January 22, 2004
SHIITE DEMANDS FOR ELECTIONS PUTS U.S. IN 'QUANDARY'
** The fall of Saddam
opened a "Pandora's box" of ethnic and religious divisions in Iraq.
** Ayatollah Sistani's
demands for direct elections is a "strong challenge" to the U.S.
** The U.S. is right to
seek UN help, but Annan won't be "a scapegoat for a failed strategy."
** Leftists, Muslims charge
U.S. is stalling on elections in order to plunder Iraq's resources.
'King Faisal's curse'-- Paraphrasing the lament
of Iraq's former king that "there never has been an Iraqi people,"
Germany's center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung remarked that since the fall
of Saddam "a merciless fight for particular interests" has broken out
among Iraq's Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds.
Global editorialists portrayed these rivalries--compounded by the
"bitter reality" of continued violence--as making Washington
"desperate to find a way out" of the "dead-end street" in
Iraq. The liberal Irish Times
noted there are "understandable suspicions" that plans to hand over
sovereignty by July 1 are "dictated by Mr. Bush's electoral agenda."
Shiites are a 'time bomb'--
judged that CPA chief Bremer had an "unenviable task" mediating
between Iraq's Sunnis and Kurds and responding to demands by Ayatollah Sistani
for direct elections. The Shia are
"justly" concerned with electoral equity for their community and
don't wish "to cheerlead a new leadership propped up" by the
Coalition. "The ayatollah's demand
has been received enthusiastically by the Iraqi people," said the
pro-Khatami English-language Iran Daily.
If their demands aren't met, Shiites "might boycott the
elections," observers held; if a constitution is not drafted by an elected
body, "there is a risk" Shiites may "turn against it
altogether," leading quickly to "a fight of everyone against everyone
The U.S. appeal to the UN is 'a good sign'-- Papers praised Washington--"caught off guard"
by the Shia protests--for "realizing that it needs the UN" to settle
the problem. Kenya's independent
left-of-center Nation deemed the U.S. "wise to have recognized at
least some of the UN's utility." A
Canadian writer, claiming the U.S. and UN "detest each other,"
contended circumstances in Iraq "are forcing them to work
together." The UN "will
probably return to Baghdad" but is "not in a hurry" to do so,
analysts concluded, citing security concerns and the desire not to be seen as
"the political handmaiden of the U.S." The UN "is reluctant to adhere to a plan
that has been formulated in keeping with American interests only."
'Occupation through outsourcing'--
critics on the left and in the Muslim world maintained that the U.S. plan for a
transfer of power through caucuses "is a facade." The real intent, argued Britain's
left-of-center Guardian, "is to get Bush re-elected and continue
the occupation by indirect means."
A Pakistani outlet declared the U.S. "does not want a truly
representative government" which could damage "the U.S. plans for
plundering Iraq of its resources."
A compliant "appointocracy" in Baghdad, said another
commentator, would allow U.S. troops "to stay indefinitely" while
Haliburton, Bechtel and other "multinationals locked into multiyear
contracts" control key resources.
EDITOR: Steven Wangsness
EDITOR'S NOTE: This
analysis is based on 36 reports from 20 countries, January 18-22, 2004. Editorial excerpts from each country are
listed from the most recent date.
BRITAIN: "It Is Time
To Start Trusting The Iraqi People"
Johann Hari wrote in the center-left Independent
(Internet version, 1/21): "It is
very hard to make an argument against the Iraqi protesters who cry, 'Yes, yes
to elections, no, no, to appointments.'
Sistani wants the drafters of the constitution to be chosen by the Iraqi
people. He is right. Some fear that if the constitution is not
drafted under fairly close American guardianship, it will not put in place
proper protections for women and Iraq's minority Sunnis and Kurds. Yet the Shia themselves want a decent and
federal Iraq with a stable constitution.
Besides, if the constitution is not drafted by an elected body, then
there is a risk the Shia will turn against it altogether, and descent into
chaos becomes possible.... It is
disingenuous of the Americans to claim that an electoral register cannot be
created in time. The register for the
distribution of rations to Iraqis, mixed with health and identity cards, would
provide a fairly robust census, as Dominic D'Angelo, British spokesman for the
UK-led zone in Basra, confirmed this week.
It is doubly disingenuous to claim that problems with security make
elections difficult. The security
situation and the democratic legitimacy of Iraq's government are not two
separate issues. Iraq is insecure
because its current government is disputed by a significant minority--around a
quarter, according to opinion polls--of the Iraqi population. Once Iraq has free, open elections, the
wavering quarter of Iraqis will be whittled away to a far smaller minority, and
Iraqis will be far more inclined to report the remaining 'resistance' members
to the authorities.... It is time to
start trusting the Iraqi people. It is
their constitution, their security, and their country."
