|Office of Research||Issue Focus||Foreign Media Reaction|
November 1, 2005
IRAQ: CONSTITUTION, CASUALTIES MARK 'TWIN MILESTONES'
** Global media term constitution's acceptance a "step forward."
** Pessimists say the constitution "marginalizes" Sunnis, will fuel civil war.
** Iranian dailies stand out among Muslim press as praising the "decisive step" toward stability.
** As U.S. fatalities top 2,000, predictions of continued guerrilla war.
A 'firm step towards democracy'-- Global dailies, in the words of a Colombian writer, termed the successful passage of the new Iraqi constitution "another crucial step" towards resolution of the situation, even as many conceded the "mostly Sunni-fueled insurgency" would go on. The "high Sunni participation in the referendum will likely give Sunni political leaders a boost" in upcoming elections, concluded Israel's conservative Jerusalem Post. France's right-of-center Le Figaro, though stating the constitution "is not ideal," observed that its "adoption by the people of Iraq proves that the electoral process is beginning to take root."
The 'Yugoslav scenario looks more credible'-- More pessimistic outlets alleged the "rushed" constitution was tied to the "U.S. foreign policy timetable" and would make Sunnis "even more skeptical." They asserted "apparent political progress will not mean much" as long as "chaos and violence are increasing" in spite of democratic gains. Britain's center-left Independent scoffed that "there is something absurd about the idea that a new constitution...should be taken so seriously abroad when nobody in Iraq obeys the law and in any case there is no state." Turkey's mass-appeal Sabah reflected a widespread view among doubters that "this constitution will first drag Iraq into a civil war like Lebanon's and then cause it to disintegrate like Yugoslavia."
Referendum 'gives rise to suspicions'-- Iranian outlets stood out among Muslim media in asserting that "justice has prevailed for all of Iraq" after the poll. London-based pan-Arab papers alleged vote "rigging was obvious" while Saudi dailies emphasized the importance of a national reconciliation conference organized by the Arab League; as Abha's moderate Al-Watan put it, "Political problems cannot be solved except through political bargaining and national reconciliation." Lebanese and Pakistani papers contended the voting showed "the dangerous polarization" of Iraq and argued it could "fragment" the country "by federalism."
'A milestone that saddens"-- Global editorialists noted that a second "milestone" was occurring as the constitution was being adopted--the 2,000th U.S. fatality. Iraq "seems to be evolving into a second Vietnam," judged China's official Global Times, while India's centrist Statesman predicted the casualty lists "will increase, for there is no evidence of the so-called insurgency abating or being pounded into submission." One French writer expected the constitution's adoption to permit the U.S. to "seriously begin to think about a pull out," but other Euro papers warned that "a precipitous pull-out could be the prelude to a civil war and the creation of a new sanctuary for al-Qaida."
Prepared by Media Reaction Division (202) 203-7888, email@example.com
EDITORS: 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 57 reports from 26 countries October 22-30, 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
BRITAIN: "A Small And Fragile Step Forward"
The left-of-center Guardian observed (10/26): "The constitution Iraqis voted on this month resembles a color-by-numbers book, with the shapes broadly outlined but the all-important colors left to be filled in later.... If it had been less rushed the result might have been better. As it is, the constitution gives the Kurds and the Shia much of what they wanted and the Sunnis very little of what they wanted, while imposing on all three the burden of resolving the many difficult questions which the harassed drafters avoided."
"Today, Salute The Iraqis"
Associate editor Rosemary Righter took this view in the conservative Times (10/26): "The robustness of the Iraqi commitment to the political process is beyond remarkable. So listen, you defeatists and cynics who said that this couldn't be done, shouldn't even be attempted: however confused the outcome may be, the democracy that you patronizingly declared that Iraqis could never handle is taking shape. But all means sneer when Bush and Blair talk about progress, but lay off the Iraqi people. They are not the benighted fools you took them for, and their courage puts us all to shame."
"A Far From Satisfactory Step Forward"
The center-left Independent editorialized (10/26): "How far yesterday's referendum can be seen as a step towards a solution is doubtful. It is certainly better that Iraq has a constitution than that it does not. It is good that some 62 percent of the electorate did vote. With luck, it will help the democratic process along to parliamentary elections due on 15 December. But the constitution is far from being a satisfactory structure for the future of the country. Still less has the debate around it proved an effective means of drawing Iraq's disparate communities together."
"The Lost Battle For Hearts And Minds"
The center-left Independent commented (10/24): "The editorial comments on a poll of Iraqis commissioned by the UK Ministry of Defense that shows that less than 1% of Iraqis polled think coalition forces are helping to improve security, 67% feel less secure because of the presence of coalition forces, and 65% approve of attacks on coalition forces.... If this poll is accurate, the message for the U.S. and the UK is stark: the troop occupation is doing more harm than good. For most Iraqis, it seems, the withdrawal of troops cannot begin too soon.... It is true that there have been some encouraging developments in Iraq of late.... But for many Iraqis, such developments are little more than a sideshow. Their lives are dominated by violence and grinding misery. And it is increasingly clear who they hold responsible."
"What Use Is A Constitution When There Is No State?"
