Prague, 30 January 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Today's review of the Western press begins with a look at interim Afghan Prime Minister Hamid Karzai's international diplomatic efforts, the limitations of Germany's military role in Afghanistan, and the prospects for a continuing cold war between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. Many commentators also focus on the treatment of Taliban and Al-Qaeda prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and U.S. President George W. Bush's State of the Union speech yesterday (29 January), in which he outlined his administration's foreign and domestic policy goals. Other topics include the Middle East, EU enlargement, and the EU's Common Agricultural Policy.
THE NEW YORK TIMES:
In "The New York Times," Todd Purdum looks at the recent international diplomatic efforts of Afghanistan's interim prime minister, Hamid Karzai. Purdum says that right now, Karzai clearly sees lobbying the international community to stay involved in Afghanistan as a big part of his role. Purdum notes that in the past two weeks alone, Karzai "has met with [U.S.] Secretary of State Colin Powell in Kabul, made a pilgrimage to Mecca, attended an international conference on Afghan aid in Tokyo and stopped in Beijing on the way back to Afghanistan for meetings with the United Nations secretary-general, Kofi Annan, and General Tommy Franks, commander of the American campaign," before arriving in Washington on 27 January. Purdum notes that Karzai heads to New York today to address the United Nations and the Council on Foreign Relations, and is then off to London to meet with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Purdum says that Karzai "faces overwhelming challenges" within Afghanistan: "Above all, he must hold together rival warlords and Northern Alliance loyalists to make something like a workable administration." Purdum goes on to cite a U.S. official as saying that Karzai's best hope for consolidating his power base in Afghanistan may be to raise money and support abroad.
FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG:
Berthold Kohler writes in the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" about the announcement by the German government that it does not want to take command of the international security force in Afghanistan when the three-month British command runs out at the end of March. Kohler says it is now clear that the hopes for the government coalition of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats and the Alliance 90/The Greens to take a leading international role "is a charade."
Kohler says the reason Schroeder's government has resisted the Afghans' request and ignored anti-terrorism alliance considerations in favor of turning down this task is simple: "Germany is militarily unable to do so." The German military, he says, is "in over its head with its existing missions. Germany's armed forces are simply not equipped for a task like the one in Kabul."
Kohler questions whether the German government still believes there is a connection between military capability and international influence. If so, he says, then it ought to "step up funding for the military immediately." Germany's reputation "as a reliable ally that can be taken seriously is [at] stake," he warns.
"Newsweek International" editor Fareed Zakaria, in the latest issue of the weekly, discusses the escalating tensions over Kashmir and says: "despite all the contradictory signs, most likely there will be neither real war nor real peace between India and Pakistan. The South Asian cold war will continue." It is in neither side's interest to start fighting, Zakaria says, adding, "The nuclear stakes have made both sides hesitate before taking military action."
Zakaria says India's massive mobilization of its military was not an indication of a willingness to go to war, but rather a "signal to Washington." "By mobilizing its forces and rattling its missiles, India hopes to get Washington to pressure Pakistan to crack down on its militants." The strategy, he notes, has worked: U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have since increased pressure on Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.
Zakaria says in the short term, peace does have a better chance. Musharraf is a genuine modernizer and U.S. diplomacy in the region "has been balanced, engaged, and highly effective. And yet, Zakaria writes, "there will be no lasting peace because Pakistan will not compromise on Kashmir."
He says the most workable solution is to "formalize the status quo." Each side "gets the Kashmir that it has," while relations between the two states develop along economic lines and work toward finding a solution to the human rights concerns in Kashmir.
THE WASHINGTON POST:
In "The Washington Post," staff writer Karen DeYoung discusses the foreign policy implications of the State of the Union speech delivered last night by U.S. President George W. Bush. She says that "a major portion" of Bush's speech was devoted "to three countries whose development of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons has been repeatedly cited by the administration" -- Iran, Iraq, and North Korea. DeYoung says this "underscored his pledge that the war against terrorism is not limited to rogue groups such as Al-Qaeda."
In addition, says DeYoung, last night's speech "highlighted another side of post-11 September foreign policy strategy -- the extension of support to those nations that share the U.S. commitment to the antiterrorism fight," particularly in the communications and education sectors.
DeYoung says that this effort, which is "international in scope, but with a particular focus on the Islamic world, [is] designed to counter a negative image of the West, and the United States in particular."
DeYoung goes on to say that while "the tone and substance of Bush's message to Iraq, Iran, and North Korea are likely to increase the conviction of some and anxiety of others that the United States is preparing to use military force against them, he stopped short of proposing a specific course of action." But she adds that Bush may have escalated his rhetoric to a point that will be hard to back down from.
INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE:
In today's "International Herald Tribune," Nicholas Kristof of "The New York Times" discusses the legal situation regarding Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters being held at a U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He notes that when a U.S. helicopter pilot was downed in Somalia and taken prisoner, Somali fighters "were scrupulous about international law," affirming their captive was a prisoner of war under the Geneva Convention and allowing a visit by the Red Cross.