"Bush's UN Gamble"
The conservative Daily Telegraph judged (1/21): "The Americans face the unenviable task
of mediating between the Sunnis and the Kurds, who are alarmed by what they see
as a pre-emptive bid for power, and a Shi'ite majority which might boycott the
elections if its demands are not met. The
nation which declared it was bringing democracy to the Middle East finds itself
fighting a rearguard action against a Muslim cleric pushing for faster progress
in that direction. In this quandary,
George W. Bush has turned to the United Nations, hoping that its
involvement...will persuade Ayatollah Sistani to moderate his demands.... Mr. Bush would like to hold a successful
Iraqi poll well before his own bid for re-election in November. His gamble with the UN underlines the
difficulty of achieving that."
"Why The U.S. Is Running Scared Of Elections In Iraq"
Jonathan Steele wrote in the left-of-center Guardian
(Internet version, 1/19): "The
occupation of Iraq continues to get worse for George Bush and Tony
Blair.... Above all, Washington's plans
for handing power to an unelected group of Iraqis is being strongly challenged
by Iraq's majority Shia community. The
occupiers who invaded Iraq in the name (partly) of bringing democracy are being
accused of flouting democracy themselves....
With casualties stubbornly continuing to remain high, the U.S. is now
banking on its project for transferring power to Iraqis this summer.... At least in Iowa, the Democratic party
caucuses involve elections. Not in the
U.S. plan for Iraq. The U.S. is
proposing that 'notables' in each province attend these caucuses to appoint an
assembly which would select a government.
Not surprisingly, the Shia leadership smells a rat. After generations of being excluded from
power...they are angry. Their spiritual
head, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani...wants direct elections. His legitimate fear is that the U.S. wants to
control the selection of a government because it thinks the wrong people will
win, in particular the Shia. Washington
is also worried that Sunni fundamentalists and even some Ba'athists might do
well in the poll.... Worst of all for
Washington, Sistani has made it clear that no government which is
undemocratically appointed will have the right to ask American troops to stay.
"Washington is trying to argue that if there are to be direct
elections, the transfer of power will have to be delayed. Sistani rejects that. His supporters say the oil-for-food
ration-card lists which covered the whole Iraqi population can easily be used
in place of the poll cards which Washington says would take at least a year to
prepare. Unlike Afghanistan, with its
remote villages and months of snow which make polling stations hard to deploy
and staff, Iraq's geography is no obstacle to quick elections. The moment of truth for the administration is
also one for the United Nations. Having
snubbed the UN for so long, the White House is turning to Kofi Annan...to bail
it out.... Washington is pressing the UN
either to go and persuade Sistani that elections are impossible, or to monitor
the caucuses and give them its seal of approval. Annan should resist the poisoned
chalice. He should support the concept
of direct elections. It need not mean a
delay in sovereignty for Iraq. Five
months are not too long to prepare a vote.
Alternatively, the UN should offer to take over responsibility for the
entire transition to Iraqi rule, as many member governments originally
hoped. Washington's plan for a transfer
of power is a facade. The real intent is
to get Bush re-elected and continue the occupation by indirect means. The UN should have no part of it."
"Bush And Shiite Bargaining"
Pierre Rousselin commented in right-of-center Le Figaro
(1/20): "Caught off guard, the U.S.
is realizing that it needs the UN to settle the Shiite problem. The Americans thought the support of the
Shiite majority was a given, that it would be eternally grateful for being
liberated from the clutches of the Sunni minority to which the tyrant Saddam
Hussein belonged.... The Shiites' demand
for fast elections is their way of reminding the U.S. that they are the
majority and that the promise of democracy is also the assurance that they will
soon govern Iraq.... Between the U.S.
and the Shiites the bargaining...has begun....
As far as the transition is concerned Ali Sistani and George Bush have
the same goal: stabilizing the
country. To achieve this the Sunni
guerrillas must be disarmed...and the terrorists that infiltrate Iraq from
other countries in order to carry out their jihad must be stopped. Americans and Shiites alike have no interest
in seeing these terrorists establish themselves permanently in Iraq. But it may already be too late."
"The UN In Iraq"
Michele Gayral observed on the French worldwide radio network RFI
(1/20): "The situation in Iraq must
really smell like smoke for the U.S. to call to the rescue an organization that
it could do without up to now.... The
U.S. needs UN endorsement for its plan to transfer power to the Iraqis and it
would like to see the UN control this transfer of power. But beyond the fact that the UN is reluctant
to adhere to a plan that has been formulated in keeping with American interests
only, it is not certain that it has the means to carry out such an
Peter Muench noted in an editorial in center-left Sueddeutsche
Zeitung of Munich (1/21): "It
is recorded in ancient chronicles that King Faisal, whom the British enthroned
in 1921 in their mandatory territory, once said: 'There has still not been an Iraqi people,
but only unimaginable masses that rise against whatever government
exists.'… And those who thought that
this history can now be changed should only look to the streets of Baghdad and
Basra these days. Unimaginable masses
are protesting against U.S. occupiers, against the Iraqi transition government
and against each other.... The plans for
the transition of power, which was drafted under a flurry of activity in
Washington, and for the selection and the election of a transition government
are evidence that the United States has given up its claim to create law and
order in Iraq. The Bush administration
is not only on a retreat but it is fleeing the country. The chaos it inflicted on itself has now
driven the U.S. government into the arms of the UN.... Even though it is important to integrate the
United Nations as the only legitimate force into the post-war process, it would
be too much for the UN to quickly resolve the Iraqi problems. But according to U.S. wishes determined by
the U.S. presidential election, and also according to the will of the Iraqis,
who demand a quick end to the occupation, everything should now take place
quickly.... But neither organizational
nor social preconditions for elections exist.
