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Western Press Review: Iraq's Governing Council, Central Asian Reform, And Pre-September 2001 Intelligence Failures

Prague, 25 July 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Among the topics discussed in the major Western dailies today are new expectations in Iraq following the deaths of Uday and Qusay Hussein, the tasks ahead for Iraq's new Governing Council, and America's potential role in quelling the violence in Liberia. We also take a look at "The Economist's" lengthy analysis on Central Asia's bumpy road to economic and political reform and the findings of a new report on the intelligence failures that led to the 11 September 2001 attacks in the United States.


Writing in the international edition of "Newsweek" magazine, Scott Johnson and Colin Soloway discuss some of the tasks ahead for Iraq's new Governing Council. The council will appoint government ministers, be in charge of de-Ba'athification, and draft a new constitution to prepare the country for eventual elections. But the authors say its "most pressing task" will be "to prove its legitimacy to the Iraqi people. Until that happens, it may be considered more of a U.S. public-relations ploy than the start of a new Iraq run by Iraqis." And the first step for the council's members will be to "overcome their widely differing backgrounds." The 25-member council draws broadly from Iraq's diverse religious and ethnic groups.

Johnson and Soloway go on to say that events in Iraq "are spinning out of control. Unemployment is 60 percent; water and electricity are frequently disrupted. Saddam [Hussein] is on the radio." And Iraqi resistance fighters continue to wage a hit-and-run guerrilla war against U.S. forces.

The council is sure to have problems achieving a consensus on many issues, say the authors. And some members "have little political or administrative experience and may be out of their depth on some issues." But they will all "need to learn and act fast to put Iraq on the road to self-governance."


An item in "Le Monde" discusses an audiotape alleged to be of Saddam Hussein broadcast by Dubai's Al-Arabiya television station on 23 July, which the paper says is of dubious authenticity. The paper notes the broadcast came within several hours of initial reports that Saddam's two sons, Uday and Qusay, had been killed in Mosul.

U.S. military leaders in the country are hoping the raid on the Hussein sons will restore confidence to the many Iraqis hesitant to cooperate with the Anglo-American occupation as long as high-ranking members of the former regime remained free. But while the deaths of Uday and Qusay were heralded by gunshots aimed at the Baghdad sky, Anglo-American forces must still prove they can capture Saddam Hussein himself.

Moreover, the paper says, it remains to be seen whether Washington is correct in believing the Iraqi resistance will crumble as members of the former regime are apprehended. Other observers believe that at least some of the attacks on U.S. forces are launched by those that opposed Saddam Hussein's secular regime, but who also adhere to anti-American, militant Islamicist beliefs similar to those of Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda.


An editorial in "The New York Times" notes that on his recent trip to Africa, U.S. President George W. Bush indicated "that he wants to help West African countries bring peace to war-ravaged Liberia. But with the fighting once again threatening Liberia's capital, his administration has hesitated about how and when to provide that assistance." The paper says Bush "should dispatch 800 to 2,000 American soldiers to lead a temporary multinational intervention force capable of enforcing a cease-fire and paving the way for an African-led peacekeeping mission. Further delay may needlessly condemn thousands of Liberian civilians to death. Hundreds have already died this week."

With significant forces already in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. Pentagon is "reluctant to take on new combat assignments." Thus, the White House has delayed taking additional action in Liberia. For several weeks the U.S. administration has insisted that a cease-fire must be in effect before U.S. troops will be dispatched. While there is no cease-fire yet in place, the paper says, "swift American intervention could help end two decades of carnage that has destroyed Liberia and crippled several of its neighbors." U.S. involvement in this case "can save lives, stabilize a region and prove that America's commitment to Africa is real."


"Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" columnist Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger calls for a new beginning in trans-Atlantic relations, which have remained somewhat strained following the contentious debate over military action in Iraq.

Frankenberger says U.S. plans to deal with the situation in Iraq look "increasingly ill-suited" to the task at hand. He says although U.S. President George W. Bush may be unwilling to face this reality, "the pragmatic realization that imperial ambitions are expensive is growing." Bush will not admit his government was insufficiently prepared for a lengthy occupation in Iraq -- either politically, materially, conceptually, or in terms of human resources. He is now feeling the pressure to allow the international community, in conjunction with the United Nations or even NATO, help stabilize Iraq.

At this point, says Frankenberger, Germany should resist rejoicing in U.S. troubles with an "I-told-you-so" attitude. "A failure of the British-American mission is in nobody's interest," he says. "Americans and Europeans alike have to meet each other halfway to complete a project that must not end in the abyss."


A lengthy report by Caroline Lambert in "The Economist" this week says while renewed focus was placed on Central Asia in the wake of the 11 September 2001 attacks, the region is once again in danger of being forgotten. The West "has been disappointed by slow progress" on reforms and by regional regimes' "disregard for human rights and political freedom."

