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Western Press Review: UN And International Law, Doha Accord, And Central Asia

Prague, 15 November 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentary today discusses the UN and the end of international law; the trade deal reached at the past week's World Trade Organization meeting in Doha, Qatar; and the Central Asian states. Other topics addressed include the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan and U.S.-Russian relations.


In this month's "Le Monde Diplomatique," Monique Chemillier-Gendreau looks at the conduct of the UN and concludes that the end of international law is looming. "After several years wavering between passivity and total submission to United States dictate, the UN Security Council finally bowed to the U.S. in Resolution 1368 of 12 September 2001. [By] describing the attacks of 11 September as 'threats to international peace and security,' the Security Council has adopted [U.S.] President George W. Bush's confusion between those ideas. [The Security Council] is using its authority to get the attacks committed by private persons operating from American soil and using aircraft belonging to American airlines accepted as an international act."

The UN is also claiming jurisdiction, says the author, since Article 24 states that the Security Council's members confer on it "primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security." But Chemillier-Gendreau says the UN has consistently shirked this responsibility in incidents ranging from Iraq to Kosovo, and delegated or conferred legitimacy to U.S. involvement instead.

"By adopting the U.S.'s mistaken analysis, the UN is encouraging a vicious circle where the response to violence and murder is a war of vengeance. [The] idea of breaking that circle using a form of collective security that includes food, health, and environmental security for all will now have to be rediscovered."


A "Financial Times" editorial considers the agreement to launch a new round of trade talks reached at the World Trade Organization's conference this past week in Doha, Qatar. The paper says that reaching an accord required so many compromises "that the final agenda is almost meaningless." But it adds that "the more collaborative nature of the Doha negotiations" may also promote the legitimacy of the WTO. "The developing countries, ignored in Seattle in 1999, have emerged as a substantial negotiating force. The U.S. adopted a more placatory approach and managed to work more closely with the European Union."

The editorial concludes: "Rich countries must build on this new start, by fulfilling their old promises and helping poorer countries to play a full negotiating role. Above all, they must prepare for necessary concessions, particularly on agriculture, if the new round is to succeed."


An editorial in "The New York Times" also looks at the Doha trade deal. This editorial says that the agreed-upon agenda "points the way to freer trade in goods and services while promising to protect the interests of poor countries." The editorial says that all negotiating parties in Doha gave up something, and all received something in return.

"In an important concession, the United States and Switzerland agreed to permit greater access to generic versions of patent-protected drugs for poor countries facing epidemics. [The] European Union agreed to consider ending subsidies that artificially enhance its farmers' competitiveness in world markets. Developing countries, for their part, promised to open markets for services like banking and insurance. They pledged to participate in future talks on promoting competition domestically and linking environmental concerns to trading rules."

The editorial advises moving quickly to transform the Doha agenda into actual reforms. It says that by completing a pact soon, "the WTO can confirm its role as the world's main forum for trade liberalization."


Also in November's "Le Monde Diplomatique," Vicken Cheterian looks at the cooperation between Uzbekistan and the United States in the campaign against terrorism. Cheterian says that by including the insurgent Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) among his list of so-called "terrorist groups," President George W. Bush allied Washington with Tashkent. This alliance will strengthen Uzbekistan's regional role and ambitions. With its population of 24 million, its central location and armed forces, Cheterian calls Uzbekistan "the key to the region."

But the author adds that under President Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan also has "one of the most repressive regimes, with several thousand political prisoners, no opposition party, and constant media censorship."

Cheterian writes that in the short term, "Washington's direct intervention in Central Asia is likely to strengthen the authoritarian regimes. But in the long term it will polarize those societies, which will still be breeding grounds for dissidence. The U.S. is repeating in Central Asia the mistakes it made in the Middle East: joining forces with corrupt and unpopular regimes at the risk of being seen as the enemy of all the partisans of change."


In "Eurasia View," Dushanbe-based journalist Konstantin Parshin says, "Despite gaining global prominence for its participation in the antiterrorism coalition, Tajikistan is struggling to overcome regional isolation."

Parshin notes Tajikistan is still struggling to recover from its 1992-1997 civil war. He cites UN estimates that 83 percent of Tajiks live in poverty and says the domestic unemployment rate is close to 30 percent.

"The lack of economic opportunities at home have forced a growing number of Tajiks in recent years to seek employment elsewhere in the CIS, and many have thus come to rely on the Dushanbe-Moscow rail connection to gain access to foreign jobs. [Trains] on the Dushanbe-Moscow route stopped running on 29 September. Kazakh officials cited 'security reasons' for their decision, expressing concern that Afghan refugees could use the train route to enter Kazakhstan."

This situation leaves Tajikistan more isolated than ever, says Parshin. Many families are dependent on money earned abroad. "According to unofficial data, up to 700,000 Tajik citizens -- roughly one-sixth of the population -- travel to Russia and other CIS countries each year for seasonal work. [Some] observers warn that an economic crisis could develop if the cut-off lasts through the winter...."


Jochen Siemens, writing in the "Frankfurter Rundschau," discusses Russia's path toward a partnership with the U.S., in light of current talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Bush at Bush's ranch in Texas. Siemens says the image is a familiar one: the presidents of nuclear superpowers negotiating differences on defense policies.

But now, he says, real give-and-take attitudes are evident. As he puts it, "This looks like the beginning of a genuine partnership between the United States and Russia."

Considering the strained relations of the past, says Siemens, it is amazing to hear talk of modifying or discarding the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and cutting the number of nuclear warheads on either side by one-third. Since 11 September, writes Siemens, "Putin has resolutely seized his chance to be recognized as a reliable partner for the U.S."

"For Putin, this was an opportunity to avoid being pilloried for abusing human rights in Chechnya and to open the door to the West." He says Putin hopes to open this Western door wide, as he wants help from the U.S. in gaining membership in the World Trade Organization and forming closer ties with NATO. The Bush-Putin summit, Siemens says, is leading to a real partnership instead of dogmatic adherence to agreements.


A "Stratfor" analysis looks at recent events in Afghanistan and says the apparent Taliban retreat from Kabul and other northern areas is merely a shift in military strategy. "On the surface, it appears the Taliban were dealt a crushing defeat. [However,] the Taliban withdrawal was far from a rout. Rather, it reflects abandonment of a strategy that could have led to their destruction, in preparation for a more traditional and effective strategy for combat in Afghanistan -- guerrilla warfare."

Stratfor says the Taliban has merely abandoned a front-line warfare strategy -- of holding cities and defending fixed positions -- that was "utterly unsuited to its resources and numbers. [Their] one strength, maneuverability, was stifled in urban warfare."

Stratfor says the Taliban's strategic change "will substantially alter the tempo and tactics of the war in Afghanistan.... [As] multinational peacekeeping forces prepare to enter the country, they will face a low-grade guerrilla war that is likely to last for years and extend into neighboring countries. [A] guerrilla strategy allows the Taliban to control the tempo of the war. They are free to maneuver, hitting where and when they want."

Stratfor goes on to note that the Taliban is returning to the guerrilla tactics that defeated both the British and Soviet empires.

(RFE/RL's Dora Slaba contributed to this report.)