King Faisal's curse continues to exist.
There is still no Iraqi people....
The consequence is that the end of the dictatorship is the beginning of
a merciless fight for particular interests....
Those who in view of these conditions focus on a quick transition of
power in Baghdad do not do Iraq anything good.
The alleged democracy could quickly lead to a fight of everyone against
everyone else. What Iraq needs would be
calm and time to set up a civil society.
But if the Bush administration lacks the stamina to do so, even the
United Nations is unable to compensate."
"Bridge Over The Hudson"
Hans Monath wrote in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin
(1/20): “Some call the current debate
between the U.S. government and UN Secretary-General Annan a game of
poker. This is an appropriate
comparison. There is a lot on stake for
both sides in the negotiations over a future UN role in Iraq. For President Bush it is not just about
preventing a failure of the rebuilding process.
He is also fighting for his reelection.
Annan sees more than an opportunity to claim rights for his organization
in Iraq. He wants to motivate the
world’s most powerful country to acknowledge the rights of the UN and to
cooperate closer with it in the future....
Annan’s people will hardly see the point why they should risk their
lives in Iraq if they get the impression that they will only be there to
conceal an unchanged U.S. occupation policy and get into a hopeless
enterprise. They do not want to be the
scapegoat for a failed U.S. strategy.”
Jacques Schuster held in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin
(1/20): “The Americans and Paul Bremer
aim at preventing an impending massacre.
For this reason they are not ready to bring forward elections, which
large Shiite majority demands. Bremer
wants to stop them from taking over power alone but prefers to establish an
interim government first, representing all ethnic groups according to their
strength. To achieve this the U.S. seeks
the support of the UN under its Secretary-General Annan. He should negotiate with the Shiites and
reduce their maximalist demands. At the
same time Bremer is drumming up support for the UN’s return to Baghdad. Both things are reasonable. Those who want Iraq’s territorial integrity
and hope ethnic groups can live together in peace, can only stand by the
Americans. In other words: Nobody can be interested in establishing a
Shiite Mullah dictatorship on the model of Iran.”
"Occupiers In A Dead-End Street"
Business daily Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg
(1/19): "In Iraq, the United States
has maneuvered itself into a dead-end street, from which it will not find a way
out on its own. The Americans have
announced the transfer of power to an Iraqi transition government on July 1,
but elections only for 2005. The process
they have now initiated has caused a momentum that can hardly be slowed
down.... Whatever decision the United
States will make, it will at least disappoint one ethnic group. The fact that Paul Bremer is meeting UN
Secretary-General Kofi Annan is a good sign, since the Americans have obviously
become aware of the fact that they need the political legitimacy of the UN to
implement the transition process peacefully.
With this move, future responsibilities come to the fore: the United States alone will become
responsible for security in Iraq, while the UN and the Iraqis should be
responsible for the political reconstruction work."
"The UN Is Supposed To Conceal Bush’s Iraq Problem"
Roland Heine remarked in left-of-center Berliner Zeitung
(1/20): “Faced with a growing
resistance, the occupying power is getting nervous. It wants to share the burden on as many
shoulders as possible without giving up command. In this regard the Shiite demonstration is a
warning to the UN. But there are more
important reasons why the UN Secretary-General should not back the American
plan. After the devastating bomb attacks
at the UN headquarters in August, Kofi Annan had said several times that the
role and independent competence of the UN must be defined clearly before a
return to the country. But that is not
in sight. The Bush government is not
interested in transferring power but in concealing the problems in Iraq in
order not to have serious problems during the election campaign.”
"Deterrence For The UN"
Clemens Wergin argued in an editorial in centrist Der
Tagesspiegel of Berlin (1/19):
"The devastating attack in Baghdad has implications that go far
beyond Iraq…. With the attack on the
U.S. headquarters, the insurgents again made clear that they can strike
anywhere in the country. This is why it
will be the more difficult for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to break
internal resistance. For the occupying
powers, the question is whether a wave of attacks is looming. Following Saddam's arrest, resistance
declined. If it rises again, the search
for political compromises will become even more complicated."
"The Return of The UN"
Leading business daily Il Sole-24 Ore remarked (1/20): "The return of the UN to Iraq will not
take place with trumpet playing and triumphal marches also because last
August's attack...is too much of a recent and bloody memory for Kofi Annan not
to exercise caution. But after the
encounter between the Secretary General and CPA Administrator Paul Bremer, it
is almost certain that the UN will go back to working in Iraq.... What is Kofi Annan's objective? He wants the UN to have an important role in
the political future of the country.
What do the Americans want? For
this to occur, but according to Washington's plans, meaning with a transfer of
powers to an Assembly and to a provisional government without calling immediate
elections as requested by the Shiites led by their ayatollahs. What will the compromise be? To send a UN mission that will have the official
task of verifying if elections will be possible immediately or if they will
have to be postponed until next year."
