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Western Press Review: New UN Resolution On Iraq And The Flawed 'Greater Middle East Initiative'

Prague, 9 June 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Much of the discussion in the Western press today focuses on the latest UN resolution on Iraq, unanimously passed yesterday by the Security Council after much wrangling over the details of the text. The media also takes a look at elections and security in Afghanistan, the fatal flaws in the U.S.-backed "Greater Middle East Initiative," and the crisis of succession within the Chechen leadership.


An editorial in today's "The Irish Times" calls the new UN resolution on Iraq a "significant and welcome achievement." The agreement "should help bring greater stability to the country and will lend more political legitimacy to the new regime, notwithstanding the continuing military resistance to the U.S.-led coalition forces which claimed yet more lives yesterday."

The resolution was the result of some tough negotiations, as France, Germany, Russia, and China pushed for granting the new Iraqi government the right to veto coalition-led military operations. While these countries did not win a veto right for Iraq, new wording in the text calls for cooperation with the Iraqi government on any "sensitive offensive operations" undertaken by the U.S.-U.K. occupation. The Iraqi leadership will also be able to ask coalition forces to leave the country, and a January 2006 limit was set on the mandate of foreign forces.

The Dublin daily says the "desire to overcome political and diplomatic isolation as the conflict in Iraq intensified this year has clearly triumphed over ideological unilateralists in the [U.S.] administration." The United States has now realized it cannot run Iraq by itself.

In the wake of recent D-Day commemorations and the Group of Eight meeting this week, "hard bargaining between the major powers, informed by a wish to put rancorous disagreements behind them, has improved relations" across the Atlantic.


A lead editorial today says the new resolution on Iraq "is unlikely to make Iraq a safer place for foreign troops to operate. Nor will it alter Iraqi perceptions about the nature of the occupation. But if it works, it could give more credibility to Washington's case that real sovereignty will be transferred to Baghdad at the end of this month and that in turn increases the likelihood of a stable sovereign government emerging from the whole sorry saga."

Nevertheless, the paper says, this resolution stands a better chance than most. UN resolutions are notoriously short-lived, "The Guardian" says. But following "the mayhem of recent months, achieving a consensus on what to do next in Iraq is in itself significant."

The resolution addresses two key issues, says the paper. One is determining how long foreign troops will remain in the country. The UN text gives the Iraqi government the right to ask troops to leave and gives their mandate an expiration date of January 2006. The other major issue is how much authority over foreign troops the Iraqi government will have, as this will be "a key test of sovereignty" for the fledgling Iraqi leadership. And this issue, the paper says, "has been fudged." While the government will not have the right to veto the coalition's military operations, it will assume control over Iraqi security forces.

But the paper says, ultimately, everything "still depends on the ability of American and British commanders to contain events on the ground and of the transitional Iraqi government to achieve national authority."


A joint contribution to the Paris-based daily today by Ray Takeyh of the National Defense University and Nikolas Gvosdev of the Nixon Center says U.S. President George W. Bush is hoping that part of the discussion at this week's Group of Eight meeting "will demonstrate America's commitment to the progressive transformation of the Arab world via his 'Greater Middle East Initiative.'"

However, the authors say the U.S. president's "lofty rhetoric and his summitry conceals a strategy that is cautious, inept and ultimately doomed to be ineffective."

Bush's policy proposal "errs in its fundamental assumption, which is that the region's ruling elites are prepared to implement reforms, but merely lack the know-how." But this is a crucial misconception, they say. "The central dilemma of the Arab political order is not unfamiliarity with the process of political competition, but an entrenched elite that is determined to retain power. No amount of technical assistance can overcome that reality."

The White House draft proposal focuses on technical assistance, calling for giving aid to legislative bodies, establishing training programs for civil servants and election monitors, and funding exchange programs. But all these proposals "duck the real problem, which is not lack of expertise but lack of political will on the part of existing regimes to implement reforms."

For real reform to take hold in the region, the authors say, "concerted economic and political pressure" must be exerted on regional governments, both allies and adversaries alike. "This would involve conditioning trade agreements, access to U.S. markets and foreign assistance on the progress that these regimes make on democratic reforms."

Takeyh and Gvosdev caution, "So long as authoritarian leaders such as President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt or Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia continue to be lavishly received in Washington and Crawford, Texas, the wrong signal will be heard throughout the region."


An editorial says that, two years after the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan "is still racked by insecurity, warlordism, drug trafficking and the oppression of women. Some corrective measures are not being taken; others are proceeding too slowly. And in the case of parliamentary elections currently scheduled for September, something that ought to be postponed is being staged prematurely."

The paper says some Afghans believe the elections are being artificially tied to a September date because advisers to U.S. President George W. Bush want "to be able to cite a success in Afghanistan before election day [2 November] in the United States." But the paper says "[the] security needed for parliamentary elections is not in place. The danger is not only from small bands of Taliban guerrillas but also from militias loyal to regional warlords."

A recent analysis by the independent International Crisis Group says holding elections under present conditions could merely strengthen the "undemocratic and unstable status quo," in the words of the report.

The paper says NATO forces must deploy beyond Kabul and begin patrolling warlord-dominated areas. Independent political parties and candidates "must be able to organize and campaign. And millions more Afghans have to be registered to vote, particularly women."