Patrick Cockburn argued in the center-left Independent (10/26): "It was announced yesterday that Iraqis had voted in favor of the new constitution. No doubt this will be lauded in Washington and London as an encouraging glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. But viewed from Baghdad, there is something absurd about the idea that a new constitution 'the rules of the game under which the state will be governed' should be taken so seriously abroad when nobody in Iraq obeys the law and in any case there is not state."
FRANCE: "Iraq: The Real Question"
Left-of-center Le Monde judged (10/27): "In reality, the real question about Iraq is no so much the rhythm of the political process.... The real question is the war.... On the day that the U.S. President saluted the victory of the vote on the Iraqi constitution he conveniently forgot to mention that the U.S. had just registered its 2,000th casualty in Iraq.... The only real question, with to date remains without an answer, is the fact that the American occupation of Iraq continues to feed the war itself, but that a precipitous pull-out could be the prelude to a civil war and the creation of a new sanctuary for al-Qaida. While Washington was wrong to occupy so brutally Iraq once Saddam was toppled, and while the Iraqi population rejoiced and expected deliverance instead of an occupation, President Bush is right today to warn everyone against 'the dangerous illusion' of a departure that would look much like a debacle."
"An Out For Iraq"
Pierre Rousselin remarked in right-of-center Le Figaro (10/26): "The Iraqi Constitution is not ideal but it has the advantage of existing. Its adoption by the people of Iraq proves that the electoral process is beginning to take root where dictatorship was the only known system.... The White House has heavily invested in this project. It is all the more relieved because now it can seriously begin to think about a pull out.... After the December 15 legislative elections, the Americans will be in a position to say ‘mission accomplished’...and start to send their soldiers home. What better prospect with the mid-term elections in the U.S. getting closer? Of course in Iraq everyone is aware of America’s calculus. And as things become clearer, these ulterior motives become more evident. Will the end of the occupation be a deliverance, as some want to believe? Meanwhile violence continues.... Many Iraqis feel that a precipitous pull-out will only accelerate a general conflict. And no one wants this, including the Shiites and the Kurds, or neighboring countries, such as Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.... The resolution of the crisis must be part of a regional plan. And the mission in Iraq of the Arab League Secretary General is an encouraging first step."
"Iraq: Security Or Democracy"
Daniel Vernet argued in left-of-center Le Monde (10/26): "The positive election results in Iraq, after those in Afghanistan do not justify interventions in 'failing' or 'rogue' nations by other nations or by international organizations.... It is not enough to be a 'benevolent hegemon,' as Francis Fukuyama said, one need also be a 'competent hegemon.' The least that can be said is that this is not the case with the U.S. in Iraq. After the initial military campaign, the U.S. made irretrievable mistakes in its 'state building'.... The first obligation of an interventionist nation is to secure the population’s safety.... Insecurity is endangering the entire reconstruction process.... In Iraq, the U.S. hesitated between order and democracy, coercion and negotiation, occupation and transfer of power.... The temptation for many state builders is to impose artificial structures, which do not correspond to local traditions or societies.... In other words, implementing democracy in these far away regions requires time. Its rhythm does not coincide with our Western electoral calendars."
GERMANY: "Too Many Dead"
Arno Widmann commented in left-of-center Berliner Zeitung (10/27): "Fifty-three percent of U.S. citizens now believe the Iraq war was a mistake. When U.S. citizens think that way after the death of 2,000 people, what do Iraqis think after more than 50,000 deaths? The U.S. president does not care about the opinion of the Iraqis or that of the people in his country. He no longer needs them. He can completely listen to the voice of God, or what he thinks God is telling him, and hit whatever God commands. He does not just have the power over divine forces but also over the United States--as we were recently told. We are curious to hear how many more than 53 percent of opposition is necessary and what He has to say to stop the murderous and suicidal policy of the U.S. government."
Ulrich Ladurner observed in center-left, weekly Die Zeit of Hamburg (10/27): "Eighty percent of the Iraqis voted in favor of the constitution presented by the parliament. That is good news. That the majority of the Sunnis opposed this is bad news. They almost managed to stop the process. The rejection lacked only 83,000 votes, which is why many Sunnis now believe that the results were changed to please the occupying powers. The Sunnis' distrust will remain, but this will not change the fact that Iraq will now embark on the next move on the path towards democracy."
Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger opined in a front-page editorial in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (10/26): "With the constitution, Iraq will get a constitutional order that is unique for the country and is unprecedented in the Arab world. It is the thus far most important milestone since the American-British invasion and, this is true, was inspired by the Americans. The fact that a great majority has now embarked upon this path...gives reason for hope and should encourage those who do not consider democracy in the Arab world a lost cause. But this is the other Iraqi reality: a downtrodden economy, the country is divided and insurgents are trying to drive the country into chaos and civil war with the support from the outside.... It will now be up to the Shiites and Kurds to get the support of those Sunnis for the political process who are not making a common cause with the terrorists. If they succeed in getting the support of these Sunnis for the project of a new Iraq, if the occupation powers finally find a promising strategy against the insurgents, and if everyday security improves, then the prophecies of doom will not come true.... Admittedly, these are quite a few conditions that must be met to avoid the disaster of which critics accuse Bush and Blair. The two, but mainly the U.S. president, should now not give in to domestic demands and consider a withdrawal of forces. It is true that the constitution has been adopted but the 'mission' is not accomplished. Bush will not make the same mistake of reporting an early success again."
