April 23, 2004
SPANISH TROOP WITHDRAWAL A 'BLOW' TO COALITION
** Spanish papers worry that "hightailing it out" of
Iraq will have major repercussions for Spain.
** Centrist, conservative Euro media treat Zapatero's
"rash" retreat as a victory for terrorists.
** Global critics ascribe foreign troop withdrawals to the
"great political failure" of White House.
** Many predict Spain's departure will trigger a domino effect and
erode the Coalition forces.
Spanish reaction uneasy about Zapatero's 'difficult
decision'-- Conservative papers
regretted that PM Zapatero had put Spain in an "extraordinarily
uncomfortable position" at such a "delicate moment," but others
commended him for following through on his commitment to the Spanish
public. A La Razon editor was
ashamed to leave "unceremoniously in the lurch" an ally like the
U.S., "inflicting considerable damage" at a time when Iraq is
"immersed in a wave of violence...of worrisome proportions." Others shared ABC's worry that
Zapatero's decision would cause a "dangerous deterioration" for
Western security, while independent El Mundo warned the U.S. "is
undoubtedly going to expect a payback for this turn."
Zapatero's withdrawal sets bad precedent, shows 'terror pays
observers feared that Zapatero's decision would encourage al-Qaida to
"repeat the trick" and force other countries to "abandon the
Iraqi campaign" and the U.S.-led alliance.
Regardless of where they stood on the war, analysts recognized it was
"impossible to leave Iraq to its fate." Capturing the typical disdain among media in
some "Coalition of the Willing" nations, Poland's right-of-center Zycie
reproached Spain's new prime minister for acting "exactly the way the
Islamic fundamentalists wanted," declaring "he yielded to
blackmail." Even German papers
skeptical of the Iraq war criticized Zapatero for providing a "model"
for the terrorist handbooks: "It
shows how to oust a government, bomb troops out of a country and destroy the
alliance with America."
Deserting a 'failing project' based on 'manifest lies'-- Liberal and left-leaning Euro writers joined
ranks with Arab, Asian and Latin observers in judging the troop withdrawals by
Spain and others as a referendum on Washington's "failure" in
Iraq. They concurred with Germany's Sueddeutsche
Zeitung that the withdrawals make the "Bush crew's own failure more
obvious," and with Spain's La Vanguardia that this was abandoning
not Iraq, but "the political strategy that led us to get involved in a
conflict that did not have...legitimacy."
The White House's "great political failure," averred Poland's
center-left Pravo, means only a few countries will be willing to share
this risk. Jordan's influential Al
Dustour was even more adamant: "No one can sacrifice troops for a
failing project, let alone for the sake of neoconservatives in the U.S."
The 'domino effect has just begun'-- Papers worldwide
expected other countries to follow Spain's example, triggering a domino effect
that could tarnish Bush's "prestige," crack the coalition and leave
Iraq worse off. "Little by little,
others will pull out, and the problem will remain," concluded Guatemala's
influential El Periodico. Asian
papers stressed that while the countries backing out represent only a small
portion of the coalition forces, the withdrawals "marked the shrinking"
of international support, leaving the U.S. "more and more isolated."
EDITOR: Irene Marr
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media
Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a
representative picture of local editorial opinion. This report summarizes and interprets foreign
editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S.
This analysis is based on 91 reports
from 36 countries, April 19-23.
SPAIN: "Hard Realities
Will Test His Good Intentions"
Independent El Mundo wrote (4/23):
"The greatest challenge for [incoming President Zapatero] will undoubtedly
be the restabilization of foreign policy after the decision to withdraw the
troops from Iraq, as he himself acknowledges.
We are in agreement with him in the form and the substance of this
difficult decision... However, it seems to us that his optimism is unjustified
when he says that the withdrawal will have no consequences for Spain. The U.S. is undoubtedly going to expect a
payback for this turn. And if
Zapatero...wants to meet Bush in order to explain to him all the mistakes in
the fight against international terrorism, Zapatero will have to wait a long time
for a meeting. [Zapatero] assures that
Spain should have 'by itself' good relations with Morocco without needing U.S.
mediation. It should be so, but his good
intentions towards the neighboring country may be thwarted by the competing
interests that characterize our relations.
It is the same with [our rela
tions] with France and Germany"
"Democracy And Consensus"
Carlos Seco contributed to conservative ABC
opinion page (4/23): "The
withdrawal of the Spanish troops from Iraq [by Rodríguez Zapatero] is in my
mind a show of his strict loyalty to his commitments: commitments that he had
made not only to his party, but also to Spanish society. Because it is undeniable that the vast
majority of Spaniards never identified with 'Bush's war': a real trap, which
the U.S. President himself -- and his allies -- do not know how to get out of,
and that is a result of Bush's absolute ignorance about what the Muslim world
is and what it thinks. It was naïve to
think that the Iraqis, once liberated from their dictator, would
enthusiastically embrace a 'democratic plan' difficult to assume by them, and
offered by occupying forces whose ultimate objectives did not respond, by the
way, to pure redeeming ideals. New
President Rodríguez Zapatero, has started his path well."
"Hightailing it Out"
Aleix Vidal-Quadras opined in conservative La
Razon (4/23): "The sudden and
abrupt decision to immediately start bringing home [the Spanish troops from
Iraq] all at once destroys all the previous positive notes and places us as a
country in an extraordinarily uncomfortable position. The snub to the UN is considerable, because
with this sudden measure we are denying the ability of the highest
international organization to redirect things in more reasonable ways or, what
is the same, we are publicly calling it incompetent. Of course, we unceremoniously leave in the
lurch an ally and friend as important as the U.S., inflicting considerable
damage at an especially critical moment when Iraq is immersed in a wave of
violence and disturbances of worrisome proportions...."
"Explanations In Washington"
Conservative ABC wrote (4/22): "It's obvious that the
situation is not such that Washington will take diplomatic reprisals or react
with the same rashness as Rodríguez Zapatero.
From a pragmatic point of view, we will see the political consequences
in the future. But once the threat to
withdraw the Spanish troops from Iraq has been carried out, for the United
States half an ally is better than none, and if it is still possible for Spain
to lend a hand in some other way then any help would be welcomed under the
present circumstances... What Moratinos
will not be able to argue at all is that the Spanish troops are withdrawing
because... the new government 'has committed itself to peace.'... A commitment to peace and stability does not
mean leaving the Iraqis to their fate, without even waiting for the formal
delay given by Spain, or listening to what the UN Security Council has to
say. The suggestion to increase, in
exchange, Spanish military presence in Afghanistan...as if it was an exchange
of picture cards -- would make apparent the implicit acknowledgement that
Rodríguez Zapatero is aware that his decision to withdraw troops from Iraq will
cause a dangerous deterioration for Western security and that he wants to
compensate for that somewhere else."
Conservative La Razon averred (4/22): "The strategists
of Al Qaida are on a full offensive. In view of their most recent targets, is
very probable that this is an attempt to amplify the effect of the withdrawal
of the Spanish troops with a bloodbath that would spread panic among the
citizens of the West. Bin Laden would
have interpreted the decision taken by President Rodriguez Zapatero as a good
starting point and to repeat the trick and force other Governments to abandon
the Iraqi campaign and break the alliance lead by Washington. Bush's Government
is very conscious of the danger that this challenge means, so has set off its
formidable machine of diplomatic pressure...The aim is to avoid, above all,
that Al Qaida can spread the confusion, win another battle on the European
streets and amplify the voices that today are asking for a retreat of the
troops as a way to ward off attacks such as M-11.
"The Violence Puts In Doubt The Permanence
Of Poland In Iraq"
Independent El Mundo warned (4/22): "The U.S. finds itself more and more
alone in a situation in Iraq that does nothing but get worse.… Iraq has been converted into a hell, in which
the hate of the occupier trumps all other considerations.”
Javier Pradera wrote on the opinion page in left-of-center El
País (4/21): "The Spanish
troops got immersed to their regret in a bloody armed conflict that combines
the features of civil war, nationalist resistance and fundamentalist terror. The idea that the UN is now able to be an
'interposing force' among the parties in the conflict is crazy: it could only
replace--and it cannot and should
not--the role of 'occupation force' played until now by the United States and
its allied subordinates."
"Iraq: Careful With The Rush"
An editorial in conservative La Razon wrote (4/21):
"The fracture of the coalition is a fact and could grow...[D]espite the
conciliatory tone of our military allies, what is certain is that the abrupt
withdrawal of the "Plus Ultra" [Spanish] Brigade comes at a very
delicate moment for the U.S. troops who are experiencing the worst month of
fighting since the invasion.... In these
conditions the Zapatero Government should demonstrate extreme prudence and
should slow down a bit in its rush [to leave]...It is fundamental to coordinate
carefully our retreat with the rest of our allies."