"The U.S. Appeals to UN "
Giampaolo Cadalanu commented in left-leaning,
influential La Repubblica (1/20):
"In the end, the Bush administration has gone back to knocking on
the UN's door. The UN is needed in
Iraq--rather it is indispensable.
Yesterday Paul Bremer...underscored to Kofi Annan that only the UN can
guarantee a 'soft' transfer of powers from the provisional authority to a local
government. Given the endless stream of
attacks and American victims, the certainties of the U.S. 'hawks' are giving
way to more composed attitudes on the part of those who, like Bremer, are
forced to face the real problems of a country that is far from being
"President Sorcerer's Apprentice"
Barbara Spinelli observed in centrist La Stampa
(1/18): "U.S. talk on democracy in
Iraq risks being perceived as fraud....
They propose to restore sovereignty to the Iraqis with the democratic
method, but deep down that is precisely what they do not want.... The Shiites and their Ayatollah
Al-Sistani...are more determined than ever to take literally the words so
thoughtless repeated by Bush.
Democracy? Yes, we want precisely
that and not the assembly of collaborators that you have promised us.... We want the same democracy you have: elections as soon as possible, a truly
representative assembly that writes the constitution, and not an umpteenth
assembly picked by the Americans....
Naturally, one can understand the U.S. worries. A victory by Shiite Islam...is not a worry to
be taken lightly.... Then there is a
strategic reason for fearing the immediate elections requested by
Al-Sistani: the Shiite triumph would
scare the Sunnis... and would accentuate the Kurd's desire for secession. In that case, the war would not end but
rather would begin again more unpredictably than before, involving also Turkey
and Iran. If the worries are justified,
however, one cannot say that the U.S. occupier has worked thoroughly to
exorcise the evils it fears.... Only in
recent hours has Bush asked for help from the United Nations, which he had so
"UN To Get Back To Iraq"
Yulia Petrovskaya said in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta
(1/20): "Getting the UN involved in
power sharing in Iraq at this point, plainly speaking, must help rein in the
Shia. The UN, given its experience and
bureaucratic mechanisms, will handle the 'transparency' aspect of the power
hand-over process in keeping with the plan, and seek compromises on non-basic
issues with the Shia. As the UN may now
return to Iraq, it still has to agree with the Americans on limits to its
influence in that country."
"UN As Colonial Administration"
Vyacheslav Tetekin held in nationalist opposition Sovetskaya
Rossiya (1/20): "Washington is
desperate for a way out of the impasse.
It is seeking to shift responsibility for the situation in the country
to the Iraqis themselves and the UN, while remaining in control. Hence the plan to transfer power to the
Iraqis. But Washington does not want
general elections to let Iraqis elect people they trust and support. The idea is to give full power to the puppet
Provisional Governing Council. To make
the scam look legitimate, the Americans are trying to involve the UN
Secretariat so that the UN acts as a colonial administration under an American
AUSTRIA: "No Consensus
Foreign affairs editor Gudrun Harrer opined in liberal daily Der
Standard (1/20): “Once again, a plan
devised by the U.S. for Iraq has turned out to be inoperable. If the U.S. administration is going to carry
out the indirect elections of a sovereign Iraqi administration as planned, it
is going to risk frontal Shiite opposition to the entire process, and thus the
de-legitimization of the first post-Saddam government before it has even been
set up. Caught in this situation, the
Americans are now approaching the UN, formerly deemed to be ‘irrelevant.’ UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is in a very
difficult position. On the one hand, the
situation in Iraq speaks for itself:
whoever is able to ease the transition process of the country should do
just that. And besides, nobody has more
experience in this field than the UN. On
the other hand, there is a risk that in returning to Iraq the UN could become
the political handmaiden of the U.S. government: the timing of the elections in
Iraq as scheduled by the U.S. clearly has something to do with the American
presidential elections in fall. A
sovereign Iraqi government, no matter how it came about, would be a great
feather in George Bush’s cap and could be used to camouflage other problems in
"U.S. Schedule In Danger"
Senior editor Helmut L. Mueller wrote in independent daily Salzburger
Nachrichten (1/19): “The latest bomb
attack in Baghdad has reminded the Americans that the security situation in
Iraq remains precarious even after the arrest of Saddam Hussein.... If in the future the U.S. government is
indeed going to consider the UN a serious partner in the reconstruction of
Iraq, it might correct a massive political error committed in the months before
and after the war.... It seems that the
Americans are only now learning the bitter lesson of just how complex the situation
in ethnically and religiously splintered Iraq really is. The dilemma is that Sunni and Shiite Arabs in
the country, as well as Kurds, are still nowhere near a unified nation, even
eight decades after the country was founded by the British.”
Baudouin Loos wrote in left-of-center Le Soir (1/22): "President Bush, who has the November 2
elections on his horizon, intends to stick to the July 1 date. That would give him four months to show
American voters that the United States is militarily withdrawing from Iraq and
to demonstrate that the Iraqi quagmire is not becoming another Vietnam
nightmare.... The Americans fear Shiite
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani like the plague. Should the latter launch a 'fatwah' ordering
Shiites to boycott the ongoing process, that could ruin all U.S. plans. That is why...Paul Bremer, who had initially
said that early elections were impossible, is reportedly willing to change his
mind, or, at least, to look for a compromise solution.... But things are always complicated in the
East: the Sunnis are trying to organize
themselves to survive, the Kurds are getting ready to resist in order to keep
their de facto autonomy, and violence from various origins continues to
prevail--and to haunt some people's nights in the White House."