Yet Lambert says, "it would be unwise to let Central Asia slip back into geopolitical oblivion." She says the five Central Asian states -- Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan -- were "Soviet creations which, before 1991, had no history as separate, independent countries. After decades of Soviet [rule], they suddenly found themselves independent but without anything much to hold them together." Although they seem reasonably stable now, "the calm is deceptive." The states' preferred tools for maintaining this stability are authoritarianism, severe political and religious repression, and censorship or intimidation of the press.

Central Asia also has serious security concerns. Yet "regional tensions, uneven military capabilities and different perceptions of security threats [have] undermined attempts to rebuild collective security." The foreign policy priorities of regional capitals are also at odds, as Russia, the United States, and China are all vying for regional influence.

Lambert says the region's "best hope" is that "the next generation of leaders will be compromise candidates acceptable to both the outgoing presidents and to the opposition. Such a gradual transition would allow time for the system to be genuinely reformed and for the opposition to get into shape before democratic elections are held."

But if economic and political reform is not soon forthcoming, she says, rising popular frustration could begin to wreak havoc.


Several U.S. dailies today discuss the findings of a congressional inquiry released yesterday on the intelligence failures that led to the September 2001 attacks in New York and Washington. Writing in "The New York Times," Eric Lichtblau calls the report a "more damning indictment of the intelligence community" than expected. In spite of several moves to revamp the U.S. intelligence services, Lichtblau cites analysts as saying the "scathing" report may "raise doubts about whether the [U.S.] administration has gone far enough."

Lichtblau says the congressional findings "paint a picture of a counterterrorism system that was essentially dysfunctional in the months and years before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon." The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) "did not talk to one another at critical junctures, threats and warnings were sometimes ignored, intercepted conversations between terrorist suspects often went untranslated, and American officials missed chances to 'unravel the plot' before it occurred."


"The Washington Post" in a commentary on the congressional report on pre-September 2001 intelligence failures says it offers "by far the most detailed account yet of how the plot unfolded, and its central thrust seems both persuasive and well-documented: The intelligence agencies were not well positioned to respond to the growth of Al-Qaeda in the years preceding 9/11, and their flaws led to specific operational failures that proved devastating."

The paper suggests that negligence, inattention, and communication breakdowns all played a role. "In short, all sorts of critical information was not shared; nobody's eyes were seeing enough of the picture to make sense of all the data."


Karl Grobe, writing in the "Frankfurter Rundschau," discusses the ethics of publicly releasing grim photographs of the corpses of Saddam Hussein's sons, Uday and Qusay.

The U.S. defends this action by arguing that it is necessary to provide the Iraqis with proof that the men have been killed and the old regime is truly at an end. But Grobe says this idea is accompanied by wishful thinking. He says whoever does not want to believe they have been killed will simply claim the photos have been manipulated; others will view the photos as emblematic of fallen martyrs. However, says Grobe, such ideas are irrelevant in the wake of the "U.S. sense of triumph."

Grobe says, "this is an issue of human dignity." Regardless of the atrocities committed by Uday and Qusay during their lifetime, displaying the photos was "a violation of the principles that the civilized world has adopted from, among other things, America's own constitution."

Grobe says there are double standards at work. Such photographs evoke too many emotions to be classified as mere historical documents; instead, they are closer to propaganda. And this is the exact same argument the U.S. uses when confronted with the photographs of destroyed bazaars, dead and wounded civilians, and other "collateral damage."


The London-based weekly "The Economist" discusses the leadership situation in Bosnia. Bosnia's high representative, Paddy Ashdown, and his predecessors "have increasingly often sacked inept or corrupt officials, indeed elected politicians. They have forced through reforms in the judiciary, the economy and the media. They have set up a customs service that works."

The magazine cites Gerald Knaus of the European Security Initiative (ESI), a Berlin-based think tank, as saying, "Above all, Bosnia suffers from an image problem: to outsiders -- and a good many Bosnians -- it is a corrupt place, prey to organized criminals [and] virtually impossible to govern." But Knaus emphasizes Bosnia's many successes: "There is no threat from outside, it has free and fair elections, it is peaceful and has relatively little crime."

The magazine notes that moreover, refugees are returning, and many who do not do so for economic reasons. Knaus says Bosnia's real problem is a desperate economy with 25 percent-40 percent unemployment. But that is a task for Bosnia's elected leaders, not a foreign "viceroy" such as Ashdown.

The magazine says more and more responsibilities "are being handed over to Bosnian leaders, even if they are not yet ready to take full control." But whether Bosnia's citizens welcome this development remains to be seen. "Polls show that most Bosnians think little either of their own politicians or of many of the foreigners who help govern them."

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