"Effects Of The Withdrawal"
Left-of-center El País declared (4/20): "One couldn't have expected that the
U.S. would have taken the news of the Spanish troop withdrawal kindly. The White House said Bush 'regretted' the
decision.... The exact same terms that
John Kerry used. The call of the Shiite
leader Mutada al Sader not to attack Spanish troops and the predictable
manipulations of other movements like al-Qaida don't exactly contribute to
highlighting the character of a decision taken in a completely independent
manner in the face of the disastrous management, not multilateral, of the
crisis in Iraq, and of a war that was illegal and illegitimate.... It can't be minimized that today, the
decision to withdraw creates an image problem for Spain in the U.S. that will
be hard to manage.... [New Spanish
Foreign Minister] Moratinos shouldn't limit himself [in his Washington
meetings] to talking about Iraq, but about the senseless and unconditional
support of the Bush Administration of Sharon's theories, which destroy any hope
for peace.... The concerns of the U.S.
are not about the military impact [of the withdrawal]...but about the political
hole that this causes in the so-called Coalition.... The upcoming [European] elections will be
crucial to outlining the new role of the UN and the attitude of the Bush
Administration in the management of Iraq.
If a new leading role for the UN is obtained, it can not be discarded
that Spain would be involved again in the future of Iraq, but this time in
authentic work of reconstruction and security."
"The Cost Of Leaving Iraq"
Conservative ABC maintained (4/20): "The head of Spanish diplomacy will have
to use the powers of persuasion he is credited with in order to justify in a
convincing way why Spain, for the first time in its recent history, broke its
international agreements at a moment when not only soldiers of our allies are
carrying out their duties to try to stabilize and pacify an every day more
convulsed Iraq, but also when the international community is seeking to sort
the situation out by intensifying the diplomatic offensive.... Breaking with the coalition at this moment
has a significance that goes beyond what is being decided in Iraq. In fact, the fight for the future of [Iraq]
hides another battle: the start of an alternative political model for the whole
region, which serves to cut the flow of dissatisfied and radical people who embrace
the cause of Islamic terrorism. In this
long-term and profound fight against the terrorist phenomenon...the withdrawal
of the Spanish troops risks being seen as a defeat or surrender to terror and
may have a dangerous contaminating effect.
Spain has grown and matured a lot in the last years.... The legitimate decision of the government
augurs a vision of a Spain tempted to isolation, exactly what we had escaped
from, and the opposite of what our nation should be."
"It Is Not A Escape From Iraq"
Centrist La Vanguardia opined (4/20): "The decision to immediately withdraw
the troops from Iraq does not mean leaving anybody in the lurch. It means...abandoning the political strategy
that lead us to get involved in a conflict that did not have the international
legal guarantees or the legitimacy that many European countries, and above all
Spanish public opinion, considered essential to actively participate in a war
that was set out on uncertain truths and ended up becoming manifest lies.... Repairing the relations with the Unites
States in all possible areas, also in the fight against terrorism and to escape
unscathed from Iraq, is one of the priorities of the new government. Spain has not escaped from its responsibilities
in the world.... Spain should become
reconciled with Europe. Not to take
commands from France and Germany, but neither to obstruct the process of
European construction, which should take a giant step forward with the approval
of the new Constitution. We leave Iraq
militarily, but we should continue working for its pacification. From another point of view."
"Quick Withdrawal In Iraq"
Conservative La Razon stated (4/20): "The news that La Razon published
today as an exclusive report about the secret negotiations maintained by Spanish
intelligence agents instructed by PSOE with representatives of the Shiite
militia of the radical Al Sadr should have grave consequences for the
confidence and credibility of our international position.... To the international coalition, of which we were
a part, the explanation of what has happened has no other reading other: Spain made a unilateral agreement with an
adversary, although unofficially. This
interpretation was confirmed with the immediate announcement of the ayatollah
Sadr, in which he asked his supporters not to attack Spaniards.... Diplomatic language normally hides more than
it expresses. In fact yesterday the
President of the U.S. George Bush, in a call barely five minutes long described
as 'brusque and regrettable'...the decision of Madrid.... Rodriguez Zapatero now is obligated to make a
gesture that really supports his intention to continue fighting against
international terrorism. Maybe a
significant reinforcement in Afghanistan, where the Taliban is growing
stronger, would qualify. Although, yes, this would be accepting the
risk of a new attack of al-Qaida terrorists."
"After The Decision"
Centrist La Vanguardia wrote (4/20): "Washington has
not received with satisfaction the decision of the Spanish Government to
withdrawal its troops from Iraq.... The question for Spain and its American
allies, even the Democratic candidate John Kerry, is not only the decision of
the retreat...but the immediacy with which it was made, in a moment in which
the region is aflame in violence. This
immediacy has been very uncomfortable for Washington, which probably counted on
being able still to exercise a bit of diplomatic pressure on Madrid to put off
for the maximum period of time the decision....The US and Spain have been
friends for long before the war in Iraq broke out and before George Bush won
the elections. And they have the will to continue being allies, although
differences will eventually arise. The
new Foreign Minister Moratinos, will have to make a big effort...to explain to
his counterpart, Secretary Powell, the Spanish Government's reasons."
"Flight From Iraq"
Conservative ABC opined (4/19): "The UN was simply a screen in
Zapatero's speech. Zapatero's decision
represents above all, a personal coup...really directed to protect his
government from any risk that could be associated with the presence of the
troops in Iraq, such as a new terrorist attack or new casualties in the Spanish
contingent. But after Osama bin Laden's
threat against Spain and the examples of strength of Japan and Italy...the
decision of the socialist government can't even generate understanding outside
of our borders."
"Rapid Withdrawal From Iraq"
Conservative La Razon observed (4/19): "Although it is easy to look into
Rodríguez Zapatero's reasoning, it is not so easy to try to penetrate what
consequence this will have for us in breaking an agreement of alliance with the
United States and Great Britain and with the rest of the countries that had
committed themselves to the Iraqi transition.... Spain as a nation has shown to the world once
again that it does not have any national foreign policy; much to the contrary,
our foreign policy depends on changes of government.... The president of the government has kept a
promise in which he had, unnecessarily, implicated his honor, and our country,
once again, will be absent at a great historical crossroads for the West."
"What Is Said, Is Done"
Independent El Mundo held (4/19): "There were very few advantages and many
risks in staying until the 30 of June....
Having our soldiers in Iraq until July would have polarized the
political debate about the topic, and raised speculation about whether Zapatero
was willing to complete his promise....
Zapatero hasn't yielded in the face of terrorist blackmail because he
had promised, in words and deeds, before the attacks that troops would return
"The Troops Return"
Left-of-center El País editorialized (4/19): "The Spanish position will be very much
criticized and caricatured by the neoconservative media in the U.S. and other
countries, including Spain. It will be
good for transatlantic relations if the storm is only verbal. Spain and the U.S. will continue to be
partners and allies, and the new Spanish administration...will offer its loyal
cooperation in many areas."
BRITAIN: "Exits And
The conservative Times held (4/20): "It might be shrewd for Mr. Bush and Mr.
Blair to expose the hypocrisy of some of those who have called for more UN
involvement in Iraq yet are now evacuating troops for fear that this
participation will arrive. As June 30
approaches, it would be wholly appropriate for the UN Security Council to
express backing for the institutional arrangements that its own envoy is
helping to hammer out and to pledge humanitarian assistance for Iraq over the
next year. A new resolution to this
effect would be worthwhile.... Spain's
dishonorable exit from Iraq is disappointing, but it will not prevent the work
necessary to at least give Iraq a chance of a brighter future."
FRANCE: "Spanish Troop
Luc de Barochez contended in Catholic La Croix (4/20):
“For other coalition members, Spain’s withdrawal has strengthened their
determination to stay. But the Spanish government’s decision is affecting the
public debate, providing arguments to those who are pushing for an end to
Iraq’s occupation… Berlusconi is one of the leaders most under pressure because
of Spain’s decision.”
Berthold Kohler commented in center-right Frankfurter
Allgemeine (4/20): "Zapatero
could have argued shortly after the attacks in Madrid that Spain ought to keep
its troops in Iraq, because terrorists would otherwise believe Spain is
frightened and can be blackmailed. But
when he came into office Zapatero even accelerated the withdrawal, making it
appear as if the country was running away.
