Prague, 19 July 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Western media analysis today looks at growing Afghan opposition to a U.S. military presence, the divide between the U.S. and its allies over Mideast policy, the future of Iran, regulating capitalism, and Polish-U.S. relations, among other issues.
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE:
An editorial in "The Wall Street Journal Europe" says while not too much should be read into the symbolism of a White House state visit, it is still significant that Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski was only the second leader to be invited since the current U.S. administration took office.
The editorial says the apparent close relations between the U.S. and Polish leaders casts doubt on the widely held assumption that the U.S. and Europe cannot find common ground. "History helped make Poland and the U.S. close allies," says the paper. But what keeps relations strong are "clearly defined common goals: a second round of NATO enlargement this fall, a stable Ukraine, a more democratic Russia and Belarus, and a free and united Europe."
The U.S. shares these interests with Europe as a whole. But, the editorial says, "the richer half of Europe didn't experience tyranny first-hand as Poland did, and shows little gratitude to the U.S. for making sure it didn't have to." Kwasniewski shows "it is possible to be pro-EU and pro-American, rightly ignoring suggestions [that] he must choose between the two." The paper muses that an "unintended benefit of EU enlargement to Poland and the East may yet be better relations between Europe and America."
On 15 July, the governor of Kandahar Province, Gul Agha Sherzai, demanded that U.S. troops seek permission from local Afghan authorities before launching strikes against suspected Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces. His demand came in the wake of an errant U.S. bomb attack on a wedding celebration in Oruzgan Province that killed dozens of civilians. A "Stratfor" (Strategic Forecasting, Inc.) commentary says while the U.S. most likely will not agree to Sherzai's demands, his request is "part of a steadily growing opposition to the U.S. presence in Afghanistan."
But what makes this situation unique is the closeness of Sherzai's relations with the U.S., says "Stratfor." "Washington supplied Sherzai with weapons, cash and communications gear before and after his forces took the city of Kandahar." And the U.S. military "maintains a close relationship with Sherzai even today," as he continues to use U.S. funds in working to consolidate his regional power. He is even scheduled to visit the United States later this month.
"Stratfor" says it is for these reasons that Sherzai's recent demand "illustrates the depth of Afghan resentment of U.S. operations. Although close to the United States, Sherzai also is a politician who knows how to read the political winds. His demands should be seen as a warning of what may come."
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR:
In the "Christian Science Monitor," regional correspondent John Cooley says the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush is finding "that few in the world community, and none of its important allies, support its Middle East policies." Many observers of the crisis "object to the insistence of President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that Yasser Arafat be removed as Palestinian leader, and that top priority be given to Israeli security over all else."
This division was clear during the 16 July meeting in New York of the Mideast diplomatic "quartet" -- the United Nations, the European Union, Russia, and the United States -- as U.S. opinion broke with that of the other three. But Cooley says, "Longtime observers of [the] Middle East conflict and peace efforts, including many Israelis, agree with the UN, the Europeans and the Russians." At the same time, he says, they also "generally support the views of the three key Arab governments, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan, representing the 23-nation Arab League. The Arabs perceive the need to override the Sharon-Bush requirements on Mr. Arafat's succession and Israeli -- but not Palestinian -- security, and to begin step-by-step peace moves now."
The leading editorial today in the French "Le Monde" daily calls for regulating capitalism following a spate of recent accounting scandals in the United States involving big-name firms. The paper says this type of crime does more than just deplete the savings of thousands of people and leave thousands of others jobless, "It strikes the market economy to the heart, at its basic element: confidence."
This confidence in the figures companies report regarding their economic health is vitally important for employees to judge a firm's stability, and for others to judge what returns they can expect on their savings and investments. "Le Monde" says confidence in the future is key, "because capitalism rests on the fundamentally optimistic bet [that is] investment: I give up immediate earnings in exchange for a superior future earning. This confidence, this faith, is sabotaged by the scandals."
The paper says Europe has imported several aspects of American capitalism and should thus also conduct a review of its own practices. Should the state apply stricter laws or rely on other forces? "Le Monde" asks. And what of employees and their capital investments? "Le Monde" concludes that it is necessary to look for "a European model for regulating capitalism."
JANE'S INTELLIGENCE REVIEW:
An analysis in "Jane's Intelligence Review" by Tim Ripley of Lancaster University's Centre for Defense and International Security Studies discusses expectations for Macedonia's September elections. Ripley says the election campaign "is turning into an intense struggle for control of the political destiny of Macedonia's Albanian community."
The two established parties, the Democratic Party for Albanians (DPA/DPSH) and the Party of Democratic Prosperity (PDP), have "attempted to portray themselves as the traditional protectors of the country's Albanian community," having been members of the fractious Macedonian government since 2001. But former National Liberation Army (NLA/UCK) leader Ali Ahmeti and his newly formed Democratic Union for Integration (BDI) are "promoting themselves as an 'honest' alternative to the 'corrupt' collaborators within the loathed central government."
Ripley says the results of the election will also determine "the degree to which Macedonia's population has been radicalized by the 2001 conflict" with the Albanian nationalists, and "its unwillingness to accept" its own existing political status quo.
Ripley writes: "If the election outcome is that the DPA and PDP continue to dominate Albanian political life -- and if the hard-line Macedonian nationalists continue to control the central government -- then the pressures that caused last year's conflict to burst into life could yet again spark violence."
A special report by "Stratfor" says Iran "is facing an uncertain future, trying to reform itself gradually while still remaining a strong, independent, united nation. However, internal pressures as well as those from outside have made this difficult to achieve."
Thousands marched in 9 July street protests over the slow pace of reforms. The resignation of influential reformist cleric Jalaledin Taheri the same week underscored reformists' dissatisfaction with the ruling regime, as did the threat to quit the government from Iran's largest reform party, the Islamic Iran Participation Front, if the hard-liners continue to block reforms.
The U.S.'s continuing accusations that Iran is "sponsoring terrorism and engaging in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction" are further pressuring its leadership. It is common belief among the Iranian security establishment that Iran will be America's target after Iraq, says "Stratfor." Washington is highly unpopular even in the eyes of Iran's reformist leaders.
For now, Iran is seeking to increase its leverage regarding a U.S. attack by building up its defense forces and engaging in dialogue with other major powers to create a diplomatic disincentive for a U.S. attack. "Stratfor" says eventually, given the U.S. threat, a more "nationalistic course directed at securing Iran's national interests [should] be expected from any Iranian government in the future."