Prague, 15 October 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Commentary and analysis in the major press outlets today look at why the U.S. administration needs UN help in Iraq, the growing tendency toward dynastic succession in Eurasia, the new NATO rapid-reaction force, and the not-so-happy 10th birthday of NTV, Russia's first non-state -- and at times politically challenging -- television station.
Columnist Mary Dejevsky says after sidelining the UN in the run-up to war in Iraq, the U.S. administration is now courting a new Security Council resolution for three main reasons: "money, manpower and next year's American presidential election." Writing in the British daily "The Independent," Dejevsky says the $87 billion U.S. President George W. Bush requested from Congress for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq through the next fiscal year is "rather more than any administration would choose to request as an election approaches."
Ahead of the international donors conference on Iraq on 23-24 October in Madrid, the "rush for a new resolution" suggests Washington and London may now realize that "until there is clarity about the UN's role, there may be no additional money on offer at all" from other nations.
Almost-daily casualties among U.S. forces in Iraq are "provoking public and political concern in America," Dejevsky observes. U.S. reservists and the National Guard, which seldom get deployed outside the continental United States, are finding themselves serving dangerous six-month stints on the other side of the world. And this "may well be a consideration in how Americans vote in 2004."
The Bush White House now needs to share the burden in Iraq with the international community, "so that any longer-term disorder in Iraq can be laid at the door of the UN in good time before election day in November 2004."
THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR:
An editorial in the Boston-based daily says, "The real war after the war in Iraq isn't just the daily violence in that country -- it's a political one to shape public perceptions of what ultimately will be considered success or failure for the United States and a new Iraqi government."
The U.S. administration, Congress, the United Nations, opinion pollsters, the media, and others are all attempting to describe, explain and analyze what is going on in Iraq -- what's "going right, what's going wrong, and what should be done about it." But each interpretation is motivated by the opinions and desires of the interpreter. The White House blames the media for focusing on the failures in Iraq and the UN argues that its involvement is necessary for the creation of a sovereign Iraqi state. Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress balks at the price tag for reconstruction and tries to argue that Iraq "isn't really in need of much U.S. aid."
"Six months after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the U.S. and Iraqis still are trying to fill a void in that country. As major decisions must be made in the U.S. and elsewhere, a healthy debate requires more facts and less fantasy," the paper says. The U.S. administration, the media, and other key players "have so far not created a convincing measure for progress in an emerging new Iraq. They should all dig deeper into Iraq's reality and not their preconceived notions."
JANE'S FOREIGN REPORT:
An analysis in "Jane's Foreign Report" says the ruling elites of three Eurasian countries "are maneuvering to establish political dynasties." As this region has "catapulted from geopolitical oblivion to strategic importance" in the past decade, the analysis says these developments "will have profound implications for the political stability of a part of the world whose energy riches and strategic location have snared it in a tug-of-war between the [U.S.], Russia, China and Iran."
Azerbaijan's ailing President Heidar Aliyev recently withdrew his candidacy from today's elections in favor of his son, Ilham, also a presidential candidate. In Kazakhstan, President Nursultan Nazarbaev's oldest daughter, Dariga Nazarbaeva, announced that her ASAR political movement may soon become a political party. "With parliamentary elections scheduled for 2004, this is widely seen as maneuvering for another dynastic succession," says the analysis. "Speculation that [Nazarbaev] was positioning his daughter [for] the 2006 presidential elections has intensified in recent months."
Kyrgyzstan's President Askar Akaev has said he will not run for re-election in 2005. But many political observers "believe that he is engineering a dynastic succession involving his wife, Meerim [Akaev], or one of his sons."
"Once production of the vast oil and gas reserves of the Caspian Basin speeds up in the next few years, the battle for control of them [could] destabilize the area," writes "Jane's Foreign Report." It advises that the United States and others "who are investing heavily in the region, or who are thinking of taking the plunge, should think twice."
