International Information Programs
Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

January 22, 2004

January 22, 2004





**  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'--  Dailies 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 else."      


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'--  Some 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 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."


FRANCE:  "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 endeavor."


GERMANY:  "Faisal's Curse"


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."


ITALY:  "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 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 pacified."


"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 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 reviled."


RUSSIA:  "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 governor general."


AUSTRIA:  "No Consensus In Iraq"


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 Iraq.”


"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.”


BELGIUM:  "Haunted White House"


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."


HUNGARY:  "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 In Iraq?"


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 Baghdad"


Per Ahlin held in independent liberal Dagens Nyheter (Internet version, 1/20):  "When the U.S. civilian commander in Iraq, Paul Bremer, met Kofi 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. 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 Expected"


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 Intricate Iraq"


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 Iraqi Franchise"


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."




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 power."




INDIA:  "The Ironies Of Iraq War"


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 diminish."


"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 of Iraqis."


"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."


IRAN:  "New Opportunity"


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 international standing."




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 on."


NIGERIA:  "Change Approach In Iraq"


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."




CANADA:  "Bush's 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 Iraqis choose?"


"The New Odd Couple -- America And The UN"


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."


ARGENTINA:  "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."


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