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Western Press Review: Iraq Conundrum--Tangle Of Strategy And Cultures

  • Don Hill
  • Katarzyna Wysocka

Prague, 13 September 1996 (RFE/RL) -- The complicated faceoff between Iraq and the United States, tangled from the outset, continues to take on new twists with Saddam Hussein's bravado and Bill Clinton's political situation. The knotty confrontation generates much press commentary.

SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Saddam's culture of violence is unlikely to spawn peace-loving leaders

The paper says today in an editorial signed by Heiko Flottau: "For the first time since the Gulf War the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein has notched up a success. The confusion resulting from eternal Kurdish fraternal feuding has allowed him to gain influence in the Kurdish safe haven in northern Iraq and to thwart a CIA operation aimed against him. All attempts by the Americans, even using cruise missiles, failed to take away this advantage from him over the last week." The newspaper says: "Saddam's current success must be seen against the background of criticism that the Arab states are levelling against the United States. The Gulf War coalition of 1990, to which most Arab States belonged, no longer exists." The German newspaper concludes: "One day (Saddam) will fall in battle. Yet the culture of violence which he has created is unlikely to spawn peace-loving leaders to succeed him."

WASHINGTON POST: Clinton has an obligation to the Kurds

An editorial in yesterday's edition said: "The United States warned Saddam Hussein not to rebuild the Iraqi air-defense sites in the south that were hit last week. The Iraqi strongman has responded with attempts to rebuild and, Wednesday, with a missile firing. It is a clear defiance of President Clinton, who has no choice but to resume attack." The Post said that Clinton is being criticized for not carrying the battle to the Kurdish lands in the north, and added that the U.S. president has "obligations to (the) Kurds." The editorial said: "The last administration promised them 'safe haven' and provided air cover. This administration went on with efforts to organize an anti-Iraq resistance and to feed the hungry. Some of the resisters have been executed by Saddam Hussein, and others are threatened; thousands who assisted in relief are in their own sort of danger. Clinton rightly does not wish to get involved in a Kurdish civil war. But that does not dissolve these American obligations. We believe a bolder policy is required and would be supported by the American people."

NEW YORK TIMES: Clinton does not have a blank check to mount military operations

In contrast, another major U.S. newspaper urged restraint. In an editorial yesterday, the Times said: "With the Pentagon reinforcing U.S. air power in the Persian Gulf, events in Iraq seem to be moving toward an escalation in American military operations. Though Saddam Hussein started the latest conflict, President Clinton owes Americans a clear explanation of how he means to deal with the complex political and military equation in the Persian Gulf before sending more forces into combat. He has not yet made a convincing case for intensified air strikes against Iraq." The editorial said: "While we supported Clinton's actions last week, he does not have a blank check from Congress or the American people to mount military operations without demonstrating that America's national security interests are threatened."

MIAMI HERALD: The bully, in the eyes of much of the world, is the United States

John Donnelly writes today in a news analysis: "Saddam Hussein watchers love to repeat one phrase about him -- never underestimate his ability to miscalculate. But at this stage in the escalating showdown between the United States and Iraq, Arab intellectuals and Western diplomats in the region say the Iraqi leader's calculations are for once on target. In fact, some say today's confrontation is the polar opposite to the months before the Gulf War, when Washington deftly formed an international coalition against Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. This time, many analysts say, Hussein is not the isolated one. The bully -- in the eyes of much of the world -- is the United States."

LONDON TIMES: Many predict a revival of Hussein's standing in the Arab world

In a news analysis today, Middle East correspondent Christopher Walker writes: "Supporters and opponents of President Saddam Hussein of Iraq last night both were predicting a further revival of the dictator's standing in the Arab world in the event of the 'disproportionate' new air and missile strikes threatened by the United States. Any such attacks by Stealth fighters rebased in Kuwait and cruise missiles will prompt further divisions in the 22-member Arab League, whose foreign ministers' meeting opens in Cairo today." The Times' writer says: "While regard for Arab sovereignty was the official explanation put forward by many former Arab members of the 1991 anti-Iraq coalition for changing their stance, senior Arab diplomats said the real reason was what one envoy described as 'a correct gut assessment of how the Arab street is looking upon this crisis.' "

LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH: Indications are that Clinton will use more force than he did last week

The paper's Middle East correspondent Anton La Guardia teams up with Stephen Robinson in Washington to write in an analysis today: "The war of words between Baghdad and Washington intensified yesterday as yet more American military hardware was sent to the Gulf in preparation for the biggest deployment of U.S. firepower since the Gulf war." The analysis continues: "Mr. Clinton is facing mounting criticism from (U.S. opposition) Republicans for his handling of the crisis, and every indication is that he will use much more force than in the two wrist-slapping cruise missile raids of last week."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Expectations are that new raids would be larger than cruise-missile attacks

Art Pine writes today in an analysis: "The Clinton administration moved closer (today) to launching new, expanded airstrikes against Iraq amid serious constraints over which bases it could use as staging areas and which tactics it would use to prevent Iraq from downing -- and capturing -- a U.S. pilot." The writer says: "While U.S. officials would not say so, expectations are that any new raids by U.S. forces would be larger than the cruise-missile attacks mounted last week, possibly even including targets near Baghdad. The broader assault would serve to underscore U.S. resolve." He adds, "Although military planners have a long list of potential targets, strategists must choose carefully, first to ensure they have wiped out all potential dangers for U.S. pilots, and, second, to avoid jeopardizing relations with Muslim countries."