Prague, 8 May 2003 (RFE/RL) -- As Victory Day is celebrated throughout Europe to mark the end of World War II, much of the discussion in major Western dailies continues to focus on the reconstruction of postwar Iraq. The Mideast peace process and the new road map to a settlement is also examined, as is the new detente between India and Pakistan, the subcontinent's nuclear neighbors.
THE WASHINGTON POST:
A "Washington Post" editorial today says the U.S. Senate (upper house of parliament) is likely to "overwhelmingly approve" the entrance of seven Central and Eastern European countries into NATO. In the post-Cold War era, the cohesion of the alliance has at times threatened to break down and many have questioned whether the bloc is still needed, given the collapse of its traditional Soviet adversary.
The "Post" says the danger "that the alliance could [dissolve] still exists." Nevertheless, "the U.S. ratification of membership for Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, and Romania offers reminders of why a NATO with 26 members is needed."
Many of these states "endured authoritarian or totalitarian rule for much of the 20th century." Yet today, all have embraced "elections, civilian control of the military, acceptance of Europe's existing borders, and fair treatment of their ethnic minorities," and this shift is largely due to NATO. These nations sought alliance membership "as a guarantor of their independence and security," and were spurred to liberalize in order to gain entry.
The alliance thus "played a vital role in stabilizing and democratizing the eastern half of Europe," the paper says, adding: "the job is not yet done." Several European countries, "including giant Ukraine and volatile Serbia, still lie outside NATO." As most seek eventual NATO entry, the alliance now has "another valuable mission of tutelage, [one] that is surely security-centered if not purely military."
INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE:
In a contribution to the "International Herald Tribune," professor Gailan Ramiz, a Princeton University-trained Iraqi political scientist, says a practical solution to many of Iraq's postwar troubles would be to install a constitutional monarchy.
Iraq should be treated as a liberated country, much like France after World War II, says Ramiz. He writes that although he believes in representative, republican rule, he is also convinced "the interests of Iraqi stability and democracy -- and indeed Iraq's very survival as a state -- would be best served by the restoration of the monarchy."
He writes: "Under a constitutional monarchy, the army, police force, civil service, and judiciary -- the major pillars of power in civil society -- would be linked to the crown and consequently placed outside the turbulent arena of political conflict. Such a system is crucial for Iraq, where politics has ethnic, sectarian, and fundamentalist roots and thus has a tendency to be violent."
Ramiz points out that many states in Europe have monarchical institutions, including Britain, Sweden, and the Netherlands. In Spain, he says, the restoration of the monarchy "contributed significantly to the stability of internal politics and the growth and strength of democracy after years of civil war, world war, and dictatorship."
The restoration of Iraq's monarchy "should ultimately be decided by a national referendum within Iraq," says Ramiz. "[But] the issue should be addressed initially by the coalition governments and the Iraqi National Congress."
THE WASHINGTON TIMES:
As U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage meets in Islamabad today with Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf, "The Washington Times" says leaders from both Pakistan and India are experiencing "a fit of good faith." The "incremental peace overtures that India and Pakistan have been making recently are gaining momentum," the paper says.
The two nations have long been at odds over control of Kashmir, a mostly Muslim province that remains under the authority of Hindu India. Terrorist separatist groups are active in the region and Pakistan has not prevented these groups from infiltrating its borders, as India demands. The nuclear nations have fought two wars over the Kashmir issue and tensions spiked again last year.
But on 2 May, Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee announced New Delhi would restore diplomatic relations with Pakistan. Islamabad responded by formally inviting India for negotiations. And next week, "a dozen lawmakers from Pakistan will be meeting with their counterparts in India."
The "Times" says these steps "attest not only to newfound resolve in Islamabad and New Delhi, but also to the important role the United States can play" as a peace broker. "India and Pakistan are central to Afghanistan's economic future," the paper says. "And a resolution of the Kashmir conflict will quell Islamic militancy in Pakistan." The editorial encourages Washington to "remain actively engaged" in negotiations on the subcontinent.
A contribution to Britain's "Financial Times" by Laith Kubba of the Iraq National Group discusses what he calls "the most important decision ahead" for Iraq, the "handover of responsibility to an interim Iraqi authority." Two meetings in Ur and Baghdad last month assembled 250 participants from Iraq's exile and local groups, produced a list of principles, and called for the next meeting to form an interim authority.
But for such a meeting to succeed, Kubba says it must be "an independent, representative Iraqi assembly. Delegates should be drawn mainly from Iraqi towns and districts, but there should also be delegates from political groups, including those in exile." He says "Town hall meetings can easily be organized to endorse one or two [local] dignitaries as delegates for the national meeting."
This group of delegates "should then vote and form a presidential council; agree qualifications and procedures for setting up an interim government and a constitutional assembly; agree a process for electoral law; and set dates for local and national elections." Iraq's "crucial" decisions on oil management and foreign policy "must be left for a nationally elected government."
Kubba suggests the UN should have a supervisory role in this process. As it is "widely considered a more neutral facilitator than the U.S.," UN involvement would increase the Iraqi interim authority's legitimacy and credibility.
THE NEW YORK TIMES:
In a contribution to "The New York Times," former U.S. Middle East envoy Dennis Ross, now of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, discusses the new road map for peace. Ross says both sides "are at a promising stage" because their shared concerns involve "stopping the current intifada" above all else. Ross says they must thus focus on short-term changes, "not a lasting peace that could require concessions neither side can make now."
Ross says Prime Minister Ariel Sharon knows Israel will founder economically as long as "the daily struggle with the Palestinians goes on." Morale in the Israeli army is slipping, and the Palestinians' "hostility toward Israel will continue as long as they feel [their] cities are under siege."
Newly appointed Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas also "knows that the war is a disaster for the Palestinians. Nearly two-thirds of those in the West Bank and Gaza are living below the poverty line," and over 2,000 have been killed. Palestinian polls "show a decisive majority favor an end to the violence."
Against this dire state of affairs, "neither prime minister is focused on the endgame of peacemaking right now." Ross emphasizes that "a concrete plan" is needed for "changing the immediate situation." And "[from] this standpoint, the road map makes sense," he says. The map calls for "three phases to peace, and does not immediately get to trying to resolve the issues of Jerusalem, borders, and refugees until the third phase."