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Western Press Review: UN Resolution 1511, Post-Election Unrest In Baku, And Polish-German Relations

  • Khatya Chhor

Prague, 17 October 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Much of the press commentary today focuses on the unanimous adoption yesterday of Resolution 1511 by the UN Security Council. The resolution confers UN authority to the occupation of Iraq while keeping the U.S. in charge of military operations in the country. It also sets a 15 December deadline for the Iraqi Governing Council to provide the Security Council with a timeline for drafting a new constitution and holding elections.

Protests and unrest in Azerbaijan following the election on 15 October of Ilham Aliyev to the presidency are also widely discussed. Aliyev succeeds his father, Heidar Aliyev, the ailing current president, in a controversial transfer of power some are calling the first dynastic succession of the post-Soviet era.


A "Los Angeles Times" editorial today says that while the UN Security Council urged its member nations to provide more financial and military aid to reconstructing Iraq, "the chances of getting that assistance are slim. Countries that have refused to send troops say they have no immediate plans to reverse course; financially strapped nations say they can't afford to contribute." As a result, calls for a greater UN role in drafting an Iraqi constitution or for a timely transfer of power to Iraqis "are more symbolic than practical."

Nevertheless, the unanimous adoption yesterday of a U.S.-sponsored resolution "gives added international legitimacy to the U.S. occupation." Nations offering military assistance in Iraq despite a lack of domestic public support for the war can now remind their constituents "that the UN has sanctioned a multinational force."

Countries offering financial aid for Iraqi reconstruction at the donors conference in Madrid next week (23-24 October) "also can cite the Security Council action for political cover."

The daily says ultimately, the U.S. administration's belated decision to work with the UN "reflects the reality of a postwar Iraq far more difficult to pacify and rebuild than Washington had expected." However, even nations that vehemently opposed the war "recognize the need for stability in Iraq and the entire Middle East."


An editorial in Britain's "The Independent" says the U.S. administration's decision to seek UN sanction for its efforts in Iraq marks Washington's return "to the old-fashioned idea of diplomacy, which is that every side makes compromises and concessions in order to reach an agreement that is least objectionable to all." The concessions made by the U.S. yesterday "may not have been substantial, but they added to the sense of urgency with which the transition to an Iraq ruled by Iraqis will take place."

The paper says U.S. diplomacy "has been counterproductive so often in recent months that unity at the United Nations seemed improbable" almost right up until the Security Council vote. The unanimous adoption of the U.S.-backed resolution thus surprised many observers.

But the practical applications of the resolution will be limited. "It may be that a few million more dollars may be forthcoming for Iraqi reconstruction at next week's donors' conference in Madrid. But the vote does not mean that any troops will be sent to Iraq that would not have been sent anyway."

U.S., British, and Iraqi forces "will continue to bear the whole of the burden for law and order in Iraq for the foreseeable future."


"The New York Times" says the unanimous adoption yesterday of Resolution 1511 conferring UN legitimacy to U.S.-led operations in Iraq "is substantial achievement after the damaging divisions that emerged last winter" in the run-up to war.

Washington "showed more graciousness than it had exhibited recently about listening to ideas from other countries and incorporating them into the resolution's text. Most of the resulting changes were symbolic, but the newly cooperative tone helped overcome the reluctance of many [Security] Council members to endorse exclusive American rule."

But the resolution stops short of committing Security Council members to do anything concrete in Iraq and will "do little to ease the continued reluctance of major countries to commit badly needed troops and reconstruction aid. France, Germany, and Russia, while voting for the resolution, also made clear their disappointment that the resolution did not go further in transferring power to Iraqis and expanding the UN's political role. As a result, they have announced that they plan to offer no troops and no additional money."

The new resolution means that a few nations "may now be willing to contribute peacekeepers. But the world's major military powers are still holding back."

The U.S. administration "faces growing problems in Iraq if it persists in demanding exclusive control." The price of such control is that the costs of the occupation will be borne by U.S. citizens. Eventually, says the paper, the White House "must resign itself to sharing real authority with Iraqis and the international community."


Friction has recently heightened between Germany and Poland over attempts to claim damages from events during World War II. In the "Financial Times," Bertrand Benoit and Jan Cienski discuss the Prussian Trust, a project aiming to consolidate damage claims from Germans expelled after the war and secure compensation from Poland.

The organization's efforts have caused an uproar, and the authors say the Prussian Trust is just "the latest issue to threaten Polish-German rapprochement. Relations have been strained by Poland's backing of U.S. military intervention in Iraq, which Germany opposed, while Germans have been shocked by Poland's rejection of a draft constitutional treaty for Europe."