"The UN Is Reluctant To Jump Into The Iraqi Quagmire"
Agnes Gorissen held in left-of-center Le Soir
(1/21): "The UN will probably
return to Baghdad, but not in a hurry.
Kofi Annan has stated that he was willing to send a team of experts to
Iraq to assess to which extent direct elections can promptly be organized. But, before making a final decision, he wants
to obtain additional information....
Some will view this as an obstruction, in order to make the British and
Americans pay for having ignored the UN when they launched the war in Iraq and
for having marginalized it in the reconstruction's scenario. But the UN--although its credibility is,
indeed, at stake here--has other concerns, to begin with security. The UN has not forgotten the two attacks of
which it was the victim in Baghdad in August and September and where 23 people
were killed, including Kofi Annan's special envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello."
"The People Of The Ayatollahs Join Forces"
Foreign affairs writer Laszlo Szentesi remarked in right-wing conservative
Magyar Nemzet (1/20): "The
fact that the Shiites are becoming organized on their own has to be taken
seriously. The reason that Ayatollah Ali
Hussein al-Sistani and his followers are holding onto the concept of an elected
government so firmly is obviously their view that the current governing council
in Baghdad does not represent the [mainly Shiite dominated] south of Iraq. They justly question the legitimacy of the
Iraqi governing council. Because the
support of any politician who cooperates with the Americans (except for the
Kurd-dominated north) lacks any sort of political legitimacy and the Shiites
know it well. The Shiites are part of a
curious power game. They are some sort
of peculiar time bomb. If they take up
and turn arms against the occupants, Iraq might sink into utter chaos and
violence. After the transfer of power in
June, the American forces will lose a reason to exist. The occupying army will not be needed. But, let we add, this is all true only as
much as the assumption is correct that George W. Bush was driven by
humanitarian considerations and the desire to export liberal democracy when he
invaded Iraq. But since we know that it
is not the reality, it would not be surprising at all if the American army did
not find the Iraqi government strong enough to fulfill its tasks and stayed for
a while [in Iraq]. For another twenty
or thirty years, let's say. Until then,
the White House, which is so generous, by the way, in its political notions,
could fully help its undying interest for hydrocarbons [oil]."
IRELAND: "The UN Back
The center-left Irish Times editorialized (1/20): “A great deal is at stake in the talks on
Iraq.... The coalition now wants the UN
to be involved in legitimizing a transfer of power to a selected Iraqi
leadership and to be in place when U.S. troops begin to withdraw from next
July. Mr. Annan is rightly wary of
accepting such responsibilities without a major change in control of these
processes, giving the UN the vital and central role it has previously been
denied. There are understandable
suspicions that this timetable is dictated by Mr. Bush's electoral agenda and
to disguise continuing indirect U.S. political control through proxy Iraqi
nominees and a continuing effective military occupation in a new format. These suspicions are shared by Mr. Annan's
advisers, by other Security Council members--and increasingly vocally by a
developing movement of Shia clerics and citizens in Iraq itself.... The occupation authorities say it is too soon
to have direct elections because political and administrative arrangements
cannot be put in place for them. Instead
representatives would be selected by regional and sectional caucuses. No wonder there are suspicions the U.S. does
not want to empower factions it does not like and that it is seeking to place
its own favorites in positions of power as it effects a limited
withdrawal.... If progress is to be made the UN will have
to secure a firm guarantee of its authority and responsibilities in Iraq. This would allow a more internationalized
security force to be put in place and a more legitimate transfer of sovereignty
to Iraqis under agreed democratic auspices.”
SWEDEN: "From Iowa To
Per Ahlin held in independent liberal Dagens Nyheter (Internet
version, 1/20): "When the U.S.
civilian commander in Iraq, Paul Bremer, met Kofi Annan...one of his intentions
was to get UN help in salvaging plans for the transfer of power to a
provisional government.... The meeting
was certainly not an unimportant one.
But the really big issue...concerns the role the world organization will
play and the degree to which current U.S. foreign policy will
predominate.... The United Nations, as
the mission in Kosovo so clearly demonstrated, is the only institution that can
give an operation global legitimacy.
Unlike Iraq, Kosovo was a collective operation. It was NATO that intervened. But the lack of a UN mandate led to
international conflicts, strains within the alliance, and domestic policy
problems in several member countries. In
Iraq, there is little use in looking back.
The situation is what it is, and now it is a matter of giving this
suffering country the chance to build a new future. The Iraqis understandably want the occupation
to end. But...as many as 65 percent of
those queried [in Baghdad] say they would feel less secure if the United States
left the country.... This is probably as
good an argument as any for not leaving Iraq in the lurch. It should also be an argument for giving the
United Nations a prominent role, and for this not to have to wait until a
potential Democratic president starts fulfilling his campaign promises."
