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Western Press Review: Transition Of Power In Iraq, Cheney And Kay's Assertions, U.S. Primaries, Blair's Narrow Victory

  • Charles Carlson

Prague, 28 January 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Today's press review focuses on the assertions of former U.S. weapons inspector David Kay regarding Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, the role of the Kurds in Iraq's political transition, and last night's New Hampshire primary in the United States, in which Democratic Senator John Kerry took a strong lead. Other issues -- including the political struggles of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Turkey's EU bid, and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's trip to Russia -- are also examined.

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE:

An editorial in today's "International Herald Tribune" focuses on the continued assertions of U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney that Iraq had been attempting to produce weapons of mass destruction (WMD) -- despite the conclusion of U.S. weapons inspector David Kay that Iraq had only rudimentary capabilities.

The editorial faults what it calls the vice president's "myopia" on the issues, saying it "suggests a breathtaking unwillingness to accept a reality that conflicts with the administration's preconceived notions." This kind of "rigid" thinking, the piece continues, "helped propel America into an invasion without broad support."

Kay, who recently stepped down from his post, asserted that "the much-feared stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons had not existed on the eve of the war." Kay said they were eliminated in the mid-1990s by United Nations inspectors and by Iraq itself.

The editorial concludes that it is now time to focus on how the intelligence on Iraq's weapons capacity could be as flawed as it now appears. It warns that the same mistake should not be repeated with another dictator.

THE WASHINGTON POST:

In a commentary published in "The Washington Post," political science professor Peter Feaver looks at weapons inspector David Kay's remarks that the allegations about Iraq's WMD program were largely "smoke and mirrors."

"It is increasingly unlikely that new discoveries will change this assessment," Feaver writes. "So it makes sense to take stock of what the new conventional wisdom tells us about the old, and vice versa."

Feaver highlights other aspects of the apparent intelligence failure: the absence of a "smoking gun," the belief that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had successfully hid his programs, and the poor assessment of the extent of Iraq's weapons development. A final failure, Feaver says, was a failure in political judgment under conditions of great uncertainty.

Feaver ends his commentary by urging a full investigation into the intelligence failures surrounding the U.S.-led war in Iraq. However, he adds, it is doubtful that better intelligence "would have been achievable or conclusive in helping decide how to deal with Hussein."

THE WASHINGTON POST:

Columnist Jim Hoagland, writing in "The Washington Post," describes the situation of Iraq's Kurds and what they hope to gain from the political transition to a local interim authority. "Iraq needs the Kurds," he writes. And "the Kurds need Iraq."

The Kurds' ideas about a federal structure that protects racial and religious minorities "should help shape a new Iraq," Hoagland writes. The Kurds need to belong to a modern state, and they need internationally recognized frontiers for their own protection.

Saddam Hussein's murderous campaigns against the Kurds resulted in years of what Hoagland calls "Arab chauvinism and racial hatred against the Kurds." Now, he says, the Kurds have the opportunity and duty to help organize a new political system "that will make Iraq worth keeping together."

Hoagland warns the Kurds should not miss this chance to "choose destiny over fate." Their active participation in a new, democratic Iraq, he says, "will show that territorial integrity in the multiethnic Arab state does not have to be achieved or maintained by organized terror."

THE NEW YORK TIMES:

"The New York Times" in an editorial looks at U.S. Senator John Kerry's strong win in last night's New Hampshire Democratic primary and says he now appears to be the "unchallenged frontrunner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination."

The New Hampshire primary was supposed to act as a springboard that would propel another potential candidate, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, through more conservative states. But his second-place showing may prove a political setback.

The editorial says other opponents to Kerry -- including Senator John Edwards and former General Wesley Clark -- will be waiting should Kerry "stumble" in future primaries in southern and western states. "Mr. Kerry's ability to win the hearts of Democrats all around the country is not so certain that his strongest opponents should give up now," the editorial concludes.

THE WASHINGTON POST:

"The Washington Post" political correspondent David Broder also looks at the New Hampshire primary, in which John Kerry "prevailed" and Howard Dean merely "survived." Broder says the contest may change in nature as the primaries now move to southern and western states where many Democrats think John Edwards and Wesley Clark "may pose new challenges" to Kerry.

But Broder writes that Kerry has broad appeal, ranging from core Democrats to independents, and "based largely on his experience and his potential as a challenger to President George W. Bush." He adds that Democratic Party officials believe Kerry's strong showing in New Hampshire will serve him well as the race expands to a national scale.

Kerry backers appear pleased by the prospect that his chief rival might be Dean, whose appeal, Broder writes, is "concentrated among vehement opponents of the Iraq war and a highly educated liberal elite -- two groups that will be less prominent in states such as South Caroline, Missouri, Arizona and Michigan."

"The race's dynamics now change radically," Broder concludes, moving from the "person-to-person campaigning" prevalent in the Iowa and New Hampshire votes to "one of mass, multi-stage appeal, where financial resources, television skills and organization will play larger roles."

THE GUARDIAN:

Michael White, political editor of Britain's "The Guardian" newspaper, discusses last night's vote in the House of Commons when members of Parliament "grudgingly endorsed Tony Blair's university-funding bill." This resulted in a narrow win for the prime minister by 316 votes to 311.

