The world press on the U.N. in Iraq

Should the U.N. bail out the U.S. in Iraq? A Guardian writer says not if it helps Bush win reelection.


Compiled by Laura McClure
September 24, 2003 2:18AM (UTC)

United Kingdom, Simon Tisdall in the Guardian

When George Bush addressed the U.N. general assembly in September last year, his message was blunt. The U.N. must either support his campaign against Iraq or be doomed to irrelevance ... Tomorrow, when Bush returns to the general assembly, his tone is expected to be somewhat less brusque...

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Has he seen the error of his ways? Hardly. If Bush has changed his tune ... it is because the cost of Iraq, in terms of American lives and American tax dollars, is beginning to have a seriously negative impact on his re-election hopes...

These and other considerations pose a strategic choice with implications stretching far beyond Iraq. Why should the international community gathered at the U.N. help Bush get out of his Iraq mess? Why not let him stew and, by withholding cooperation, possibly hasten his electoral demise?

This is indeed tempting, for another four years of Bush in the White House is an unappealing prospect...

A second Bush term promises more, not less, WMD proliferation and more confrontations ... On a wide range of other issues, from the international criminal court to civil rights to climate change to multilateralism in its broadest sense, it is plainly in the national interest of many states to see the back of Bush...

France, Germany, Russia and other big powers could and perhaps should hold out for a government in Washington that is more amenable to their vision of a multipolar world...

The problem with such recalcitrance is that it does not help the people of Iraq right now...

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The answer must thus be to do all that is possible in terms of immediate humanitarian and technical aid to Iraq while insisting, with France, on a greatly accelerated handover of sovereign powers to a provisional Iraqi government and on primary political oversight for the U.N. security council...

Until Iraqis are able physically to control their country, and unless it cuts and runs, the U.S. will continue to bear the main security burden. Yet as the war's progenitor, it is only right that it should. It is a price Bush should be made to pay even though, thanks to his foolishness and hubris, it is America's soldiers who pay the highest price of all.

Such a hard-nosed approach by the international community will hardly help Bush's re-election chances. It may even dish him. But it will help Iraq recover its dignity and get back on its feet.

Iraq, Mustafa Alrawi in Iraq Today

It is now more than likely that a United Nations force will join Spanish and Polish troops to take some of the responsibility of policing Iraq from the workhorses of the "coalition of the willing"; Britain and the United States...

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This new development, seemingly triggered by a change of policy in Washington, could open a door for Arab nations to finally get involved.

On the face of it, wouldn't it have been better from the beginning to have Arabic speaking soldiers in Baghdad, who can relate to the local culture in a way a Westerner can only dream of? ... Having Muslim troops stationed in a Muslim country makes sense, doesn't it? A Saudi Arabian officer, or a Jordanian trooper would be much easier to trust than one with the Stars and Stripes on his uniform, right?

Wrong...

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The grim reality, particularly hard to hear for all those Arabs that felt they were supporting their Iraqi brethren when demonstrating to stop the war, is that most people here don't want anything to do with them ... Iraqis have had enough of seeing their own lives compromised for the benefit of Arabs from neighbouring countries.

The deal on oil between Saddam and countries like Syria and Jordan, affectionately known as memorandums of understanding, irked the population. Even now, in a country that has the world's second largest reserves of crude, Iraqis must go begging to Syria, Turkey and Jordan...

"Foreigners had more rights in Iraq than Iraqis did under Saddam," is not an uncommon complaint to be heard here. There is a lot of animosity towards those countries that managed to gain from Saddam's thirst for international recognition and popularity. In this light, the bombing of the Jordanian embassy in August is not difficult to comprehend. It was even more tragic and disgusting an act if you consider that it was mainly Iraqis that died in the blast.

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Pan-Arab nationalists will find that their dreams have died in the dusty streets of Baghdad, and the narrow lanes of Fallujah. Iraqis just aren't interested. They have enough problems of their own and just want to get back on an even keel, to enjoy their country as they hoped they were always supposed to.

In Jordan, King Abdullah champions his "Jordan First" campaign, struggling to get the message through to his people. Iraqis have learnt their lessons -- Iraq comes first, there is no second place.

United Arab Emirates, Luc Debieuvre in the Gulf News

In Iraq, Americans have simply lost the way and the only thing to do is to go the other way round; not a slight shift of direction but a complete U-turn. They must accept the fact that what they thought was a military issue actually is a political one. This is a complete change of logic and an additional military presence on the ground will obviously change nothing in the prevailing dramatic situation...

