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Western Press Review: U.S.-EU Unity On Tehran And Saddam's Sons Confirmed Dead

  • Khatya Chhor

Prague, 23 July 2003 (RFE/RL) -- We begin our review of the Western press today with recent developments in Iran, where international attention is refocused following the beating death of a Canadian-Iranian journalist and the EU's announcement that it would review its longstanding economic ties with Tehran. EU foreign ministers said on 21 July that concern over Iran's alleged nuclear ambitions and lack of transparency had prompted a policy review. Much commentary today is also focused on Iraq, as U.S. sources confirm that Saddam Hussein's two eldest sons, Qusay and Uday, were killed in an attack on a house in Mosul last night.


In "The Independent," Durham University Iran analyst Ali Ansari says the Iranian public "is disgruntled and disillusioned." Despite "significant changes" in the political scene since the election of reformist President Mohammad Khatami in 1997, "fundamental problems with the structure of the state have yet to be addressed. Many Iranians, "especially the young, are restless with the perceived procrastination of reformers, and the consequent glacial pace of change."

The "conceit" of Iran's conservative ruling mullahs "is breathtaking, disturbing even their own allies with actions which seem to belie any sense of social justice and Islamic ethics." But their choice to rely on "heavy-handed repression [has] resulted in a strengthening of opposing wills."

The public's anger "is growing, and as demonstrations reveal, even the most systematic repression has failed to dampen the determination to seek change. As one student argued, it's either reform or revolution, one way or another we will achieve our aims."


"The Wall Street Journal Europe" in an editorial says while many trans-Atlantic dissensions remain, "at least on the question of how to deal with the tyrants in Tehran, America and the EU are moving closer together."

This week, U.S. President George W. Bush "escalated the war of words" with Iran's conservative mullahs. And in Brussels, a meeting of EU foreign ministers "had strong words of their own" for Tehran. They "expressed 'deep shock' over the death of Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi, who was detained and beaten to death by Iran's police thugs for having the audacity to photograph an anti-government demonstration. The ministers also called on Iran to end its crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, and demanded that Iran 'show full transparency and co-operate fully'" with the International Atomic Inspection Agency (IAEA).

The EU ministers further warned that future European cooperation with Iran would be reviewed by September, after the IAEA releases its report on Iran's nuclear program. "In diplomatic speak," the paper says, "that's a threat. Tehran's rulers have been put on notice that the EU stands ready to cut them loose unless they renounce their nuclear ambitions."

The editorial calls this tougher, united stance "welcome news." It says increasing pressure on Tehran "may force real concessions" or even "encourage a democratic revolution." Moreover, a united policy on Tehran may also prompt Russia, which, the paper says, "has been a shameless supporter of Iran's nuclear program," to reevaluate its ties with Tehran.


Writing in regional daily "Eurasia View," Iran analyst Afshin Molavi says Tehran's conservative mullahs are seeking to crush Iran's student-led, grassroots reformist opposition before it has time to entrench itself on the political scene. But Molavi says the "confrontational methods" of the ruling conservatives "are threatening Iran's international interests."

The European Union announced on 21 July that Iran's recent history of human rights abuses may force the EU to review its longstanding economic cooperation with Tehran. Molavi cites an unnamed European diplomat as saying when Tehran arrests student protesters in the thousands -- as it did in June after nine consecutive days of pro-reform demonstrations -- it makes it increasingly difficult for EU leaders to claim that engagement and dialogue with Iran is moderating Tehran's behavior.

In recent days, international scrutiny has increased following the beating death of Canadian-Iranian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi. Kazemi died in police custody after being arrested for photographing an antigovernment demonstration. Her death "has helped produce an outpouring of criticism of conservatives' practices," Molavi says.

Pro-reform student leaders believe increased international attention is needed to temper the conservative crackdown on the reform movement. Without international attention, say some, the government's methods might prove even more severe.