Zapatero is desperate to leave Iraq.
His unrealistic deadline makes this clear; Washington could never have
met it, because the UN is unsure whether it can bear the responsibility under
the current circumstances.... Spain is
now likely to serve as a model in handbooks for transnational terrorism; it
shows how to oust a government, bomb troops out of a country and destroy the
alliance with America.... It would be a
political disaster for the entire West if the Spanish way catches on other
Europeans with troops in Iraq; Romano Prodi has already announced that one can
learn from Zapatero how to win. It would
not help Iraq if the coalition of the
willing were to fall apart; it would seem like an invitation to the enemies of
western democracies to exert influence with terror, like against Israel. That the German government does not comment
on the Madrid decision speaks volumes."
"The Winner Keeps His Promise"
Peter Burghardt opined in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung
of Munich (4/20): "Zapatero had
made his promise long before the attacks.
He keeps it now. As an
alternative, he wants to strengthen Spain's Afghanistan mission, despite
further bomb threats. Anyway, the few
soldiers in Iraq did not contribute to the world's peace. There are more reasonable options and the
U.S. are not always on the right track.
The Bush crew complains about the withdrawal, because it makes its own
failure more obvious. Zapatero is
leading Spain back to Brussels, after Aznar had turned toward Washington and a
coalition named 'New Europe'. The new
Prime Minister does not block the EU constitution simply to get more out of
Europe. Spain ought to be a bridge to
North Africa and South America.... And
we recall that Madrid was once a place of peace conferences and not war
coalitions, which neglect international law."
"Let's Get Away Quickly"
Malte Lehming wrote in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin
(4/20): "One must keep promises,
but there is a bitter taste to this one.
Zapatero had said shortly after the election that he would withdraw
troops if there weren't a new UN resolution by June 30. This no longer matters. He explains his change with a lack of trust
in such a resolution. He might be right,
but UN Security Council members will decide that. This group must feel humiliated by Spain's
unilateral measure. Madrid did not wait for their vote, which once again shows
events on the ground strongly influenced alliances and diplomatic efforts. Insurgents dictate the course between
Brussels and New York."
"Victory For Terrorists"
Michael Stuermer commented in right-of-center Die Welt of
Berlin (4/19): "Zapatero will keep
his promise--made in the election campaign, when he surfed on a wave of
anti-Americanism and opposition to the war--ignoring that he will do exactly
what the 3/11 terrorists in Madrid wanted to achieve. They will draw the conclusion that terror
pays off; that it does not only result into government change, but also compels
military retreats. As a result we won't
see less, but more terror. Europeans are
patiently writing nice drafts for a common foreign and security policy and
rapid reaction forces, but realities in Berlin and Madrid look different: when it gets serious there is no European
awareness for dangers and no strategic solidarity. It is not just about the Spanish brigade in
Iraq. It is about the fundamental
question whether the West stands firm defending the values that unite Europe
and America. It would be a victory for
terrorists if we all acted egoistically."
"Rescuing The Coalition"
Regional paper Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung of Osnabrueck
editorialized (4/19): "Zapatero's
government does not look good with a decision like that. But the Bush government looks worse.... Doubts are growing as a result of this
mess. People in Italy, New Zealand and
the Philippines discuss the correlation between regime change in Iraq, the UN
role and the deployment of troops. Bush
must react to it and look for a way via the UN, if he wants to rescue his
coalition and rely on NATO this summer.
The way will be difficult and there is no guarantee for success, but it
is the only exit, given the bad planning of the U.S. government for the time
ITALY: “Poland Is Now
Wavering, Bush Needs Reinforcements”
Ennio Caretto observed from Washington in centrist,
top-circulation Corriere della Sera (4/22): “The Bush administration is
ready to increase the number of soldiers in Iraq and war funds, as well; it
does not count on allied reinforcements.
Defense deputy secretary Paul Wolfowitz said it before the Congress, in
the wake of growing polemics, while Poland is considering, if not withdrawing,
at least reducing its contingent...
Republican Senator Chuck Hegel…said something about sending another
20,000 soldiers, at least, by June 30....
In his speech before 1,500 U.S. media managers, President Bush has not
mentioned any military escalation, but acknowledged that ‘these past weeks have
really been tough.’... The White House
does its best to dispel the impression that the coalition is breaking up. Spokesman Scott McClellan insisted that ‘[the
coalition] is strong,’ mentioning Italy and Tony Blair, and underlined that
Pakistan, which is going to take the rotating presidency of the UN in May, is
willing to join a multinational force....
For the Bush administration, this is the right time for a crucial reassessment
of the crisis.... A new UN resolution
could be a last chance, but State Undersecretary Marc Grossman said that it has
not yet been finalized. Kofi Annan is
pushing for it: ‘The UN will be able to return to Iraq only when its security
is guaranteed, and security can only come from a multinational force.”
"Italy’s Expectations And UN’s Doubts"
Franco Venturini noted in centrist, top-circulation Corriere
della Sera (4/20):
“While Zapatero’s decision appears rash, his arguments shouldn’t be
underestimated. There are no
preconditions, as it has been explained in Madrid, leading to a UN resolution,
which would be able to ‘actually’ transfer to the UN, both the political and
military supervision of Iraq as of July 1.
If confirmed, this prediction will be important for everybody,
especially for those countries, like Italy, which have their military forces
deployed in Iraq. The option for a
‘process’ focused on the UN...was previously fully shared by Americans and
Europeans.... The problem is that...it
appears ever clearer that there are two UN resolutions. A plan, called for by Zapatero, supported by
Italy’s Olive Tree, as well as by Germany, Russia and...France; and a second
plan, established by the U.S. and supported....by Great Britain, Italy and most
of the recent Eastern European countries, includes a stronger UN role, but it
also...rules out any possibility that U.S. military forces would be under UN
supervision.... The Italian government
approach is based on the following points: no withdrawal...and ‘the peace
mission’ continues, an ever-stronger relationship...with the U.S., support for
an Iraqi transition and a UN resolution....
However, a confrontation between those two plans for a UN resolution and
some UN reservation might create a clash between reality and intention.”
"A Unilateral Mistake"
Sergio Romano opined in centrist, top-circulation Corriere
della Sera (4/19): “If for one
minute we try to look at things from the perspective of the new Spanish
government, its decision to withdraw its troops without waiting for the June 30
deadline is not surprising.... The new
premier doesn’t believe that the Americans will be able to gain control of the
situation in two months’ time and doesn’t feel that the new government will
have credibility. Certainly, it should
have waited for the new UN resolution permitting the organization to return to
Iraq, before making its decision.... But
there are other things that Spain should have considered. The fact that Spanish voters did away with
Aznar does not exempt Zapatero from remembering that the decision to go into
Iraq was made in a tri-party meeting in the Azores.... By making this hasty move, Zapatero has
chosen the road of unilateralism and is creating a great deal of trouble for
the European members of the coalition and is damaging Europe’s image in the
"Europe Divided In the Iraqi Darkness"
Guido Rampoldi noted in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica
(4/19): “Justifiable in its motivations,
but surprising in its method, the sudden announcement on the part of Madrid [to
withdraw its troops from Iraq] takes us back to a Europe which moves devoid of
order, to a West which is in pieces, to an America that is dangerously alone at
a critical time. We can’t deny that the
Spanish withdrawal reflects a realistic vision of the situation in Iraq. The chances that the UN will take on the
‘political lead’ in Iraq, a prerequisite that Madrid required to keep its
troops in Iraq, are now practically zero.”
RUSSIA: "Spain Pulls
Out Of Iraq"
Juan Cobo filed in business-oriented Kommersant
(4/20): "When he became Prime
Minister, the Socialists' leader not only did not succumb to pressure (from the
once ruling Popular Party as well as the U.S. and coalition allies), but went
beyond his election promises by pushing forward the dates of troop withdrawal
as far as possible. Explaining his decision, the Prime Minister said that the
situation in Iraq was growing worse and it seemed unlikely that the UN would
adopt a resolution enabling the Spanish troops to stay on.... Also, the new Prime Minister is working to
fulfill his other election promise which is to do away with the policies of the
former conservative government which had a penchant for secrecy."
Yevgeniy Grigoryev observed in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta
(4/20): "Spain has presented the
U.S. with a fait accompli. Getting the
Spanish troops out of Iraq looks like part of the 'new foreign policy' Zapatero
declared in his government statement in Parliament. For all its desire to maintain friendship
with the United States, Madrid, as it is taking this step, is moving closer to
France, Germany and other European countries on Iraq. At the same time, it looks like a bid for a
more active and independent role in international affairs."