"Stability On Paper"
Tomas Avenarius argued in an editorial in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (10/26): "Can, after the acceptance of the constitution, Iraq, can President Bush heave a sigh of relief? There is no doubt that this is a success and it should not be downgraded...and in December, a new Iraqi government can be elected...and then Iraq would be politically stabilized.... What more do we want? Well a lasting stabilization process. But Iraq's democratization remains in wide parts only a virtual process, be it the referendum, be it the parliamentary elections from January or be it the installment of the current transition government.... One reason is that the Sunnis are cutting themselves off the political process and the other reason is that the other population groups refuse to allow them to have a say in power.... It is a truism of the Iraq war: the rebellion is being supported mainly by the Sunnis, be them supporters of ousted dictator Saddam, or be it jihadists who are coming in from other countries, they are all Sunnis. As guerrilla force they need support from the Sunni population to fight, since they would otherwise be quickly crushed. That is why the referendum will hardly contribute to integrating the Sunnis into the political process. On the contrary, the month-long bickering about the contents of the constitution and the questionable, repeated count of the votes will have made them even more skeptical. Many of the Sunnis who were disappointed about the referendum today, will support the guerrilla forces tomorrow. This makes the success of the new constitution so questionable."
"A Vague Chance"
Business daily Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf had this to say (10/26): "Time will tell whether the news about the acceptance of the constitution is a good one. For the number of critics is great, since they cannot and do not want to believe that a majority did not exist for the rejection of the constitution. Some already speak of manipulation and soon courts must decide whether everything went according to the rule of law. That is why the constitution may primarily serve to sticking to the timetable for the parliamentary elections in December. But whether the vote is really enough to calm down the situation in the downtrodden country must be doubted. It has been a long time an illusion to believe that one individual decision could turn things to the better."
ITALY: A State To Save. In One Year"
Alberto Ronchey opined in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (10/26): "Following a prolonged vote count, it is certain that the Iraqi Constitution, which according to hard-lined opposers was written by Iraqi hands with U.S. ink, passed the referendum test.... Nonetheless, prospects remain uncertain in an Iraq of inexhaustible ethnic or tribal denominations.... The attempt to co-opt the Sunnis in the country’s constitutional process...has succeeded to some measure. But the compromise...only postpones the major controversies, like the one regarding Shiite and Kurdish federalism against the traditional centralism of Baghdad or the distribution of oil revenues. The Iraqi Parliament, which will be elected in mid-December, will be able to emend the Constitution during the following four months … and then to subject it to another referendum. The procedure...will not easily reconcile the three major factions of Iraqi society.... If every attempt at a compromise...should fail in 2006, the guerrilla warfare will become more chronic...until it becomes an open civil war.... In particular, the superpower...would have to face difficult choices. It cannot withdraw under the accusation of having set fire...to that region, but it is also unclear how much longer its burdensome garrisoning in Iraq can continue."
"The Charter Passes But It Is A Bitter Yes"
Alberto Negri had this to say in leading business daily Il Sole-24 Ore (10/26): "With the official results of the October 15 referendum a new 'federal Iraq' is born.... Outside of Iraq...they speak of an 'historic shift,' but more realistically in the Iraqi capital they are trying to understand what could happen now. Guerrillas and terrorism, which on the day of the referendum had enacted a sort of ceasefire, are back in full swing.... Almost three years since the invasion, the multinational forces, headed by the Americans, control neither the territory nor its resources. Iraq floats on oil...but also on a sea of instability and corruption.... Iraq has a Constitution, but neither peace nor the possibility of applying the new charter, if not in a few areas on the territory which are largely of Kurdish or Shiite majority. The order and power vacuum makes this country resemble not so much a decentralized republic but a bloody federal anarchy."
"The Long March Of The Sunnis"
Elite, center-left Il Riformista editorialized (10/26): "The Iraqi constitution has been approved.... The Sunni parties...must now take the most difficult, but decisive, step in their long march within the institutions: a drastic, definitive, break with the armed fight. At that point, we will really be able to talk of a turning point in Iraq."
"The Sovereignty Of The True Resistance Fighters"
Pro-government, elite Il Foglio asserted (10/26): "The new Iraq has a new Constitution and it will be an example [for others]. Terrorism is losing because the Iraqis have shown that they love democracy more than they fear death. They are the real resistance fighters, who are sovereign according to the law."
RUSSIA: "Constitution Is No Guarantee Of Peace"
Vladimir Belousov stated in official government-run Rossiyskaya Gazeta (10/26): "The constitution is no guarantee of a peaceful future for Iraq, although opinions may differ on that score."
