Prague, 14 November 1997(RFE/RL) -- Should Iraq's President Saddam Hussein be allowed to select the arms inspectors he will permit to monitor Iraq's compliance with the terms of its surrender in the 1991 Persian Gulf war? Overwhelmingly, commentators in the British, German and U.S. press say no.
The Times of London says today in an editorial that the United Nations should respond to its confrontation with Iraq with a unified response up to and including military force. It says the crisis is a challenge to U.S. President Bill Clinton and a threat to the UN's credibility.
The Times says: "Subtlety is not Saddam Hussein's best known trait of character. His decision to expel American arms monitors operating for the United Nations in Iraq is simple to decipher. He has sensed division in the ranks of those who once sought to eliminate his biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons capacity." It says: "The credibility of the UN will be destroyed if Saddam is again allowed to continue in this fashion."
The editorial concludes: "Mr Clinton cannot allow Iraq to select American targets or UN inspectors. A coherent allied stance should make an armed assault redundant. If not, Iraq's most fundamental breach of the ceasefire accords should be met by the most comprehensive military response."
Foreign affairs commentator Lally Weymouth, who interviewed Saddam in Baghdad in 1984, writes in today's Washington Post that the bully of Baghdad is unchanged. She writes: "Saddam has not changed in years, no matter what people might want to think of him. He remains the same bully today as he was back in '84 -- a ruthless tyrant who has ceaselessly terrorized his people. There is no secret to dealing with him: The only language he understands is the use of force."
She writes: "For the moment, Saddam has lost his fear of the United States. He believes that America won't act unilaterally and will not strike heavily at Iraq. Let's hope his gamble doesn't turn out to be correct."
The UN's measured response to Saddam's expulsion from Iraq of UN weapons inspectors from the United States has been nothing but an encouragement to Saddam to persist, Kurt Kister writes in today's Suddeutsche Zeitung. He writes: "Saddam Hussein has taken the relatively moderate text of (yesterday's) UN resolution as cause to intensify his confrontation with the organization."
"Kister concludes: "The UN veto powers -- France, Russia and China in particular -- must now send a clear signal with a show of unity in the Security Council. It is not up to Saddam to dictate the type of personnel employed in UN weapons inspections. It is up to the Security Council. If the dictator continues to deny this, it must be made clear to him in his own terms -- with strength. And that means with the threat of military action."
The Boston Globe editorialized yesterday: "The UN Security Council's compromise resolution demanding that Saddam Hussein permit UN weapons inspectors to do their work is a necessary corrective to the council's earlier fecklessness, but it hardly addresses the underlying problem. The problem is Saddam's enduring hold on power and the consequent danger from his stocks of germ warfare and chemical weapons and the missiles to deliver them. A true solution would be to locate and dismantle all Saddam's weapons of mass destruction and then help Iraqis liberate their country from the misrule of one of history's great destroyers."
Commenting today in the Suddeutsche Zeitung, Heiko Flottau notes that Arab leaders have been uncharacteristically quiet on the topic of Saddam Hussein's threats to peace. Flottau writes: "When the situation demands it, the Arabs en masse can appear to be carried away by their own rhetoric; this time, their leaders seem to be keeping quiet. The Arab League has commented that the US ought to refrain from a violent solution and end the new conflict with Iraq peacefully -- but that is virtually all that has been said by any Arab official on the matter."
He says: "Many Arabs have no objection to Saddam holding chemical weapons: as long as Israel is in possession of nuclear warheads, they say, one Arab state at least must be allowed to hold other types of mass-destruction weapons." And concludes: "Syria and Egypt will not be making new alliances with the United States for the moment. This is because of the reversals in the peace process between Palestinians and Israel. Even in the last Gulf conflict, an alliance against Saddam was inexplicable to many Arabs."
LOS ANGELES TIMES:
An "atmosphere of crisis" is heightening in Washington, Craig Turner and Jonathan Peterson write today in a news analysis in the Los Angeles Times. They write: "The withdrawal of all U.N. inspectors effectively ends, at least temporarily, the international monitoring system set up after the 1991 Persian Gulf War to block Iraqi production of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. Butler acknowledged as much to reporters (yesterday) but said the Iraqis left him no choice after they carried out their threat, first issued October 29, to deport all Americans working for the program." The writers say: "The atmosphere of crisis gripping Washington and the United Nations tightened a notch as a result of (yesterday's) events, but there were no signs of an immediate U.S. military strike against Baghdad."
NEW YORK TIMES:
The New York Times editorializes on the web of interconnections between Mideastern issues -- specifically an economic conference in Qatar, Israel-Palestine relations, and, of course, Iraq. The Times says: "Arab countries that favor long-term stability in the Middle East are making a sad mistake by boycotting this weekend's economic conference in Qatar and by resisting more forceful steps to keep Saddam Hussein from developing weapons of mass destruction." The newspaper says: "As Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait demonstrated, it is the Arab Middle East that would face the first and gravest dangers should the Iraqi dictator build any deliverable biological, chemical or nuclear weapons."
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR:
Daniel Schorr, senior news analyst for National Public Radio in the United States, writes in a commentary today in the U.S. newspaper, The Christian Science Monitor, that Saddam has craftily planned the present confrontation. Schorr writes: "The current manufactured crisis is not an impulsive act, but was in preparation in Baghdad for the last nine months." The commentator says: "The current buildup started with a meeting of the Cabinet last March, after Iraq apparently determined that the lifting of sanctions was not in the cards as long as Saddam persisted in developing weapons of mass destruction."
Basing a quip on the American-English description of a dilemma as being trapped "between a rock and a hard place," Schorr concludes: "Every day without close inspection brings (Saddam) closer to having something to blackmail us with and puts the United States between Iraq and a hard place."