"Coalition Falls Apart"
Veniamin Ginodman said in reformist Gazeta (4/20): "The fifteen hundred Spanish soldiers
pulled out of Iraq on Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's orders
won't affect the alignment of forces in Iraq, with foreign military presence
there totaling some 160,000. But the
very fact of Spanish withdrawal sets a serious political precedent.... The U.S. administration has every reason to
fear Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's way of thinking prevailing in all of
Zapatero And Albanians"
Mustafa Nano noted in top circulation center-left Shekulli
(4/21): "The immediate withdrawal
of military troops from Iraq was a decision taken on his first day in the
office by the new Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero.... Honduras was quick to follow Spain's
example.... We should not be surprised
if other countries will follow Spain's example.... Did Zapatero make a commendable decision in
this situation? It does not seem to be
so. On the contrary, this was the most
inappropriate moment to do that. There were many reasons to stop this war, and
there were no reasons to do this war, but the voices that today request the
withdrawal of coalition troops from Iraq do not seem driven by cool
reasoning. Zapatero's decision is
certainly a fulfillment of his electoral promise, but withdrawing Spanish
troops before the deadline of June 30 (this was also a promise) reveals...the
unconditional anti-Americanism of the Spanish Socialist leader, this being a
characteristic of many European leftists....
All these did very well to oppose the adventure of the American
neo-conservative administration, but today you cannot apply the same logic of
one year ago. War is a fait accompli
now, and nowadays Iraq is a reality that should be faced and which you cannot
escape. What happens if the coalition
forces obey to the voices of pacifists' movements and leave Iraq in the mercy
of terrorist rebels? The consequences would be catastrophic!...none of
reasoning can justify abandoning Iraq....
We Albanians are part of this reality. A large part of us did not want this war, many
others did not agree to send troops to Iraq, but now it is time for a new
stance.... Either the determination to
stand by the Americans, or a Zapatero-like decision is destined to have
international echo.... The Albanian Government has made its choice.... On one side it would not be wrong to ridicule
government bragging about sending additional troops to Iraq, but on the other
side we should not be impressed much by the Zapatero siren. Not being tempted
by the playful sounds of this siren, Albanians are not expressing their loyalty
to the choice made by their government; on the contrary, they are not escaping
their responsibilities like cowards."
AUSTRIA: "Kofi Annan -
A Sad Figure"
Senior foreign editor Anneliese Rohrer wrote in
centrist Die Presse (4/22): " The lunacy of random killing has a
method.... This creates feelings of
panic, as shown by the withdrawal of Spain from the coalition of the
willing. However, Madrid's decision is
also due to the failure of the U.N. - after all, new Spanish Prime Minister
Zapatero gave the fact that there is no sign of a new U.N. resolution on Iraq
as one of the reasons for his country's withdrawal.... With every panic attack in the U.N. headquarters,
with every day spent hesitating and procrastinating, the terrorists' confidence
that they will reach their goal with blood and thunder grows. Many countries would probably take on greater
commitments in Iraq, if only they could justify it at home with a U.N.
mandate. It is tragic: Kofi Annan
wouldn't be the first Nobel Peace Prize winner who, in the end, fails to live
up to this distinction. Because he has
absolutely nothing to set against the threatening situation that the world is
in, the man with the quiet voice might soon be seen as a rather pathetic
"Improvising In Iraq"
Christoph Winder stated in liberal Der
Standard (4/20): “U.S. civil
administrator Paul Bremer’s recent pledge to crack down on insurgents in
Fallujah and Najaf betrays the level of nervousness in the U.S. government.
There’s good reason to be nervous....
Militarily, Spain’s decision to immediately withdraw its troops from
Iraq, is something the Americans can easily cope with, but symbolically, the
move has sorely weakened the ‘Coalition of the Willing'.... Caught in a dilemma, Bush seems to be banking
on a rather puzzling potpourri of possible remedies, ranging from a more
prominent UN role to a massive use of military power. All of this goes to show
that the United States’ actions in Iraq are not the result of a
well-thought-out, long-term strategy, but are guided by makeshift
improvisation. Not exactly the best way to promote the pacification of a
country that only a short while ago was considered one of the pilot projects of
the Middle East.”
"Zapatero’s Signal To Europe And The
Deputy chief editor Victor Hermann wrote
independent provincial Salzburger Nachrichten (4/20): “Madrid’s diagnosis, that there will be no
new UNSC resolution on Iraq, nor a sustainable UN mandate by June 30, appears
to be accurate.... Thus, the crucial
signal from Madrid is addressed to Washington. The U.S. government will have to
reckon with the possibility that the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ is starting to
crumble.... U.S. diplomacy would do well
to analyze the part it played in bringing about this mess: Winning allies by
driving a wedge between ‘old’ and ‘new’ Europe.... The glee, Donald Rumsfeld may have felt when
he relegated Paris and Berlin to the back seat, can’t have lasted long.
Professional diplomacy would have served the U.S. and its President far
"Coalition Is Falling Apart"
Foreign Affairs Editor Jurcia Korbler contended
in Zagreb-based Government-owned Vjesnik (4/20): "It is becoming more and more difficult
to control the Iraqi chaos, and it is now completely clear that allies do not
have a real vision about what to do next.
Force has proven to be an inefficient means, and more soldiers have died
in April than during last year’s invasion against Iraq. Nobody wants to admit the mistake that such
strategy should not have been applied in bringing down Saddam Hussein, and
Americans and the British are becoming more and more lonely. It is possible that some other countries will
follow the Spanish example, and then it will really become questionable who
will form the coalition. The Iraqi
example has shown us once again that guerrillas can be more successful than the
strongest war machine, and that distribution of justice by force has never yielded
results. Spain is an example that even
the large ones can admit mistakes.”
CZECH REPUBLIC: "We Must Not Leave The Poles In
Pavel Masa wrote in center-right Lidove noviny (4/22): "The Spanish rash decision to withdraw
from Iraq posed serious problems for the Poles.
Polish Premier Lezsek Miller hinted that Warsaw is considering
withdrawal. Although President Aleksandr
Kwasniewski subsequently ruled out such a possibility, a Pandora's box has been
open. It is impossible to leave Iraq to
its fate. It would be a collapse of not
only George Bush's policy, as many believe, but also a crushing defeat of the
whole international system of which the Czech Republic is a part. The remedy does not depend only on the number
of units in Iraq but mainly on the tasks the units will be assigned to
fulfill. The Americans have not failed
in military terms but they failed to use power as a tool to administer sensibly
the occupied country. As of July, the
administration of occupied Iraq will be replaced by foreign assistance in the
renewal of this country. In view of the
task's complex military, economic and political aspects, there actually exists
only one, single force which is capable of accomplishing it - NATO as a whole. NATO's approach to the task will determine
not only NATO's further existence but also the form of the international order
for the next decade."
"The Spanish Leave Iraq.
Adam Cerny wrote in business-oriented Hospodarske noviny
(4/20): "Organizers of the Madrid
bombing...[will view the Spanish withdrawal from Iraq] as proof that their
tactic has worked. The ceasefire with
Spanish soldiers, announced by Muktad Sadr, can be translated as an indirect
appeal to other politicians to follow Zapatero’s example. Both advocates and opponents of the war in
Iraq seem to agree that losses in Iraq concern everybody. [However,] in the process of their tactical
exchange they may miss the chance when things can still be mended in
"Madrid Be Followed?"
Peter Talas asserted in right-wing conservative Hungarian-language
Magyar Nemzet (4/20):
"Spain's move most probably won't have a imitative effect on other
countries, because the UN gives enough authorization to European
countries. From Iraq's point of view it
would be extremely risky to withdraw the soldiers, because the situation is
just not stable enough. Now that the coalition forces started a war against a
country in the Middle East last March they ought to fill the security policy
vacuum created there. It is not, on the
other hand, the terrorists' objective that they seal together the today still
split western world with their continued attacks."
Endre Aczel argued in leading Hungarian-language Nepszabadsag
(4/20): "The Spanish withdrawal
from Iraq hits President Bush's Iraq policy hard. The White House seeks to make its own
'undertaking' as international as possible, but Madrid's recent move might even
reverse that whole process.... All
Washington could say (or hint) to the developments was that chicken-heartedness
has been gaining a victory over terrorism.
Many countries now ask the question: what are we doing in Iraq? But the new Spanish government's case is
not typical. Because the Spanish
socialists, together with Prime Minister Zapatero, built their entire election
campaign around the promise of withdrawing the Spanish contingent from Iraq.
