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Western Press Review: The United States In Iraq--Questions Arise

  • Don Hill



Prague, 9 September 1996 (RFE/RL) -- The Western press, including commentators in the United States, began over the weekend to examine critically U.S. involvement in Iraq.

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Washington will meet with increasing disapproval in the United Nations

An editorial in today's edition of the paper, signed by Kurt Kister, says: "It really is amazing that the Americans are trying to get the U.N. Security Council's legitimation for their attacks on Iraq after these already have been carried out." The German newspaper says: "Washington always has lashed out when it thought it necessary. This is not going to change. The United States launched its cruise missiles against Iraq with all the confidence, or arrogance, of a superpower." The editorial says: "The U.S.-led Gulf War coalition of 1990 did not herald a new world order, but was the exceptional product of a period of transition. Washington will meet with increasing disapproval in the United Nations."

LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH: The Iraqi attack on the Kurds wrecked a covert CIA operation

The paper's Hugh Davies writes today from Washington: "A covert operation by the CIA to overthrow Saddam Hussein was wrecked by his assault on northern Iraq, according to intelligence sources in Washington. United States agents had to flee from mountains and valleys north of Baghdad, abandoning at least 100 Iraquis helping them." Davies writes: "Washington quietly since 1992 has been backing the dissident group known as the Iraqi National Congress as a means of uniting Kurds and other ethnic groups in the north as an alternative to the regime of Saddam."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: The Gulf War alliance could not be put together again

Foreign affairs commentator William Pfaff writes today: "The Gulf War alliance could not be put together again. It was an unlikely alliance even in 1991, and today the interests of its members have much diverged. The Arab or Islamic governments which were members of the coalition that (former U.S. President) George Bush assembled after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait no longer feel particularly threatened by Saddam Hussein. To the extent that they confront internal opposition, they are made uneasy by the Clinton administration's challenge to the Iraqi government's sovereign authority over its territory and people."

NEW YORK TIMES: No military action is being contemplated in northern Iraq

In a news analysis today, Philip Shenon writes from Washington: "The United States warned Iraq (yesterday) that it risked new military attacks if it tried to repair air-defense sites in southern Iraq that were damaged last week by American cruise missiles." Shenon writes: "But even as (U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General John) Shalikashvili and other Pentagon officials warned of the possibility of more American attacks in southern Iraq, they suggested that no military action was being contemplated in northern Iraq, where the Kurdish factions continued to fight this weekend."

The writer says: "The American reluctance to be drawn into the fighting between the Kurds leaves open the possibility that the Iraqi-backed faction, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, will be allowed to conquer additional territory in northern Iraq and extend the influence of the Iraqi government in an area that had been considered a safe haven (for Kurd dissidents)."

NEW YORK TIMES: Hussein has revived his conventional ground forces

Also in the paper today, Neil MacFarquhar writes from Amman, Jordan, in a news analysis: "The deployment of Iraqi armed forces in northern Iraq since last week to back a Kurdish faction signals that President Saddam Hussein, five years after the debacle of the Persian Gulf War, has revived his conventional ground forces to the point where they are capable of embarking on major military offensives, diplomats and military analysts say." MacFarquhar says: "Through a combination of cannibalization, smuggling and rebuilding a sprawling network of military industries, the Iraqi army is again strong enough to be capable of enveloping all Iraq in its grasp."

SONDAGSAVISEN: Did Hussein deliberately provoke the confrontation to pop Clinton into office?

In the current edition of the Danish weekend newspaper, Trine Villemann comments: "Although Clinton these days thunders at Saddam Hussein, there is no doubt that the Iraqi dictator has given the U.S. president a helping hand in his election campaign." Villemann says: "As it is obvious that Saddam would prefer a Democrat over a Republican hawk in the White House, the question now is whether he intentionally provoked the confrontation in order to prop up Clinton in office."

WASHINGTON POST: American officials have consistently misread Hussein, with tragic consequences

Richard N. Haass is a former staff member of the U.S. National Security Council and now is director of foreign policy programs for the Washington-based policy studies foundation, the Brookings Institution. He commented in Sunday's paper: "American officials have been dealing with Saddam Hussein for some two decades now, but you'd hardly know it. It is difficult to think of another political leader whom we have so consistently misread, often with tragic consequences." Haass writes: "There was a widespread sense that we had Saddam bottled up, reduced to little more than the governor of greater Baghdad." He concludes: "Suddenly, again, Saddam proved more wily than people anticipated. Before the White House even saw it coming, he quickly and deftly exploited a split between rival Kurdish factions to re-establish his government's primacy in Iraq's north. In the process he has dramatically weakened his Kurdish opposition and created significant splits in the international coalition that had caged him."

WASHINGTON POST: Clinton did not come out of this episode without gains of his own

In another article in the paper, this one published Saturday, Stephen S. Rosenfeld comments: "Bill Clinton's rivals and critics suggest that Saddam Hussein took advantage of the president's flawed policy and his perceived weakness to improve Iraq's position in the land of the Kurds." Rosenfeld writes: "But Bill Clinton did not come out of this episode without gains of his own. He made a modest but useful point in responding to still-dangerous Iraq's latest testing of him by fire. He made the wider neighborhood, if not the Kurdish region, a bit safer by expanding the zone where Iraqi warplane flights are banned. And he left Iraq under a heavy new burden to show that a state that can afford this sort of military foray needs the humanitarian relief offered and now suspended at the United Nations."

BALTIMORE SUN: The U.S. attack did not address the real cause of the crisis



In a news analysis in yesterday's edition of the U.S. newspaper, Mark Matthews wrote: "The missile attacks launched by President Clinton against Iraqi military sites last week failed to address the real cause of the crisis: Saddam Hussein's move into Kurdish territory in northern Iraq." Matthews said: "Instead of halting Iraqi troops before they moved into the Kurdish capital, Arbil, or ousting them once they got there, Clinton sought to punish Hussein elsewhere. He chose as targets Iraqi anti-aircraft and command and control sites in the middle of the country and expanded a no-fly zone that will be patrolled by U.S. planes."

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