TURKEY: "To Expect The
Sami Kohen observed in the mass-appeal Milliyet
(1/21): “It was expected that the U.S.
would eventually ask for the UN’s involvement in Iraq. It has happened at last, following the
growing resistance in the Sunni triangle as well as reactions by the
Shiites.... The Shiites and Sunnis are
not the only problems for the U.S.--the Kurds should also be included in this
list. The Kurds are dreaming of an
ethnic-based confederation and voice maximalist demands of the U.S. ... It was clear from the beginning that the
invasion of Iraq would open up Pandora’s box, and that is exactly what is happening
in Iraq.... This fact was one of the
main motives that pushed the Bush administration to look for UN assistance.”
LEBANON: "A More
The English-language Dar Al-Hayat commented (Internet
version, 1/20): "Removing a
dictator is not enough for the winds of democracy to blow. From the vacuum that follows the fall of the
man...other winds could blow; winds of division and wars of allocation. It is not enough to hold elections to say
that democracy has begun.... Planting a
democratic model cannot be done by a decision of an occupying power, even it
its own country is democratic. It is
imperative to study the soil and its condition as a result of three and a half
decades of bloody despotism.... The
Iraqi situation is more intricate than what the Americans had previously
thought prior to setting loose their war machine to eradicate Saddam Hussein's
regime.... Today, the Americans are
dealing with fewer illusions with the Iraqi situation. The story of building a democratic Iraqi
model to shine on the rest of the region and change it is long gone, and will
not return. The terrifying military machine,
which crushed Saddam Hussein's regime, cannot ignore one man's position. That man is Ayatollah Sistani. He imposed himself as a partner in
determining the future of Iraq. He
snatched his supporters the right of veto facing the proposed visions. The Americans realized that determining
Iraq's future imposes dealing with the sects, confessions, tribes and
nationalist and sectarian sensitivities.
The shining example is out of the question. The solution is to accept the de facto
situation, without total submission to it."
"The Game Of Dividing Iraq"
Aouni Al-Kaaki opined in pro-Syria Ash-Sharq (1/20): “Iraq has been placed on the American morgue
table...and the search for subjugating its geography has started.... Talk about its unity have become loose
words.... In effect, Iraq has divided
over itself. The Kurds in the north have
announced frankly that they want a federation.... The Shi’a in the south want free elections,
while the Sunni are cautious fearing that free elections would marginalize
them.... The Americans themselves had a
role in Iraq’s self-division. They
promised the Kurds in the north a semi-sovereign entity and also promised the
Shi’a and the Sunni certain roles, but they will not be able to fulfill their
promises.... Federation in this
sense...will eventually lead to civil war in Iraq which will have a negative
impact on the whole region.”
UAE: "U.S. Delaying
The pro-government, English-language Gulf News took this
view (Internet version, 1/20): "It
is an interesting phenomenon that the United States of America, so keen to
bring democracy to the Middle East, is stalling the process in Iraq. The U.S. administrator there, Paul Bremer,
presently in talks with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan trying to get the UN
involved again, claims there is insufficient time to prepare for the elections
before the envisaged June deadline. But
then, the more often such excuses are given, the less likelihood there is of
having an election. Which suits America
fine, since every indication is that if elections were held now, the Shia
majority would sweep into power. Which
America does not want, since it could be a precursor to a government similar to
that in Iran. Yet there is no reason to
fear that if an approved constitution allows for fair elections with all
adults, male and female, having the franchise.
Obviously conditions must be there to ensure the constitution cannot be
changed at whim; equally the period of elected office for the government must
be clearly spelled out, with a limited number of terms for the senior-most post,
be it president or prime minister....
The approval of the nation is needed before the constitution is brought
into force. Thereafter, with the
franchise in effect, whoever comes into power through such a system, has to be
accepted. The trouble is, the U.S.
formed local councils from nominated leaders and persons of influence in the
given region. While these councils have
helped get some semblance of order back into local governance, they were not
directly elected by the people. That is
what democracy is all about. That is
what the Iraqis are now demonstrating for.
That is what the U.S. is opposing at this time: strange indeed."
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
JAPAN: "U.S. Should
Compromise On Iraq's Rebuilding"
The liberal Asahi editorialized (1/21): "The Bush administration should shift
more authority from the CPA to the Iraqi people and the UN in regard to
reconstruction of the war-devastated nation.
At present, Iraq's stable reconstruction appears to be difficult because
of chaotic political conditions, with Shiite groups opposed to the U.S.
administration's plan to hold an indirect election, designed to include
pro-U.S. Iraqis, to form a new national assembly in May prior to establishment
of an Iraqi provisional government in June.
A possible confrontation between the U.S.-led CPA and Shiites would only
escalate ethnic and religious tension, allowing Saddam holdouts to regain
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
INDIA: "The Ironies Of
Nihal Singh commented in the centrist Asian Age
(1/22): "The greatest irony of
America's pre-emptive war on Iraq is that many months after the occupation
began, the Bush administration that has held the United Nations in contempt, is
again knocking on its doors.... This
time the U.S. is seeking help in Iraq's colonial administration. Having unscrambled Saddam Hussein's Iraq,
America's viceroy, Paul Bremer, is facing problems in reconciling the stated
goal of building a democratic country with competing local demands while
ensuring the primacy of U.S. interests.