The new situation has, as EU chief Romano Prodi indicated, a European dimension
as well. Prodi described Spain's
original move as a decision that created a crack within the EU and an obstacle
to a joint common European stance on the Iraq issue. (Germany and France
opposed, Great Britain and Spain supported, the United States). Prodi's judgment is correct but a bit
one-sided. Prodi forgets to take the
soon-to-be-new EU members into consideration.
Almost all of those countries that join the EU on May 1st are in
Iraq. with their continued attacks The question
now is what will be their response to the 'Spanish precedent.'"
IRELAND: "Movement Of
Elite U.S. Troops A Key Development"
held in the center-left Irish Times (4/22): "The attacks (Basra) appear to be part
of a pattern on the part of Iraqi insurgents to exploit perceived weaknesses in
the US-led coalition's deployment in central and southern Iraq. Coinciding with
these attacks in recent days has been the announcement of impending troop
withdrawals from Iraq of Spanish, Honduran and Dominican troops. Sustained
attacks in the Multinational Division areas, along with these announcements,
have required US forces to redeploy into these areas. The redeployments,
designed to reinforce and reinvigorate flagging coalition partners, have forced
the U.S. military to extend by four months the tours of duty of 20,000 US troops.... The redeployment of this unit in recent days
to Najaf is a critical development....
The replacement of these relatively inexperienced newcomers with a
battle-hardened armoured division is an ominous development for Moqtada al-Sadr
and the Mahdi militia based in Najaf…..Najaf looks set to become the scene of a
major confrontation between die-hard Shia insurgents and elite American troops.
Such a confrontation will be seen by many senior commanders in Centcom as a
litmus test for the resolve and prowess of the U.S. military in Iraq in its
efforts to forge a secure environment - particularly as the June 30th deadline
"How Iraq Is To Be Governed"
The center-left Irish Times editorialized (4/20): "The coalition can no longer run Iraq on
its own.... Mr. Zapatero has injected a
welcome decisiveness into the vague and ill-defined international debate on
Iraq's future. There has been a too easy assumption that the U.S. will continue
to run its military and economic affairs after a formal transfer of political
power.... Mr. Zapatero has also
fulfilled a democratic undertaking given repeatedly to his political
constituency in Spain. Those who say his announcement represents an objective
victory for terrorist movements following the March 11th al-Qaida attacks on
Madrid fail to understand the democratic imperative which drove Spaniards to
vote for his party in protest against the previous government's decisions to
support the war and send troops to Iraq. Polls show 90 per cent of the
electorate opposed them. Mr. Zapatero's decision is in keeping with his
commitment to confront terrorism ‘within the framework of international
legality’ and in a politically engaged fashion rather than by purely military
means. There were several signs yesterday that the Spanish decision could
affect other states involved militarily in Iraq.... Recent misjudgments by the U.S. occupation
authorities about how to deal with him (Shia rebel cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr)
have influenced Mr. Zapatero. His announcement will have added value if it
stimulates a much more vigorous international debate on how Iraq should be
governed and secured after the formal transfer of sovereignty on June 30th.
There is still time to ensure this is done under much more comprehensive UN
auspices, with a much more clear-cut commitment to Iraqi control than has so
far been envisaged.”
POLAND: “No More
Editor-in-chief Grzegorz Jankowski opined in Fakt (4/23):
“The reasons for the evacuation of the Spanish contingent and two smaller ones
are clear. The stabilization mission in Iraq turned into an action to suppress
the rebellion. This means that Polish troops stationed there have a problem not
only with weakened troops, but also with a change of tactics. While they were
well prepared for maintaining a peace mission, they are not properly equipped
to conduct combat operations. We went to Iraq to secure peace. Instead, we are
forced to defend ourselves from the attacks of rebels - and most likely conduct
regular pacification actions in the future. If the Americans expect support
from us, they first must help us arm ourselves better. The time of desperate
attacks by the Polish army is over.”
"Cold Shower From Warsaw And Oslo"
Jiri Roskot commented in center-left Pravo (4/22): "Withdrawal of the Spanish army from
Iraq - and also of the Norwegian and perhaps Polish and Thai soldiers - is a
great political failure for the White House.
A new UN resolution may not bring any salvation, either: In the atmosphere of increasing hostility
towards all foreigners that was created by the U.S. military presence, even
non-American units will suffer heavy losses.
And only few [countries] will be willing to share this risk with the
White House, which had first decided to launch the war without the UN and with
Joanna Krawczyk opined in right-of-center Zycie
(4/20): “Spain’s new socialist prime
minister acted exactly the way the Islamic fundamentalists wanted. He yielded
to blackmail.... Zapatero’s declaration
strengthened radical Muslims’ conviction that it is easy to influence civilized
communities with threats and attacks....
The civilized world...must finally confront radical Islam. And there is
no doubt it will lose the confrontation if it gives in, shows fear, cowardice
and meekness.... The only chance [for a
civilized world] in its showdown with radical Islam is a joint,
well-coordinated action: showing power and unity instead of weakness, division,
and mutual mistrust.”
Respected center-left Diário de Notícias concluded
(4/20): "What is most disconcerting
about Zapatero's decision is that it is only based on the supposition that the
UN will not be able to approve, until July 30, a resolution that will allow
them to stabilize the Iraqi situation when, on that date, the power will be
transferred to an Iraqi administration....
Spain is a sovereign country and its government, recently legitimized by
the elections, has the right to assume those positions that are more protective
of its national interests. However, when
this same government announces, probably in order to minimize expected negative
reactions, that it is preparing a special plan against international terrorism,
it immediately begs the question of knowing how and with whom will it execute
it? International cooperation is,
normally, a two-way street. Otherwise,
the door becomes open for national egotisms."
"Zapatero Confirms Worst Expectations"
Editor-in-chief José Manuel Fernandes noted in influential
moderate left Publico (4/19):
"José Luis Zapatero, the new president of the Spanish government,
confirmed the worst expectations. The
day following the composition of his cabinet, after the Ministers of Foreign
Affairs of the European Union's meeting with the UN representative for Iraq in
an effort to coordinate positions, two days before his own Minister of Foreign
Affairs' visit to Washington to meet with Colin Powell about a new UN
resolution, 75 days before the deadline he, himself, set for this new
resolution, he announced the immediate withdrawal of Spanish troops from
Iraq.... He declared that he did not
believe it would be possible to reach an acceptable resolution and, because of
that, he informed his partners and withdrew unilaterally. Could anyone who behaves in this manner ever
try, in the future, to defend multilateralism?"
ISRAEL: "Rooting For
Nachman Shai wrote in conservative, independent Jerusalem Post
(4/18): "The move [the U.S.]
initiated in Iraq was justified and correct....
Anyone who opts for a policy of surrender and appeasement, as recently
exhibited by the new Spanish government's rush to withdraw its forces from
Iraq, is only inviting global terror to continue.... Israel is rightfully concerned that American
determination could flag.... An American
withdrawal would leave us alone in an already hostile environment that would only,
in such circumstances, become even more violent and cruel."
SAUDIA ARABIA: "The
Spanish Decision And Washington’s Crisis"
Abha’s moderate Al-Watan editorialized (4/21): "After Spain’s decision to pull out from
Iraq, Washington is more than ever in dire need for support from the UN. The
Spanish decision puzzled Washington because now it has lost its pretext of a
‘multi national coalition’ working to restore order in Iraq. President Bush could not hide his frustration. This was obvious in the phone calls he made
after the Spanish decision. Bush blamed
the Spanish government, and all those who are thinking of deserting the
coalition, for a possible deterioration in security in Iraq. For a way out Washington resorted to
yesterday’s enemies (France, Russia, and Germany). A move like this is proof of
a strategic defeat for the U.S.
Washington was proud of its military might, but it finds itself today in
a critical situation and in need of international support. This is just another mistake of many that the
Bush Administration has committed."
"Time Of Withdrawals From Iraq"
Riyadh’s moderate, Al-Jazirah editorialized (4/21): "The U.S.-led military coalition was
further strained by the announcement by several coalition forces that they
would withdraw their military from Iraq. This will meet the growing demands of
the international community to turn the Iraqi issue over to the United
Nations. Entrusting the United Nations
with the post-occupation administration of Iraq might help in reducing the
current tension in Iraq."
