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Western Press Review: Saddam Commands World Attention

  • Don Hill



Prague, 17 November 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Iraq President Saddam Hussein continues to command world press attention as he rejects UN demands for continued arms inspections and defies U.S. threats of military retaliation.

NEWSDAY: America's tough stance against Saddam Hussein has been met with answers ranging from ambivalence to outright rejection

Nicholas Goldberg contends in a news analysis in today's issue of the U.S. newspaper Newsday that world opinion severely limits U.S. options. He writes: "In Paris and Moscow, for example, fierce battles are under way to keep the United States from bombing Iraq. In Cairo, officials are meeting (today) with Iraqi envoy Tariq Aziz, who is seeking to shore up the opposition in the Arab world to any American bombing. As far away as China -- and as crucially close as Saudi Arabia, where U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright appeared (yesterday) on a lobbying swing through the Persian Gulf -- America's tough stance against Saddam Hussein has been met with answers ranging from ambivalence to outright rejection."

NEW YORK TIMES: The U.N. inspectors have to get back into Iraq, by force if necessary

The most prominent U.S. newspaper, The New York Times, took a unprecedentedly pugnacious tone in an editorial yesterday. The Times said: "The world has a Saddam Hussein problem. To say it that way defines the threat that he represents to the biosphere, the envelope of air and water that he proposes to infest with pestilences that respect no political boundaries." The editorial said: "President Clinton has authority under previous UN resolutions to make sure that the terms of the (Persian Gulf) war cease-fire, including arms inspections, are enforced." The editorial concluded: "The U.N. inspectors have to get back into Iraq, by force if necessary."

KNIGHT RIDDER: The United States should defuse the current tension

Such bellicosity is wrong, wrote Matthew Rothschild, editor of the U.S. magazine, The Progressive. His commentary was carried last week by the Knight-Ridder-Tribune Information Service. He said: "The United States should not bomb Iraq or assassinate Saddam Hussein. Instead, it should do everything it can, by working through the United Nations, to defuse the current tension. Yes, Saddam Hussein has taken provocative action by ordering the expulsion of American inspectors on the U.N. team and by threatening to shoot down our U-2 planes. But inflicting more violence on Iraq will not solve this problem. It will be immoral, illegal and unconstitutional as well." Rothschild wrote: "Many pundits in the United States are now demanding military action. Columnist Thomas Friedman of the New York Times has even called for the assassination of Saddam Hussein. This is reckless talk and disregards the innocent people who (would) undoubtedly die in what is euphemistically called 'collateral damage.' "

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: The Pentagon works on details of a military strike but the political conditions have not yet been fulfilled

In The Suddeutsche Zeitung Saturday, Stefan Kornelius warned in a commentary that the United States, stung by what it regards as "both a humiliation and a provocation," is preparing for military action -- even though there may be days or even weeks of delay. Kornelius wrote: "The Pentagon works on details of a military strike but the political conditions have not yet been fulfilled. It could take days -- one military spokesman even said it might be weeks -- before the United States is ready to go ahead." Kornelius continued: "An crucial factor is U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's (weekend mission) to Europe and the Middle East, where she is due to try to reassemble the consumptive Gulf War alliance. The French caution in condemning Saddam Hussein is an attitude that the Americans have no sympathy for at all. Germany, neither a member of the Security Council nor a member of the Gulf War alliance, plays no role in considerations."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Volker Ruehe is talking about possible German participation in a military strike in the Gulf

Another Suddeutsche Zeitung commentator, Christoph Schwennicke, suggested Saturday that German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe may be preparing domestic opinion for Germany to take a stronger part in any military confrontation in Iraq. Ruehe said last week that if the Persian Gulf War had occurred today, Germany would have played a different role. Even though Ruehe subsequently said he was not referring the current crisis, Schwennicke contended otherwise.

He wrote: "Not by accident is Volker Ruehe, who owes his success as defense minister to the principle of doling out words in appropriate doses at the appropriate times, talking about possible German participation in a military strike in the Gulf. And most certainly not at a time when the world is having to come to terms with the possibility of a third war in the Gulf. Social Democratic defense expert Walter Kolbow interprets Ruehe's words, spoken before the United Nations Security Council decision on the current crisis had been announced, as being designed to convey the message that the USA can rely on Germany. Ruehe's statements are timed very carefully and follow a political tactic that Ruehe has always adopted, that of transporting previously inconceivable ideas gradually into the realm of possibility."

