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Western Press Review: World Opinion On Iraq Covers Spectrum

By Don Hill, Esther Pan and Dora Slaba

Prague, 4 February 1998 (RFE/RL) -- A review of the Western press today suggests that everyone has an opinion on what to do about Iraq, and that nobody's opinion agrees with anyone else's.

TIMES: To be effective a coercive campaign must hurt

At a time when the U.S. Senate, the upper house of the Congress, is expressing second thoughts about launching air strikes, a professor of war studies at King's College, London, writes in an essay in The Times of London that the United States should send in the Marines.

Lawrence Freedman writes: "In terms that might appeal to President Clinton, one leading American defense analyst once noted the similarities between the contemporary uses of air power and seduction: they both allow for instant gratification without long-term commitment." Freedman says: "The present crisis is particularly difficult because a point has been reached where Iraqi systems remain substantial but cannot be destroyed by air raids."

Freedman says that imminent air strikes are intended to coerce Iraq's Saddam Hussein into compliance. But, the writer says, "To be effective a coercive campaign of this sort must hurt but, if it appears to be excessively punitive -- and produces no obvious results -- the political costs could be greater for the allies than for Saddam." He writes: "Sending troops into Iraq would be an altogether more serious operation and would risk serious casualties on the allied side. There is little stomach for it in the United States. Yet it may well be that the best way to convince the Iraqi leader that he should allow the weapons inspectors to roam his country as they choose would be to announce the sending of a U.S. Marine task force to the Gulf."

SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: The renewed Iraqi crisis could not have come at a worse time for the Palestinians

Commentators in two German newspapers and a U.S. newspaper assess the standoff for its affect on third parties. In the Suddeutsche Zeitung, Anne Ponger writes: "The renewed Iraqi crisis could not have come at a worse time for the Palestinians. Two weeks ago, Palestinian Chairman Yasser Arafat was being treated royally in Washington -- unlike Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- because he was showing a certain readiness to compromise. That raised hopes that President Bill Clinton would concentrate on rescuing the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. But the latest visit by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to Jerusalem and Ramallah, home of the Palestinian administration, showed that further Israeli withdrawals from Palestinian territory are not at the forefront of American thoughts."

FRANKFURTER RUNDSCHAU: The Israeli population no longer wants to be fobbed off with reassuring platitudes

Inge Guenther says in the Frankfurter Rundschau: "The Israeli population no longer wants to be fobbed off with terse, presumably reassuring platitudes from the government and military about possible attacks by Iraq. Nervousness is growing in parallel with the length of the queues of people waiting to be issued with gas masks. So the political tight-rope walk continues. The government presents the whole military deterrence potential, which also probably includes neutron bombs. But at the same time, the prime minister has to avoid the use of vocabulary which Baghdad could interpret as Israeli provocation."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: The Kremlin's embarrassing misstep may have punched new chinks in the armor of resolve

And Carol J. Williams comments from Moscow in the Los Angeles Times: "The Kremlin's embarrassing misstep -- proclaiming a breakthrough in the Iraqi standoff, only to have Baghdad swiftly deny that any deal had been struck -- may have punched new chinks in the armor of resolve girding Russian diplomats as they continued scrambling yesterday to head off another war in the Persian Gulf. Russian officials stood unconvincingly behind their Monday claims that, thanks to Russian diplomacy, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was ready to make concessions to the UN Special Commission verifying Iraq's disarmament moves. But Iraq's failure to deliver on Moscow's promise that the standoff was being defused has cast Russia in the role of Baghdad's puppet and confronted Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin's leadership with the awkward choice of abandoning efforts to help the Iraqis or stubbornly standing by an unreliable ally."

IL MESSAGERO: Half the world shares in the effort to halt the American war machine

The Italian daily Il Messagero says in a commentary that world opinion runs strongly against U.S. intentions. The newspaper says: "Saddam Hussein is playing his Arab card. It is a strong card that Baghdad is putting on the table, and in the Arab capitals they have already set in motion diplomacy to avert an American military attack. The Egyptian president Mubarak has placed himself in the front line, having spoken with the political leaders of some ten Arab states. But the Arabs are not alone in this mission. Half the world shares in the effort to halt the American war machine, for example France (and) Russia. The Kremlin is strengthening its role as mediator and is trying to endow the media with the belief that Saddam is ready to compromise with the UN, though Baghdad has denied it."

LIBERATION: The Iraq crisis gives the impression of a grand cacophony

The French daily, Liberation, carries a commentary calling the storm of varied opinions a cacophony. Liberation says: "The management of the Iraq crisis by the allies gives the impression of a grand cacophony. If the American UN ambassador Bill Richardson diplomacy is (exhausted), France and Russia still believe in the powers of negotiation. In Baghdad, the French number two Bertrand Dufourcq has arrived with 'concrete suggestions' and began his efforts yesterday. The Russian emissary is committed to staying as long as necessary. If Washington manages to convince itself that France will support a military operation, it will be aggravated by Moscow, which believes that UN resolutions do not give the right to bomb Iraq. (Even) Moscow is contriving to sow confusion, reaffirming yesterday that it had obtained Iraq's acceptance of conditions for inspection of eight presidential sites, which Baghdad denied."

WASHINGTON POST: The humanitarian case for the Annan proposal is powerful, but its timing is bad

The Washington Post editorializes that UN-proposed humanitarian relief for Iraq would be premature now. The editorial says: "The indifference of Saddam Hussein to the suffering of his people has created its own dilemma for everyone else." It says: "Even while the United States moves toward an early military confrontation on arms inspections, the UN secretary general proposes to expand the oil-for-food loophole and to unlink relief from the gathering storm."

The editorial concedes: "To the general case for humanitarian relief for Iraq, there can be no serious objection." And it says: "The United States will likely gain politically from the support it promptly announced for Kofi Annan's initiative." But it contends: "If the humanitarian case for the Annan proposal is powerful, however, its timing is bad." The newspaper concludes: "A delay on the Kofi Annan proposal in order to keep a tight focus on the arms makes sense. Many lives are at stake there, too."

FINANCIAL POST: The policy of threatening Iraq is ridiculous and pointless

From Canada, David Frum writes in the Financial Post that the Clinton administration "policy of threatening Iraq is ridiculous and pointless." Frum comments: "The Kennedy and Johnson administrations got into trouble in Vietnam by refusing to accept that war is war -- organized violence aimed at the destruction of an enemy. They insisted war was more like therapy -- carefully calibrated applications of force intended to correct unwanted behavior. Truly, Vietnam was the liberals' war. And of course the result was disaster."

FIGARO: Saddam Hussein turns diplomacy into marketplace bargaining

The French daily Le Figaro says that Saddam appears to have learned his negotiation tactics in market bazaars. The newspaper says: "The negotiations supported strongly by France and Russia seem to be hopeless. Moscow had believed on Monday that it had won concessions that would hold back the American bombers (but) one hour later Iraq denied it. This is the tactic Saddam Hussein utilizes over and over again. Depending on whether the pressure increases or abates, he says yes or no. In the words of one high-level French politician, the man, who knows no more about the world than the road from Baghdad to Tikrit, his birthplace, turns diplomacy into marketplace bargaining."