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Going back to the U.N. with no intent to deeply change the contents of the foreign presence in Iraq is perfectly useless, whatever the position of France, Germany, Russia and others. No international settlement can take place with unilateralism, especially when this strategy derives from a country which sometimes seems to have no leader.

Besides the controversial aspects of Bush's election, [this is] a country which is daily ridiculed by the Sharon government and unable to arbitrate between its State Department and the Pentagon...

When one reads that a reason for the U.S. to go to the U.N. is to obtain a kind of validation of what has happened in order to secure the conditions which will allow countries such as Turkey, India or Pakistan to send troops, just because "Muslim soldiers would better be accepted by the Iraqi population", it is clear that the Bush administration has not yet realised where and how they have gone wrong.

"Washington seems only to want cash and troops for what Bush called the central front in the war against terrorism. But signing up to a failed policy will only deepen and multiply its consequences."

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This was written in the Financial Times last week. How many people will have to die before we read that in an American newspaper? The world's security cannot be protected without hearts being won.

Hong Kong, Ehsan Ahrari in Asia Times

How much ill-will President George W Bush has created for the United States over his predilection for unilateralism in Iraq is becoming apparent when Secretary of State Colin Powell is given the lead in damage control ... In a quintessential diplomatic tone, Powell rejected France's demands -- that the Iraqi constitution be written and elections be held within a matter of months -- as "interesting but not executable"...

On Sunday, the Bush administration made Vice President Dick Cheney available to the national media to explain the thinking of its inner sanctum on how far it is willing to go in accommodating the demands of France, Germany and Russia on the issue of sharing the ruling authority with the U.N. and with other potential contributors to peacekeeping in Iraq. Cheney stated that no further changes in Iraq policy were warranted. Instead, he talked about "major success and major progress" in that country...

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There is little doubt that France, Germany and Russia paid high attention to Cheney's interview on Sunday. What lessons these countries would draw from that interview will become clear only in the specifics of their response on the issue of cooperating with the U.S. on Iraq. My strong sense is that no cooperation from their side is forthcoming unless the Bush administration decides to accommodate their demands about sharing ruling authority in Iraq. It should also be clearly understood that the United States is not likely to bring about such changes in its position unless the security situation in Iraq deteriorates further...

Regardless of whether the Bush administration moves toward multilateralism or remains loyal to its natural instincts related to unilateralism, a mounting preference of the Iraqis is to see the end of foreign presence in their homeland. That predilection is the driving force behind attacks not only on the U.S. forces, but also on the U.N. Given that earlier weapons inspections were carried out under the auspices of the U.N., and given that Iraq remained under sanctions of one sort or another since 1991, most Iraqis see the world body as a puppet of the United States. Even for those who are somewhat neutral about the U.N., it is only because they deem it as a lesser of the two evils, the U.S. being on top of their list of "bad actors."

Germany, Ralf Beste, Konstantin von Hammerstein and Romain Leick in Der Spiegel

Bernd Mützelburg is a quiet, thoughtful man. For the past year this top-level government official has been the Chancellor's foreign policy advisor -- Gerhard Schröder's Condoleezza Rice.

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Last Thursday, however, this 59-year-old consummate diplomat was virtually unrecognizable...

It was the day of the summit between the German and French governments in Berlin. Gerhard Schröder, surrounded by an army of aides and security officers, calmly chatted with Jacques Chirac. A few meters away, Mützelburg sighed and loudly proclaimed: "I scarcely know whether I'm coming or going"...

Although Schröder wishes to embody a "self-confidence without arrogance" to serve the interests of an enlarged Germany, his approach so far has been characterized by questions: Just how much of a friendship with France can the German-American relationship tolerate?...

Even Schröder knows that the cool relations of the recent past cannot be allowed to continue.

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Schröder, until recently an unwelcome guest in Washington, seems to be making an effort to tone down his cockiness. He knows that his sudden popularity is not a result of his own performance, but rather of the poor fortunes of the Americans, who have managed to get themselves into an untenable situation in Iraq and are now desperately seeking partners.

The U.S.' situation in the Gulf is so disastrous that Schröder, in an interview with the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, was practically able to portray himself as being magnanimous: "Satisfaction is not the issue here. Instead, we must solve the problem."

