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Western Press Review: The New UN Resolution On Iraq, EU Enlargement, And Chechnya

  • Khatya Chhor

Prague, 11 November 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Commentary and analysis in the major Western media outlets over the weekend and today discuss the UN Security Council approval of a tougher U.S.-drafted resolution on Iraq, EU enlargement, Russia's military campaign in Chechnya, global warming, and China's week-long Communist Party congress.


"The Wall Street Journal Europe" says the United Nations Security Council's 15-0 vote on the new resolution to disarm Iraq seems like a "[miracle] of diplomacy that allows everyone to claim victory. The U.S. can say that it now has the world behind it, while France can insist it has yoked the Yanks to a multilateral harness."

The paper says the UN resolution "is both strong enough, and ambiguous enough, to allow for U.S. military action against Saddam Hussein." It threatens "serious consequences" should Iraq fail to comply, and UN inspectors are to have unfettered access to all sites, including presidential palaces.

The paper remarks that France, Russia, and the U.S. State Department have pressured President George W. Bush "to alter his policy from 'regime change' in Iraq to mere disarmament. But if disarmament is at all serious, it will be tantamount to regime change," the paper says. Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein "governs by terror...earlier UN resolutions that have now been reinforced also include a demand that Saddam stop oppressing his own people. We doubt, given Saddam's past, that he will be able to tolerate this kind of intrusive foreign interference and survive. He probably can't therefore agree to the UN's terms."


In the "Financial Times," professor of war studies Lawrence Freedman of King's College in London says the approval of a new UN Security Council resolution on Iraq's weapons inspections has placed the onus to act on Baghdad. Iraq's outright rejection of the resolution would be a clear breach of the international community's consensus as stated at the UN. And "for that reason, it is assumed that the Iraqi leader will agree to abide by the resolution and then indulge in his familiar procedural wrangles and petty obstructions."

Within 30 days of agreeing to comply, Iraq must reveal all "programs, plants and materials that could be used for weapons production." Otherwise, Iraq's continued denials could "be considered a material breach." It should therefore be clear "by 7 December whether a war is probable," Freedman says. And the goal of war "will be regime change on the grounds that the current government is congenitally incapable of complying with UN resolutions."

Freedman says: "Saddam Hussein's priority has always been his personal survival. Intransigent defiance is now bound to see him defeated. Compliance with the UN may underline his weakness and give hope to his many enemies." The new UN resolution, combined with "a credible military threat," has isolated the regime and now placed it in a "desperate position."


In the "International Herald Tribune," David Ignatius says the new UN Security Council resolution on Iraq leaves President Saddam Hussein facing "a stark choice: Disarm or die. In truth, they both amount to the same thing. Saddam is finished, and many Iraqis seem to understand that this story is now moving into its endgame."

Those within the Iraqi regime are not advocating compliance with the new UN resolution, Ignatius says, for one simple reason: If Saddam were to give up "the weapons he has secretly been accumulating for so many years, it would amount to a disastrous loss of face. The regime's authority would crumble -- and Saddam, his family, and inner circle would be more vulnerable than ever to attack. That's why Saddam Hussein is likely to seek a defiant and probably suicidal last stand. He has few other viable choices. He is damned if he doesn't capitulate to UN arms inspectors and damned if he does."

Now that the Iraqi leader is being backed into a corner, the danger is, "how many Americans, Israelis, and Arabs will he take down with him? The Iraqi leader has an endgame strategy, too," Ignatius reminds us. "We just don't know what it is."


Rolf Paasch, writing in the "Frankfurter Rundschau," looks at the issue of Iraq's disarmament, following the UN Security Council's unanimous approval of a resolution setting tough conditions for a new round of weapons inspections.

Paasch says Saddam Hussein will possibly cooperate with the weapons inspectors, but will certainly not meet Washington's full requirements. The question then arises, Who is going to make the final decision on war or peace? U.S. President George W. Bush, or the representatives of Russia, France, and Syria -- who voiced their protests against war with Iraq in the Security Council? The UN resolution does not answer this question, says the commentary. The conflict between the "allies" has not been fully resolved.

In practice, the situation is becoming ever more complicated, both on the prospective battlefield and in diplomatic circles. It is far from clear how to destroy Saddam Hussein's military targets without killing civilians. It is still questionable whether war would be waged to "free" the country or to "occupy" it without inflicting heavy damage in the Arab world. Paasch concludes that unanswered questions and diplomatic disputes are ongoing, both within the Bush administration and among the United States' apparent supporters.


France's daily "Le Monde" says UN Resolution 1441 now places the burden of responsibility for war or peace on the Iraqi leadership. "The ball is now in Saddam Hussein's court." Although some Security Council members -- such as Russia, China, and France -- are resolutely opposed to a new war in the region, they approved the text of the resolution. And this unanimity "is meant to exert maximum pressure on the Iraqi dictatorship."

"Le Monde" says Washington and London have been issuing "apocalyptic" warnings about the danger posed by Iraq, which the paper calls a Third World nation crippled by 10 years of sanctions. Other credible observers are more skeptical of the danger from Iraq's weapons, or from the possibility Iraq would share its technology with terrorists.

But the new resolution gives inspectors more freedom to work, says the paper, and sets out "extremely constraining provisions." Iraq may agree to these provisions, or may judge them to be too humiliating to comply with or decide that compliance would destabilize his regime. But if he agrees to renewed inspections, "Le Monde" says it will be American intentions that are put to the test. Are inspections merely a pretext for military operations? the paper asks. Is the U.S. objective Iraqi disarmament, or is it ultimately to topple Saddam Hussein's regime?