White says the close vote shows that "Mr. Blair faces today's ordeal over the Hutton report [on the inquiry into the death by suicide of weapons expert David Kelly] like a damaged leader who must act with more humility or stand aside."

He adds: "Last night's five-vote majority came after a six-hour debate in which success for Mr. Blair and the education secretary, Charles Clarke, was not clear until a few minutes before the end."

Universities welcomed the bill's passage, but student groups, which demonstrated outside the Commons prior to the vote, remain angry. White adds that the left-wing Campaign Group of MPs has accused Labor loyalists of "failing to protect the next generation."

FINANCIAL TIMES:

In a commentary published in Britain's "Financial Times," Rodric Braithwaite, former chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, says the power of the British prime minister to manipulate the bureaucracy "ought to be diminished."

Today's publication of the Hutton report into the death of British weapons expert David Kelly and the government's use of intelligence in forming its case for war in Iraq will "doubtless be followed by recriminations" and "demands for further inquiries."

"The published evidence strongly suggests that something was seriously wrong with the secret information underlying the government's September 2002 Iraq dossier," he writes. "People will be tempted to demand an inquiry into the working of the intelligence machine itself."

The spotlight and blame should not focus on the role of the Joint Intelligence Committee -- which was closely involved in the drafting of the dossier -- but should instead "lie squarely with the seducer: Downing Street," Braithwaite concludes.

THE GUARDIAN:

Jonathan Freedland, writing in "The Guardian," says: "only Blair now insists there were Iraqi WMDs. But even claiming an honest mistake will no longer wash."

Last week David Kay, the chief weapons monitor in Iraq, quit his post at the head of the Iraq Survey Group, concluding that there are no Iraqi WMD to be found. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell later admitted that such weapons may indeed never be located.

And U.S. President George W. Bush, in his State of the Union address last week, softened his earlier allegations, saying only that Saddam Hussein was guilty of "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities."

Everyone seems to admit there were no weapons of mass destruction, Freedland writes. "Everyone that is, but the British government."

One possible reason: the Hutton inquiry. "Downing Street might have calculated that such an admission would have weakened its position" in relation to the Hutton inquiry, which sought in part to determine whether the government had played up Hussein's weapons threat in order to make its case for war.

"Tony Blair needs us to believe that he was confronted with evidence of a threat from Iraq and made a decision, in good faith, to tackle it," Freedland writes. "But most of the signs in both the U.S. and Britain point in the opposite direction." If it proves true Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, "the war was fought on a false basis."

THE NEW YORK TIMES:

An editorial in "The New York Times" looks at the reforms taking place in Turkey under the leadership of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is due today to meet with U.S. President George W. Bush for talks in Washington.

The paper says Erdogan has worked hard to repair the breach that opened between Washington and Ankara over the Iraq war. But, it adds, his administration "can do more, especially on the tangled issue of Cyprus, divided between Greek and Turkish Cypriot sectors."

Erdogan is now promoting a compromise plan that could reunify the island after 30 years of enforced division. That will require agreement by Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders to let UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan fill in the remaining details and submit the plan to popular referendums before 1 May, an approach favored by Erdogan, but opposed by Turkish Cypriot political leader Rauf Denktash.

Turkish generals who have supported Denktash "should also give strong backing to Mr. Erdogan's efforts to move close to Western-style democracy," the editorial concludes. "By standing behind Mr. Erdogan's Cyprus diplomacy, they can advance Turkey's EU candidacy."

THE WASHINGTON POST:

In a commentary in "The Washington Post," Anne Applebaum looks at an article by U.S. Secretary of State published this week in Russia's "Izvestiya" newspaper.

Powell, who is in Moscow this week for talks with Russian officials, compares U.S.-Russian relations today -- when the two sides are aligned in fighting the war on terror -- to those of the Cold War, when the countries were sharply divided.

But Applebaum argues such partnership comes with a price. When Russian President Vladimir Putin declared his support for America in the war on terror, the United States agreed "not to mention the Russian army's abuse of civilians in Chechnya," she writes. "We've agreed not to notice the deterioration of Russia's democratic institutions."

Applebaum continues: "It was and it still is bad policy to cloud mutually advantageous cooperation with unnecessarily phony rhetoric. Besides, if [U.S. President George W. Bush] really does want, as he now says, to bring democracy to the Middle East -- the only long-term solution to instability in the region -- he can't go around pretending that democracy exists in places it doesn't."

To that end, Powell's article suggests that U.S. displeasure with Russia is growing, saying, "'certain developments in Russian politics and foreign policy' have given him pause. Among them, he lists the absence of 'free media and political party development,' as well as 'certain aspects of internal Russian policy in Chechnya.'"

Applebaum writes: "The question now is whether the State Department, the White House and everyone else responsible for this surprisingly sharp policy turn understand its implications for some of our other alliances." She adds, "Powell's Moscow article is a good omen, a sign that some of the simple-mindedness with which we initially approached the war on terrorism is finally wearing off."
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