JORDAN: "The Spanish
Forces’ Withdrawal And The American Failure In Iraq”
Daily columnist Yaser Za’atreh wrote on the op-ed page of
center-left, influential Arabic Al-Dustour (4/22): “There is no point in viewing the withdrawal
of the Spanish forces from Iraq as the outcome of fears of armed operations
against Spanish interests inside and outside Iraq. How would we explain the Hondurans’ decision
to do the same and the expected decision by Thailand? What is actually going on is an expression of
the international forces’ feeling that the American occupation project of Iraq
has become a reason for financial and human exhaustion and title for defeat. It has become clear that the cake that was
promised to the collaborators has become some sort of lethal poison.... No one can sacrifice troops for a failing
project, let alone for the sake of neo-conservatives in the United States? This is of course the fruit of the work of
the Iraqi resistance, not the accomplishments of members of the governing
council or peaceful resistance.... The
Spanish move is to be praised and appreciated because it simply declared the
defeat of the occupation project in Iraq.”
LEBANON: “What Follows
Spain’s Withdrawal From Iraq?”
An editorial by Aouni Al-Kaaki in pro-Syria Ash-Sharq
(4/20): “It is very difficult to reduce
the impact of the Spanish Prime Minister’s decision to withdraw Spanish troops
from Iraq despite efforts by the American Administration to suggest that this
withdrawal will have no impact whatsoever.
Such a decision is important because it will encourage other countries
to think about withdrawing their troops.
This was apparent in the Japanese statements, which noted that their
troops went to Iraq to help in rebuilding and not to get involved in the
war.... The question now is as
follows: What happens if the results of
elections in England topple Blair and his Party.... What if a new government comes to England and
decides to withdraw its troops from Iraq?
What will the U.S. do?...
Obviously no one is saying that the Americans will be conquered in Iraq,
however, this issue cannot be measures by criteria based on victory and
failure. It has to be measured by the
U.S. ability to coexist with a long war of attrition.... The coalition troops are starting to
dismantle in Iraq and the U.S. will find itself alone in Iraq one day.”
"Coalition Creaking At The Seams"
The pro-government expatriate-oriented Gulf
News declared (4/20): "Spain's
foreign minister has told his Egyptian counterpart that its troops will pull
out from Iraq 'within 15 days.' Military
sources say it is more likely to take one or two months because of operational
requirements. If that is so, then the Spanish people will think the Coalition
Provisional Authority...is deliberately dragging its feet for political reasons
and will be less than pleased. The CPA
will want to delay departure of Spanish troops, as their going will reflect
badly on the 'coalition of the willing' that the Bush Administration talks
fondly of. The alliance is creaking at the seams.... Poland (with 2,400 troops in Iraq) and the
Ukraine (1,650) want to go but, when questioned by the media, attempted to show
unity behind the CPA. Yet Poland has said it cannot make up Spain's short-fall,
but only replace those troops injured or killed in the violence. Similarly, Kazakhstan (27) has said it will
not be replenishing its troop contingent when its soldiers finish their current
tour of duty, and Portugal (128) may also withdraw from Iraq. Although the
numbers are small and will not make a significant difference to the 170,000 or
more troops and security personnel in Iraq, it is more a matter of Bush's
prestige and ability to hold the coalition together that comes into
question. From the outset of the
invasion, there has been criticism that America was ill-prepared for the peace
and has shown a remarkably clumsy attitude to the handling of Arab
sensitivities. The criticism has become more vociferous with each passing day
as more deaths occur on all sides, and talk of peace is sidelined. The U.S. is
proving itself inept."
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
CHINA (HONG KONG SAR): "Spanish Withdrawal Triggers A Domino
The pro-PRC Chinese-language Macau Daily News remarked in
an editorial (4/21): "The
announcement of the new Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero's withdrawal of 1,300
Spanish troops has triggered a domino effect.
It dealt a heavy blow to the U.S., which finds itself is in a tight
corner in Iraq.... Among the 34
countries, excluding the U.S. and Britain, that are participating in the
coalition forces, ten countries plan to back out. Even though those countries that plan to back
out only make up one-third of the total number and they only make up a small
percentage of the 160,000 coalition forces, the impact of their withdrawal will
be much greater. The withdrawal marks
the shrinking of the international community's support of the U.S. The U.S. is becoming more and more
isolated. The domino effect has just
begun. We believe that more and more
countries will think about withdrawing....
In order to guard against al Qaeda's warning of terrorist attacks, the
U.S. has to put a huge amount of resources into counter terrorism
activities. The U.S. is being attacked
from the front and rear.... It is really
too much for Bush. His popularity rating
may continue to drop, which will affect his election bid in the upcoming
presidential election. In such a
situation, Bush may be pressed to consider allowing the UN to play a bigger
role. Only under the UN flag, can the
U.S. secure more countries' support to settle the Iraqi issue."
"Spanish Withdrawal A Setback For
The independent English-language South China Morning Post
maintained (4/20): "Any chance of
successfully resolving the problems in Iraq depends on securing participation
from more countries around the world.
Spain's withdrawal will have the opposite effect, placing pressure on
other nations to do the same. While most
of the 34 countries with troops on the ground are standing firm, some may
waver. There is a risk of a domino
effect. Portuguese withdrawal, for
example, is now seen as a possibility.
The removal of Spanish troops is therefore a big setback in the bid to
bring peace and security to Iraq. But if
it proves to be an isolated case, progress may yet be made. The withdrawal should serve as a warning to
the U.S. that any failure to genuinely hand over power will risk further
fragmenting the coalition. We can expect
the pressure on the nations concerned to build.
There is no avoiding the fact that Spain's decision hands a victory to
the terrorists. Similar outrages are
likely elsewhere, especially when elections are held. The recent offer, purportedly made by Osama
bin Laden, of a truce in Europe for countries that do not interfere in Muslim
affairs, is a sign of the new strategy.
The world cannot afford to bow to threats from terrorists. Spain, however understandable its actions may
be, has set a worrying precedent."
JAPAN: "Spain's Troop
Pullout - A Major Blow To Coalition Of The Willing"
The business-oriented Nihon Keizai editorialized (4/21):
"Spain's decision to withdraw 1,400 troops - at a time when the security
situation in Iraq is at its worst since the fall of Baghdad one year ago - has
dealt a major blow to the U.S. and British-led 'coalition of the willing.' Honduras has clarified plans to withdraw its
troops, who have been serving under Spanish command. There are concerns that other members of the
coalition will follow in the footsteps of Spain and Honduras. To break the Iraq standoff, the UNSC should
adopt a new resolution that would allow the UN to play a central role in
normalization and reconstruction efforts in Iraq. The U.S. and Britain have already endorsed a
central UN role in the creation of an interim government following the CPA's
transfer of power to Iraqi on June 30.
The two nations should go a step further in closing the gap with Germany
and France on Iraq's reconstruction. In
Japan, there may be a rise in calls for the withdrawal of SDF troops from Iraq.
But it is important that Japan maintain its humanitarian and reconstruction
mission in the war-devastated nation."
"Spain's Troop Pullout Should Not Disrupt Solidarity In
Top-circulation, moderate Yomiuri editorialized
(4/20): "New Spanish Prime Minister
Zapatero said on Sunday that he has given orders for 1,400 Spanish troops in
Iraq to come home as soon as possible.
We are concerned that the withdrawal of the Spanish force will create a
heavy drag on reconstruction operations in Iraq. Nations trying to restore order in the
war-torn nation and assist in rebuilding efforts must not avert their eyes from
the negative effects that will ensue from this disruptive action. These 'good Samaritan' nations must not be
disturbed by Spain's decision. U.S. and
other coalition forces are still fighting Islamic militants and foreign
terrorists in Iraq. The postwar nation needs more support from the
international community than ever before.
If the reconstruction operations do not proceed smoothly and Iraq turns
into a failed state, the coalition will have played right into the hands of
international terrorist organizations.
Nobody in the world community wants to see such an outcome."
"Coalition Of The Willing Comes Off Its Hinges"
An editorial in liberal Asahi read (4/20): "With new Spanish Prime Minister
Zapatero's issuance of an order for Spanish troops to withdraw from Iraq as
soon as possible, the U.S.-led 'coalition of the willing', consisting of about
30 nations, has come off its hinges.
Zapatero made the decision on the troop pullout after judging that the
U.S. endorsement of a UN initiative in the creation of an interim government
following the CPA's transfer of power will not necessarily represent a transfer
of leadership from the U.S. to the world organization in terms of
reconstruction activities in Iraq. Given
the worsening security situation in Iraq and reports of intense fighting, the
withdrawal of Spanish troops will deal a major blow to the U.S. and other
coalition members, some of whom are concerned about the stabilization of Iraq
following the CPA's transfer of power.
