Prague, 26 February 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Iraq once again dominates both headlines and commentary in the Western media today, as the world continues to debate a possible U.S.-led war in the Persian Gulf. The need for a second UN resolution declaring Iraq in breach of Resolution 1441 is discussed, as is Turkey's role in a possible conflict and the options for a postwar regime in Baghdad.
We also take a look at Serbian nationalist leader Vojislav Seselj, who surrendered to The Hague on 24 February to face trial for war crimes, and the meeting today in Washington between Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev and U.S. President George W. Bush.
THE BOSTON GLOBE:
An editorial in "The Boston Globe" warns the United States against winning a potential war in Iraq but losing the peace that could follow. It says the U.S. administration "should avoid creating a situation in Iraq that Iraqis and their neighbors will perceive as a 21st-century American replay of European colonialism in the Fertile Crescent."
Political power and administrative authority in the postwar period must thus "be transferred to Iraqi hands as completely and as quickly as possible."
But in this transfer of control to Iraqis, there must be "certain guiding principles." First, the U.S. must commit to helping Iraq "construct a democratic constitutional state based on federalism, the rule of law, guarantees of human rights for all citizens, equal rights for women, and protections for minorities."
What comes next, the editorial says, may be a process of "de-Baathification." President Saddam Hussein and his Ba'ath Party have ruled "a fascistic police state," the paper says. Many Iraqis may seek to prosecute their former Ba'athist oppressors and "dismantle the remaining structures of Saddam's police state."
The paper says U.S. President George W. Bush and his administration need "to demonstrate that they are not merely indulging in empty rhetoric when they repeat their wish to liberate -- not occupy -- Iraq."
THE WASHINGTON POST:
An editorial in "The Washington Post" says chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix has reported to the UN Security Council that Iraq has not "fully" complied with inspection. "No council member disputes those findings," the paper says. So the paper says the new draft resolution submitted by the United States, Britain, and Spain "merely restates these uncontested facts, together with the inescapable conclusion: Saddam Hussein has failed in his 'final opportunity.'"
Any council members "who oppose this text [will] be voting to repudiate a UN resolution adopted little more than three months ago."
A French-German-Russian counterproposal, submitted as an alternative to the U.S.-backed draft, also acknowledges that Iraq's cooperation has not been "satisfactory." But it goes on to suggest that inspectors draw up a list of specific disarmament tasks for Iraq, along with a deadline by which it must comply. But the paper says the terms of the French-German-Russian proposal are the same terms proposed by an earlier UN resolution, Resolution 1284 of December 1999, which was "fiercely" opposed by both France and Russia.
The editorial says the stance taken by France, Germany, and Russia embodies what it calls a "damaging contradiction." These nations and their allies "insist that the United States act through multilateral institutions such as the [UN] Security Council; but they themselves will not support those institutions if the outcome is a sanctioned exercise of U.S. [military] power."
Stefan Ulrich in the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" looks at the dilemma facing the UN Security Council in taking a vote on a new resolution on Iraq. "If the 15-member Security Council were free to decide, then the decision on a U.S. attack on Iraq would be clear: it would be rejected by 11 to 4. If member governments were to comply with the will of their people, the result would be 14 to 1."
In that case, he says, even Bulgaria, Spain, or Great Britain -- all co-sponsors or supporters of the U.S.-backed draft proposal -- would have to reject the resolution.
Ulrich goes on to say the current UN crisis uncovers a paradox. It is claimed the UN must re-establish its relevance by again becoming a tool of U.S. policy and sanctioning war. But obedience on this point would actually undermine UN significance, says Ulrich. He says Security Council members should reject the American rationale and follow their own convictions. "If they believe that Iraq does not warrant going to war," he writes, "then they must have the courage to say 'no.'"
However, Ulrich says, Washington's reasonable concerns regarding weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of a dangerous regime must also be addressed by the United Nations. If Iraq does not warrant war, the alternative is tough inspections for months to come. But he says real disarmament is only possible backed with strong pressure from the U.S. military.
THE BOSTON GLOBE:
An editorial in "The Boston Globe" looks at Turkey's possible role in any conflict with Iraq and says many decisive issues are still being thrashed out between Ankara and Washington.
