinions. However, democracy does not mean that when a politician loses a political battle, he or she should threaten to join the resistance after previously being targeted by it. These politicians are allowed to oppose or criticize the government. Yet, the situation in Iraq is different because there is a big dissimilarity between the government's affiliated political parties and the armed resistance. Sending signals of flirtation to the resistance represents a warning message and a threat to the political process and its supporters. This message being sent by some politicians is conveying their attitude that if they are not included in the political process, they will become an enemy of it. Therefore, do not be surprised if you find important Iraqi politicians in the new Iraq change their statements 180 degrees in the future. These politicians will have realized that the American train is no longer able to hold them. Perhaps all seats were taken or reserved in advance. As a result, they have only two choices left. The first choice is to decide to catch another train where they will have to stand until they find an unoccupied seat. The second choice is for these politicians to get off the train and attempt to stop it while it is moving. You have to choose!"
Muhammad Abdul Jabbar wrote in independent government-supporting Al-Sabah (3/20): "The upcoming transitional stage will witness a conflict between two types of willpower to make political decisions. The first type wants to make decisions on the basis of harmony with groups outside the elected transitional national assembly. The second type wants to make decisions according to the rules of voting inside the national assembly. Each type of willpower has its advantages and disadvantages. However, the main difference between them is that the mechanism of voting is the closest method to democracy while the mechanism of harmony is not entirely representative of democracy. The political forces and social constituents require a mechanism of harmony to ensure their rights. I think this is a reasonable demand because the country has only recently been freed from decades of dictatorship in which all democratic and political traditions were absent. The political process needs a method for harmony in order to ensure its progress toward the correct democratic path and to plant the first seeds of developing a political community. We know for a fact that the political community is composed of citizens experienced in politics. However, experience can only come from practice and we all know that politics in its very existence is a practice. I do not think it is necessary to make comparisons between the two earlier mechanisms because Iraq is under a transitional period that has its own conditions, features, and mechanisms. We should, however, make sure that our political awareness distinguishes between harmony, which represents a transitional option, and voting, which represents a democratic option. We can resort to the option of harmony in exceptional circumstances and adopt the option of voting as a normal rule. Yet, this choice must indicate that voting will be the sole mechanism employed during the upcoming constitution writing stage. Nonetheless, the harmony that has been established amongst the different groups should not be ignored. The reoccurring question is where are these discussions, exchanges of opinions, and conflicts of willpowers taking place? Will they be held outside the national parliament building or within the rules and procedures of the national assembly?"
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
CHINA (HONG KONG AND MACAU SARS): "Election Keeps Glimmer Of Hope Alive In Iraq"
The independent English-language South China Morning Post editorialized (3/20): "Since then, this lack of legitimacy has undermined the rebuilding of Iraq and the establishing of a stable democracy. While it has yet to be proved there were ever any significant ties between Hussein's ousted government and the al-Qaeda terrorist network--another reason cited for the war pursued by U.S. President George W. Bush--Iraq today serves as a magnet for insurgents who see it as a place to take a stand against American influence in the Middle East. For ordinary Iraqis, life now is often as desperate and dangerous as it was under the despotic Hussein, but with the added complication of an unpopular and dangerous foreign military occupation. On the invasion's second anniversary, it is still difficult to see evidence that this was a war of liberation fought on behalf of the country's citizens.... Iraq has yet to see the stability, democracy and prosperity promised to it. But some encouragement can be taken from January's election. The political process started then could be the basis for progress in other areas over the coming year. Given the possibility of civil war and regional conflict should this process fail, Iraqis and the international community should be doing all they can to see that it moves in the right direction."