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE:
The European edition of "The Wall Street Journal" carries a somewhat sardonic editorial today discussing the eventual transition of power in Iraq from occupation forces to an Iraqi government. The paper observes that UN Security Council delegates are now "champions of Iraqi democracy, [insisting] that any Iraq reconstruction resolution contain a definite plan for Iraqi self-rule."
The latest U.S.-backed proposal sets a 15 December deadline for the Iraqi Governing Council to submit a nonbinding timetable for this transition to the UN Security Council. But nearly all Security Council members agreed that more steps will be needed to ensure a real return of Iraqi sovereignty.
"All right," the paper says. Let's take the delegates "at their word. [But] in the spirit of consistency, let's also require the same [15 December] deadline for a democracy transition plan from every other UN state, in particular those highly principled Security Council members China, Syria, Pakistan, Guinea and Cameroon. We can then move on to Cuba, Vietnam, Libya, Sudan, Egypt, North Korea...."
Perhaps the example of a liberated and self-governed Iraq could serve as a useful model for some of the repressive governments of member nations already sitting on the Security Council. This concept of "self-government" is a pretty good idea, the paper wryly remarks. "When we argued that a liberated Iraq might set a positive example, we had no idea it would go this far."
THE WASHINGTON TIMES:
Writing in "The Washington Times," Harlan Ullman discusses the new NATO Response Force (NRF), formally commissioned today in Brunssum, Netherlands. This new regiment of roughly 6,000 troops "combines integrated land, sea, air and special forces." After an initial test period, this highly trained force will be readily deployable within five days to the world's crisis areas.
The NRF will provide the Atlantic alliance "with new and relevant capabilities for today's challenges," says Ullman. The attacks of 11 September 2001 were "the catastrophic demonstration of the dangers and threats that lie ahead." The war on terrorism is now demanding the alliance's attention "far beyond NATO's original boundaries." In August, NATO deployed 6,000 troops to Afghanistan in a "profound departure" from the alliance's usual theater of operations, continental Europe. "NATO's boundaries [have] become essentially global in reach."
Ullman says today's world "is dynamic," with dangers "likely to arise unexpectedly -- and probably more than one at a time. The NRF is meant to cope with this world." But NATO must evolve. Within the alliance today there is "an overabundance of ground forces, combat aircraft and tanks. Lighter, agile forces more akin to Special Forces are needed," he says. "And 'niche' capabilities to counter chemical, biological and radiological agents are essential." As postwar Iraq and Afghanistan have demonstrated, "dealing with failed and failing states after military action is over are part and parcel of what the NRF must do." But this transformation of NATO skills and equipment "will only succeed if each [member] nation fully remains committed."
THE MOSCOW TIMES:
Writing in "The Moscow Times," columnist Irina Petrovskaya of Russia's daily "Izvestiya" discusses the 10th anniversary last week of NTV, Russia's first privately owned national television station. The station's "personalities, past and present, were shown smiling happily in a special series of advertisements" commemorating the station, while television stars "belted out a tune." But Petrovskaya says, "This was a birthday without the party."
She recalls that in NTV's early days, freedom of speech "had definitely existed for a short time, before the journalists themselves cashed it in for broadcasting licenses, perks, access to power and fat pay packets." NTV lost its professional principles when it openly supported former President Boris Yeltsin's re-election bid in 1996. "As the campaign heated up, the NTV leadership turned what was then the best station in the country into a blunt but effective weapon, betraying not only their profession but the viewers for whom NTV had become the model of normal television and source of objective, reliable information after decades of shameless Soviet propaganda."
Petrovskaya goes on to comment on what she terms "the indifference of the Russian people to freedom generally, and to freedom of speech in particular." But she asks, "[Can] journalists really blame the people for being indifferent when they've done so much to sour them on the whole idea, veiling their own ambitions under the cover of freedom of speech?"
These days, she says, NTV "differs little from the competition." And "precious little remains of its cache as a voice of opposition."