Prague, 23 February 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Word of a possible breakthrough in the standoff with Iraq holds the attention of Western commentators today, as does the end of the Winter Olympics and the situation in Bosnia.
DAILY TELEGRAPH: Mr. Annan would have lacked the necessary authority without the threat of force
Britain's Daily Telegraph writes that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's "last-ditch" mission to Baghdad "would seem to have saved the Gulf from an immediate prospect of renewed fighting." But, the paper notes, "Mr. Annan would have lacked the necessary authority without the threat of force that lay behind his message from the Security Council to Saddam Hussein. That threat was credible thanks to the United States, with stalwart support from Britain. It was their determination to launch air strikes on Iraq if UN resolutions continued to be flouted that persuaded Saddam to think again." The paper has sharp words of criticism for the other Security Council members: "China, France and Russia dissociated themselves from Washington and London. Their motives, a mixture of commercial greed and dislike of American hegemony, are unworthy of countries which form the core of a body charged with maintaining world order."
TIMES: The public heard the message and rejected it
But Bronwen Maddox, writing in The Times of London, aims his criticism directly at Washington. He points to a poll released by Newsweek yesterday, according to which only 18 percent of those surveyed would favor military strikes against Iraq while 39 percent would oppose them. Maddox says the Clinton Administration has not only failed to garner broad international support for its policy towards Iraq, but it has also failed to rally American public opinion, as demonstrated by last week's embarrassing "Town Hall" meeting led by Madeleine Albright, William Cohen and Sandy Berger. For this reason, Maddox writes: "Having put itself in this pickle, the Administration must now be deeply grateful for Mr. Annan's breakthrough." The real obstacle, he adds, was not that the public failed to hear the administration's message. It was that "the public heard the message and rejected it."
INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: This war will be fought by professionals but is being planned by amateurs
Columnist Bob Herbert, in a scathing New York Times editorial published in today's International Herald Tribune, says of American policy towards Iraq: "Has there ever been a better example of the arrogance of power? Americans are becoming drunk with the idea that we are the world's only superpower and therefore can do whatever we want to whomever we want." The point, Herbert writes, is not that Saddam Hussein is a "warmonger and a mass murderer." Nearly everyone agrees with this assessment, he says. The point, he notes, as Clinton himself has acknowledged, is that America's proposed bombing of Iraq "will neither destroy Saddam's stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons nor prevent him from creating new weapons. So after the bombing, according to the administration's own assessment, Saddam will still be around, he will still have weapons of mass destruction, and he will still be a threat to use them."
"This is not a well thought out policy," Herbert concludes, adding that "this war, if it happens, will be fought by professionals but is being planned by amateurs...that is why we have so few allies in this adventure."
SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: The delinquent will decide who, when and where police house searches are allowed
Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung says the problem with Iraq is far from being solved, and it offers no easy solutions. If Annan's agreement means an altering of the UN inspection teams or the adding of diplomats, it says, Saddam has "won the game he started in October...the delinquent will decide who, when and where police house searches are allowed." But by the same token, the paper notes that a "four day bombing" by the U.S. and a few allies will also be of little use.
WASHINGTON POST: Republika Srpska has opted for peace
Shifting to Bosnia, The Washington Post, in an editorial published yesterday, praises Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik.
The paper writes that: "At last, the Serbs in Bosnia have a leader of whom they can feel proud." The paper says that in just a couple of weeks, Dodik has demonstrated he is different from previous Bosnian Serb leaders, who, it says, "profited from war and have obstructed peace."
The Post says "Mr. Dodik deserves the West's support. That means, most immediately, money; police, teachers and others haven't been paid in months, and Mr. Dodik's survival depends on showing that he can deliver more than the oulaws he replaced." It calls on the West to show some patience and chides Bosnia's Muslim leaders for ironically going less far with democratic reforms than Dodik, adding: "Republika Srpska has opted for peace. It's time for the Muslims to get serious about Dayton, too."
WASHINGTON POST: The 1:0 victory can be compared to Czechoslovakia's 1969 defeat of the Soviet Union
Finally, the Washington Post and Sueddeutsche Zeitung, among others, take time to note Sunday's historic Czech ice hockey victory against the Russians.
Rachel Alexander, writing in the Washington Post, says the 1:0 victory can be compared to Czechoslovakia's 1969 defeat of the Soviet Union at the world championships, which marked a generation.
SUEDDEUTCH ZEITUNG: Now at last they have come out on top
Wolfgang Gaerner, in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, recalls that "four times until now, the Czech ice hockey players (albeit with Slovak in the team) were second in the Olympics" and now at last, they have come out on top.
MLADA FRONTA: A sport like this can join together the unjoinable
Leading Czech daily Mlada fronta Dnes revels in the victory, writing: "A sport like this can join together the unjoinable, bring together people who otherwise and elsewhere are indifferent to each other." The paper adds that the self-confidence and courage of the victorious team should remain an example to the Czechs even after the euphoria has subsided.
SLOVO: Bickering politicians should take a cue from the hockey players
On a similar note, another Czech daily, Slovo, calls on the Czech Republic's bickering politicians to take a cue from the hockey players and start playing as a "real team."
PRAVO: The explosion of patriotic fervor in the Czech Republic was an example of "crowd psychosis"
But former dissident and Charter 77 signatory Petr Uhl, writing in the left-wing Pravo, says Sunday's explosion of patriotic fervor in the Czech Republic was an example of "crowd psychosis" and "provincialism" and he warns against getting too carried away with demonstrations of collective pride.