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Western Press Review: Funding Iraq's Reconstruction And Nobel Peace Prize Winner Ebadi

Prague, 13 October 2003 (RFE/RL) -- A review of the media today finds renewed commentary on Iraq, following the explosion of a car bomb yesterday outside a hotel in central Baghdad that left at least six dead. Two cars crashed through a security barrier set up near the Baghdad Hotel, which hosts senior coalition officials and members of the Iraqi Governing Council.

Discussion also centers on the award of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize to Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi for her efforts to protect the rights of women and children in Iran. Ebadi is the first Muslim woman ever to receive the award.


In the wake of a car bomb in central Baghdad yesterday that left at least six dead, an "Irish Times" editorial says the Anglo-American occupation forces in Iraq are presiding over "an increasingly chaotic and dangerous country, in which security and the provision of basic infrastructure are sorely wanting."

While most Iraqis are glad that Saddam Hussein's regime has collapsed, they are "more and more impatient" with the persistent lack of basic needs and security. Thus, the resistance to occupying force is increasing. Iraq's citizens "are demanding that power be transferred to Iraqis on an agreed calendar and endorsed by the United Nations in a new resolution mandating this."

Officials in the U.S. administration have "trenchantly defended their decision to attack Iraq without a UN mandate, arguing that the pre-emptive policy was fully justified by Saddam Hussein's alleged role as a link between terrorist movements and weapons of mass destruction."

But the Irish daily says this argument "remains unconvincing at home and abroad." Other nations "are willing to cooperate in aiding and bringing security to Iraq if its sovereignty is respected and power transferred -- but only on those conditions. Otherwise the costly economic and military burden will be borne mainly by the U.S."


An editorial in the "Los Angeles Times" says the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush should rely more on local companies to help with the rebuilding of Iraq.

Washington's "reliance on U.S. companies for rebuilding [is] mistaken. Iraqis could often do the job more cheaply and quickly." The paper cites a case in northern Iraq in which U.S. engineers had estimated that rehabilitating a cement plant would cost $15 million; Iraqi workers subsequently managed to get the plant into functional condition for a mere $80,000.

As the U.S. national deficit looks set to approach $500 billion in 2004, the paper says the White House "should not be putting the interests of corporate friends" seeking lucrative reconstruction contracts above those of U.S. taxpayers, who must ultimately bear the financial burden for rebuilding.

"Iraq needs basic security, not gizmo-laden reconstruction," even if this means less profit for corporate rebuilding firms.


Columnist Thomas Friedman says that while the United Nations and many countries are demanding a rapid transfer of power from the Anglo-American occupation to the Iraqi Governing Council, some tough questions must be answered before there is any meaningful handover of authority.

"Would handing power to an interim Iraqi government really stop the attacks on U.S. forces, Iraqi police, the United Nations and Iraq's interim leaders?" Friedman asks. Probably not. "These attackers don't want Iraqis to rule themselves; these attackers want to rule Iraqis."

Moreover, says Friedman, would the Iraqi Governing Council be able to agree on who should lead an interim government? And will European nations really supply sufficient troops and the billions of dollars needed for Iraqi reconstruction, as they have indicated they are willing to do, if only the United States transfers power to an Iraqi interim government?

Friedman says until these and other questions "can be answered, without Iraq spinning out of control, I'd stick with the status quo as the least bad option." Genuine national sovereignty "means running your own affairs and the United States has already done more to build that at the grass-roots level in Iraq than most people realize."


A "New York Times" editorial says the selection of Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi as the Nobel Peace Prize winner for 2003 will likely have "worldwide impact."

Ebadi was one of Iran's first female judges, serving before the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini banned women from presiding over courtrooms. "Throughout her distinguished career she has upheld the principle that Islamic faith is compatible with the rule of law, and in particular with the rights of women, children, and outspoken intellectuals. Honoring her will encourage the millions in the Islamic world who share that belief."

Ebadi condemned repression under the shah, defended those persecuted by the conservative ruling clerics, and continued her human rights campaigns after reformist leaders under President Mohammed Khatami came to power.

Iran's "disheartened reformers are encouraged by her selection" by the Nobel committee, the paper says. Ebadi's "central cause is defending the rights of women and children. In a nation where the very young face forced marriages and abuse at the hands of family members, the police, and jailers, her Association for Support of Children's Rights is literally fighting for Iran's future."


A "Wall Street Journal Europe" editorial says 2003 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi "has been a courageous and tireless fighter for democracy and human rights in her native Iran. For her outspokenness, she has been thrown in jail, beaten, harassed and ostracized. But not silenced."