CZECH REPUBLIC: "2,000 Dead In Endless War"
Jan Rybar commented in centrist MF Dnes (10/27): "When Saddam’s regime toppled two years ago most Iraqis and Americans believed that a brighter future is within reach. It is not--the round number of American victims only reminds us of the fact that the Iraqi operation has come to a deadlock and that we can expect a long, long war.... We must, however, realize that it is not only 'their war'--there are 20,000 soldiers from nearly 30 countries, including the CR, in Iraq. If the U.S. loses this war so will the others. If we leave Iraq to its destiny many other scoundrels around the world will feel more secure and the position of the whole West would be weakened.... Nevertheless, there are grounds for optimism. The same day Pentagon announced that the number of victims reached 2,000 the election committee confirmed that the Iraqi constitution was passed. This means that the country is another step nearer the day people in Baghdad and Washington dream about. The day when the Americans can withdraw, leaving behind a more or less stabilized country. It won't be soon, but it will happen."
IRELAND: "Outlines Of Larger Sunni-Shia Strife Already Drawn"
Lara Marlowe had this to say in the center-left Irish Times (10/24): "The greatest danger created by the U.S. occupation of Iraq is not the 'radical Islamic empire' evoked by Mr. Bush, but that of a conflagration between Sunni and Shia Muslims, the like of which has not been seen since Protestants and Catholics began fighting each other in the 16th century.... A frequently heard argument for continuing the U.S.-led occupation is preventing a civil war--but there is already a civil war in Iraq, provoked by the U.S. when it invaded the country. Thousands of Shia civilians have been slaughtered in bombings that targeted Shia shrines, mosques and marketplaces."
"What Future For Iraq?"
The center-left Irish Times editorialized (10/22): "It is too soon to answer the big questions about Iraq's likely destiny as between disintegration, centralism or federalization.... Arab disquiet has to do not only with Iraq's cultural identity but with the knock-on effects of its potential democratization. To use the term is not to accept the Bush administration's rationale for the invasion but to recognize the genuine political progress that has been made by Iraqi citizens and leaders--despite the dreadful disorder and everyday chaos they have suffered and the continuing insurgency against foreign occupation. But unless a timetable for the withdrawal of these troops is agreed alongside a constitutional settlement the Yugoslav scenario looks more credible than the Indian one."
FINLAND: "Iraq’s Constitution A New Shaky Step On Stony Path"
Leading, centrist Helsingin Sanomat concluded (11/27): "The adoption of the constitution could possibly be considered an important milestone on the road to democracy.... But the overall situation is nowhere near as optimistic as [this suggests]. In reality, the constitution is a compromise between two population groups, at the expense of the third.... Hopes that Iraq is moving toward national reconciliation are kindled by the idea that by participating in the vote, the majority of Sunnis showed they want to be part of the political process. The release of the final results of the vote coincided with reports that the U.S. casualty figure in Iraq exceeded 2,000.... The political process in Iraq continues in December with a parliamentary election. Iraq’s political unity depends on the American presence. So far, the Bush administration has turned down all suggestions of a pullout."
SPAIN: "New Hope"
Left-of-center El País had this view (10/26): "The Iraqis are showing a laudable courage by going regularly to vote. Although a good part of those who have approved the Constitution have done so with the hope that it will be able to calm the unhinged Arab country, it would be naive to believe that this new institutional milestone is going to achieve such a peace. The facts have shown that the chaos and violence are increasing in spite of the theoretical strengthening of the democratic framework. The apparent political progress will not mean much while this situation continues.... The approved Constitution should serve to try and bring the Sunnis into the transition. Used to leading the destiny of the country, the Sunnis have not accepted their relative irrelevant position in the process of the events.... Even considering their tendency to see themselves as victimized and as those who have stopped profiting from power, there is no more important task in Iraq now than adding to the new Constitution, with the objective of tidying up their points of view in matters as essential as territorial organization or the distribution of the money coming in from oil."
"Iraq: Massive Support"
Conservative ABC held (10/26): "In the midst of indiscriminate violence instigated by rebel terrorists who torment the country, the facts of the constitutional referendum reveal figures that lead towards hope. If the rate of participation was quite considerable, the number of 'yes' votes was even more so. It’s enough to compare it to the European (constitutional referendum) precedent, in both referring to the abstention rate as well as in the number of 'nos' that the constitutional text received, to gauge the grade of commitment of the Iraqi society with the constitutional project."
SWEDEN: "More Worries Than Successes"
Per Ahlin wrote in independent, liberal Dagens Nyheter (10/26): "The fact that the Iraqis have said ‘yes’ to the new constitution is a feather in George W. Bush's cap...but the worries are more frequent than the successes. Violence continues to claim daily victims, and Iraq is one of the reasons for the U.S. President’s poor ratings."
"The U.S. Pushes On A Paralyzed EU"
Thomas Gur opined in the conservative Svenska Dagbladet (10/22): "Once again a supposedly arrogant American administration, led by a supposedly uninformed president, has proven to be in better control of the surrounding world than the slanderers. The Iraqi referendum was carried out with fewer terrorist attacks, less bloodshed, and greater voter participation than in the general elections last January. It is true that the democratization process in Iraq has its shortcomings and that Washington has not done everything perfectly. But developments are moving in the right direction, and there is reason to be pleased over this."
