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Western Press Review: More Comment On Iraq-UN

  • Joel Blocker
  • Dora Slaba

Prague, 17 November 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentators continue today to focus heavily on Iraq's dramatic weekend decision to allow United Nations weapons inspectors back into the country. Many analysts put the accent on the difficulties the inspectors are likely to have in seeking out potential sites for the production of mass-destruction weapons.

FINANCIAL TIMES: The sanctions regime is unlikely to end Saddam's rule

In an editorial headed "Rethinking Iraq", Britain's Financial Times says that "after the brinkmanship of the weekend, the weapons inspectors of UNSCOM (United Nations Special Commission) are set to have one last try. They arrive back in Iraq today," the paper notes, "preceded by a U.S.-UK warning to (Iraqi President) Saddam Hussein that if he further obstructs their tasks he will be bombed."

The FT continues: "It is hard to know whether UNSCOM can uncover any more of the Iraq's armory of chemical and biological weapons. But it is practically certain that, if it looks like doing so, Baghdad will block it. The crisis is by no means over."

The editorial proposes that the UN should soon "reconsider whether to re-focus (its) sanctions (on Iraq), and in particular whether to lift the embargo on Iraq's oil exports....Mr. Saddam evades the embargo by smuggling enough to finance his regime; its effect falls primarily on his people."

The paper concludes that "the current sanctions regime is neither sustainable nor likely to end Mr. Saddam's rule."

NEW YORK TIMES: A bombing campaign is the only answer to ineffective inspection

In its second editorial on Iraq in two days, the New York Times also stresses the difficulties the returning UN inspectors are likely to have. The paper writes: "The days ahead must see the resumption of an aggressive program of weapons inspections in Iraq. That is the only way to test Saddam Hussein's latest pledge of full cooperation with (the UN)....There can be no return to last spring's misguided American policy of reining in the inspectors..."

The NYT goes on: "Iraq...must give the inspectors access to every laboratory, factory, presidential palace, computer hard drive and desert hiding place they need to see. It must hand over every pertinent document the inspectors request. It must satisfactorily answer all the inspectors' questions about what has become of weapons ingredients."

The paper concludes: "If these answers and access are not provided, Washington will have to turn anew to the option of military force. In the absence of effective inspection, the only way to control Iraq's weapons development is with a sustained campaign of bombing and missile strikes."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Iraq has again forced the U.S. into a high-cost military build-up

For the Los Angeles Times, "the crisis with Iraq isn't over. It has only been put on hold," the paper says. "until the next time Saddam Hussein senses he can get away with blocking the work of the UN weapons inspectors while parading Iraq before the world as the blameless victim of an inhumane economic blockade."

In its editorial, the LAT also says: "At minimal cost to itself, Iraq again forced the U.S. into a military build-up that eventually will cost thousands of millions of dollars and require keeping on station for an indefinite time large numbers of ships, planes and personnel. In return, Hussein has been required only to promise once again that he will comply fully with all relevant UN resolutions..." The paper adds: "Hussein seems determined to hold on to (his) weapons capability whatever the cost to the Iraqi people, which is why (U.S. President Bill) Clinton on Sunday again bluntly called for a new government in Baghdad if normal life in Iraq is again to be made possible. Read that as an invitation to some patriotic or ambitious group of Iraqi generals to at last do away with Hussein.. (But) there's no great expectation that such a thing might soon come to pass."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Autocracy generates stupidity

Several German newspapers also comment on Iraq. In the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Editorial-Page Director Josef Joffe writes of what he calls "Saddam's Great Stupidity." His commentary says: "Autocracy generates stupidity: that is the lesson to draw from the latest Iraqi conflict with the world community. For a year, Saddam tested the resolution of the U.S. and the UN Security Council and then he came to a big wrong conclusion."

Joffe continues: "In August, when Saddam slammed the door (on the inspectors), President Clinton did not even seem to react (at all). But now it is clear that America's reaction was cleverer than it first appeared. Whether planned or not, (the U.S.) set a trap into which Saddam fell three months later when he declared a total 'No' (to UN inspections)."

