Prague, 9 February 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentary today and over the weekend has remained fixated on Iraq -- Saddam's defiance, growing U.S. bellicosity, and tenacious ambiguity elsewhere.
INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: European politicians demand clearer explanations of the objectives of military action
James Fitchett writes today from Munich in an analysis in the Paris-based, English-language daily International Herald Tribune that international support has broadened but not deepened for the U.S. position. The writer says: "The (U.S. President Bill) Clinton administration gained political support (yesterday) in its confrontation with Iraq as the Dutch, Canadian and Polish governments echoed (German) Chancellor Helmut Kohl's endorsement of U.S. determination to use armed force if necessary to eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Signs of momentum among allied governments over U.S.-led military action also sharpened demands for more information from European politicians, who said they needed clearer explanations of the objectives."
A flurry of commentary today in European newspapers examines the fuzziness of continental Europe's policies. Here's a sampling:
LIBERATION: Two camps are appearing in the EU
Pierre Haski in Liberation Paris -- "The 'common European foreign policy' can wait. After Tony Blair in Washington, it is the German chancellor, Helmut Kohl, who publicly supported American plans for Iraq, departing spectacularly from France and the other members of the European Union, who are keeping their distance from the United States and continue to favor a diplomatic solution."
Haski says: "Two camps are appearing in the EU, a classic division: on one side Great Britain and Germany, who support American strategy out of loyalty to the United States more than anything; on the other, France, southern European countries like Italy and Spain, and also Belgium, who oppose a military solution and favor diplomacy and dialogue with Saddam Hussein. The positions are not surprising, but show once again and in a distressing manner the incapacity of the 15, not only to deal with an international crisis in which their interests will presumably be risked, but even at least to coordinate their actions and positions."
DIE PRESSE: American aid is gladly received, yet the USA is hounded by angry reproaches
Editorial in Die Presse, Vienna -- "Only Great Britain is unequivocal and demonstrative in its determination not to let Saddam's games make a fool of it. And Helmut Kohl offers, mainly symbolically, German bases. Otherwise silence prevails among the NATO partners; after all Iraq is a long way off, isn't it?" The newspaper asks: "Is the United States right in its holy anger, its emotions, ungratefully perceived, to pull the coals from the fire?" And answers: "American aid is gladly received, that is in Bosnia, soon perhaps Kosovo, when one's own helplessness, that is Europe's security policy, encounters its limits. And yet the USA is hounded by these angry reproaches."
TAGESZEITUNG: Helmut Kohl is not willing to critically question Washington's policies
Andreas Zumach in Die Tageszeitung, Berlin: "Scarcely have a few U.S. senators at the discussion event (in Munich) cautiously hinted at the possibility of a slackening of their country's NATO involvement, when the German head of government starts sweating and falls to his knees in front of them. The blind vassal-like loyalty, concealed as political solidarity, which Chancellor Helmut Kohl demonstrated at the Munich conference on security policy regarding the topic of 'War Against Iraq' once again shows: Helmut Kohl is not willing, and perhaps also not able, to critically question Washington's policies or even formulate an independent German position."
LE SOIR: The U.S. must convince the world of the same credibility they wish to impress upon Iraq
Pierre LeFevre in Le Soir, Brussels -- "Europeans accuse the United States of wanting the head of Saddam Hussein and not leaving him any exit doors. If the Iraqi regime cannot hope for any eventual concessions, if it is convinced that it has no choice other than embargo or death, it may very well follow suicidal behavior and even hope for bombings, which will reinforce its image in the Arab world and in the European chancelleries." LeFevre writes: "The 1991 (Persian Gulf war) coalition no longer exists, and the (Americans) are not going to Baghdad to get Saddam. They don't know any more than the Europeans what to do after bombings, if Baghdad does not give in. But even if they themselves do not want to resort to military measures, they must convince the world of the same credibility they wish to impress upon Iraq."
FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE: The dispute is over what means to be employed
Editorial in the Frankfurter Allgemeine -- "The Americans reproach the Europeans for neglecting Western security interests. The Europeans, on their part, hold a far from united attitude. In the Security Council of the United Nations, the members quarrel as never before, and even the United States' Arab allies do not want to know anything about a military attack on Iraq. Saddam Hussein has sown discord among allies and international institutions, which has caused the British secretary of state to cry out in the wilderness, 'We must win this confrontation.' The fact that Saddam Hussein does not deserve any forbearance, but a prevention of every possibility production and use of weapons of mass destruction is not even doubted by Moscow and Peking, and least of all by Iraq's neighbors. The dispute is over what means to be employed to bring this about, which is more harmful to this international attitude than all the obstructions that Baghdad has undertaken so far."
DIE WELT: The tough warning is seen as a sign of a new, more assertive Chinese strategy
Johnny Erling, writing today from Beijing in the German newspaper Die Welt, examines the reaction in China. Erling comments: "The crisis over Iraq has given Chinese leaders an opportunity to press their country's claim to a voice in major world political issues -- and harden their opposition to alleged U.S. attempts at hegemony." The commentator says: "Indeed, (their tough) warning is being seen as a sign of a new, more assertive Chinese strategy. Not only was it unusually frank, but there was nothing diplomatic about the way it reached the world's attention: after Qian telephoned U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to voice Beijing's concerns, he had a summary of his message released through state news media, which are monitored by international news organizations for hints to China's policies."
LOS ANGELES TIMES: Russians are simply not careful with words
Nina Khrushcheva, granddaughter of Nikita Khrushchev, is a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. She contributed this commentary on Russian President Boris Yeltsin to Saturday's Los Angeles Times: "Boris Yeltsin's warning that U.S. actions in Iraq could lead to a world war has left analysts groping for an explanation for the Russian president's astounding comment."
She wrote: "Russians are simply not careful with words. In their history, they have never needed to be -- a czar's word was enough not just to express his will, but also to make it happen, to start or to end a war, to forgive and to punish, to destroy and to create. Yeltsin, although a democrat, is also a czar. All his unexpected declarations are meant to prove that he has power beyond one's imagination, that he is in control and he still rules the largest country in the world. And for a czar, power equates with size."
"Americans who can't understand why Russia doesn't support the U.S. position on Iraq forget that Russia has been an irresponsible, autocratic and authoritarian country for many more years than it has been democratic. For Americans, nothing less than total submission by Saddam Hussein is enough; for Russians, used to looking at things differently, more than nothing is already good enough."