He is confident that the U.S. president will not ask for German troops...

Instead, the guest from Berlin will offer assistance in other areas. Political insiders say that Germany is willing, "on a grand scale," to train Iraqi soldiers and police officers -- not on-site, of course...

Now Paris is also willing to train Iraqi police officers and soldiers in France, and its willingness is not contingent upon the U.N. Security Council's ratification of a new Iraq resolution. "If the Chancellor supports this approach, France will take the same position, and will do so for the same reasons," gushed Schröder's flexible guest.

India, V. Sudarshan in the Times of India

At the end of their meeting, Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stepped out of the room where they had been closeted for all of 35 minutes.

Erdogan turned to Vajpayee and asked, "So are you going to send troops to Iraq?" Vajpayee promptly replied, "No." After his customary, famous pause, he then added, "There's no clarity at all." Erdogan mulled over Vajpayee's reply and responded, "We are in the same boat."

A few months ago, it would have been difficult to imagine India and Turkey sailing the same boat in the choppy waters of international diplomacy, quite palpably in upheaval due to U.S. President George Bush's decision to invade Iraq. As Air-India's 747 Tanjore jet took off on September 16, Vajpayee became the first prime minister in 15 years to visit Turkey ... Against this backdrop, you could well describe the PM's trip as historic.

What precisely was Vajpayee's impulse to visit Turkey, beyond the trite jargon of nurturing cooperation and friendly ties, was glimpsed on the Tanjore flight itself. He walked to the media enclosure and snuggled into a chair. After minutes of that very familiar silence, he was requested to spell out the import of his visit to Turkey. Vajpayee replied, "Because of developments in Iraq, many questions have arisen. These will have a bearing on the future of the world. These questions will be discussed." He then retreated to his office aboard the aircraft, leaving journalists to mull over the special context in his words.

It wasn't only the Indian entourage that was conscious of the troubled Iraqi backdrop. This became clear the moment the prime minister's delegation arrived in Ankara. Vajpayee was on Page 1 in three newspapers. In one, he said domestic considerations would be a factor at the time India takes a decision on the troops question. A day later, he was quoted as saying that "our internal security situation" would also have to be borne in mind. With the U.S. keen to solicit both India and Turkey's assistance in Iraq, Vajpayee's remarks were subtle attempts at raising the bar for troops requests from Washington, where he will be next week.

South Africa, Ali Mazrui in the Sunday Times

We are caught up in other people's wars and conflicts. We are being drafted to combat terrorists, but we are given no say in determining the causes of terrorism. The more we become part of the U.S.'s shield against terrorism, the more we may become targets of external anti-U.S. terrorist attacks.

What is more, the money we receive from the U.S. to combat terrorism may tempt our security forces to show results, however spurious. How are we going to use the coming millions of dollars against terrorism?...

During the years of the Cold War our liberties were compromised because the West was in conflict with the communist world. People went to jail for possession of The Communist Manifesto. Kenyans in possession of the works of Mao Tse-tung were liable to prosecution...

If today I saw a work by Osama bin Laden in a Nairobi dustbin or a beautiful framed painting of Saddam Hussein on a heap of garbage, should I dare rescue them?...

In the years of the Cold War under both Kenyatta and Moi, possession of communist literature was often regarded as proof that one was a communist.

In the new dispensation after September 11, 2001, is possession of an al-Qaida document proof that one is a terrorist?...

On the other hand, the Kenyan Suppression of Terrorism Bill 2003 turns almost every crime of violence into terrorism. Terrorism is the "use or threat of action which involves serious violence against a person; involves serious damage to property; endangers the life of any person other than the person committing the action..."

The word terrorism loses its meaning when it seems to include robbery with the use of a weapon, lovers threatening each other, a crime of passion by a jealous husband.

There is also a considerable threat to civil liberties in the Bill.

The new Kenyan Bill is so wide-ranging that the police or the minister can decide which kind of public demonstrations constitute support for terrorist forces abroad.

The particular protest T-shirt a demonstrator wears could be a punishable offense. Or a Muslim elder in robes and a long beard could be regarded as suspicious.

The U.S. may or may not have a right to damage its own democracy in exchange for its own security. Does it have a right to damage the fragile democracies of African countries -- in exchange for American security rather than Africa's own well-being?


Compiled by Laura McClure

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