Public opinion in a number of coalition countries is also increasingly
skeptical about the prolonged presence of troops in Iraq. As things stand, it is not certain whether
the UN can take the initiative in Iraq's reconstruction. Spain's withdrawal
from Iraq also appears to be an international 'cry of distress' over the U.S.,
who continues to refuse to make any fundamental changes to its policy on
Withdrawal Demonstrates Weak U.S. Persuasiveness"
Leading independent Kompas commented
(4/21): “President George Bush’s efforts to persuade Spain to maintain its
troops in Iraq were not strong enough.
The Spanish government over the weekend announced it would pull out its
1,400 troops from Iraq.… We have yet to
find out how this would affect Spain’s bilateral relations with the U.S. Some say it will only have a limited impact,
just as in the case of Germany and France.
Both countries opposed U.S. occupation in Iraq but U.S.-Germany and
U.S.-France relations have not been severely affected. But behind the German and French and Spanish
positions, one can see a substantial change in the relations between nations
after the end of the Cold War. Unlike
during the Cold War, U.S. allies are not able to have different views about
global political issues.”
"A People's War"
An editorial in the independent Otago Daily
Times ventured (Internet version, 4/21):
"So there is to be a political cost to those leaders who supported
the American invasion of Iraq; that much is certain given the example of
Spain.... Just a day after being sworn
in, Mr Zapatero ordered all Spanish soldiers out of Iraq. From a tactical point
of view, the Islamic militants who are fomenting anti-West terror must look
upon this as a worthwhile new weapon in their inventory, for it is thought to
be the first time they have successfully influenced election results in a
Western democracy.... The Americans
already have an international coalition of about 30 countries committed to the
occupation and reconstruction of Iraq, and a president who is unwavering in his
commitment to completing the task. There
are signs, however, that even Mr Bush and his advisers, in recognising the
changed nature of the war – change brought about by the people in Iraq – are
urgently modifying tactics with November in mind. Mr Bush used to say that
America would not negotiate with terrorists, yet that is exactly what
representatives of his administration are doing today with representatives of
several of the fragments that make up Iraq's guerrilla forces and their sect
leaders.... Washington vigorously denies
any comparison between the war in Iraq and the war in Vietnam, which resulted
in a defeat for the United States and electoral consequences for two
presidential administrations. While that denial may be technically valid, there
are history lessons to be learned from the Vietnam War.... The fighting in Iraq
has also become a war of self-determination, which 150,000 foreign occupying
troops – appointed the liberators – cannot possibly 'win'. In such
circumstances, the June 30 deadline for an end to the occupation administration
and the transition to a new interim Iraqi government is vitally important for
international security. The New Zealand
Government properly supports measures that will lead directly to the restoration
of self-government in Iraq. A United Nations-mandated presence should moderate
the transition as a matter or urgency, and the leave the people of Iraq to
settle their own fate."
“U.N. Showing Little Enthusiasm In Iraq”
The moderate Today said (4/21): “While campaigning last month... Zapatero
vowed that a Socialist government led by him would implement the troop pullout
if the United Nations fails to take charge of the Iraqi situation by June
30.…Now that they are firmly in power, the Spanish Socialists are making good on
their campaign promise. With the United
Nations showing little enthusiasm to take command of the mess created by the
American-led coalition’s invasion of Iraq, Zapatero felt he had no choice but
to move forward his timetable for the Spanish troop withdrawal. Whether the pullout will ultimately make
Spain a safer place, only time can tell.
What’s important is that most Spaniards believe it will.”
“Little To Worry About U.S. Reprisal For A RP Pullout”
The moderate Today (4/21) said: “In the Philippines, the Spanish pullout has
emboldened left-wing and other groups that have been insisting that Filipinos
have no business going to war in the Middle East.…Mrs. Arroyo’s drive for a
fresh mandate (as Philippine president) on May 10 has received a boost from
favorable survey results.... But all
that could suddenly change if any of the peacekeepers she dispatched to Iraq is
injured or…killed. The public’s outcry
over decision to send Filipinos in harm’s way could quickly reverse what
progress her campaign has been able to accomplish…in recent weeks. If the President fears American reprisal
following a Filipino pullout from Iraq, she has little cause to worry. The United States is in no position to create
animosity where it can maintain friendship, especially among members of the
Coalition of the Willing that are having second thoughts about the wisdom of
taking part in the American venture in Iraq.”
VIETNAM: "A Blow To
The U.S.'s Hope"
Thy An wrote in Ha Noi Moi, a daily run by the local government
of Hanoi, (4/22): "It is clear that
by deciding to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq, the new prime minister of
Spain demonstrates a clear stance opposing a war not approved by the UN.... This decision is rekindling good relations
between Spain and the part of Europe that opposes the war and serves as another
disadvantage for the U.S. and its allies in Iraq. It also shows that the [U.S.] invasion is
becoming a defeat. This is really a blow
to the U.S.'s hope to mobilize forces to serve its vision."
INDIA: "The Iraq
An analysis in the pro-BJP right-of-center Pioneer by
Anuradha Dutt stated (4/22):
"Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero announced that
the 1,300 troops stationed in Iraq would soon be withdrawn, fulfilling his
pre-election pledge. Last month's terrorist attacks on Madrid left little cause
for revising this decision. In the meantime, U.S. President George W. Bush,
faced with the prospect of troop withdrawal gaining momentum, has urged Spain
and other allies to stick by in the offensive against Iraq. But Zapatero is
resolute, showing he is his own man. In
the wake of this announcement, Honduras said that its 370 troops would withdraw
from beleaguered Iraq very quickly. And, Thailand said that if its 451 medical
and engineering troops were attacked, they would be pulled out. The escalating
violence, despite a shaky cease-fire at Fallujah, has stirred fears of a bloody
reprisal against American allies, some of who are now eager to get out of a war
that does not concern them.... The
spillover of the Iraq imbroglio is being felt even in distant India, where the
government last year was reported to be on the verge of committing
peace-keeping troops. The media outcry and the impending general elections
stymied the ill-advised move. However, what we now have to fear is whether the
new government that comes to power is likely to wilt under U.S. pressure, which
is certain to intensify as the going gets tougher in the occupied country.
President Bush, faced with a difficult run for re-election later this year, is
going to shop around for substitutes for American soldiers, who seem unable to
cope with the rigors of the guerrilla war currently underway in Iraq. Apart from the division in the West, the
world is getting polarized into the Christian and Islamic blocs. India, as a
secular Hindu-majority nation, with Muslims comprising the second largest
constituency, can at best remain neutral. This would be in its own interests,
especially because Bush's conservative Christian home base in Texas is reported
to favor a final showdown with the anti-Christ and his followers."
"Spain Gives The Jolt"
An editorial in independent Urdu language Awam held (4/21):
"By pulling its troops from Iraq, Spain has given a strong message to
other countries cooperating with the US in the illegal occupation of that
country. The celebrations of the Spanish people of the withdrawal of their
country's troops from Iraq symbolize the public resentment in various countries
against the unjustified US invasion in Iraq. Although the US-UK combine have
promised to turnover political sovereignty to Iraq on June 30, there is little
ground to believe them, given the past experience. Faced with an increasingly
hostile situation, they can easily find excuses to prolong the
"Announcement Of Spanish Troops Withdrawal from Iraq"
An editorial note in the center-right Urdu daily Pakistan
(4/21): "Spain’s newly elected
Prime Minister has announced that he has ordered Spanish troops in Afghanistan
to return to the country. Like Britain,
Spain was in the forefront in the American adventurism against Iraq, but now
Spain’s policy has taken a 180-degree turn with the success of Socialist Party
in the election. America should learn a
lesson from the change and end aggression against Iraq."
"Spain's Correct Decision"
Karachi-based center-left independent national English-language Dawn
held (4/20): "Spain's decision to
withdraw its troops from Iraq is the logical outcome of the Socialist Party's
electoral victory last month. A day after being sworn in as Prime Minister, Mr.
Rodriguez Zapatero asked the new Defense Minister to have Spain's 1,300 troops
withdrawn from Iraq 'in the shortest possible time'.... He has acted in a way that serves his
country's best interests. His move could
perhaps influence other governments' thinking on the question of exposing their
troops to death for no reason other than that of serving America's interests as
defined by the neo-cons."