But the "most divisive" recent development was a plan to set up a center in Berlin documenting "the fate of refugees in 20th-century Europe -- focusing on German victims." The project "struck an emotional chord among Poles, who vividly remember the destruction of their country and their 6 million war dead, followed by 44 years of Soviet domination. While millions of Germans were brutally deported" when Poland's borders were artificially shifted westward, "millions of Poles were just as cruelly transferred from former Polish provinces in the east to new homes in former German cities."

But both proponents and critics of the project can agree on one thing, the authors say. It is part of a larger indication that interest is growing in Germany, "after the decades of guilt for Nazi atrocities, in exploring the evils they suffered during and after the war and mourning their own victims."


In discussing the resolution unanimously adopted yesterday by the UN Security Council, Stefan Ulrich says in the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" that "the resolution mirrors the hopeless situation in Iraq."

Granted, he says, after ongoing attacks on U.S. soldiers, "the Americans could at last enjoy a victory" yesterday. After six weeks of wrangling, the U.S. succeeded in convincing critics of the war and won over the entire Security Council. He says, "this unequivocal result is surprising" and can be attributed to the adroit diplomacy of Secretary of State Colin Powell and the stark pursuit of national interest by those countries that opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq but "who could no longer envision any advantages from a 'no' vote or an abstention."

However, says Ulrich, "following the triumph in New York, the Americans may be faced with grim realities at next week's donors conference in Madrid. The U.S. will not receive the money it requires, he predicts. In particular, the EU will see no grounds for making its own tiny contribution. This should surprise no one, he says, since there seems little reason for America's allies to invest in Iraqi adventures that seem to be failing and over which they are unlikely to have real influence.

"No sensible investor would do such a thing," Ulrich points out. He says Berlin, Paris, and Moscow should consider why they agreed to this resolution. "A 'no' would have been more honest," he says, "as would an abstention."


Several items in France's "Le Figaro" discuss the 15 October election of Ilham Aliyev to the Azerbaijani presidency. Ilham will succeed his father, President Heidar Aliyev, in a controversial "dynastic" succession that has sparked protest and unrest among opposition supporters. Three days of riots have left one dead and dozens wounded, and prompted an emergency session of Azerbaijan's parliament today.

"Le Figaro" says the numerous election frauds observed and the eruption of violence between opposition party activists and police have disappointed any Western diplomats hoping for democratization in Azerbaijan. Several thousand protesters have taken to the streets, prompting Aliyev's ruling party to claim the opposition was attempting to seize power by force.

International election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) registered their own protest, claiming the vote was well-organized but that the electoral process as a whole fell short of international standards in several important respects.


A separate piece in "Le Figaro" says that until violence erupted this week, Azerbaijan looked like "a fragile island of stability in the tempestuous sea that is the Caucasus." To its west lies Armenia, with which Baku still has a long-running conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. Armenia is being suffocated by the conflict, which has condemned it to geographical isolation, and today owes its survival to its northern ally Russia.

To the northwest is Georgia, which is choking financially and suffering under the informal reign of mafioso fiefdoms, which divide the meager resources of the country between them. And in the north, Russia's Chechen war continues to deteriorate, sending waves of destabilization through all the nearby republics.

After a brief period of euphoria following independence from the Soviet Union, "Le Figaro" says Azerbaijan sank into confusion. Successive attempts at coups d'etat, often with help from the Russians or Turks, were par for the course. Only the iron hand of outgoing President Heidar Aliyev ended the chaos.

But the price of order was the institution of an extremely forceful authoritarian regime. Once order was restored, Aliyev signed a cease-fire with Armenia in 1994 and began to normalize relations with neighboring countries.

But the elder Aliyev fell short of settling the Nagorno-Karabakh issue once and for all. Under the influence of their own significant populations of Armenian diaspora, the United States, Russia, and France have all sought a solution to the dispute. Perhaps the arrival of Ilham, who has excellent connections in Russia, will finally allow for a breakthrough, the paper concludes.


A commentary in the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" looks at the outbreak of violence in the streets of Baku following the disputed 15 October presidential election, which officials say was won overwhelmingly by Ilham Aliyev, son of outgoing President Heidar Aliyev.

The paper says the rioting does not augur a political fire storm, but the demonstrations do show that some Azerbaijanis are far from satisfied with the outcome of the election. They firmly believe they have been deceived. A real democracy cannot be led by another member of the autocratic Aliyev clan, and foreign observers have already spoken of voting irregularities.

Even though Ilham Aliyev will be endowed with the same power to continue suppressing all opposition, he does not equal the stature of his father. Unlike Heidar Aliyev, a former KGB man, Ilham is connected to the oil industry. The paper says: "Only if he succeeds in sharing this oil wealth more fairly with the people will the Aliyev dynasty be capable of stabilizing its position. At present, the new man is still a lightweight on the Baku throne."

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