And Ebadi did not fight alone. "Many Iranians, both men and women, have endured great suffering for their dissent, just as those who lived under the shadow of communism but sought to resist it suffered in the last century."

In many places, this fight continues. In Cuba, Nobel nominee Oswaldo Paya struggles for reform in his country, much like Ebadi does. The "Journal" says, "In choosing the 56-year-old Mrs. Ebadi, the Nobel committee has bolstered the cause of democracy in Iran, but also in other dark corners of the world."

If the Nobel committee's message to pro-reform and pro-democracy campaigners in Iran is one of encouragement, "to the mullahs it is a warning that the world is not tolerant of their intolerance."


In a contribution to "The Washington Post," former Czech President Vaclav Havel says the nonviolent struggle of reformist Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma is a "stark reminder of our struggles against totalitarian regimes in Central and Eastern Europe."

Burma's ruling military junta refused to cede power after the 1990 election victory of Aung's National League for Democracy. Since then, she has served years under house arrest and, in May, she and many of her supporters were beaten and detained.

Havel says, "There are many politicians in the free world who favor seemingly pragmatic cooperation with repressive regimes. During the time of communism, some Western politicians preferred to appease the Czechoslovak thugs propped up by Soviet tanks rather than sustain contacts with a bunch of dissidents. These status-quo Western leaders [allowed] a totalitarian regime to dictate to them whom to meet and what to say."

The military regime in Burma "[is] the disgrace of Asia, just as Alyaksandr Lukashenka's regime in Belarus is the disgrace of Europe and Fidel Castro's regime in Cuba of Latin America." And yet thousands supported Aung San Suu Kyi, "proving that the Burmese nation is neither subjugated nor pessimistic and faithless."

Havel says, "Detaining and repressing people cannot change the soul of a nation. It may dampen it and disguise the reality outwardly, but history has repeatedly taught us the lesson that change often arrives unexpectedly."


An analysis in France's "Le Monde" by Marie Jego says relations between Russia and its "least-reformed" Belarusian neighbor have become increasingly tense, despite a bilateral project to create a new Russian-Belarusian state.

The reunification is not seen in the same terms by either Minsk or Moscow. For Russian President Vladimir Putin, it is a question of restoring the status of the two sister republics. For President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Minsk, Jego says the reunification project is merely a springboard for his other ambitions. "This Belarusian president who, in 10 years of administration, has led his country into the political and economic stone age as well as into international isolation, would indeed see himself at the helm of a new Slavic union."

Moscow has, in the past, supplied Belarus generously with gas and electricity; closed its eyes to the suspected disappearances of certain opposition figures and even a Russian journalist; and been fiscally generous at election time. It is thanks to Russian capital that Lukashenka was re-elected in 2001.

But Putin has since broken with the idea of a union of equals and has suggested Belarus become the 90th province of the Russian Federation and adopt its constitution. Lukashenka was enraged, claiming not even Stalin or Lenin made such bold moves to usurp Minsk's autonomy.

But Jego says that, eventually, Lukashenka -- the "last dictator in Europe" and totally isolated internationally -- will probably have no choice. He will have to bow to Russian economic pressure, without obtaining the previously expected benefits of a closer union.


In a contribution to the British "Guardian," Zaki Chehab, political editor of Arabic television station al-Hayat-LBC, discusses some of the many faces of Iraq's resistance movement.

Not all of those fighting against the Anglo-American occupation are loyalists to Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist regime, Chehab emphasizes, although some are, especially around Hussein's hometown of Tikrit. All are intensely committed to the liberation of Iraq from the occupation. Some even blame Hussein "for bringing the Americans into Iraq. They went so far as to say the capture of Saddam by allied forces would sever the links between Saddam and the resistance movement once and for all. They define themselves as nationalists."

In Mosul and Fallujah, the resistance is identified with Islamic organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

"The resolve and ferocity of the Iraqi resistance has been amplified by the blunders of the American soldiers in Iraq. Coalition commanders have dealt ineptly with ground operations," and there is no "clear road map for the political reconstruction of Iraq that would enable Iraqis to rule themselves."

Chehab says, "Given the growing number of Iraqis joining the resistance, there is a strong need for Washington and London to revise their military and political plans." If the military presence is raised "in the face of increasing resistance, they will only alienate Iraqis yet further from their attempts to redraw the political future of [Iraq]."

Unless there is a speedy withdrawal, he says attacks on the coalition can be expected to rise.