April 30, 1998
THE COMING CRISIS IN IRAQ? ASSESSING BLAME BEFOREHAND
Observers in many countries foresaw a new Iraq crisis in the coming weeks or months, but disagreed on who would bear the responsibility. Most Middle East media considered the continuation of UN sanctions against Iraq unjust, with some finding it tied to the Middle East peace process and the interests of Israel. European and Asian opinion tended to see a stubborn Saddam Hussein bringing a new crisis on himself. Middle East papers claimed Iraq has complied with all resolutions and often saw the issue as one between the United States and Iraq; others saw an unrepentant Iraq defying the world. Herewith salient points:
SANCTIONS 'UNJUST' In Jordan, influential Arabic Al-Dustur argued that since "Iraq has gone beyond everything in its response to the Security Council resolutions...there is no pretext to retain the sanctions." Independent, mass-appeal Al-Arab Al-Yawm saw a sinister connection between the Council vote and the Middle East peace process, arguing that "whenever a new initiative starts to reactivate the peace process, the Iraqi crisis begins to warm up to reach the point of confrontation." In Egypt, pro-government Al Ahram condemned the UNSC decision to renew sanctions as "a continuation of the unjust policies of the Council" and blamed the U.S. for "playing a major role." Semi-independent Al-Rayah of Qatar, citing the "human tragedy in Iraq," urged a humane rather than a merely political "solution for the (impending) crisis," and insisted that even if "the U.S. attaches great importance to Israeli interests alone," the Security Council should take a broader view. At the same time, the paper said Baghdad should "refrain from taking extreme positions." Outside the region, the nationalistic Kenya Times characterized the sanctions as "tyranny," and in Belgium leftist Le Matin compared the sanctions to famine as a military tactic and warned that by refusing to lift them the UN could lose the prestige it gained in the last crisis when it "succeeded--no small feat--in imposing the respect of one of its resolutions."
IRAQ STILL DOESN'T GET IT: Norway's conservative Aftenposten lamented that "even after two rounds of crises... it doesn't seem as if Iraq really comprehends how serious the situation is." And Canada's conservative Ottawa Citizen argued that since Iraq has not complied with its agreements, "there is no argument for lifting sanctions as a reward for good behavior." Moreover, while "the Iraqi people are being abused" it is "not by sanctions, but by the sadism of Saddam Hussein." In Moscow the reformist Russkiy Telegraf said that even as "Moscow, Paris and Beijing will seek a reduction in 'the nuclear inspections'" as a result of apparent Iraqi compliance in the nuclear sphere, "Iraq may undo the efforts of diplomats from countries that sympathize with it" through threats and otherwise preparing the ground "for another rebuff from the Security Council."
This survey is based on 27 reports from 17 countries, April 23-30.
Editor: Jim O'Callaghan
|  MIDDLE EAST  |    |  EUROPE  |    |  EAST ASIA AND THE PACIFIC  |    |  SOUTH ASIA  |    |  AFRICA  |
JORDAN: "Mystery Of The Link Between Two Crises"
Salh Qallab, managing editor of independent, mass-appeal Arabic Al-Arab Al-Yawm, wrote (4/28): "As if by magic, whenever a new initiative starts to reactivate the peace process, the Iraqi crisis begins to warm up to reach the point of confrontation.... The current escalation is most likely to reach its climax on May 4, when people are due to meet in London; then they will be compelled to leave their agendas on the negotiating table and rush over to prevent a confrontation between Iraq and the United States. All this cannot be by coincidence, particularly when we recall the link between the events of the first and second Gulf Wars and the Middle East conflict. We must also remember that the happy occasion of Madrid, in which Netanyahu ululated long and loud, was the logical consequence of the outcome of the war in Kuwait."
"Iraq's Request For Lifting Sanctions"
Columnist George Haddad wrote on the op-ed page of center-left, influential Arabic Al-Dustur (4/18): "Iraq has asked the Security Council to lift the eight-year-old international sanctions. In fact, Iraq has gone beyond everything in its response to the Security Council resolutions and the international will and desire and there is no pretext to retain the sanctions.... According to Resolution 687, sanctions will be lifted as soon as the United Nations confirms the end of Iraq's banned weapons. Such a confirmation, however, remains subject to American desires and, judging from the way the United States handled other crises on the basis of double standards and preferential treatment, getting this confirmation is highly doubtful. Therefore, the Arabs are required to move fast on all fronts to stop the massacre in Iraq."