TURKEY: "Bush Recognizes Barzani As President"
Cuneyt Ulsever observed in mass-appeal Hurriyet (10/27): "In the current situation, two tribal figures of the old Iraq are now sitting in very different positions. Talabani has become the president of Iraq and, now that Iraq’s constitution has been approved, Barzani has become the president of Kurdistan Regional Administration. This meanst that Kurdistan is a reality whether we like it or not. There is another reality about Iraq: with the approval of the constitution, Iraq has been psychologically divided. This may not seem like a division based on legal or political considerations, but it is very real."
Mass-appeal Sabah held (10/26): "Realistic observers agree this constitution will first drag Iraq into a civil war like Lebanon's and then cause it to disintegrate like Yugoslavia."
IRAQ: "This Morning"
Ismail Zayyer had this to say in independent, As-Sabah Al-Jadeed(10/30): "We agree with those who did not participate in the former election, that Iraq must be united and strong. We also agree that it is necessary to give those who did not participate in the former election a chance to have a role in the future of Iraq. If they participate in the upcoming election they will be able to amend the constitution.... On the other hand, we must not be soft on the constitutional committee and declare that this committee has not committed any infringements. There are millions of Iraqis who voted 'yes' to the constitution because they wanted to revive hope for a better Iraq. At the same time, we cannot blame those who voted against the constitution.... But, the most important thing is that we must not let our people again encounter the frustrations and obstructions that accompanied the constitutional process. We have to prepare for the coming period and the one following the election in order to avoid a waste of time. The Iraqi people do not deserve such a waste."
"Yes To The Constitution"
Sadiq Bakhan commented in independent As-Sabah Al-Jadeed (10/25): "By announcing preliminary results of the constitutional referendum, observers will notice the discrepancy among voter numbers in Iraqi provinces. This is normal and we should not worry or start riots and create rumors and mystery stories about the results because this is what democracy’s enemies are waiting for.... It is normal for some Iraqi voters to reject the draft constitution and vote no during the referendum. That’s similar to what happened in Europe when some Europeans rejected the European constitution despite their faith in European unity; they believe that the constitution would not fulfill their ambitions.... The attitudes of voters who reject the constitution are normal and will not lead to widespread chaos or instability as some Arab media clowns and politicians collecting [fat] pensions would like. Iraqis wrote a civilized constitution and even the liberal draft constitution written in 1925 did not include principles guaranteeing a decent life for Iraqis in the way this current constitution does. We wonder if the Iraqis, who under Hammurabi wrote the world’s first legislation, will be capable of writing their own social contract."
"Why Musa’s Mission Was Easy"
Fatih Abdul Salam opined in independent, anti-coalition Az-Zaman (10/23): "If we examine what the media predicted about Musa’s visit we’ll find some strange issues. The media insisted that Amr Musa, the Arab League’s Secretary General, would face difficulties in Baghdad due to the difficult situation in Iraq. On the contrary, his visit was easy and most battles were over by the time he arrived. He encountered three types of Iraqis: 1) Iraqis who had died and relinquished power. 2) Iraqis who were dying but clinging to power. 3) Iraqis who were dying but still dreaming of gaining power. These three types represent the original characteristics of Iraqi politicians--force is the common theme among them. Some might say the democratic election and referendum has proven the opposite but let us not deceive ourselves. We have practiced democracy under occupation and although we recognize a certain type of it, what will it look like when the occupation leaves? Our democracy is protected by foreign forces. There are poles that Washington used to erect democracy but when the occupiers leave we will be under a tent of democracy without any poles--though democracy will remain because the occupation will not leave Iraq!"
"Lessons Of The Referendum"
Weekly anti-coalition Al-Ihtijah Al-Akhar, affiliated with the [Sunni] Liberation and Reconciliation Bloc led by Mish’an Al-Jabouri, commented (10/23): "There are important lessons learned from the referendum, the first being that the percentage of 'no' votes in some provinces was unexpected; especially on behalf of sectarian and religious parties who were surprised by results showing that 45% of citizens in Najaf voted 'no.' Percentages that were similar to those in other central and south-central provinces. These influential and tyrannical parties should learn a lesson from the voting results of Najaf’s citizens and face the truth that Iraqis do not want their state built on the foundations of a religious and sectarian base. The results from Najaf and other provinces have disappointed those parties and surely the coming parliamentary election will bring more surprises for them. The rejecters of the constitution who were ready to topple the referendum have suffered division amongst their ranks when the Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP) altered its stance due to incomprehensible circumstances which created disappointment for citizens of the [Sunni] western provinces. Therefore, some of them have rejected voting altogether while others were confused over how to vote. We have mentioned many times that there is no authority for the Sunni Arab that can represent their affairs, because these groups have been founded according to a secular liberal ideology, although they respect the role of religious authorities. The coming months will prove that a state based on religion and sectarianism will never be constituted in Iraq--at anytime."
