Accessibility links

Breaking News

Western Press Review: Iraqi Inspections, Corporate Responsibility In The Developing World, And Chechnya

Prague, 12 November 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Several Western news publications continue to speculate on the significance of last week's UN Security Council resolution on Iraq, which provides for "serious consequences" should Iraq fail to comply with a reinvigorated weapons-inspections regime. Other issues discussed today include Western involvement in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the relationship between big business and the developing world, Russia's military campaign in Chechnya, and taking a look at Hans Blix, chief UN weapons inspector and the man who will make the final call on renewed Iraqi inspections.


A "Stratfor" (Strategic Forecasting) commentary says that following the UN Security Council's unanimous approval of a tougher resolution on Iraq, "the next 60 days will see a complex game play out between Washington and Baghdad." Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein "will try to use the inspection process to buy time and counter any internal plots against him."

When chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix and his team enter Iraq, Saddam Hussein "has every reason to agree to cooperate," as he has had years to hide his weapons programs. Blix now has 60 days "in which to find evidence that agreements have been violated, and that really isn't much time," says "Stratfor." "A report from Blix that Hussein was not cooperating would trigger action. But Hussein will not permit any transparent and obvious obstruction."

They key is military intelligence. If Washington is able to supply Blix "with precise information about where to go for evidence, Hussein either will have to block him or permit an inspection that yields results." But if Blix "does not quickly find a smoking gun, he will only be able to report that (a) Hussein is or is not cooperative and (b) that the results of inspections are inconclusive. If Hussein is cooperating -- at least to the satisfaction of key members of the Security Council -- the only outcome will be an extension of the resolution and the postponement of the war."


In German daily "Die Welt," Dietrich Alexander looks at Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's predicament in light of the new UN Security Council resolution, which demands that Iraq cooperate with weapons inspections or face "serious consequences."

Ultimately, Saddam Hussein will pursue his own interests in any decision, regardless of Iraq's parliamentary vote, says Alexander. If parliament votes against accepting the new resolution, Saddam will then have a good public relations opportunity to accept the UN resolution himself and so underscore his wish to cooperate with the UN. On the other hand, parliament's acceptance of the UN mandate would demonstrate the peace-loving attitude of the Iraqi people and thus make it easy for Saddam to comply with parliament's wishes. In any event, Alexander says, Saddam is bound to agree to the UN resolution if only to gain time in a situation in which "he stands with his back to the wall."

Saving face is an important consideration in the Arab world, he says. Occasionally, however, the desire to preserve pride and power is counterproductive and, hence, foolish. In the final analysis, UN inspectors will turn Iraq upside down. This may delay a war, but Alexander says military action is just as certain as the Iraqi dictator's initial compliance with the UN.


An editorial in "The Washington Post" looks at the postwar policy lessons to be learned from Western involvement in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Seven years after U.S. intervention helped end the civil war, the Balkan nation "remains far from able to live on its own." The fighting has ended and many refugees have returned home. "But the peace continues to depend on 12,000 foreign [troops]; the functioning of government relies in no small part on the interventions of a Western 'high representative' [Paddy Ashdown] with near-dictatorial powers; [and] victors in the recent elections were the same nationalist parties that tore the country apart a decade ago." The country is nowhere near collapse, says the paper, "but neither will foreign troops and administrators likely be able to safely pull out for many years to come."

The paper says the Western experience in Bosnia offers some support for the "more muscular" plan now being considered in Washington for postwar Iraq. This model relies on the direct administration of Iraq by the U.S. military for a period of years, "while a civilian democracy was being constructed." The editorial says any postwar mission in Iraq will likely be longer and more difficult than in Bosnia. It calls on the U.S. administration "to be honest, both with itself and with the public, about the scale of the coming commitment -- and scrupulous about planning for the long term."


Oliver Burkeman, in "The Irish Times," takes a look at chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix, the man who will decide if Iraq is complying with the UN's mandate on disarmament or whether military enforcement will follow. If Blix "maintains that Baghdad is cooperating, Washington could, of course, overrule him and go to war -- but only at great cost to its international support."

Ultimately, Burkeman says, "the U.S. decision on whether to go to war could come down to a single locked gate in the Iraqi desert, or one door to which the key could not be immediately located." He cites a former United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) official as saying there is satellite footage of past inspections showing Iraqis moving materials out the side entrance of a building while UNSCOM was at the front.