"Easy To Blame 'Spies'"
The centrist, influential among the elite Jordan Times commented (4/18): "It is understandable for the Iraqi authorities to react angrily to a report filed by the special rapporteur of the UN Human Rights Commission accusing them of conducting about 1,500 summary, arbitrary or extrajudicial executions. But it is self-defeating for the government in Baghdad to go as far as accusing him of being a U.S. agent... It is true that the commission has often been charged with applying double standards and for being soft on some countries when their human rights violations are voluminous. However, that UN organ has never been accused of charging a country of human rights violations lightly or arbitrarily.... Even the Baghdad government's best friends will not deny that its record on human rights has never been exemplary.... If the Iraqi government now contends that the information that was made available to Van der Stoel is wrong, it should accept responsibility for failing to provide him with the necessary tools to conduct a fair and thorough investigation."
EGYPT: "Unjust Policies Against Iraq Continue"
Pro-government Al Ahram opined (4/29): "The UNSC decision to renew the sanctions over Iraq is a continuation of the unjust policies of the council against Iraq, and the United States is playing a major role. Interestingly, the American secretary of defense said that although his country realizes that Iraq does not maintain any weapons in the palaces, it insists on inspecting them to prove the principle that everything in Iraq is subject to inspection. This is unwise, retaliatory logic which will have bad consequences."
"U.S. Strangulation Is Useless"
Samir Ragab, editor-in-chief of pro-government Al Gomhouriya, insisted (4/29): "The United States' insistence on strangling the Iraqi people by maintaining the sanctions confirms that the UN and UNSC are useless. Despite Iraq's major commitment to implementing international resolutions, Washington and London refused the mere idea of easing these sanctions. France, China and Russia exerted their utmost to find a way out for the Iraqi people, but in vain. On the other hand, Saddam is celebrating his birthday regardless of these sad circumstances. This is the utmost provocation of the feelings of not only the Iraqi people, but the whole world."
"Inspections Should Be Cut"
Salama Ahmed Salama maintained in pro-government daily Al Ahram (4/26): "So far, Iraq has not gone back on its promise to allow the inspection team to do its job. According to the reports submitted to Annan, Iraqi cooperation has been satisfactory. Of course, now that the inspections teams have not found chemical or biological weapons, the inspection operations should be cut or the sanctions alleviated. But the campaign led by Butler, instigated by the United States, seems to be Washington's tool to convince the world that Iraq has made not progress. It seems to remobilize the world against Iraq, and this was Cohen's main mission in his recent tour, when he emphasized that the United States will not approve any lifting of sanctions, not now nor in the near future."
QATAR: "Crisis Is Humane As Well As Political"
Semi-independent, Arabic Al-Rayah asked (4/30): "Has the countdown for a showdown between the United States and Iraq, and between the UN and Iraq began after the UN decided to extend sanctions on Iraq?... The international community was hoping that the UN would favor a partial lifting of sanctions after the Annan agreement and in light of the human tragedy in Iraq. The solution for the (impending) crisis should be humane and not only political. And if the United States attaches great importance to Israeli interests alone, and is not interested in humane aspects in its crisis management, the Security Council should. Baghdad...should also refrain from taking extreme positions...as long as it is complying with UN resolutions. Arab countries should assume their responsibility in supporting Iraq by cooperating with the Security Council to diffuse crises between the council (and Iraq).
"The continuation of U.S. and British rejection of allowing any flexibility in dealing with Iraq might end in differences in opinion in the Security Council, for which the Iraqi people will pay the price. And since Iraq is serious about abandoning, the international community should respond...because millions of Iraqis cannot be ignored for differences between inspection teams and the Iraqi government."
"Israel's Hegemony Over Arab World"
Semi-independent, Arabic Al-Watan opined (4/29): "U.S. Ambassador to the UN Bill Richardson announced that Washington intends to veto any attempt to lift sanctions on Iraq, even a partial lifting of sanctions. Last week, the United States categorically rejected a new proposal on the Lockerbie case presented by representatives of the victims. In the meantime, the United States supports Israel's refusal to withdrawal from occupied Palestinian land till the Palestinian side meets its conditions, namely, facing all who are opposed to the Oslo agreement under the pretext of combatting terrorism. These three American positions are not unrelated. Keeping Iraq and Libya weak under sanctions and supporting Israeli occupation of the West Bank forever are all part of the U.S. strategic agenda aimed at enhancing Israeli hegemony over the Arab world."