"Neither Victors Nor Vanquished"
Dawood Al-Farhan judged in independent, anti-coalition Al-Fourat (10/23): "To what extent Amr Musa will succeed in his precise and difficult mission depends on the Iraqi government’s attitude, the U.S. government’s attitude as an occupation force and the attitudes of others such as the opposition, independent parties, fighters, and civil society organizations. The Iraqi government will maintain its stance (as they usually declare during Arab League meetings) rejecting principles of national reconciliation claiming that there is no controversy or arguments between different Iraqi sects. Amr Musa will hear a lot from others who are not affiliated with the Iraqi government--those who are now talking, in the first national unity conference, about an Iraqi national project to confront the sectarian and ethnic devastation that currently dominates our country. After the referendum results, it would be better for the transitional government, its National Assembly and the Presidential Council to quit their political arrogance and build upon the previous election because voters who rejected the constitution and voted 'no' are more numerous than expected in all Iraqi provinces--even in the northern part of Iraq. The Iraqi government should consider those voters; they will significantly influence the next election. The Iraqi government should cooperate with Amr Musa's mission otherwise they will blow their political message about national unity, commitments to the Arab League compact and their respect for human rights. In any case, this government is on its way out."
ISRAEL: "A Basis On Which To Move Forward"
The conservative Jerusalem Post observed (10/26): "So, what will change as a result of the passing of the constitution?... While the mostly Sunni-fueled insurgency will not be one of them, the high Sunni participation in the referendum will likely give Sunni political leaders a boost to participate with less fear in the upcoming elections. Moreover, the document serves at least as some sort of basis from which the Iraqis can move forward."
SAUDI ARABIA: "Reconciliation Not The Constitution Solves The Problems Of Iraq"
Abha’s moderate Al-Watan editorialized (10/27): "The Iraqi constitution instead of bringing a solution itself has become a problem for the very simple reason that there was no national consensus over it. Even the Sunni Islamic Party, which agreed on the constitution with promised amendments, challenged the credibility of the results of the referendum. The problem of Iraq is not a legal one but rather a political one. Political problems cannot be solved except through political bargaining and national reconciliation."
"The Constitution And Independence Of The Iraqi Decision"
Jeddah’s moderate Okaz declared (10/27): "Despite the fact that the constitution might deepen the divisions between Iraqis...it should be a pure Iraqi decision. There are doubts that this constitution will achieve security and stability for the country, if Iraq is still under occupation, and ruled by some officials influenced by external powers who use them to their own benefit and not the Iraqis'."
"A Crucial Phase"
Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina remarked (10/27): "The Iraqi people are hopeful and optimistic now, not only because a majority of Iraqis have backed the constitution, but also because they are looking forward to a national reconciliation conference organized by the Arab League.... The Arab countries have to be serious in supporting Iraq while it passes through this critical phase; Iraq will need financial and technical support to help developing civil community establishment."
"Referendum Gives Rise To Suspicions"
London-based Arab nationalist Al-Quds Al-Arabi editorialized (10/26): "The announcement of the Iraqi constitution referendum results has given rise to suspicion and confirmed the doubts of many that rigging was carried out by the U.S. administration and the Shia-Kurdish alliance, which is ruling Baghdad on its behalf."
London-based independent, pan-Arab Al-Arab al-Alamiyah argued (10/26): "Anyone who thinks that the referendum on the so-called Iraqi draft constitution...was a fair democratic exercise is wrong, as rigging was obvious and there were no signs of democracy."
LEBANON: "Iraq Needs Reconstruction, Not Federalism"
Hariri-owned Al-Mustaqbal concluded (10/26): "Given the present situation in Iraq, what is needed now is to reconstruct the nation, not to fragment it by imposing federalism."
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
CHINA: "The U.S., The Introspection On 2,000 Soldiers' Lives"
Shan Renping commented in the official Communist Party international news publication Global Times (Huanqiu Shibao) (10/26): "The death toll of U.S. soldiers in Iraq has surpassed a meaningful milestone: 2,000. Iraq seems to be evolving into a second Vietnam. The Bush administration always propagated the Iraq war as a part of the War on Terror; it ensures the security of the homeland. Actually two facts are undeniable: first, there have been more dead and wounded soldiers since the main combat ended and Saddam was arrested; second, the terror attacks have not decreased since Bush started the War on Terror. Americans realize that a war can't settle terrorists down forever. On the contrary, the war has created many more enemies. If one Iraqi dies, more Iraqis stand up for revenge.... The U.S. dilemma shows that the U.S. strength is limited and there is something wrong with the Bush administration's strategic goal. The death of 2,000 American soldiers seems to remind the Bush administration that its advantageous position doesn't mean it can do anything it wants."
JAPAN: "Peaceful Coexistence Under A Federal System"
Liberal Mainichi argued (10/27): "Nearly 80 percent of Iraqis voted for the draft constitution in the recent national referendum.... We welcome this next step toward a new Iraq.... The results of the referendum illustrated the Sunnis' strong dissatisfaction with the planned federal system.... One of the important questions now is how to reduce the Sunnis' dissatisfaction and distrust.... In the end, the minority Sunnis will have to seek a compromise with the Shiites and Kurds.... Considering the history of the country, which has been occupied by various foreign powers, it is understandable that Iraqis feel antipathy toward foreign troops.... Although the number of U.S. casualties in Iraq has reached the 2,000 mark, Iraqis' sense of appreciation to the United States is extremely weak."