Kristof writes that the U.S. administration "owes it to the world -- and to the U.S. national interest -- to rise to the level of Somali gunfighters and apply the Geneva Convention to the men at Guantanamo Bay."
The U.S. administration's arguments against conferring prisoner-of-war, or POW, status to its prisoners "conflict with the letter and the spirit of the convention," says Kristof. But he adds that the administration is right in saying that Al-Qaeda members who were not part of the Taliban army are not entitled to POW status.
"But the law is clear: One should presume that detainees are POWs and then convene a tribunal to sift among them and exclude those who did not fight in the Taliban army."
Kristof concludes that "there is no practical downside to granting POW status. But there are huge advantages to recognizing the detainees as POWs. Such a step would help correct a public relations catastrophe," he says.
Europe's influence on U.S. foreign policy is the subject of an editorial in the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung." The commentary notes the influence U.S. allies now exert, citing pressure from British Prime Minister Tony Blair, as well as from Germany, in deterring the U.S. from entering into another Iraq campaign.
Again, massive international protests have resulted in U.S. President George W. Bush realizing that he must respect human rights in the treatment of captives at Guantanamo.
The commentary goes on to say that Europe continues to differ from America on Middle East policy. Europe does not favor Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's isolationist policy. "The political dynamics emerging from such isolation remain a secret between Sharon and Bush," it says. Meanwhile, Europeans oppose any radical measures. "This is a sensible attitude," the commentary concludes.
Also in the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung," Andreas Oldag examines the problems of European Union enlargement. He recalls the euphoric days of the end of communist rule more than 12 years ago. Oldag says now EU diplomats from Poland and the Czech Republic look back on those days with nostalgia, as they recall a time when joining a united Europe seemed to be within their grasp. The problems that have emerged since, in particular the current agrarian policy, "seem to have brought to an end polite exchanges," he says.
The European Commission has decided on a 10-year transition period before EU candidate countries will be entitled to receive full payments under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). This, says the commentary, has resulted not only in a split between the rich West and the poor East, but within the EU also.
"Everyone is fighting everyone. Nobody wants to give up their privileges. The EU is facing a rift whose political dimensions, for the upcoming reform process and work on a constitution, are hardly conceivable."
"There is no such thing as second-class members in the Union. That damages the fundamental principles of equal treatment." The only solution, Oldag concludes, is to abolish subsidies. The Union should at last display its true colors and stop being intimidated by farmer lobbies, he says.
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE:
An analysis in "The Wall Street Journal Europe" says that a study due out today from the European Commission describes "to a tee" how the farm subsidies of the CAP create a "vicious cycle" of low productivity, low standards and high hidden unemployment. The paper adds that the cash injections in favor of specific agricultural sectors, which come out of the 40 billion-euro CAP budget, create income disparities and deny farmers incentives to innovate or switch into another field of work.
But the paper says the 12 candidate countries will receive only 25 percent of the subsidized payments that EU member countries now receive, with 5 percent increases every year. If this proposal goes through, says the paper, it will "enshrine a two-class system inside an enlarged EU."
This will be hardest on Poland, whose 10 million farmers already criticize a system that allows richer competitors from Germany and France to "push them off store shelves with EU-subsidized goods." The paper says the EU should not endanger enlargement "[for] the sake of an outdated policy that benefits a mere 5 percent of the current EU population."
The paper says that it would be logical to "scrap CAP altogether," and calls it "politically and economically indefensible." The paper suggests completing enlargement and then tackling CAP reform. "But this strategy threatens both endeavors," it concludes.
THE NEW YORK TIMES:
In "The New York Times," columnist Thomas Friedman says few American, Israeli, or Arab leaders, nor many Palestinians, still believe Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat will succeed in negotiating a peace deal with Israel. The only thing keeping him in power, says Friedman, is that no one wants to take the responsibility for his ouster.
Friedman says Arafat has been holding out for two Palestinian states: one in Gaza and the West Bank, and the right of return for Palestinian refugees to pre-1967 Israel -- essentially, Friedman says, a Palestinian state within Israel. But Friedman goes on to say that by building settlements in the territories, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the Jewish right wing have also been holding out for two states -- one in Israel and one in the West Bank and Gaza.
Friedman says that right now there is no Palestinian leader to negotiate a way out of this impasse. But he warns that the settlements ultimately threaten the interests of Israel also.
"If Israel tries to retain them, it will end up either as a non-Jewish state, because it will be absorbing so many Palestinians, or a non-democratic apartheid state [in] the old South African model. So let us root for the rapid emergence of a real Palestinian peace partner," he says. "It is not only the Palestinians' future that rides on that, but also the Israelis'."
(RFE/RL's Dora Slaba contributed to this report.)