Both supporters and opponents of Blix "agree he is a hardworking man of conservative habits with a conservative approach to diplomacy," who likes to keep to himself. Burkeman describes the 74-year-old Blix as a man now faced with an unglamorous, unenviable, and potentially frustrating task in Iraq. He says ultimately, it is impossible to see how Blix can "complete his task without becoming the subject of scathing criticism, whether for helping precipitate a devastating war, or for ensuring the survival of a dangerous tyrant."


An editorial in the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" discusses Russian President Vladimir Putin's "lost battle" in the breakaway republic of Chechnya. Although within Russia journalists are suppressed in their attempts to report truthfully about the war, the Kremlin is incapable of silencing foreign protests.

The EU-Russian summit was supposed to take place in Copenhagen yesterday, since Denmark currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU. But because the Danish government refused to comply with Russia's request to ban a conference on Chechnya being held in that city, the summit had to be transferred to Brussels. Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen demanded that Putin put an end to the war in Chechnya. Launching "a military offensive and bombing a country into smithereens is no solution," said Rasmussen.

It seems that the EU, a year after 11 September, is trying to draw a clear line between antiterrorist actions and the war in Chechnya, while conceding that "some of the threads of global terror run through Chechnya." Nevertheless, the commentary stresses that Putin must admit he is waging a war without any hope for a victory. "Neither his military, nor antiterror troops will bring peace." The issue can only be resolved through negotiations, says the paper, adding, "Putin need not believe this, but he is being forced to listen to such pronouncements."


In a contribution to the "International Herald Tribune," Mark Malloch Brown of the United Nations Development Program says that the prescription for development that was popular in the 1990s -- liberalizing markets, expanding the public sector, and minimal state involvement -- seems to have "failed from Argentina to Nigeria to Indonesia. People in some 60 countries got poorer over the past decade." The risk now, he says, "is that these trends become self-reinforcing, with battered multinationals pulling out of emerging markets, triggering a broader crisis of confidence."

Business must move beyond its simple "markets-solve-everything" model to a more sustainable model of global engagement, particularly in four areas. First, it must redefine its ideas of corporate social responsibility, and begin supporting communities so they can sustain their own services and growth in the long term. Second, multinationals should increase support to the developing world's domestic capital and businesses. Third, business and government both need to seek out more ambitious development initiatives "in a world where more than 2 billion people do not have clean drinking water or sanitation." Finally, says Brown, business must increase its support for global development issues generally. He says, "Just as the private sector is critical to the future of the developing world, the developing world is critical to the future of big business."


In a contribution to the "International Herald Tribune" today, Peter Eigen of the nonprofit anticorruption group Transparency International says a 1997 convention outlawing the bribing of foreign officials -- signed by member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) -- is not being enforced. Once regarded as "a milestone in the global fight against corruption," there have been no prosecutions brought under the convention and it now faces a serious budget crisis.

Eigen says when the OECD holds its special session on 14 November, "it must address the urgent need" to correct the anticorruption convention's budgetary shortfall. He says, "Only a level playing field -- a world in which honest companies know that bribery doesn't pay and that unscrupulous competitors will be punished -- will bring about a lasting change in the behavior of international business." Without monitoring by other countries, it will be impossible to create this level playing field. "Governments will hold back from initiating prosecutions for fear of putting their companies at a disadvantage."

Eigen says corruption "distorts economic decision making," and allows backroom deals and kickbacks to "prevail over quality, particularly in tenders and privatizations." These practices have long-lasting effects, "not only because a culture of corruption becomes the norm among public officials, but also because wasteful mismanagement diverts resources needed for education, housing, and health care into the pockets of corrupt elites."


An article in France's daily "Liberation" by Samia Nakhoul says the last word on UN Resolution 1441 has now been left to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The resolution, which mandates "serious consequences" if Iraq fails to comply with new UN weapons inspections, has been unanimously rejected by the Iraqi parliament. The 250 Iraqi deputies met for three hours yesterday and reconvened today with a decision. According to the parliamentarians, they rejected the resolution in accordance with the wishes of the Iraqi people, who they say have confidence in the parliament to make the appropriate decisions on defending Iraq.

Nakhoul says U.S. President George W. Bush has made no secret of his intention to use force to ensure that Baghdad respects the rigorous mandates of the new resolution, which obliges Iraq to allow UN inspectors unlimited access to all suspected weapons sites. Nakhoul cites Iraq's parliamentary assembly President Saadoun Hammadi as saying that the UN resolution is looking for an excuse for war and is trying to create a crisis, rather than seeking a global solution. Iraq has until 15 November to accept the terms of the new resolution, which then grants Iraq 30 days in which to produce a detailed list of its armaments.

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