It remains to be seen whether the deaths yesterday of Saddam Hussein's sons Uday and Qusay will bring greater security to Iraq. A commentary in the German "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" says up until now, the chaotic situation in the country is nothing less than a "catastrophe."

Iraqis have demonstrated their discontent by launching small battles against the U.S.-led occupation force. A section of the old regime are undoubtedly hoping to "wear the Americans down, to outlive the occupation and re-establish the old despotic regime, but to a lesser degree," the paper says.

On the other hand, the administration in Washington -- which was unprepared for the postwar period -- has come to a point where it must decide on future policy. It must find answers to the issues of a long-term presence in Iraq, whether to involve NATO or swallow its pride and seek a new UN mandate, thus sharing responsibility.

In the final analysis, says the daily, even if the U.S. reluctantly accedes to receiving help from Paris, Moscow, or Berlin, such a concession does not mean that hoisting the UN flag in Iraq will automatically solve the occupation's myriad problems.


The German financial paper "Handesblatt," in discussing the situation in Iraq, says the "UN's moment has come." The introduction of a democratic structure in Iraq is taking far too long. In this respect, even UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in his recent report, expressed strong criticism of President George W. Bush.

Although the U.S. is enjoying a much-needed triumph, as Saddam Hussein's two sons were confirmed killed yesterday during a fierce fight in northern Iraq, the Americans are far from succeeding in bringing security and order to Iraq.

Moreover, yesterday's successful operation does not mean that guerrilla fighting has come to an end, nor have the Americans gained the support of the majority of the Iraqi people. The paper says, "The Americans were able to win the war with its resources, but not peace." There is no doubt that Iraq needs help -- and so does the U.S., the paper says.


An editorial in "The New York Times" today says: "Few Iraqis will mourn the deaths of Saddam Hussein's two sons, Uday and Qusay. Like their father, they were mercurial, cruel killers who terrorized and plundered their country so they could live in imperial style." The paper describes Qusay as "calm and cold-blooded," his brother Uday as "infamous for fierce rages." It calls the news of their deaths "encouraging," adding, "If American forces can now track down Saddam Hussein himself, Iraqis may finally begin to believe that the dictator and his clan will not someday storm back into power." Capturing Baghdad's former dictator "would be especially helpful in pacifying Iraq."

However, "much more than the capture of Saddam Hussein is needed to turn around what has so far been a tense and troubled occupation," the paper goes on to say. "Electricity and other vital services have to be restored on a round-the-clock basis throughout Iraq. Reliable Iraqi police and security services need to be trained and vetted, new jobs found for the unemployed, and the oil industry restored to full production."


Writing in Britain's "The Independent," correspondent Robert Fisk writes from Baghdad saying even while local celebrations are under way following news of the deaths of Qusay and Uday Hussein, their deaths remain open to question. U.S. forces stormed a Mosul villa where the brothers were supposedly hiding, engaging in a four-hour firefight before finding two bodies now suspected of being the former Iraqi dictator's sons. But Fisk asks why, "in a family obsessed [with] their personal security, would Uday and Qusay really be together? Would they allow themselves to be trapped [in] the very same cage?"

Even if DNA testing proves the dead to be Saddam's sons, would this really -- as some U.S. officials posit -- put an end to most Iraqi resistance fighting? Fisk says Washington seems to believe the entire anti-American resistance is composed of "remnants" of Saddam Hussein's followers. The U.S. theory "is that once the Hussein family is decapitated, the resistance will end. But the guerrillas who are killing U.S. troops every day are also being attacked by a growing Islamist Sunni movement which never had any love for Saddam."

More importantly, Fisk says, "many Iraqis were reluctant to support the resistance for fear that an end to American occupation would mean the return of the ghastly old dictator. If he and his sons are dead, the chances are that the opposition to the American-led occupation will grow rather than diminish -- on the grounds that with Saddam gone, Iraqis will have nothing to lose by fighting the Americans."

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