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Western Press Review: Debating A Possible Postwar Iraq And Turkey's Political Dilemma

  • Khatya Chhor

Prague, 4 March 2003 (RFE/RL) -- In today's review of Western media coverage we start out with a look at the options for a possible postwar Iraq administration that will incorporate representation from all of Iraq's diverse ethnic and religious groups. We also consider the political difficulties faced by Turkey, as Ankara comes under increasing pressure from Washington to host U.S. troops while Turkish public opinion remains overwhelmingly against military operations in Iraq. Other topics addressed include Estonia's general elections and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's "untenable" political position.

BUSINESS WEEK:

In "Business Week" magazine, Stan Crock writes on the options for the governance of a postwar Iraq. Immediately following any potential military action in that country, Crock says the United States may find itself "running a needy, faction-ridden nation of 24 million."

The initial phase of the U.S. administration's postwar plans for Iraq would involve governing Iraq "by military fiat." Crock says this phase would be "essential," as rival Iraqi groups compete for influence. An Iraqi National Council would soon be appointed, "encompassing a fractious band of expats, Northern Kurds, Shiites, Sunnis, and a cacophony of clans and tribes."

The next phase would cede more power to Iraqi administrators, followed by military rule giving way to an Iraq governed by a new constitution.

Infighting has already begun, says Crock. Exile groups worry that too many members of Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party will remain. The Kurdish opposition suspects the United States of trying to cut a deal with Turkey in which Kurdish influence in Iraq would be limited. And many opposition groups are against a period of U.S. military rule.

Crock says skeptics wonder if the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush really understands what it is about to take on in Iraq, what a realistic time frame is for the project or how to deal with the possible humanitarian crisis that might befall Iraqi civilians.

THE GUARDIAN:

In a contribution to Britain's daily "The Guardian," former Iraqi Foreign Minister Adnan Pachachi, who served in the government deposed by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in 1968, discusses the options for a possible postwar Iraq. He says considering U.S. military rule ignores "vibrant" Iraqi nationalism, while an Iraqi government in exile would ignore "the aspirations of massive anti-Ba'athist forces inside the country."

Pachachi says he has "serious doubts" about the legitimacy of the exiled Iraqi opposition, or its "representative nature." In addition, any group it formed "would have only advisory responsibilities during the transitional period, not executive ones." An Iraqi advisory body attached to a functioning postwar U.S. administration would be "unacceptable," he says.

Pachachi calls for the removal of Saddam Hussein's "authoritarian regime and its replacement with an Iraqi civilian administration, not military rule, to manage the affairs of the nation during a transitional period" of hopefully no more than two years. "This provisional government of qualified technocrats should work under the guidance of a sovereign council whose members would be chosen after consultations conducted by the United Nations with Iraqis of all political persuasions." The "vast majority" within Iraq must be consulted "before any authority is installed in Baghdad." And whatever government eventually takes form, Pachachi says, "should endeavor to satisfy the legitimate aspirations of all ethnic and religious groups."

THE WASHINGTON TIMES:

Writing in "The Washington Times," Bruce Fein of the Center for Law and Accountability, a public-interest law group, says nation building in postwar Iraq in the event of a military conflict will be an "inescapable U.S. imperative." He says a stable and democratic regime to succeed President Saddam Hussein will be "pivotal" to countering Iran's hard-line mullahs next door and eliminating Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Moreover, it will aid in "curbing terrorism; suppressing secessionist impulses from Kurds in the north and Shiites in the south; honoring human rights and protecting ethnic and religious minorities; [and] stimulating economic growth through free enterprise, the rule of law, and [the long-term] development of Iraq's vast oil and gas reserves."

Nation building "means much more than humanitarian aid or economic development funds," says Fein. Mere food distribution or other projects will not cultivate the "overarching ideals and visions that are the hallmark of authentic nationhood." The United States should govern postwar Iraq at first without other nations, as "collective decision making means vacillation or paralysis in governing." All factional Iraqi leaders must likewise be excluded from power. But eventually, a "new generation" of Iraqi leaders should take over, which has been "immersed in democratic values and practices."

Fein goes on to counsel that any postwar Iraq project "will require vastly more U.S. endurance and statesmanship than was necessary in post-World War II Japan and Germany."

THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR:

An editorial in "The Christian Science Monitor" says the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush has begun to define what form a possible postwar Iraq might take. Bush said last week that a democratic Iraq could serve as an "inspiring" example for other nations in the Mideast. "Indeed it would," says the paper. "If the United States can somehow pull it off."

Several inherent obstacles must be addressed, including the issue of how much real credibility a new Iraqi government would have if the United States was instrumental in installing it. Bush has said it remains up to the Iraqi people to decide the form of their new government. The paper says a first step will be to find Iraqis who can lead the country under the temporary "U.S. military governor that the Bush administration has apparently decided to install." But the paper says given the fractiousness of the Iraqi opposition, it is not clear whether there is one individual a majority of Iraqis will support.

A next step will be for Iraqis to decide "how to organize their country to prevent it from splitting up. Each ethnic and religious group must believe it has a stake in a united Iraq." Establishing a stable, democratic Iraq is not a five-year program, the paper says. Both the U.S. and Iraq must be prepared "for a long, hard haul."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG:

The German "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" today looks the results of elections on 2 March in Estonia and discusses the general trends to be found in postcommunist countries.

