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Western Press Review: U.S., World Prepare To Answer Saddam

  • Don Hill

Prague, 3 September 1996 (RFE/RL) -- "It is hard to know what is more dangerous -- the Kurds' stupidity, or Saddam Hussein's brazen audacity," the "Suddeutsche Zeitung" says today in an editorial signed by Josef Joffe. It refers to reports that a Kurd faction invited Saddam Hussein's attack on Kurd territory in northern Iraq. Other Western press commentators discuss the attack and the expected U.S. military response.

SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Containing Saddam has not become any easier

In the editorial, Joffe writes: "Washington reacted particularly harshly to the Iraq troops' invasion of the Kurdish protection zone. White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta said in a television interview: 'I don't want to say when, where or what, but we will respond.' " Joffe says, "In the long term the Arbil venture has confirmed two old truths -- Saddam Hussein always will try to break through the cordon, but he always will react extremely flexibly, when he feels the lash, particularly the American one. However, containing Saddam has not become any easier. In the most recent case he can even say he was invited by one of the two warring Kurdish parties. What an absurd situation."

WASHINGTON POST: Clinton is sending messages to two opponents -- Hussein and Dole

Thomas W. Lippman declares in an analysis in today's edition that by "deciding to make military strikes against Iraq, President Clinton is sending messages to two prominent opponents, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole. The message to Saddam is straightforward -- Violate United Nations resolutions or use force against your neighbors or your own people, and the United States will retaliate. The message to Dole is equally straightforward, administration officials and Clinton campaign operatives said -- Your criticism of Clinton as a weak leader, soft on dictators, is unjustified. They also said Dole's criticism of U.S. policy toward Iraq was simplistic and ill-informed."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Saddam repays caution in an adversary with bold defiance

The paper today carries a commentary by columnist Jim Hoagland, who says: "Responding to Saddam is not about the U.S. presidential election, or about the Kurds' political problems, or about the exaggerated reports of a Talabani alliance with Iran. It is about who will exercise power in the Gulf, and about the perception of America's resolve in the region. Once again, Washington is learning that Saddam repays caution and deference in an adversary with bold defiance and risk-taking. The United Nations says he secretly has stockpiled Scud missiles, and he is believed to have hidden away chemical warheads as well. Instead of allowing Saddam to turn the Kurdish troubles into a golden opportunity for political resurrection, Mr. Clinton should make this his golden opportunity to destroy a significant part of Iraq's still dangerous war machine."

FINANCIAL TIMES: Western pretensions of maintaining a Kurdish safe haven are no longer tenable

An editorial in today's issue of the British newspaper says: "Whatever else emerges from the current confusion in and around northern Iraq, it is clear the Western powers' pretensions to be maintaining a Kurdish safe haven there are no longer tenable." The editorial concludes: "The haven was one of a growing number of quasi states -- the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, the Palestinian Authority, Republika Srbska -- where reality is at adds with internationally recognized sovereignty, and diplomats have tried to fudge the difference. That is often a good way to postpone crisis, but seldom a way to resolve it."

LONDON TIMES: The day U.N. sanctions are lifted, Iraq will rearm

The paper editorializes today: "When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait six years ago, he shook from Western eyes the dust that had so conveniently obscured the view of the eight-year Iran-Iraq war. The annexation was declared at the United Nations to be a clear danger to international peace and security. (A U.S.-led coalition drove Saddam out but) Saddam's Iraq has not ceased to be a threat to peace." The Times adds that Saddam also "may have done the world a favor. The day UN sanctions are lifted, Iraq will rearm." The editorial says, "That day has receded."

WASHINGTON POST: Iraq has not violated U.N. resolutions stemming from the end of the Gulf War

John Lancaster writes today in an analysis: "By capturing the city of Arbil in the Kurdish haven protected by U.S. and British warplanes, Saddam has done more than reassert government sovereignty, however fleetingly, over an area that had been outside his control since the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf war. On the domestic front, the Iraqi leader has demonstrated to his sanctions-weary populace that he still commands the loyalty of a formidable military machine, notwithstanding coup plots and widespread unhappiness with his rule. Moreover, Saddam's forces invaded at the invitation of the Kurdish Democratic Party -- one of two factions vying for control of the Kurdish enclave -- and the Iraqi Army has operated within Iraq's internationally recognized borders. As a result, it has not violated U.N. resolutions stemming from the end of the Gulf War."

POLITIKEN: The Kurds have failed to demonstrate political unity

In Copenhagen, the daily newspaper comments, "Ironically, the Kurds were nearer establishing their own state when they returned from Turkey five years ago, after Saddam had forced them to flee because of their opposition to his regime and after the United States had declared the no-flight zone north of the 36th parallel. But now the lethal scuffles between rival factions in addition to the Kurds' unwillingness to sever links with their supporters in Iraq, Iran and Turkey reduces them to mere markers in a regional power game. The Kurds have failed to demonstrate political unity and have shown themselves as members of a hopelessly split society fraught with petty jealousies."

LONDON GUARDIAN: Some quarters have greeted Iraq's aggression with a chorus of silence

An editorial in today's edition says that some quarters have greeted the Iraq aggression with "a deafening chorus of silence" and "a remarkable solicitude (toward) Baghdad's sovereignty." The editorial says: "Turkey, while calling for Saddam to withdraw from the north, has stressed its support for Iraqi territorial integrity." Jordan, the editorial says "has repositioned itself at a greater distance from Baghdad. (However), it too fears the knock-on effects of intervention." The newspaper says that Egypt "has called even-handedly for an end to bloodshed in Iraqi Kurdistan and for respect for Iraqi sovereign rights." The Guardian notes: "Saudi television managed to report a telephone conversation between Bill Clinton and King Fahd on Sunday without even confirming whether they had discussed Baghdad's offensive."