"U.S. And Britain Still Intransigent"
Semi-independent, Arabic-language Al-Sharq contended (4/28): "It is clear that sanctions (on Iraq) are in themselves the goal and that the weapons issue is only an excuse. It is also clear that whatever Iraq does, the United States and Britain are still very intransigent. And in all of this, none other than the Iraqi people will pay the price.... Aid to Iraq cannot be in the shape of planes carrying relief material every now and then, nor international delegations that visit Iraq from time to time. The world should find a way to solve the issue as a whole without succumbing to the views of just a few countries alone.
"For example, the UN could have a clear role in this if it decides to distance itself from American hegemony by preparing final inspection plans to be carried out by objective teams to decide on the final decision. The Arab League could have a similar role.... One issue would remain. It is high time that Iraq itself take part in (efforts) to end the Iraqi people's misery. This will not be achieved unless the situation is clear without any suspicions."
BRITAIN: "More And More Difficult For Saddam"
BBC Radio's World Service had this report from Baghdad (4/28) on the mood of the Iraqi people as the regime celebrates Saddam Hussein's 61st birthday: "As sanctions continue, it is becoming more and more difficult for the leadership of Iraq to convince the people that everything is being done for their wellbeing. So the birthday celebrations become more of an event--the celebration of the personality, the great leadership, of Saddam Hussein. But the fact is that a lot of people are suffering from sanctions. The way the government is playing this is to deflect all of that suffering back on to the West, in particular Britain and the United States....
"But the longer sanctions go on, the more difficult it is to carry on blaming particular governments for the suffering of the Iraqi people. Iraqis are becoming restive, impatient. It is becoming more difficult to convince them that their interests are being looked after by the leadership and that all their problems can be attributed to external forces."
"Birthday Boy Saddam Flexes Iraq's Muscles"
The centrist Independent had this from Baghdad (4/28): "The main political development in Iraq since the February crisis has been the increased visibility and confidence of President Saddam. The evidence is less in his birthday celebrations than prolonged appearances in public. This is in sharp contrast to his disappearance from public view for long periods over the past eight years.
"Ten days ago he reviewed the volunteer army for five hours in Baghdad. He even shook hands with ambassadors, most of whom had never seen him (they present their credentials to his vice president). His public appearances indicate greater confidence in his personal security and political future."
GERMANY: "Vigilance Is Not Superfluous"
Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger in right-of-center Frankfurter Allgemeine (04/27): "The critics of the U.S. Iraq policy will now quickly raise accusations that the Clinton administration is pinning its hopes on the military card alone without acknowledging the 'facts.' But the decision to leave the U.S. contingency of 38,000 forces in the Gulf for the foreseeable future is a kind of re-assurance. In the past, this policy showed that the U.S. presence considerably promoted the willingness of the Iraqi regime to cooperate with the United Nations concerning the elimination of weapons of mass destruction. Without the military scenario which the United
States and Britain set up in the Gulf, the UN secretary general would not have been able to settle the latest showdown...with Iraq. The military presence is part of the U.S. strategy to deny Saddam the possession of weapons of mass destruction. As long as the United Nations does not issue a clean bill of health regarding Iraqi weapons ambitions, vigilance is not superfluous."
ITALY: "U.S. Making A Mistake"
An editorial in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (4/28): "The United States is repenting for failing to push 'Desert Storm' troops as far as Baghdad in 1991, a decision which now forces them to continue to deal with Saddam Hussein. Yet Bill Clinton and his ambassador to the United Nations, Bill Richardson, are making a mistake in turning their frustration into all-out support of economic sanctions. The history of international relations shows that embargoes have never been successful, and the embargo against Iraq is evidence of that: In seven years, it has not affected Saddam Hussein's power, nor has it prevented him from building luxury palaces. It has instead led to the starvation of a majority of the 22 million inhabitants of Iraq, and it has caused the disappearance of the middle classes which, theoretically, could have promoted democratic opposition to the regime.... In addition...there is another problem concerning the unity of the anti-Saddam front. France, Russia and China have been asking for some time for a revision of the UN policy towards Iraq. To claim, like several U.S. observers do, that this is simply a line stemming from economic calculations, is simplistic. The reality is that the French-Russian-Chinese position clashes with the policy of 'closing Iraq in a box' imposed so far by Washington. If Baghdad behaves with arrogance and spite towards the United Nations, like it did last fall and again at the beginning of this year, it ends up playing it into the hands of the Americans. But if it collaborates, like it appears to be willing to do now, then U.S. intransigence appears inappropriate."