An editorial in "The Wall Street Journal" discusses remarks by former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing printed in France's daily "Le Monde" last week (8 November). He was quoted as saying Turkish membership in the EU would bring "the end of the European Union" and that Turkey, while an important country close to Europe, "is not a European country."

Yet the editorial says it is becoming clear that any attempt "to delimit the European Union geographically, politically, or culturally" is "futile in today's world."

"As a matter of diplomacy," it says, "Mr. Giscard d'Estaing's jeremiad was injudicious to say the least. As a matter of geopolitical thinking, his remarks were alarmingly jejune."

The editorial says Turkish membership "would expand Europe's internal market significantly, creating new opportunities for both Turkey and existing EU members. It gives Europe a powerful stake and a voice in the Middle East as well as harnessing the power of NATO's second-largest army to an EU that has become a military pygmy." The paper advises EU leaders to set a concrete date for beginning accession talks with Turkey at their summit in Copenhagen next month.


In an item from "The Washington Post" reprinted in the "International Herald Tribune," Keith Richburg discusses Euroskepticism among the citizens of several EU aspirant nations. He says a "kind of ambivalence underscores how the construction of a wider, unified Europe, a dream of European leaders for four decades, has been driven by the ruling class, with the public sometimes pulled along reluctantly."

A March Eurobarometer poll by the European Commission indicated that among the 10 countries expected to get membership invitations this December -- Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Slovakia, Malta, and Cyprus -- "a bare majority" of 52 percent of the public considered joining the EU a good idea, "compared with 16 percent who thought it was a bad idea. The rest were undecided or gave no opinion." Yet poll results vary widely country by country, with Hungary the most pro-EU aspirant, at 65 percent public support for membership.

"The reasons for ambivalence vary," says Richburg. "Some people fear rising prices, others fear waves of foreign goods, and still others fear an erosion of national sovereignty so soon after the end of Soviet domination."

New EU members will receive increased international clout as well as aid from Brussels. "But they will have to open their markets to competition from other EU states and abide by the group's voluminous regulations, covering things as diverse as food safety and human rights."


An editorial in "The Boston Globe" says the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush "is encouraging an international trend toward adapting to climate change rather than taking steps to slow it." But the world would be best served if the international community "took steps to prevent warming and dealt with its consequences."

Emissions of carbon dioxide as a by-product of burning fossil fuels has accelerated "since the dawn of the industrial age more than a century ago. Reducing this buildup will take decades at best," the paper says. "During this time, ice will melt, seas will rise, some once-fertile areas can expect the kind of drought that has turned Western forests into tinder, and other regions will have to contend with unusually severe storms."

The paper says: "It would be folly not to push for immediate steps, such as dikes, and technological breakthroughs, such as new crops that need less water, to deal with these changes as they occur. But it would also be folly not to reduce the dimensions of the problem by curbing the globe's use of fossil fuels, the main source of the greenhouse gases that trap the sun's heat near the earth's surface."

But the paper says the necessary investment into researching new technologies will not happen until world leaders like Bush "start taking global warming more seriously."


An editorial in "The New York Times" discusses the week-long party congress taking place among China's ruling Communists, which is set to discuss, among other things, the transfer of power from President Jiang Zemin to a generation of new leaders. The editorial says, "people everywhere have a stake in how smooth a transition this emerging power can make to the post-Communist era."

The congress has already eased restrictions on membership in the Communist Party for China's capitalists and is making a "visible effort to attract the loyalty of a rising entrepreneurial class." But "whether this congress prepares a successful leap to the future will not be known right away." A "clean generational succession" is needed, in which "old leaders, for the first time in China's modern history, voluntarily yield power."

The paper says an ambiguous hierarchy "and a new leadership weakened at the start are not what China needs. What it does need is a decisive attack on rampant corruption. Graft has eroded the party's moral authority and sparked violent discontent among those who feel bypassed by China's recent economic growth."

But ultimately, a smooth transition will depend on the Communist Party loosening its "repressive political grip," says the paper. "Democracy, the natural complement to China's emerging market economy, is disturbingly absent from Beijing's current agenda." China's 1.3 billion people "cannot remain excluded from discussions of their future."


A commentary in "Die Welt" by Manfred Quiring speaks of Russian President Vladimir Putin's "arrogance." He says the European Union, which today kicks off its summit with Russia in Brussels, has a problem. It needs Putin as an ally for continental and worldwide stability, as well as for energy supplies and trade, and yet the union must deal with "a power-obsessed demagogue who is demanding unconditional obedience."

Putin has ruled out talks with rebel Chechen separatist President Aslan Maskhadov, whom he describes as a "murderer," adding that "one could just as well negotiate with Osama bin Laden."

Quiring remarks that Putin's statements declaring all rebels to be terrorists are neither new nor original. This war has been going on for four years and has cost thousands of lives among soldiers and civilians alike. In spite of official Russian statements, peace in Chechnya is as far off as ever. What is new, however, is the arrogant effrontery of the head of the Kremlin on the eve of his arrival in Brussels, as he posed as "the headmaster of the continent," who will not put up with criticism of his policies. Quiring questions how the EU will respond to Putin's apparent challenge.

(RFE/RL's Dora Slaba contributed to this report.)