MALAYSIA: "Not Over Yet"
Government-influenced, Chinese-language China Press had this to say (10/27): "Iraq has successfully drawn out its new constitution in a referendum.... Anti-democracy and anti-U.S. groups would be expected to create chaos or might even plot assassinations on Iraqi politicians in an attempt to foil the coming December poll. With foreign intervention and rivalry for territorial powers and disharmony among local religious ethnic groups, the molding of Iraq’s democracy is yet far from over."
"Iraqi Referendum 'Formula' For U.S. 'To Interfere"
Government-influenced Chinese language daily Nanyang Siang Pau judged (10/25): "With a hard push from Washington, Iraqis have all come out to vote for their constitutional referendum amid war, ruins and U.S. domination.... We do not deny the need for the new Iraq to establish a workable constitution for its people. But unfortunately this referendum on the constitution was carried out in a great hurry to match the U.S. foreign policy timetable and U.S. interests. In the process the interests of the Iraqis are put at the tail end. In this referendum we cannot sense the strong appeal of the Iraqis to fulfill a 'one united Iraq' dream. Amid the lines of this referendum we can only sense a time bomb tearing Iraq apart. The birth of an Iraqi Constitution under the unseen hands of the United States would certainly satisfy the democratic negotiation dream of the United States. Like a pin on a big butterfly board, U.S.-style democracy has already been pinned on Iraq on the map of Middle East. We can only use the word 'tragedy' to describe Iraq. On the daily world news we only hear the total casualties of U.S. soldiers in Iraq. We do not know the total casualties of the innocent Iraqis who died during this tragic clash. We do not know the true living conditions of the Iraqis either."
PHILIPPINES: "A Constitution For Iraq"
Beth Day Romulo wrote in the independent, conservative Manila Bulletin (10/27): "The referendum on a constitution for Iraq, has been a complex, on again, off again political football and that it ever reached the stage of actually being voted on is a miracle. An even greater miracle is that over 60 percent of eligible voters, according to the latest count, actually had the courage to get out and vote, despite the threat of terrorism, murders, and general mayhem which led up to voting day.... What sort of government Iraq will eventually have is still a question. Will it be an Iranian-type theocracy, as some fear? Or a secular government?... We will know more in December when the Iraqis elect the members of their parliament."
VIETNAM: "A Milestone That Saddens Americans"
Nguyen Dai Phuong wrote in Tien Phong, a daily run by the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Brigade (10/27): "On Oct. 25, the U.S. received a piece of sad news from Baghdad: a 2,000th U.S. soldier was killed in the war in Iraq.... Most families of killed solders and the American public consider their sons' deaths an unreasonable sacrifice.... President Bush on the one hand admitted that the U.S. has lost 'its best sons in the war against terrorism,' while on the other hand, he affirmed the U.S. could not withdraw its troops from Iraq yet because there were still many things to do there. The way he talked about this issue suggests that he sees clearly the U.S. is increasingly getting bogged down in Iraq. He once said, 'A time of war is a time of sacrifice.' This could mean the U.S. will continue to see more sad milestones, or news from Iraq that no one waits for."
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
INDIA: "Road That Leads To Bagdahd"
The nationalist Hindustan Times editorialized (10/29): "The results of the Iraqi constitutional referendum have been along expected lines.... In the crucial third province...it barely managed to scrape through in the face of a majority that opposed it (but didn't have the two-thirds needed to block it). This may not exactly be the kind of results the U.S. and its allies were hoping for.... The Sunnis are dominant in four provinces and thus effectively had a veto. Had it been cast, it would have meant even more chaos all round. In fact, it is significant that instead of a complete Sunni boycott, as many had feared, Sunni voters participated in such considerable numbers, unlike in the elections to the Transitional Assembly last January. The more Sunnis vote, the more Iraqis would move towards elections being recognized as a crucial part of the nascent political process in war-torn Iraq. Perhaps the best proof for this is the decision of three Sunni parties--the Iraqi People's Gathering, the Iraqi Islamic Party, and the Iraqi National Dialogue--to form an alliance and participate in the December 15 polls to get the Sunni point of view across. For the election of a representative party of Sunnis that can speak on behalf of the Sunni community could potentially serve as a bridge to at least some of the insurgent groups involved in the bombings that continue in Iraq."
"2,000 And Rising"
The centrist Statesman observed (10/29): "Even a single violent death is one too many, so a certain sympathy must be generated by the number of fatalities suffered by the American forces in Iraq having crossed the 2,000 mark. That gory figure will increase, for there is no evidence of the so-called insurgency abating or being pounded into submission.... Worse, the USA is patently short of a credible exit plan, hence its President resorted to sickening jingoism in a bid to deflect the mounting criticism of a war he has failed to 'sell' to his people. The bogey of Saddam Hussein developing nuclear weaponry has been exposed, and even the most committed of Saddam-haters remains unconvinced of his links with the Islamic terrorist organizations that see America as the fountainhead of evil. Not surprisingly the latest polls show that the majority of Americans are now convinced that it was wrong to invade Iraq, and in a flashback to the Vietnam years there are shrill cries of 'bring the boys home'.... It is more than tragic, 'sick' would be a more appropriate term, that while the U.S. fatality count has received global attention, hardly a thought is given to the number of Iraqis killed in what was supposedly 'Operation Iraqi Freedom'. While nobody has accurately logged those deaths, an estimate of 30,000 is widely accepted as being very credible. A figure several times higher than the number Saddam allegedly slaughtered. But such are the harsh realities of today’s world that the value of life is unequal.... No wonder that for most Iraqis life under Saddam no longer seems the nightmare it had been projected to be. They, and many others elsewhere too, would be wishing that Bush receives another nocturnal divine visitation: this time the message being 'Yankee go home.'"