"New Atmosphere More Supportive Of Iraq"
New York correspondent Arturo Zampaglione reports in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (4/28): "The debate which began yesterday at the United Nations has shown the existence of a new atmosphere, much more supportive of Iraq. In closed-door meetings, Russia, France and China have asked for a softening of the inspections. And there are rumors that a proposal by Moscow...which declares concluded the phase of 'active' inspections of Iraq's former nuclear program may be voted in the near future.... It is enough to walk around the 'Delegate's Lounge' at UN headquarters...to realize that there is growing distaste with for the embargo."
RUSSIA: "Iraq's Asking For It"
Vladimir Natalyin said in reformist Russkiy Telegraf (4/28): "Russia, France and China are going to raise the question of Iraq's nuclear site inspections. In their opinion, IAEA experts have found no evidence of the presence of nuclear weapons in that country. Therefore, Moscow, Paris and Beijing will seek a reduction in 'the nuclear inspections.' Such a proposition has a symbolic rather than practical meaning, since it would hardly result in immediately easing the sanctions. But it is a chance to talk about Baghdad's 'compliance,' however partial. Iraq, though, may undo the efforts of diplomats from countries that sympathize with it. The other day the Iraqi government stated that 'the enemies will pay dearly for extending the sanctions.' It again attacked Butler for lying and not being objective. Moreover, the Iraqis have censured Moscow for 'indecision.' So they themselves have prepared the ground for a another rebuff from the (UN) Security Council."
AUSTRIA: "Next Step In Baghdad's Hands"
Independent Der Standard had this commentary Gudrun Harrer (4/30): "Richard Butler...submitted a very negative semiannual report. During the debate in the Security Council...cautious progress...was acknowledged, as well as the fact that the IAEA confirmed that Iraq was free of nuclear weapons programs. This cannot be said about biological and chemical weapons. If the Iraqi leadership thinks that the inspections will get rid of the fact that UNSCOM has not uncovered the whereabouts of a considerable amount of biological and chemical weapons yet, this only shows its political naivete. Nothing has been found yet, but first, there was enough time to remove everything suspicious, and second, the inspections were extremely short. But the inspectors will come again, and more than once. Clinton failed to find a consensus in support of a military attack against Saddam once before. Without losing face (in particular vis-a-vis the Republicans) he can only withdraw if the inspections in Baghdad work. This time, it lies primarily in Baghdad's hands whether the smoldering crisis will break out or not."
BELGIUM: "An Old Tactic--Famine"
Under the heading: "Sanctions Probably Maintained," Laurent Monseur wrote in leftist Le Matin (4/28): "All that resembles an old war tactic: using famine to win by stirring a population against its chief. But since 1990, the Iraqi population seems to be more than ever united behind Saddam Hussein.... The second Gulf crisis demonstrated it: the Iraqi chief of state had succeeded not only in dividing the international community but in restoring the unity of the Arab world around him.... The UN had emerged taller from this test of strength with the Iraqi regime. The organization had succeeded--no small feat--in imposing the respect of one of its resolutions. By refusing to lift the economic sanctions, the UN could just as 'easily' lose this recovered credit."
"Virtually Certain Iraq Will Cause New Crisis"
Conservative Catholic Gazet van Antwerpen noted (4/28): "Richard Butler, the chief of the UN observers, claims that no progress has been made during the last six months in the field of arms inspections.... There is every indication that the UNSC will believe Richard Butler--and not Saddam Hussein. Consequently, the sanctions will remain in vigor and it is virtually certain that Iraq will cause the new crisis which it has announced. It is uncertain what that implies. Western diplomats think that the UN inspectors will again be denied access to the presidential palaces."
CANADA: "Cracks In The World's Resolve Will Emerge"
The conservative Ottawa Citizen predicted (4/23): "By next week, cracks will again be showing in the world's resolve to make Iraq behave.... Before the arguments begin, all governments should read the most recent report by the UN's special rapporteur on human rights in Iraq. It details Saddam's continued mistreatment of his people.... On sanctions, the report says that, yes, Iraqis are suffering, and that their deprivation is sometimes unspeakably cruel. But sanctions haven't caused this; how Saddam reacted to them has.... The Security Council is obliged to review its sanctions regime every six months.... Mostly it will consider a fresh report from its weapons inspectors to the effect that Iraq is no closer to complying with UN weapons directives than it was last October. There is therefore no argument for lifting sanctions as a reward for good behavior.... The Iraqi people are being abused, not by sanctions, but by the sadism of Saddam Hussein."
