Prague, 24 July 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Two major events in Iran - the sentencing of Tehran's Mayor Gholamhussein Karbaschi and Iran's test of an advanced missile - take center stage today in the Western press. Commentators focus on how both developments will help or hurt the relationship between Iranian President Mohammad Khatami and the rest of the world. Final commentary takes on a summer theme - travel, the heat and cleaning up the sweltering global environment.
FINANCIAL TIMES: Battle isn't over yet
A Financial Times editorial today says Tehran Mayor Gholamhussein Karbaschi's sentencing yesterday to five years in prison for embezzlement, doesn't put hard-liners in a position to gloat quite yet. It says, "The battle over Iran's future between reformers around President Mohammad Khatami and conservatives loosely grouped behind Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Islamic republic's Supreme leader, will not be decided in a rigged court. Mr. Karabaschi, moreover, whose popularity is second only to the president's has seen his prestige as a courageous reformist much enhanced by this blatantly political show trial."
It continues, "The 45-year-old mayor's real crime was that he was the chief strategist of Mr. Khatami's landslide election victory last May, from which the conservative establishment has yet to recover. The theocrats, having lost their legitimacy at the polls, have been reduced to postulant revenge. This will not advance their cause."
It concludes, "The hard-liners have shown that they fear open confrontation in the streets. Mr. Khatami was forced to release Mr. Karbaschi on bail in April at the first sign of riots, and the expectation now is of a face-saving compromise to keep the mayor out of jail. All in all: the discredited elite that arose out of the 1979 revolution looks to have scored another own goal."
SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Khatami faces problems without his ally
German commentator Von Rudolph Chimelli for Sueddeutsche Zeitung warns that Khatami may have lost a strong ally with yesterday's sentencing. He says that despite the political popularity of both men, the loss of Karbaschi may signal problems for Khatami. Chimelli writes, "The sentence against Tehran's mayor Gholamhussein Karbaschi aims to ruin two careers. His, first, and then the intention going further to question the importance and the future of President Mohammad Khatami."
"Without the structure provided by Karbaschi during the elections, Khatami would have possibly not become president. Without political experience, the candidate did not have his own apparatus. .. But even today his basis is not well structured. There is no natural harmony between the different groups that support him."
Chimelli ends his commentary similarly to the Financial Times. He says Khatami will have to find political support while avoiding confrontation. He writes, "What to do, then? It is not in the style of the refined intellectual Khatami to ask people on the streets for help. It will also be impossible for him to ignore such a monstrous provocation. If we follow the logic of the past, the open confrontation on the stage during the trial should again retreat to the backstage. The conservatives cannot afford to put the carrier of the hopes of the majority totally off stage."
NEW YORK TIMES: Missile test reveals more of power struggle
Iran's decision Wednesday to test an advanced missile also reveals something of the power struggle going on within Iran between Khatami and Islamic conservatives.
A New York Times editorial comments, "Islamic conservatives strongly opposed to President Khatami's foreign and domestic policies still wield paramount power in Iran. That was further demonstrated by the harsh sentence for corruption and mismanagement imposed Thursday on Tehran's mayor, an important Khatami ally, and the shutting down of the country's most influential pro-Khatami newspaper."
"Washington must now try to divine what the missile test reveals about the power struggle in Iran and the ability of President Khatami to produce more moderate foreign policies. The Clinton administration's efforts to renew a dialogue with Iran should be pursued, but they must also be realistic."
The editorial also says the Clinton administration should focus on Israel's security in light of the missile test. It says, "The administration ought to devote some attention to reassuring Israel, which considers Iran its most dangerous enemy and feels newly vulnerable. Syria already has missiles capable of reaching Israel; Iraqi Scuds did so during the gulf war, and now Iran may soon pose a missile threat."
NEW YORK TIMES: Launch message is global
Commentary by A.M.Rosenthal in the New York Times focuses on the larger messages the missile launch sent to neighboring countries. Rosenthal writes, "The missile launched by Iran on Wednesday had a payload of messages to nations around the world - other Muslim nations of the Middle East, Israel, Europe, the United States - and the Iranian people."
"Among the messages was the military intelligence coming from the launch. The range was 800 to 900 miles. Almost every Middle Eastern country is now within reach of the missiles that Iran manufactured from components brought abroad."
Rosenthal continues, "Each recipient of a message from the missile will react in its own way. The Saudis did not really need the warning. They have moved from being a prime Iranian target to attending an Islamic conference in Iran."
He concludes by saying that the missile launch shows the power that the ayatollahs of Iran have the real power, not Khatami. He writes, "Iran's ayatollahs rule by terror at home and terror exported. They count on terror to extend their reign a lot more than 20 years. Their end will come not by suicide - the voluntary surrender of terrorist power by bomb, lash or missile. The end will come when the Iranian people overthrow them.
"They did not intend it, but that was the most important message sent by the ayatollahs, on that missile."
DER ZURICHER TAGES-ANZEIGER: Commission's decision good for pollution control
On the lighter side, Western commentators also look at the latest environmental news. The European Commission's decision this week to charge commercial transport operators for pollution damage and accident costs receives high praise from the Zurich-based paper, Der Zuricher Tages-Anzeiger. It's editorial says the commission's decision will cut down on road congestion and pollution in Europe.
It says, "The European Commission in Brussels has hit the nail on the head this time. The ruling for an ecological and fair calculation of transportation costs gets to the point. Mentalities are changing in Europe. It has been possible due to the catastrophic situation on the roads: 'When vacation time comes, the traffic jam comes.' wrote the Spiegel last week."
It concludes, "In Germany the costs of the transportation jam are at least, according to an estimation of BMW, 50,000 million Swiss francs every year. This high price is what Europe had to pay for the traffic jam before making further steps toward a solution for the transportation problem."
IRISH TIMES: Portugal decision could curb ocean dumping
The Irish Times today looks at cleaning up the oceans. The European convention on marine pollution met this week in Portugal, and among other moves signaled the closure of Ireland's Sellafield nuclear reprocessing facility by the year 2020. The facility will close unless it can reduce its discharges into the sea to "close to zero," the convention said. A Times editorial says the ruling on Sellafield sends a greater message to the rest of the world.
It says, "The overall agreement, which includes greater efforts to eliminate discharge of many hazardous chemicals, has indeed signaled to oil companies and the nuclear industry, that they can no longer use the oceans as their "private tip." The outcome, despite some obvious loose ends, is a fitting European contribution to the International Year of the Ocean."
NEW YORK TIMES: Global warming no laughing matter
Finally, writer T.H. Watkins in the New York Times, wonders if global warming is really "our friend." Watkins scathingly writes that some experts believe that global warming, as well as the heat wave that's engulfed the United States and parts of Europe, is a good thing.
Watkins writes, "Take, for instance, Thomas Gale Moore, a fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author of 'Climate of Fear: Why We Shouldn't Worry About Global Warming.' In this book and elsewhere, Mr. Moore argues that the whole phenomenon of global warming should cause us to stand up and cheer, not gnash our teeth, or even worse, get the United States foreignly entangled in shady global warming treaties."
Watkins continues, "Among many other advantages, he says, agriculture would flourish because there would be more rain and longer growing seasons. Winter heating costs would plummet. Also, despite what the current toll might suggest, he insists that more people die from cold than from heat, and that if the United States continues to bake like a Butterball turkey, as many as 40,000 lives could be saved annually by 2099."
He concludes sarcastically, "It brings me a hot flash of gratitude to know that I and those I love will have a better chance at life when the temperature makes us drop to our knees and bite doorknobs."
(Aurora Gallego contributed to today's press review)