"The Marginalization Of Iraq's Sunnis"
The centrist Hindu editorialized (10/27): "While Iraq's new Constitution has been approved in a referendum, this development is not likely to bring about a slackening of the insurgency. The Sunnis have every reason to regard the outcome of the vote as further evidence of their marginalization.... There are strong indications that the Kurd- and Shia-dominated provinces could coalesce into powerful regional entities virtually independent of the central government. These regional entities might not pay much heed to the constitutional provision that the country's oil wealth, which is concentrated in territories under their control, should be distributed among all provinces in proportion to their population. The sectarian divide is likely to widen.... There are indications that the Sunnis will participate in the coming elections in larger numbers than they did last time. If they do so, the next parliament will be more representative of the country's population mix than the current one. However, the Sunnis constitute less than a quarter of the Iraqi population.... For their part, the Shia and Kurd parties do not appear to be ready to make any meaningful concessions. While the occupying forces led by the United States assert that the adoption of the Constitution represents yet another milestone in Iraq's return to democracy, in reality the country has slid further towards chaos."
PAKISTAN: "Iraq Has A Constitution"
The center-right national English-language Nation commented (10/27): "After an anxious wait of 10 days the Iraqi electoral commission has come out with an overwhelming 'yes' vote on the referendum.... The official claim put the score at 78 to 22, confirming an ominous prediction that the vote would be sharply divided on the basis of religious and ethnic realities. The results lead to another even more ominous conclusion: frustration among the Sunnis and the feeling that their opinion on the country's basic law counts for nothing. Coinciding with the announcement of referendum results came the news of U.S. soldiers' death toll touching the 2,000 landmark, strengthening the hands of the opponents of war to spur new calls for the withdrawal of forces."
The centrist national English-language News asserted (10/27): "Jehangir Ashraf Qazi, UN secretary general Kofi Annan's special representative in Iraq conceded on Tuesday that the results of the vote once again demonstrated the dangerous polarization of Iraq, the deteriorating military situation and the growing protest movement. It would be difficult to count the referendum as any kind of success."
IRAN: "Justice Has Prevailed"
Conservative Keyhan International held (10/26): "The long-suffering majority Shia community and Kurds strongly supported the constitution and deserve credit for staying the course.... In the end despite all the bombs, drive-by shootings and kidnappings against the civilian Iraqi population, justice has prevailed for all of Iraq, be it Sunni, Shia or Kurd; and the world community eagerly waits their united voice."
"A Decisive Step"
Government-run, Arabic-language Al-Vefagh commented (10/26): "By ratifying the constitution, Iraq has taken a decisive step towards stability."
BRAZIL: "Iraqi Vote"
Liberal Folha de S.Paulo stated (10/27): "There is reason to fear that the ratification of the constitution and the call for general elections in December will not be enough to bring peace to Iraq. The mostly Sunni insurgents are not prone to backing off.... The only hope for keeping the country coherent lies in a last-minute deal brokered just before the referendum.... The idea is that [legislators] can remove from the constitution parts that are regarded as negative by the Sunnis.... One can only hope the deal will stand and will be enough to calm tensions."
MEXICO: "Iraq: A Quagmire With Constitution"
Left-of-center La Jornada editorialized (10/26): "Apparently, Iraq has already a new constitution.... Unfortunately, things are more complicated. First, such a thing named 'Iraqi government'--either the current or the next--does not rule beyond restricted zones in several cities, located around U.S. and English military compounds. The new constitution will be applicable only in Baghdad’s Green Zone and in some other points in Iraq.... The real situation is that when the Constitution enters into force, it will make it more difficult to begin a true peace process that would require negotiations with the Iraqi people and with a pluralistic representation of the Iraqis. However, this is the only practical way to solve, in the medium term, the human catastrophe created in Iraq, in the U.S. and in England by the Bush administration.... In summary, the violent and scandalous military incursion in Iraq has turned into a bad business even for Bush himself, who nowadays is under political fire because of its stubbornness."
COLOMBIA: "Iraq: Constitution With Blood"
Top national daily El Tiempo remarked (10/28): "Washington has presented approval of the Constitution as representing great progress in democracy, but certainly the referendum formally registered the enormous differences among segments of the Iraqi population. Instead of directing that nation towards a political solution, (approval of the constitution) could lead to a worsening of the war."
"A Firm Step Toward Democracy"
Medellin-based El Mundo contended (10/27): "Iraq's process toward the consolidation of democracy has just taken another crucial step with a successful result.... The constitutional referendum's...63 percent...participation is the best way to demonstrate that Iraqis do want democracy and are willing to fight for it.... This is a victory for the Iraqi government and also for the U.S., which in the midst of enormous difficulties and problems, sees the possibility coming closer of finishing the occupation and ordering the return of their troops."
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