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Western Press Review: U.S. vs. Iraq -- Politics and Consequences

  • Don Hill

Prague, 5 September 1996 (RFE/RL) -- The showdown in Iraq between the United States and the forces of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein continue to dominate Western press commentary. Two main questions the press address are: How political was U.S. President Bill Clinton's decision to attack and how was the decision accepted by the U.S. people? and; How are other affected nations responding?

FORT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM: This is a good deal for Clinton as long as no Americans get hurt

Bill Thompson comments today: "When you're hot, you're hot. No president wishes for a foreign policy crisis, but you know what they say: Don't look a gift horse in the mouth." He goes on: "Now, just two months before Clinton faces the voters in his bid for a second term, Saddam messes with the United States again, and again hands Clinton a made-to-order chance to show off the commander-in-chief side of his multi-sided personality. As long as no Americans get hurt, this is a good deal for Clinton, whose opponents are required by long-established political etiquette to support the president in any endeavor that involves national security and U.S. military forces."

AFTENPOSTEN: Clinton and Hussein are out to make political hay for themselves

The Norwegian newspaper expressed a similar view yesterday in an editorial. It said: "Both Bill Clinton and Saddam Hussein are seen with suspicion (outside their own countries) because it is so obvious that they are out to make political hay for themselves. Both have raised their profiles as determined political leaders, though only Clinton has an election to win."

LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH: This is a heaven-sent campaign contribution

So does Stephen Robinson, who quips today: "Only someone with Mr. Clinton's staggering political good fortune could now be basking in public approval for taking action which should not have been necessary if he had kept his eye on a rapidly deteriorating situation in Iraq. Giving Mr. Clinton the opportunity to throw a few bombs at a mustachioed Arab dictator two months before a presidential election is the sort of heaven-sent campaign contribution which should investigated."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Military resolution and success count in the United States

But the German paper demurs today in an editorial signed by Stefan Kornelius: "The first commentaries from Baghdad on the motives for the attack (contended) that U.S. President Bill Clinton had ordered the attack to help ensure his re-election in November. Yet that argument is absurd." The newspaper says: "Clinton would be on the wrong track were he to want to boost his re-election prospects by means of a military strike." The editorial states flatly, "The elections were not the motive which decided the president to give the go-ahead." The newspaper concludes: "Military resolution and success count in the United States. The missile attack could dispel to some extent doubts concerning Clinton's softness of character. If, however, he suffers defeat, the operation will very much rebound on him, and that is a risk which he could easily have avoided."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Clinton had not done enough to discourage Hussein

Writing today, Edward N. Luttwak, a senior fellow of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, says equally flatly: "Whatever role the fears of Saudis and Kuwaitis may have played, these decisions certainly were influenced by the pressures of the Clinton re-election campaign, though in a very unusual way." He writes: "The reason for so much hurry (is that) President Clinton came under great pressure to act quickly because he had not done enough to discourage Saddam Hussein beforehand."

PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: The U.S. approved of Turkey's invasion against the Kurds last March

Matthew Rothschild is editor of the U.S. magazine, "The Progressive." He commented yesterday in the Philadelphia paper: "President Clinton's decision to launch missiles against Iraq on Tuesday morning was costly, misguided and immoral. Yes, Saddam Hussein is a brutal dictator. Yes, he has persecuted the Kurds. But the U.S. government cries only crocodile tears over the Kurds. It is a linchpin of U.S. policy in the region that the Kurds should not establish a state of their own. A Kurdish state would threaten one of our major regional allies, Turkey." Rothschild wrote: "Here is the prime hypocrisy of U.S. policy: In March of 1995, Turkey invaded northern Iraq with 35,000 troops to wage war against the Kurds." The writer asks: "So what was the U.S. reaction to Turkey's invasion against the Kurds in Iraq last March?" And answers: " The United States approved of it."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Turkey threatens armed intervention against separatist guerrillas in Iraq

Writer William D. Montalbano says today in an analysis: "A big loser in new regional tumult, Turkey (yesterday) threatened new armed intervention of its own against separatist guerrillas in northern Iraq." He adds, " Such public warnings have usually presaged strikes into northern Iraq against the Syrian-supported PKK, which has battled government forces in the Turkish southeast for more than a decade."

WASHINGTON POST: The U.N. is divided about its role in preventing the confrontation from escalating

In a news analysis today, John M. Goshko writes from United Nations headquarters in New York: "President Clinton's armed response to (Saddam's) offensive against Kurdish rebels has left the United Nations divided about what role it might play to help prevent the confrontation from escalating. The uncertainty affecting the UN's 185 members was most evident (last night) in the Security Council in a dispute over a resolution proposed by Britain, a strong backer of the U.S. action, that would condemn Baghdad's action and demand the immediate withdrawal of Iraqi troops from northern Iraq. Russia, which was a close ally of the U.S.-led drive against Saddam in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, has threatened to veto the British resolution "

WASHINGTON POST: Cries of protest from Moscow were virtually ignored

David Hoffman writes today from Moscow in an analysis: "In the course of the Russian presidential campaign, President Boris Yeltsin and his rivals never tired of saying Russia is still a great power despite its troubles." He says: "But the events of recent weeks have produced something less than (greatness). "First came the rebel attack in early August on the Chechen capital, Grozny, where Russian troops were routed and forced to retreat after 20 months of war." The writer goes on: "Then, this week, came the U.S. missile attacks on Iraq, once a Soviet ally. The cries of protest from Moscow were virtually ignored, unleashing another wave of dismay that Russia had been reduced to irrelevance."

LONDON GUARDIAN: Automatic support for the U.S. is built into the American-British relationship

Ian Black comments today: "Americans and Britons might well be two peoples divided by a common language, but when it comes to Saddam Hussein they understand each other." Black says. "Both governments know that when push comes to shove over the really bad guys (such as Saddam and Libya's Muammar Gaddafy) automatic and largely undebated support for the United States is built into (the) relationship."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Either topple Hussein or acknowledge that he is here to stay

And John Daniszewski, writing from Amman, says today in an analysis: "For the five years since the Persian Gulf War, Arab leaders have been waiting for the other shoe to drop in Iraq." He says: "Now, even some of America's strongest allies in the Arab world are telling President Clinton that the United States should either marshal the forces necessary to topple Hussein or acknowledge that he is here to stay and adjust its policies accordingly." Daniszewski writes: "Typical of the mood was Egypt, which had rallied most of the Arab world to join in the anti-Saddam coalition in 1990. This time, Egyptian public opinion has been sharply critical of the U.S. bombardments."