"Ankara is entitled to drive a hard bargain in defense of Turkey's national interests and to seek the best deal for its foundering economy," it writes. "If there is a war, the Turkish government should also be able to station troops a few miles inside northern Iraq for humanitarian assistance to mostly Iraqi Kurdish refugees."
The paper says Turkey's desire to seal its border with Iraq in the event of an upcoming war "is not [the] most humane policy," but "it may be justified as a means of defending Turkish territory and sovereignty. However, Ankara's requests -- or demands -- to station Turkish troops in positions up to 170 miles inside northern Iraq should be rejected by Washington."
The editorial says if Turkish troops "were permitted to establish positions far inside Iraq, they could be used to intimidate Iraqi Kurds or to seize and lay claim to oil fields." A prolonged Turkish occupation force in Iraq could also be used "to dictate limits on the autonomy Iraqi Kurds might seek within any democratic, federal state established after Saddam [Hussein]'s fall."
The paper says Ankara "must not be allowed to interfere in the internal affairs of a post-Saddam Iraq."
The "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" profiles U.S. television correspondent Dan Rather, following his exclusive interview with Saddam Hussein, in which the Iraqi leader declares his refusal to go into exile and challenges U.S. President George W. Bush to a debate over the current Iraq crisis. The network reported excerpts of the interview on its website yesterday and said the entire interview will be aired tonight on the CBS network.
The newspaper says Rather is a legend in American journalism who is almost always the first on the spot when there is a crisis or catastrophe. Rather, the paper notes, began his career as a humble newspaper reporter, covering catastrophes and murders. Throughout his long career -- for he is now 71 -- he covered U.S. President John F. Kennedy's assassination in Dallas and the Watergate scandal that forced President Richard Nixon to resign.
Rather was the first Western reporter to interview Saddam following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. He reported from Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion, and he is again the first to question Saddam amidst the current crisis.
THE WASHINGTON TIMES:
A contribution to "The Washington Times" by Georgetown University adjunct professor Rob Sobhani, also of Caspian Energy Consulting, takes a look at Azerbaijani-U.S. relations on the occasion of a visit to Washington today by Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev.
Sobhani says, "Since its independence in 1991, Azerbaijan has been a consistent and staunch ally of the United States in an increasingly important region of the world."
In the weeks following the 11 September attacks on the United Sates, Aliyev offered immediate overflight rights to Azerbaijan's territory and allowed the Pentagon to temporarily station NATO-based U.S. troops there. Moreover, Azerbaijan has supported the United States at the UN and cooperated with Washington on the extradition of and money transfers to suspected terrorists.
Sobhani suggests that in return for this substantial support, the U.S. administration of President George W. Bush should launch a new round of diplomacy aimed at settling Azerbaijan's long-running conflict with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, begin negotiations for a "small but permanent" U.S. air base, and pressure Iran to tone down its sometimes aggressive behavior toward Azerbaijan.
Sobhani also suggests the U.S. Trade and Development Agency should fund a "major" study of Azerbaijani agriculture. Aiding the development of "a diverse economy will ensure the growth [of] a middle class and constitute the building blocks of a viable democracy," he says.
Azerbaijan has made the transition from Soviet satellite to Western ally, Sobhani writes. And Washington should reward this effort.
Writing in Belgium's "Le Soir," Edouard Van Velthem profiles Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj, who surrendered in The Hague on 24 February to face trial for war crimes. Accused, notably, of "persecution, murder and torture," Seselj surrendered to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). He told the public that he surrendered in order to defend the honor of thousands of Serbian volunteers who fought in the Yugoslav civil wars of the 1990s.
Van Velthem describes the Sarajevo-born Seselj as a skillful politician who was often more comfortable in times of chaos. In the 1960s and '70s, he opposed the Titoist justice that prevailed and came to be known as a political outcast in the communist Balkans. He thus became, in the view of some, a symbol for the fight to democratize the regime.
However, Van Velthem says the extremism of this champion of a Greater Serbia first began to express itself on the battlefield. The morale of Seselj's "White Wolves" was kept up through the generous payments his troops received from his "wheeling and dealing" in business affairs. His troops are alleged to have been involved in ethnic cleansing, including the massacre of about 250 civilians that took refuge in Vukovar hospital after the fall of the city in 1991.
(RFE/RL's Dora Slaba contributed to this report.)