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Western Press Review: 'Allies' Prefer To Ignore Serious Iraqi Menace

  • Don Hill

Prague, 10 November 1997 (RFE/RL) -- "The most frightening thing about the latest flare-up over Iraq is not how Saddam Hussein is behaving, but how our (U.S.) allies are behaving. Saddam is evil. But France, Russia and the United Nations -- they're scary," Thomas L. Friedman writes today in a commentary in The New York Times. Other commentary and news analysis in the Western press today and over the weekend consider the U.S. and UN confrontation with Iraq.


Friedman's commentary continues: "Saddam has absolutely no redeeming features. He has gone to war against five different countries: Israel, Kuwait, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States. He tried to assassinate President George Bush. He has murdered his closest relatives. He has used poison gas against Iran and the Kurds, and Scud missiles against Israeli cities."

He writes: "Yet despite all that, France, Russia, Egypt and other key UN members and officials have been arguing recently that it's time to ease the sanctions on Saddam, not tighten them as the United States proposed."

Friedman comments: "What does it mean to be allies in a world where we can't even agree that Saddam is a menace? If we can't stand shoulder to shoulder against him, then against whom? The world becomes a dangerous place not when Saddam acts up, but when so few allies are ready to act up against him."


In today's Suddeutsche Zeitung, Josef Joffe comments that Saddam has overreached and that even nations attracted by oil profits and opposed to tougher sanctions must be concerned about Iraqi possession of mass destruction weapons. Joffe writes: "What will the path of events now be? Distinctions will have to be drawn between two sorts of sanctions. The economic war which the United States favors is not reaping the hoped-for returns. Saddam and his clique have shown that they and their military apparatus can survive quite comfortably at the same time as their people starve. On top of that comes the temptation of oil, which is why the 'friends' in Paris and elsewhere will not back any toughening of the economic blockade.

"But even the vetoing powers -- France, Russia and China -- cannot have any interest in Saddam going about unmolested as he develops his missile and poisonous-gas potential and puts together nuclear weapons. No one can possibly approve of that. The dangers of weapons of mass destruction coming into the hands of a power-crazy dictator will always drive the big powers together. And that is as it should be. The world which lived for 40 years in the shadow of a global nuclear war between three superpowers cannot just look on as a 'small' apocalypse is prepared."


A Times of London news analysis today, written by Tom Rhodes in Washington and Michael Theodoulou in Nicosea, Cyprus, concludes that an escalation of words between the United States and Iraq is increasing the threat of a shooting war in the Gulf. They write: "Fears of a military conflict in the Gulf grew last night after Baghdad announced that its anti-aircraft systems were on alert to shoot down American U2 spy planes that are set to resume surveillance flights over Iraq today."

The analysis says: "President Clinton issued America's strongest threat yet to Iraq's President Saddam Hussein, warning that the international community would take strong and unambiguous action if Baghdad failed to comply with United Nations resolutions over weapons inspections." It says: "The U2 spy plane flies at more than (19,500 meters) but Iraq's arsenal contains three types of surface-to-air missile that could reach such heights."

The writers say: "It is expected that the U2s will be escorted by a large protection force including airborne warning and communications systems, specialist electronic warfare aircraft to confuse Iraqi radar, aircraft carrying high speed anti-radiation missiles, fighters and search and rescue planes. Iraqi anti-aircraft positions could be targeted simply if they locked their radar on to a U.S. plane, which would be seen as a sufficient threat."


An analysis in today's issue of the U.S. newspaper, The Christian Science Monitor, concludes that the U.S. failure to attract Arab allies to the anti-Iraq cause stems from Arab nations' perception that the United States is applying a double standard in its dealings with Iraq and with Israel. Also, says staff writer Scott Peterson, many Arabs see U.S. world hegemony as evidence of arrogance. Peterson writes: "Outside the Arab world, the crisis with Iraq may appear to be just another round of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The model then was simple: Strongman Saddam Hussein sent Iraqi troops to invade oil-rich Kuwait in 1990. In response, the United States marshaled a broad Arab and Western military alliance that forced Iraq out.

"But in today's crisis with Iraq -- in which U.S. members of United Nations disarmament teams have been barred from the country, monitoring cameras have been tampered with, and equipment crucial for Iraq to resume secret work on weapons of mass destruction has been hidden from inspectors' eyes -- the equation is entirely different. Today, the U.S. threat of military action to enforce demands by the UN Security Council that Iraq fully dismantle its war machine is instead bringing contempt from the Arab world. The reason is that Saddam Hussein has chosen a sensitive time - and perhaps an opportune one for him - to test US resolve in the Middle East. U.S. credibility in the region is already low, Arab analysts say, for several reasons: lack of progress in the Mideast peace process; strong U.S. support for Israel, despite the apparent unwillingness of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to compromise for peace; and growing signs of U.S. arrogance."

He writes: "This view is partly undermined by divisions among Arab states. Kuwait still views Iraq as the most significant threat to its existence, and therefore wants tough UN sanctions to continue forever. But other, more distant Arab regimes are looking at big potential profits if the sanctions are lifted."


Josh Friedman writes today in the U.S. newspaper Newsday that today may be crucial in the confrontation. He says: "When Saddam Hussein ordered his troops to invade Kuwait in August 1990, he issued another order that was known only to a handful in his inner circle for years. He commanded the supersecret Al Hakam germ warfare facility, hidden in the desert south of Baghdad, to go to maximum production, according to UN documents. At the vast complex of 60 buildings spread over many square miles, technicians charged up fermenters with seed stock that they had been producing since 1974, according to UN arms experts."

The news analysis continues: "Richard Butler, the director of the UN Special Commission set up after the Persian Gulf War to get rid of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, said he wants to find out what happened to those weapons, containing enough germs to kill the population of the world many times over."

It says: "Those weapons and the ability to make new biological and chemical arms are at the heart of Iraq's current fight with the U.N. Security Council, a confrontation that has been escalating for weeks and could lead to military action. Iraq banned U.S. inspectors, Butler says, because it feared what would be found."