As the deadline for handing over power to an Iraqi dispensation
approaches...the going is getting rough....
American efforts are directed at finessing the Grand Ayatollah [Sistani]
because they fear that the Shia clergy will take most votes affecting American
interests.... Although some form of an
Iraqi government will take office sooner, rather than later, such a
dispensation is expected to seek the continued presence of U.S. forces. In other words, Iraqi sovereignty will be a
limited one, with the American military command calling the shots.... The American goal is to employ the UN to
seek to convince the Shia leader that he should settle for something less than
direct elections.... How far the U.S. is
able to bring democracy to Iraq--insofar as it is the American objective--is
another matter. It is somewhat more
certain that the neocons' appetite for building a Second Roman Empire will
"The Baghdad Rage"
The Mumbai edition of centrist Marathi daily Lokmat
editorialized (1/20): "Just as the
average Iraqi is angered over the U.S.-led local administration, and troubled
by the tyrannical rule of Saddam Hussein, he is equally disappointed by the
lack of intervention of the United Nations.
Therefore the suicide bombing can be interpreted as the manifestation of
the seething resentment of the Iraqi citizens against the United Nations whose
conduct does not befit that of a peacemaking world body. The average Iraqi expects the UN to take the
lead in bringing about a change of guard in Iraq. However, the UN seems to take a back seat
even after nine months of the so-called reconstruction of Iraq since the U.S.
invasion. Iraq's future therefore
remains uncertain due to four factors---a weak-kneed UN, a Bush anxious to go
to the polls, a Blair threatened by his own party colleagues and, most
importantly, the Iraqi governing council which has not yet won the confidence
"Iraq The Unready"
The nationalist Hindustan Times commented (1/19): "As it is, the American administrator in
Iraq, Paul Bremer, has an unenviable task, managing the Iraqi
imbroglio.... Now it seems Washington
expects him to try and convince UN Secretary General Kofi Annan that the world
body should help with the planned transfer of power to the Iraqis. Never mind if the 'plan' is to somehow set up
an un-elected government in Baghdad by next July.... The division of opinion inside Iraq couldn't
be more obvious.... The majority Shia
population doesn't seem to be in any mood to cheerlead a new leadership propped
up by the occupying forces.... Even if
Washington manages to prevail upon the Shias, thornier issues will remain. Such as carpentering together the so-called
'fundamental law' which is supposed to stand in for a constitution during the
transition period. This ersatz
constitution must...also satisfy the minority Kurds.... So as the geopolitical players play their
games in the region, the most obvious question hangs heavy: is Iraqi sovereignty anywhere in sight? The next few months will tell."
"U.S. In The Iraq Swamp"
The independent Urdu Awam observed (1/20): "The rising number of demonstrations and
the sustained, rather increased intensity of attacks against the occupation
forces of the U.S.-UK combine and their collaborators tell only one thing: the deteriorating situation in Iraq equally
for the Iraqi people and the foreign occupants of their land. The controversy over the formation of a new
government is only complicating the question of the transfer of power to the
local authority.... Quite expectedly,
both the U.S. and its puppet governing council have rejected the demand for
holding general elections to elect representatives for the new government as
urged by Ayatollah Sistani, one of the most popular leader of the majority Shia
community of Iraq. The reason for
refusing to hold general elections is that the U.S. does not want a truly
representative government which could take independent decisions, damaging in
the process the U.S. plans for plundering Iraq of its resources and the vested
interests of those currently forming the governing council. What should the U.S. know for sure is that
its tyrannical occupation of Iraq will only worsen the situation in the
occupied country and will also jeopardize its own interests."
The pro-Khatami English-language Iran Daily commented
(Internet version, 1/20): "Today,
the U.S. is facing increasing problems in establishing security in
Iraq.... The U.S. plan regarding Iraq's
future, which is not based on direct public participation in state affairs
anytime soon, has encountered opposition from the top Iraqi Shiite leader,
Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who has also called on the UN to play a more
active.... A similar request was also
made last December by the then head of the Iraqi Governing Council, Abdel Aziz
Hakim, but UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan replied that elections were not
possible in spring. He also said that
lack of security was the main barrier to holding broad-based elections. The UN is apparently not keen to enter the
Iraqi scene again, due to security considerations and the U.S. attitude towards
itself. The UN places importance on its
independence and cannot agree to obey U.S. orders while most Iraqi people also
want a direct UN role in determining the future of Iraq.... The ayatollah's demand has been received
enthusiastically by the Iraqi people....