The paper says Bush "must not deny Afghans the time to do these things before parliamentary elections. He must not hand them over to warlords for the sake of his own electoral needs."


Writing from New York, Jean-Louis Turlin says the passage yesterday of a UN Security Council resolution on Iraq will help reunite the international community. It took five drafts of the text to remove all the obstacles to its passage, but the resolution was finally adopted unanimously.

Turlin says the final text reiterates the agreement contained in the military partnership between the Iraqi government and the U.S.-led multinational force. The documents establish a structure for cooperation, making it possible for the two entities to coordinate on matters of fundamental security and policy, including major offensives.

But the texts say nothing regarding the possibility of Iraqi dissent over military operations, Turlin says. In the end, the United States yielded nothing. Paris, supported by Germany, Russia, and China, had wanted to secure a veto right over military operations for the Iraqi interim government. The delegates ultimately contented themselves with the specification that major operations will require the Iraqi government's agreement, and Turlin says everyone seems satisfied with this ambiguity.

All in all, Turlin says, France's representatives were pleased with the debate at the Security Council, with UN Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere remarking that he and other delegates felt the United States was truly listening to their concerns. This echoed the sentiments of Foreign Minister Michel Barnier, who said he was happy with the “real dialogue” that had taken place between Paris and Washington for the first time since the beginning of the Iraq occupation more than a year ago.


Mark Galeotti of Keele University's Organized Russian and Eurasian Crime Research Unit in the United Kingdom says the assassination of the pro-Moscow Chechen acting President Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov on 9 May has left Russian President Vladimir Putin with a succession crisis.

"Presidential elections are scheduled in Chechnya for September, [but] there is little real doubt that the victor will be chosen in the Kremlin, not the polling station," Galeotti says. And each potential successor seems to bring new problems for Moscow.

Kadyrov's son, Ramzan, head of the Presidential Guard and recently promoted to the post of first deputy prime minister, seems an obvious choice. But Galeotti says the election of the 27-year-old Ramzan would be "politically unwise."

Following Kadyrov's assassination, the situation on the ground in Chechnya began to deteriorate. But "[while] it is easy to see the assassination as an omen of future chaos, it is also possible that in his death Kadyrov did Chechnya his greatest service."

Two days after Kadyrov's death, Putin made a rare visit to Chechnya. When the Russian president "witnessed first-hand the ruins of Grozny he was visibly appalled, and this has given a new impetus to plans for reconstruction."

"With some 450,000 Chechens unemployed, out of a total population of perhaps 800,000, and with half as many again living as refugees outside the region, [there] is much to be done," Galeotti says.

"If Kadyrov's death can bring home not only the extent to which a military victory is still unattainable but also the extent to which the conflict is being fueled and maintained by the misery of the Chechen people, then it may prove not to have been in vain."

However, if Kadyrov's death merely leads to the accession of "an even more hard-line leader such as Ramzan Kadyrov, it could instead ensure that this conflict will remain alight for another political generation."


"America and Britain can be rightly pleased with the outcome of their diplomatic efforts at the United Nations," says an editorial today. "By securing over the weekend the agreement of the interim Iraqi government-designate to the future operations of their troops, they cut the ground from under French objections to their draft resolution." The allies now have "the world body's blessing for their forces to remain there until January 2006."

A liaison will soon be established between the interim Iraqi government and what is to be called the Multinational Force. The paper says by "leaving the issue of political control vague," Iraqi and U.S. representatives "do not appear to circumscribe freedom of military operation. The resolution requests member states to contribute to the force and to thwart terrorist attacks on Iraq."

The Anglo-American allies "now find themselves with a prime minister-designate whom they know and respect, a UN resolution that legitimizes presence in Iraq, and the imminent ending of the occupation. On the diplomatic front at least, things are going well."


Columnist Martin Wolf looks at the international community's options for dealing with failing states and encourages the world's major powers to take a more active role in both prevention and aid. The world today is characterized by "unprecedented prosperity and security" as well as "desperate poverty and insecurity," he says. And there is no greater political challenge than in tackling the plight of the world's unfortunates.

"It is a moral challenge," says Wolf. "But it is also a practical one. The misery spread by what are too often failing states spreads far beyond their borders."

A failing state can be defined as one that cannot ensure security, that fails to meet the basic needs of its citizens and that lacks political legitimacy. And poverty, says Wolf, is always part of the recipe.

The answer to the cycle of political failure is fourfold, he says.

First, an investment must be made in prevention by reducing poverty through opening markets to trade, and providing aid and debt relief. Next, swift action must be taken when a state is in danger of failing, while governments trying to reform must be provided with support. Third, international cooperation must lead to common strategies and more support for the efforts of the World Bank and UN agencies. Finally, Wolf suggests that a cabinet-level development agency should be created within the U.S. government to focus on weak and failing states.

"What is being demanded here is revolutionary," Wolf writes. Postcolonial national sovereignty has not always led to stability, he says. And "[where] national sovereignty is a label for anarchy or predation, it does not deserve to be sacrosanct." The challenge "is to intervene not just effectively but also legitimately."

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