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Western Press Review: Compromise Discussed In Iraq Dispute

  • Don Hill



Prague, 19 November 1997 (RFE/RL) -- A commentator for the Suddeutsche Zeitung invoked the concept of schadenfreude yesterday to explain the inability of the administration of U.S. President Bill Clinton to win more backing for its Iraq policy. Other Western press commentary continues today to analyze the issues.

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: The military threshold has simply not been reached for many countries

Stefan Kornelius wrote in the Suddeutsche Zeitung: "One German word that can still be found in a good English-language dictionary is schadenfreude. Its meaning -- to take pleasure in another's problems or difficulties -- has become painfully clear to President Bill Clinton in recent days."

The writer said: "Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein (has) celebrated a small tactical victory over the archenemy by expelling American weapons inspectors from his country and forcing them to make a humiliating overnight car journey across the desert to Jordan. The Americans then tried to stir up the necessary voters against Saddam in the UN Security Council, but like a lone hamster in a wheel the U.S. diplomats ran and ran and got nowhere. Saddam's provocation, they were told, was not great enough to justify a major conflict; the military threshold has simply not been reached for many countries of the anti-Saddam alliance."

Kornelius wrote: "Worse for the Americans, that feeling of schadenfreude is increasing at the United Nations: America, the arrogant debtor, wants to use the world organization for its own purposes, it is muttered. And America, the superpower swelling with its own importance, will ultimately be the victim of both its attempt to create an enemy and its inflexible Middle East policies. Yet this attitude is dangerous, and should not be nurtured: in fact, American crisis diplomacy finds itself in an awkward situation which the stupid and ideologically motivated decisions of the U.S. Congress will not improve."

INDEPENDENT: The difficulty for Britain and the United States is that this amounts to a climbdown

Today's issue of The Independent, of London, reports that British intelligence has made public a study showing that Iraq is within months of producing weapons of mass destruction capable of attacking Saudi Arabia and Israel. Yet, Mary Dejevsky writes in an analysis, that a compromise proposal is emerging that would give Iraqi President Saddam Hussein major concessions. She writes: "Britain took the unusual step of releasing an intelligence assessment prepared for the government on the threat from Iraq's programs to build weapons of mass destruction. (The assessment) said Iraq could build with little risk of detection missiles capable of hitting Israel and Saudi Arabia as long as it retained the key components. And the assessment warned of the risks of allowing the United Nations Special Commission (Unacom) inspectors to be withdrawn"

Dejevsky writes also: "The most likely form of deal (being developed with Russian assistance) appeared to include an increase in the amount of oil Iraq was permitted to sell, more clearly defined conditions for ending inspections, the return of UN inspection teams to Iraq, and an expansion of Unacom." She said: "The difficulty for Britain and the United States is that this amounts to a climbdown from their original hardline position and would give Iraq much of what it wanted when it first moved against American weapons inspectors last month."

NEW YORK TIMES: The goal is to persuade Baghdad to allow U.N. weapons inspectors to work unfettered.

Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov is leading the Russian effort, The New York Times' Michael R. Gordon writes today from Moscow. Gordon writes in an analysis: "The discussions opened with the blessing of the United States, which hoped Primakov could find a face-saving way for Saddam to back down. But his proposal raised serious questions even in its bare outlines as it seemed to call for a softening of American policy on Iraq."

The writer says that Primakov had engaged in similar diplomacy before the 1990-91 Persian Gulf war, but, "The Bush administration viewed Primakov's diplomacy at the time as a transparent effort to help the regime of Saddam Hussein preserve its military might and hold on to power." Gordon writes: "But this time the situation is different. Neither the Clinton administration nor its allies in Western Europe and the Middle East are eager to use force. The goal is not to evict an occupying Iraqi army from Kuwait but to persuade Baghdad to allow U.N. weapons inspectors to work unfettered."

He writes: "Primakov has talked of accelerating the work of the UN Special Commission established to insure that Iraq has ended its programs to develop weapons of mass destruction and destroyed existing weapons. That might be something the United States could discuss if the UN inspectors were allowed to resume their work unconditionally. But if Iraq insisted that the United Nations agree to expedite its work before the inspectors were allowed back in the country, then Washington almost certainly would reject the plan."

WASHINGTON POST: What we should already know is that Saddam Hussein cannot be trusted

The Washington Post said yesterday in an editorial that continued inspections are essential for world safety. The editorial said: "Saddam Hussein has backed off a bit, demanding now not that Americans be altogether barred from the arms inspections teams but that they be there in no larger numbers than Russians, Chinese, French and British. The Iraqi leader still does not get the basic point: It falls to the United Nations, not to him, to define the teams' terms."

The Post said: "In denying dirty hands, the toxic Saddam Hussein is lying. That is why inspections are obligatory to verify both initial and continuing compliance." And concluded: "What we should already know is that Saddam Hussein cannot be trusted, must be considered permanently dangerous and must be watched and policed not just while this crisis unfolds but as long as he holds power. An infringement on Iraqi sovereignty? Yes, definitely, and an imperative for the rest of us."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: President Clinton will have to discuss foreign policy with the American people

President Clinton has failed to engage -- and win over -- U.S. citizens in his foreign policy, says a commentary published today in The International Herald Tribune. Washington Post political commentator David S. Broder writes: "The showdown with Saddam Hussein comes at an awkward time for the United States. (President) Clinton's foreign policy support at home rarely has looked shakier." Broder says: "To avoid a truly crippling repudiation of his leadership, President Clinton will have to discuss foreign policy with the American people in a way that he has avoided for five years."
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