It has now been proven that the U.S. cannot administer Iraqi
affairs. Ayatollah Sistani and most
Iraqi political groups want the UN to assume an active role in their
country. If the Americans do not want to
encounter further complications, they should revise their past policies and
stop objecting to the speedy transfer of power to the Iraqi people. By grabbing this new opportunity in Iraq, the
UN can shake off its passivity, intervene forcefully and improve its
KENYA: "U.S. Occupation
Policy Change Required"
The independent left-of-center Nation commented
(1/19): "The United States is wise
to have recognized at least some of the UN's utility, but there is much it
needs to do to get Iraq right. It is
naïve, for example, to believe that this June 30 handover will inoculate the
Bush administration's own electoral campaign against Iraqi turmoil since there is
little likelihood that that day will suddenly bring about a serious drop in
insurgent attacks; indeed, few Iraqis and Arabs will take that day to be the
end of occupation since tens of thousands of coalition troops will stay
NIGERIA: "Change Approach
Lagos-based Daily Independent editorialized (1/21): "The more America continues to stay in
that country, the more the problems would grow and get complicated. That is why a different approach must be adopted
to at least cut down on the casualty figures.... If at the end of the day America is
blackmailed and forced to pull out the way it did in Vietnam, the entire
efforts in Iraq, including the wasting of hundreds of lives would have been in
vain. This must be avoided, even at the
cost of the American ego and that of Bush."
Iraq: An Appointocracy"
Naomi Klein commented in the leading Globe and Mail
(Internet version, 1/22): "The
White House insists that its aversion to elections is purely practical: there just isn't time to pull them off before
the June 30 deadline. So why have the
deadline? The most common explanation is
that Bush needs 'a braggable' on the campaign trail.... Except that the United States has absolutely
no intention of actually getting out of Iraq.
It wants its troops to remain, and it wants Bechtel, MCI and Halliburton
to stay behind and run the water system, the phones and the oil fields. It was with this goal in mind that, on Sept.
19, Mr. Bremer pushed through a package of sweeping economic reforms that The
Economist described as a 'capitalist dream.' But the dream, though still alive, is now in
peril. A growing number of legal experts
are challenging the legitimacy of Mr. Bremer's reforms.... For the White House, the only way for its
grand economic plan to continue is for its military occupation to end: only a
sovereign Iraqi government, unbound by the Hague and Geneva Regulations, can
legally sell off Iraq's assets. But will
it? Given the widespread perception that
the United States is not out to rebuild Iraq but to loot it, if Iraqis were given
the chance to vote tomorrow, they could well immediately decide to expel U.S.
troops and to reverse Mr. Bremer's privatization project, opting instead to
protect local jobs. And that frightening
prospect--far more than the absence of a census--explains why the White House
is fighting so hard for its appointocracy.
Under the current U.S. plan for Iraq, the transitional national assembly
would hold onto power from June 30 until general elections are held no later
than Dec. 31, 2005. That's 17 leisurely
months for a non-elected government to do what the CPA could not legally do on
its own: invite U.S. troops to stay
indefinitely and turn Mr. Bremer's capitalist dream into binding law. Only after these key decisions have been made
will Iraqis be invited to have their say.
The White House calls this self-rule. It is, in fact, the very
definition of outside-rule, occupation through outsourcing. That means that the world is once again
facing a choice about Iraq. Will its
democracy emerge stillborn, with foreign troops dug in on its territory,
multinationals locked into multiyear contracts controlling key resources, and
an entrenched economic program that has already left 60-70 per cent of the
population unemployed? Or will its
democracy be born with its heart still beating, capable of building the country
"The New Odd Couple -- America And The
David Warren commented in the conservative Ottawa
Citizen (Internet version, 1/21):
"The United States and the United Nations have come to detest one
another, insofar as two stupendously large bureaucratic organizations are
capable of manifesting human emotions....
The UN is no good at doing anything that requires muscle or nerve. But it is perfectly good at counting beans,
or refugees, or votes. It has retained
considerable expertise in organizing, refereeing, and monitoring free
elections, which are--thanks to the muscle and nerve of such as Bush and
Blair--now required in Iraq. And because
the UN can at least pose as a disinterested party, it is in a position to
broker agreements between contending factions that such interested parties as
the U.S. and UK are not. That is why the
U.S. and friends have been, since the fall of Saddam, begging the UN to come in
and do its stuff. But the UN, still
sulking from the invasion it was unable to prevent, and stinging from the
terrorist firebombing of its field headquarters in Baghdad, is playing hard to
get. In short, it won't do what it's
good at, and no one else can do; it insists on doing what it's no good at, and
someone else is doing.... What we have
here is a marriage of convenience between the U.S. and UN--our new
international odd couple. They need each
other--the U.S. being the needy partner currently in Iraq, and the UN almost
everywhere else. Circumstances are
forcing them to work together, and they may soon cooperate, whether they like
it or not."
"Iraq And The Never-Ending War"
An editorial in leading Clarin read
(1/21): "The war in Iraq continues
in the form of brutal attacks against any 'foreigners,' although foreigners are
likely to be members of terrorist groups and Iraqis are likely to also be
killed in the attacks. For its part, the
U.S. has not managed to really control the situation. The occupying powers were able to destroy the
old regime but they have not made enough progress to build the groundwork of a
new regime.... The U.S. promises that
deadlines will be honored in drafting a new constitution, calling elections and
transferring power to a new administration in the next six months.... But as long as attacks and killings continue...'the
military phase' of this war is prolonged and this discourages the prospects of
a soon pacification."