According to the election results, both a new party, Res Publica, and the Center Party won 28 mandates in the 101-seat parliament. The Center Party held a slight lead in percentage points at 25.4 percent to Res Publica's 24.6 percent. Both parties have laid claim to the Baltic country's leadership. According to the constitution, it is now up to President Arnold Ruutel to nominate a prime minister.

The commentary says both parties are fairly moderate and favor a market economy as well as membership in NATO and the EU. But a platform consisting of fighting corruption and boosting law and order, which was Res Publica's election ticket, has become ever-more important. The "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" says this priority now prevails throughout the Eastern bloc.

The editorial says it is a novelty that Res Publica did not make any rash "material promises" in its campaign that may be regarded as mere populist propaganda. Now, says the commentary, it is up to politicians to fulfill the promises to promote moral standards made during the campaign.

STRATFOR:

A "Stratfor" (Strategic Forecasting. LLC) commentary today says Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is in an "untenable" position ahead of the upcoming UN Security Council vote on Iraq. Musharraf is under ever-increasing pressure from the United States for his support in the Security Council and for his cooperation in the campaign against terrorism. But the political opposition in Pakistan is gaining strength against Islamabad approving force in Iraq -- which leaves Musharraf "with no good choices."

"Stratfor" says Washington has been putting pressure on Islamabad "but is offering few rewards." Instead, the U.S. administration is emphasizing that Musharraf "is a trusted ally -- but only as long as he earns that trust." To get this point across, "Stratfor" says Washington is letting India "make its own threats," doing little to decrease tensions on the Subcontinent. Essentially, the commentary says, the United States is "giving Pakistan the choice of acceding" to U.S. wishes regarding Iraq "or being left to deal with India on its own."

"Stratfor" writes, "Backed into a corner by the United States, India and domestic opposition, Musharraf has said he is willing to talk with India, but reminded Washington and New Delhi that there are domestic and political limits to his negotiation." Musharraf has little choice but to cooperate with Washington, the commentary says, while hoping that the U.S. "bails him out in the end."

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE:

An editorial in "The Wall Street Journal Europe" today notes stock prices in Istanbul fell 12 percent following news that Ankara had rejected a U.S. request to host U.S. troops on Turkish soil -- and the $15 billion the U.S. was prepared to exchange in cash and loans -- in the event of a war with Iraq. The paper says investors realized that "Turkish political elites have thoroughly botched this one."

Unless this decision is reversed in another vote, the editorial says, it "will damage U.S.-Turkish relations for years to come." Both governments "had worked out the details at great length, but were undermined by an establishment more concerned with scoring domestic political points than looking out for Turkey's long-term interests." The paper further remarks that the Turkish rejection came after the United States actively sought NATO approval to deploy AWACs planes and missile defenses to Turkey ahead of a possible war.

The paper acknowledges that Ankara has legitimate concerns in the event of war in Iraq. Turkish polls show widespread opposition to war, and there are fears of another large Kurdish refugee influx. "Turkey would also give itself a larger voice in postwar Iraq" if it takes part in the operations at the outset.

But the role of political leaders is "to shape public opinion, not follow it," the paper writes, "especially when the benefits of assisting the U.S. are so obvious."

NEUE ZUERCHER ZEITUNG:

A commentary in the Swiss "Neue Zuercher Zeitung" discusses what it calls a turning point for Turkey. It says, "The surprising decision adopted by the Turkish parliament not to permit the stationing of U.S. troops and so not to take an active part in the war against neighboring Iraq has strengthened the general uncertainty for the future of Turkey." The paper continues, "In the middle of a profound crisis, this country seems to be without leadership and without a strategy."

The Turkish parliament as well as top military commanders and government officials were split over the issue of Iraq. It was only with great effort that they managed to decide on their initial support for the U.S. strategy. Now however, says the commentary, "they are confronted with parliamentary disavowal and strong opposition among the general public to a campaign against Iraq."

For the moment, they seem incapable of dealing with the situation, which is worsened by the poor state of the Turkish economy and the prevailing political strife since a moderate Islamic party gained power in last autumn's elections, which has generated mistrust between the secular army and the government.

Above all, though, says the paper, the rejection of U.S. troops has dealt a severe political blow to the United States. General opposition to America's policy in Iraq is gathering strength, and Washington's aspirations of introducing a new democratic order in the Middle East may be even more difficult to realize without Ankara's support.

LE MONDE:

France's "Le Monde" says the U.S. administration was dealt a significant setback by the Turkish government's refusal to allow American troops to station on Turkish soil. The Pentagon must now revise its military blueprint, as plans are now scuppered for the imagined two-pronged attack on Iraq coming from both a southern front and from Turkey in the north. Turkey thus relinquishes the $15 billion in cash and loans the U.S. offered in exchange for its aid, as well as the opportunity to deploy its own troops to Iraqi Kurdistan.

Ankara itself has been plunged into a difficult political situation, "Le Monde" says. The government of Prime Minister Abdullah Gul faces strong public opposition to an Iraq war while EU member candidate Turkey risks being drawn into a long-term occupation of a neighboring Arab country.

Developments with Turkey highlight the ambiguity and difficulty of the U.S. administration's stated objective of bringing democratic change to the Middle East, the paper says. U.S. plans for the Turkish Army to occupy Iraqi Kurdistan do not bode well for a true democratization of the region. Turkey wants to prevent a declaration of Kurdish autonomy after the possible fall of Baghdad. But the lot of the Kurds in the Middle East will be a test of the democratization of the region, the paper says. In this respect, U.S. plans seem to be more of a setback than a progression.

(RFE/RL's Dora Slaba contributed to this press review)

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