The commentary concludes: "Here's the second lesson that democracies must take to heart when they engage in a trial of strength with a despot: Force can best be avoided when one displays a credible willingness to exert it. That's true whether it's (Yugoslav President Slobodan) Milosevic in Kosovo or Saddam in the Gulf: both backed down only when the bombers were in the air."

GENERAL-ANZEIGER: Saddam only understands is the language of violence

According to the General-Anzeiger, published in Bonn, "the only language that Saddam Hussein really understands is the language of violence.....The White House finally decided to speak out against him in no uncertain terms. The crisis, therefore, was only averted thanks to President Bill Clinton's firm stand on the matter."

STUTTGARTER NACHRICHTEN: Saddam could not count on Arab support

The Stuttgarter Nachrichten says that Clinton "has learned from previous mistakes." The paper says that the President "wanted to avoid a war of nerves lasting for several weeks. That's why this time U.S. diplomacy did not seek support primarily from the UN Security Council in New York, but in the Middle East." The editorial concludes: "Saddam Hussein's Arab neighbors finally told him that, in case of war, he could not count on their support."

WESTDEUTSCHE ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG: Sanctions are pure neo-colonialism

The Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, published in Essen, sees the matter differently. The paper "doesn't find it right that the Iraqi people are constantly being punished in order to restrain a dictator." Its editorial goes on: "Some sources say more people have become victims of the UN sanctions than the total toll of human lives during the (1991) Gulf War."

The paper continues: "According to many people in the Middle East, this is pure neo-colonialism. It is certainly not the way to curb (Islamic) fundamentalism in the region." And it concludes: "It won't take long before the dictator starts playing cat and mouse with the world community once more."

NORDWEST-ZEITUNG: Saddam Hussein found himself isolated

"The Iraqi President wanted to test how firm was the international community's stand against him," writes the Nordwest-Zeitung, published in Oldenburg. "At the same time," the paper continues, "he wanted to present himself as the one who dared to defy the so-called 'aggressor,' the U.S. But he failed. His previous mediators --Russia, China and, partly at least, France-- turned their backs on him. Saddam Hussein found himself isolated when neighboring Arab countries also dissociated themselves from him," the paper concludes.

DERNIERES NOUVELLES D'ALSACE: There is no viable opposition

The French provincial daily Dernieres nouvelles d'Alsace today titles its comment, "Iraq: The Opposition in the Desert." The paper writes: "With the use of force excluded for the moment, the Americans are now calling openly for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, saying they are willing to contribute more to achieve this end than they have in the past. But the problem is," the editorial continues, "that no credible alternative (to Saddam) currently exists, largely because of the weakness and divisiveness of the (Iraqi) opposition."

The DNA goes on: "On Sunday, Clinton explicitly appealed for a change of regime (in Baghdad). Until recently, U.S. officials insisted on the need to 'contain' Saddam. Now, it's a matter of replacing him....To that end, the President underlined his intention to provide more U.S. aid to the Iraqi opposition."

The paper adds: "The problem here is that the (commander of U.S. troops in the Gulf) himself recently expressed strong reservations about any attempt to overthrow Saddam because there is no viable opposition."

LE MONDE: Sanctions only serve to reinforce the dictatorship

In the French national daily Le Monde, Afsane Bassir Pour and Alain Frachon discuss "the fiasco of embargoes." In a commentary, they write: "As there are 'smart bombs' designed to hit only military objectives, there ought to be 'intelligent sanctions' that punish regimes and not peoples."

They add: "That should be the principle lesson of this most recent Iraqi crisis which, bombs or not, has once again underlined the failure of a policy. Far from bringing Saddam Hussein to his senses, the system of ferocious economic sanctions applied for the past eight years against Iraq has incited him to ever greater provocations."

The commentary concludes: "(The embargo) serves only to reinforce the dictatorship that it seeks to weaken....The sanctions affect 23 million Iraqis, a good portion of whom were children or not even born in 1990, when Saddam Hussein sent his troops into Kuwait."