"Foreign Troops Pulling Out From Iraq May Set Off Ripple Effect"
The pro-PRC Chinese-language Macau Daily News remarked (3/18): "More than 18 countries announcing successively pulling out their troops from Iraq has dealt a heavy blow to the Bush administration politically, as well as in terms of the security needs of Iraq. The frequent announcement of troop pullouts within this month may even set off a ripple effect. The U.S. and Britain have repeatedly said that foreign troops would pull out eventually and it was meaningless for foreign troops to be stationed in Iraq forever. U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz said prior to the Iraqi elections that he hoped U.S. troops stationed in Iraq could be reduced to 135,000 after the Iraqi elections. However, Bush stressed that the pullout of U.S. troops would depend on the training progress of the Iraqi troops and their capability to take up the responsibility of security. The Iraqi elections were held one month ago. The two factions have not yet reached an agreement on their cabinet. The new government is still slow in coming. And the security issue is not worth mentioning.... Secretary of State Rice visited the European Union last month asking Poland to keep their troops in Iraq. She also lobbied the European Union countries to send troops to Iraq. However, the response was not positive. Germany only promised to train the Iraqi troops in the United Arab Emirates. Thus, the Iraqi issue will continue to trouble the Bush administration."
JAPAN: "Procrastination To Alienate Iraqi People"
The top-circulation, moderate-conservative Yomiuri wrote (3/21): "The Iraqi national assembly was finally convened on March 16, more than six weeks after the parliamentary elections in January. But, an outline of a transitional government has not yet emerged. There is no time left for elected lawmakers. They must strive to swiftly establish a transitional government.... Delays caused by the power struggle between Shiites and Kurds is unacceptable. Iraqi people, in the hope of building a democratic state, defied terrorist threats by lining up to vote in January. Any disillusion by the public would likely hinder progress made in the nation's rebuilding."
"World Haunted By Concern Over U.S. Unilateralism"
Liberal Asahi argued (3/20): "Most Iraqis have welcomed the demise of the Hussein regime and acknowledge that the reconstruction of the nation is steadily making progress. However, the Iraq war still cannot be justified.... Washington appears to have underestimated anti-American sentiment within the Arab world, where any moves toward democracy would not necessarily guarantee the election of U.S.-friendly governments. Iraq is no exception. The world is still haunted by U.S. unilateralism. Unless the Bush administration stops using force in its war on terrorism, global anxiety about the go-at-it-alone attitude of the U.S. is likely to linger."
INDONESIA: "Two Years After U.S. Aggression In Iraq"
Independent Media Indonesia commented (3/21): "The world is not safer after U.S. aggression in Iraq. The war has, on the contrary, created new problems. It has mounted an East-West, Islam-Christian conflict. Bush, it seems, is carrying out a 'recommendation' by scholar Samuel Huntington about the threat to the West after the Cold War, i.e. a conspiracy of Islam and Confucianism. It is not a mistake [to say] that Bush once provocatively called the Iraq war a crusade.... Although the war was by no means based on religious convictions, it is difficult to force the party that links it with religion [to admit it]. Didn't Bush start it? As the largest Muslim country in the world, Indonesia may not ignore such an interpretation. Fortunately, the world, including Indonesia, has not been easily provoked by Bush. But this does not mean that the anti-American sentiment will not grow. This is the risk the U.S. must accept.'
PAKISTAN: "Second Anniversary Of U.S. Occupation Of Iraq"
center-right Urdu daily Pakistan editorialized (3/21): "Millions of people worldwide protested against the U.S. on completion of two years of American occupation of Iraq and the killing of innocent Iraqis. The protestors demanded that foreign troops vacate Iraq and Iraqi rule be restored.... Even after the passage of two years, no weapon of mass destruction has been recovered from the country; in fact the U.S. has caused untold death and destruction there. This is tantamount to naked aggression and imperialist occupation that must not continue anymore. Iraq belongs to Iraqis. Foreign troops must withdraw from Iraq."
MEXICO: "Iraq: The Collapse Of The Coalition"
Left-of-center La Jornada editorialized (3/16): "The announcement made yesterday by the Italian government of Silvio Berlusconi withdrawing Italian troops from occupied Iraq by the end of December is, from any point of view, an explicit admission of failure.... It's a failure too for George W. Bush's administration, which during the year lost two fundamental pillars for the coalition he invented to destroy and subjugate Iraq: José María Aznar and Silvio Berlusconi. Bush remains alone in his warlike endeavor without any other companion than Tony Blair. Bush and his remaining allies can make an effort to present those withdrawals as a result of 'stabilization', 'democratization' and 'pacification' process, but the truth is that Iraq now is more chaotic, more violent and uncontrollable than ever before."
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