FINLAND: "Saddam Hussein Remains Unchanged"
Second-largest morning, Aamulehti argued (4/27): "Saddam Hussein remains unchanged. When the UNSCOM recently said that no notable progress had been made in the elimination of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction over the past few months, Saddam launched a counterattack.... Tariq Aziz dismissed the UN report as containing blatant mistakes and lies, and called for rapid lifting of the sanctions saying Iraq has complied with UN resolutions.... This sounds familiar ... a new crisis is approaching.... Even though Iraq has opened a few new doors, it has not done enough.... It is important that the UN Security Council remain united on major issues and discharges Iraq's treacherous attempts to drive a wedge between the great powers."
NORWAY: "Iraq Hasn't Learned"
Conservative Aftenposten's editorial stressed (4/24): "In the last decade, the West has gotten used to fairly forceful verbal attacks by Baghdad. But it is hardly very constructive of Iraq's Vice Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, only a few days before next week's important debate in the UN about weapons inspections and sanctions, to call Richard Butler, leader of the weapons inspectors, an American agent... Even after two rounds of crises, one in November and one early this year which almost developed into an open conflict between the United States and Iraq, it doesn't seem as if Iraq really comprehends how serious the situation is."
SWEDEN: "Sanctions Against Iraq Necessary"
Stockholm's independent, liberal Dagens Nyheter held (4/29): "There seems to be no major breakthrough with regard to Iraq's willingness to get rid of its weapons of mass destruction, and to the UN Security Council, the issue is therefore a matter of course. Pressures against Iraq will be kept, and sanctions must remain in force until the weapons inspectors have concluded their mission. The regime in Baghdad holds responsibility for sanctions to be lifted. Weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein are a frightening thought, and the dictator must not be given a chance to show what he is capable of doing.... However, there are signs that long-term unity in the Security Council is fragile.... A divided Security Council will increase the risk of a new confrontation with Iraq, since the dictator will no doubt take advantage of any disaccord among the permanent members of the Security Council."
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
CHINA: "Who Armed Iraq?"
The official Chinese Youth Party China Youth Daily judged (4/27): "The United States (on its own initiative) once provided Iraq with information and weapons during the Iraq-Iran war to prevent Iraq from being defeated by Iran... Moreover, the United States tried to encourage others to give military aid to Iraq."
"Long Road Toward Sanctions-Lifting"
Chi Xinwen noted in the official Chinese Youth Party China Youth Daily (4/25): "Recently, Western sympathizers seemed to find new evidence of Iraqi human rights violations and attempted to rekindle the issue. On the long road toward sanctions-lifting, new problems will crop up from both the U.S. and Iraqi sides."
THAILAND: "New Iraq Crisis Brewing"
The moderately conservative, English language Bangkok Post opined (4/27): "It seemed last February that Mr. Annan had managed to avoid the political, military and social problems that...new air strikes would bring. But the warning voices of a few experts on the Middle East apparently are right. Just 60 days after agreeing to proceed properly in disarmament, Iraq has again begun complaining. Last week, President Saddam chaired a cabinet meeting. That meeting vowed, in essence, not to obey the agreement it signed with Mr. Annan and the UN membership... It is clear a new Iraq crisis is brewing, and it could climax quickly. Twice in the past six months, the UN has backed away from military confrontation with Iraq.... So long as it continues to prohibit UN inspection of huge parts of its country, there can be no sympathy for its claim that the UN, or America, is picking on it. Iraq should show the world it has disarmed by opening all sites to the UN inspection teams. The terms of the peace treaty Iraq signed with UN seven years ago are clear enough. Iraq must be clearly disarmed of its weapons of mass destruction, or it must suffer the consequences."
PAKISTAN: "Unending Sanctions"
Karachi's independent Dawn insisted (4/30): "Like the wolf in the ancient fable, who found a second excuse when the first one did not help it in its chase of the helpless lamb, the UN seems determined to keep Iraq indefinitely under punitive economic sanctions on one pretext or another.... While earlier the United States held access to the presidential sites as crucial to UN inspections, its officials now stress that the 'core issue' is not the presidential sites but Iraq's inadequate accounting of all of its biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.... If after seven years of sanctions and countless inspections and dismantling operations, the international inspectors have not been able to establish any concrete evidence against Iraq, the senseless exercise should not be allowed to go on. Whichever way one looks at it, there is no political, moral or legal justification for the UN to carry on with its cat-and-mouse game."
KENYA: "UN Decision Unfair To Iraq"
The lead editorial in the ruling party-owned, nationalistic Kenya Times judged (4/29): "Why would a superpower which purports to strive for the improvement of the living conditions of humanity push ahead with an idea that brings about such suffering? There is no excuse for such tyranny. If the Jews still talk of the holocaust during the Nazi era, why shouldn't the Iraqis feel equally aggrieved by the crippling sanctions imposed on them?"
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