FINANCIAL TIMES: What is needed now is clarity -- explicit goals, explicit carrots, explicit sticks

The British newspaper Financial Times says today that the probable reason the Gulf War victors in 1991 failed to seize the opportunity at the time to destroy Saddam is that they needed him as a counterweight to what then was perceived as the greater threat, Iran. "What is needed now," editorializes the Financial Times, "is clarity -- explicit goals, explicit carrots, explicit sticks. First, the United States should make absolutely clear that if Iraq complies with UN resolutions, sanctions will be lifted." The newspaper says: "Any diplomatic contacts with Baghdad to resolve the crisis should have a time limit."

TIMES: Israel has an awesome inventory of weapons it could unleash against Iraq

In a new Persian Gulf confrontation, Israel would not take the passive stance it did in 1991-92, defense corespondent Michael Evans writes today in The Times of London. He writes in a news analysis: "During the Gulf War, Israel agreed to hold back from retaliatory strikes after Scuds were fired on Tel Aviv, because of the importance of maintaining the Arab coalition against Iraq." Noting that there now isn't any such coalition, Evans points out: "Israel has an awesome inventory of weapons it could unleash against Iraq." He says: "Last week, Israeli officials were reported to have given a warning that Israel would respond to an Iraqi chemical or biological attack with a neutron bomb."

WASHINGTON POST: Albright came to the Persian Gulf countries representing both a protector against Iraq and the chief supporter of Israel

Thomas W. Lippman of The Washington Post writes in a news analysis today that even Arab leaders well disposed toward the United States are less than eager to take sides publicly with Israel's main supporter. Lippman writes: "(U.S. Secretary of State) Madeleine K. Albright raced around four vulnerable Persian Gulf monarchies (yesterday) on a reassurance tour that dramatized the difficulties facing the United States in implementing its policies toward the Arab world."

He writes: "Albright came to the Persian Gulf countries representing both their protector against Iraq and the chief supporter of an Israel they regard as having reneged on its deal with the Palestinians. This dual perception of the United States presents a quandary for Saudi Arabia and the small Arab sheikdoms along the Gulf because they need the United States, but the U.S. military presence is a political liability."

The Western press also took note today of the death yesterday at age 71 of tenacious French Communist Party leader Georges Marchais.

LIBERATION: There was something tragic in Georges Marchais' person

The French daily Liberation says in an editorial signed by Laurent Joffrin that Marchais lived his life with an "absurd fidelity." The editorial says: "There was something tragic in George Marchais' person. You could sense the tragedy in the trembling of the lips, in the confusion in his eyes since his first heart attack. The man had a wound in his heart -- just as communism did. Any sensible person has known since (Russian dissident author Aleksandr) Solzhenitsyn that this idea (no longer could claim) historical legitimacy once its crimes were disclosed."

The editorial says: "The party should have blended with the Socialist Party or, at least, become a party like the other parties: reformist, social-democratic, like the Italian Communist Party. That would have meant making official the failure lived 50 years before. That would have meant joining the mainstream, putting his knife away, reassuring the bourgeoisie." The editorial concludes: "It was probably the ironic grandeur of George Marchais that bent on an absurd faithfulness he lived a globally negative life. But he existed."

NEW YORK TIMES: Under him the Communist share of the French popular vote dwindled



A New York Times' analysis, by Craig R. Whitney, says that Marchais received the blame for reducing the French Communist Party to the margins of French political life. Whitney writes: "He led what had been the largest single party in France at the end of World War II, but under him the Communist share of the French popular vote dwindled from 21.4 percent at the beginning of his term to 9.2 percent in 1993, just before he retired as general secretary.

"Even what might have been a triumph, acceptance by the Communists of an invitation to join a socialist-led government after the election of President Francois Mitterrand in 1981, turned sour instead. After an initial phase of nationalizations of major banks and industries long favored by the Communists, Mitterrand reversed economic course in 1984 when recession struck, and Marchais pulled his party out of the government. Many French voters felt disillusioned, and Marchais said years later that he would worry until his dying day about whether he had been wrong to accept Mitterrand's invitation in the first place."

DAILY TELEGRAPH: Marchais kept his party close to the old Moscow line

The London Daily Telegraph says in an understatement in an obituary that Marchais was "No revisionist." The obituary says: "Marchais kept his party close to the old Moscow line. It retained a Stalinist flavor well into the Gorbachev era, in which Marchais and his Politburo were never truly comfortable. In a much-quoted phrase, he described the world achievements of communism as 'globally positive.' "

(Translation from the French by Aurora Gallego.)
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