ARGENTINA: "The Withdrawal Of Spanish
Troops (From Iraq)"
An editorial in leading Clarin read
(4/21): "Spanish president Rodriguez Zapatero's first decision on foreign
policy has obviously had immediate, logical and strong impact in and outside of
Spain. The Aznar administration's decision to accompany the U.S. in the Iraq
war...has been strongly questioned and opposed by large sectors of the Spanish,
European and international societies, which organized huge pacifist
demonstrations against it.... We should also add the most serious implications
and consequences of getting involved in an armed conflict not protected by the
international legacy umbrella.... One year later, Spaniards gave their opinion
during presidential elections. Of course, the tremendous blow inflicted on
Madrid before the elections had its impact. But we should believe that the
Aznar administration was punished due to its participation in war. In this way,
by ordering the immediate return of the 1,500 Spanish soldiers stationed in
Iraq, Zapatero has started by honoring his election promise, a comforting
gesture, although it could immediately imply larger uncertainty for the coalition troops
"Questions And Answers"
Paula Lugones, international columnist of
leading Clarin stressed (4/20): "The Shiite uprising was unleashed
a few weeks ago by a bloody clash with Spanish troops. Paradoxically, this
country is the one that now gives sheik Al-Sadr some fresh air to take the
initiative and call other nations to follow the Spanish example. The Shiite
harassment surely hurried the decision made by Zapatero, who is sensible enough
to have tuned with what most Spaniards question: Why to risk suffering more
victims? What benefit does Spain obtain in return, if most of the
reconstruction cake is in the hands of US corporations? What advantages brings
being a member of the U.S. allies club? Is it rational to fight terrorism with
wars? The attack on Madrid offered several responses to this."
"The Threat Of A Domino Effect"
Paula Lugones, international columnist of
leading Clarín commented (4/19): "The White House has no choice but
downplaying Rodriguez Zapatero's decision. But the decision of the brand new
Spanish head of State threatens to unleash a domino effect having a dark impact
for the U.S. The bloody scenario of latest weeks, revived by the multiple kidnappings
of foreign soldiers and civilians, contributed to speeding up the decision
already made by the Socialist. But, how many countries of the coalition could
follow Spain? There are several on the list already, with governments
overwhelmed by strong domestic pressure. In an election year, the horizon is
increasingly complicated for Bush, already hit by the lies on the WMD and a
devilish post-war scenario. In this context, the Spanish decision is obviously
bad news for Washington."
"The U.S. Fears A Domino Effect"
Jorge Rosales, Washington-based correspondent
for daily-of-record La Nacion commented (4/19): "The announcement
made by the Spanish Socialist government represents a hard retreat for the U.S.
strategy on Iraq both from the political and the military viewpoint. It is a
gesture that could be imitated by other nations that are bearing strong
domestic pressure to withdraw their troops from Iraq.... The Bush administration's influential head of
the National Security Council, Condoleezza Rice, admitted yesterday that the
Spanish announcement could lead other countries to reconsider their positions
in the coalition in a sort of domino effect.... Rodriguez Zapatero's decision
did not surprise the U.S.... However,
his announcement unveils the problems faced by the U.S. in maintaining united
the coalition and its underscores even more the pressure that Bush will have to
wield in order to maintain the alliance of the 33 remaining countries."
"Bush And Blair Close Ranks On Iraq"
Jorge Rosales, Washington-based correspondent
for daily-of-record La Nacion commented (4/17): "Yesterday, U.S.
President George W. Bush and UK PM Tony Blair, the two main allies in the war
of Iraq, confirmed their commitment to transferring sovereignty to Iraqis on
June 30 in spite of the deterioration of security and the increase of violence,
and they reiterated their support for Israeli PM Ariel Sharon's polemical
plan.... The UK PM gave signs that he
would accompany Bush in the Middle East in spite of the rejection generated in
Europe by Washington's decision to support Israel's policy of settlements. In a
political turn contrasting with the position they adopted last year at the UN,
which rejected war, the two leaders now expressed their support for the
proposal made by the UN special envoy to form an interim government receiving
power on June 30 from Paul Bremer, occupation administrator, until elections
are held in January 2005. The deepening of the crisis in Iraq due to an
escalation of violence has jeopardized the transfer of power. Perhaps this is why both the U.S. and UK are
now seeking the UN political support in an attempt to increase the number of
countries sustaining the reconstruction process in Iraq."
Center-right O Globo editorialized (4/20): “The
unilateralism of President George W. Bush, especially with respect to the war in Iraq, is producing
all the predictable, nefarious effects.
Fulfilling a campaigning promise, the new Spanish President José Luis
Zapatero has announced the immediate return home of Spaniard troops that his
predecessor, José Maria Aznar, had sent to Iraq, ignoring Spanish will.US
National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice has recognized that the other
countries - of which 34 have troops in Iraq - might follow Zapatero’s
decision. Militarily, the withdrawal of
1,432 Spanish soldiers - or hypothetically of all the other foreign soldiers -
will make little difference. Their main
usefulness is political: They lend to the American occupation - with their 130
thousand military personnel - a convenient façade of multilateralism.In
strictly political terms, Zapatero’s gesture has considerable specific
weight. It confirms Bush’s increasing
unpopularity as well as America's increasing isolation.... Bush’s contempt for
multilateralism also contaminates the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Prime
Minister Sharon is following the same imprudent course. With the U.S. approval
he has adopted an aggressive strategy of selective assassinations to deal with
the Hamas terrorism and that of other groups - what may even be an act of self
defense, but doesn’t guarantee Israel’s safety
- and has decided to leave the occupied territories without negotiating
with the Palestinians, giving back what is no longer of use to him and keeping
what he already considers Israeli property.It has already been proven that
unilateralism - be it of Bush’s, Sharon’s or any other’s - may lead to quick
military victories, but almost never results in permanent political victories.”
The lead editorial in the nationalist Universal (4/20)
stated: “The deterioration of the military situation in Iraq, where during the
past week 10 marines perished and where the insurgents are holding another
American soldier, do not appear to Bush as reasons for sensible reflection, but
rather a reason to escalate the war and adopt more repressive counterinsurgency
measures against the Iraqi population. Some White House spokespeople are not
hiding the fact that the decision by the new head of the Spanish government,
José Zapatero, to speed up the withdrawal of his 1,300 soldiers -after having
characterized the war as unjust and illegal- was a big psychological blow for
Bush… The next step in this nervous escalation is their choice for Ambassador
to Iraq of someone with a dark background: John Negroponte, who, in addition to
being a tough diplomat, is also a known expert in counterinsurgency. .Bush has
decided to increase by 20,000 the number of occupying troops, but this could
have important strategic consequences because, at the same time, he is sticking
with the June 30th deadline for the turnover to ‘a peaceful country and a
friendly government.’ This will be very difficult and that’s why Bush is
Withdrawal From Iraq"
An editorial in government-owned, editorially independent La
Nacion averred (4/20): “What Spain
is doing is recovering its independence to judge events on its own. To accomplish this it is removing itself from
the Bush administration’s rudimentary and warlike interpretation of reality,
which has led the United States into a blind alley. It would be good for the U.S. leadership to
acquire sanity. One cannot draw an
optimistic conclusion from what is so clearly a disaster. The longer the occupation lasts, the higher
the political and military cost the occupation forces will pay. The preventive war doctrine is falling apart,
and there is no way to stop it from happening.”
"Blackmail Or Free Choice"
An editorial in Cartagena's El Universal
stated (4/20): "The decision to
immediately withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq could give the impression that
Rodriguez Zapatero panicked as a result of the latest bin Laden video, after
the Madrid attacks and his initial announcement of a June 30 withdrawal. It could be interpreted by the terrorists as
a victory for their policy of blackmail and played to the world as such."
Daily columnist Orlando Gil averred (4/22) in establishment, pro-business,
government administered Listin Diario (4/22):
"It is good that Dominican soldiers leave Iraq, one could see from
the beginning that the DR’s presence was only a way to validate the imperialist
policy of President George Bush...who defied the whole world with his unilateral behavior, looking for the support
of large countries such as England, Spain and Italy and of small ones, such as
El Salvador, Honduras and the DR. What
is interesting is that that “support” was not for free, and it became evident
in assistance provided by the U.S.
government to the Dominican one, which was undergoing a difficult
economic crisis. All those dealings
with international organizations, such as the IMF and the Paris Club, would not
have gone so smoothly if the DR had not
had such a powerful godfather as the U.S.
One also has to mention all those visits from high-ranking U.S. officials,
the purposes of which could not
have been other than to back up the regime that so solicitously served the U.S.
"The Return Of The Troops"
Leading pro-business, government administered morning Listin
Diario editorialized (4/22):
"The absence of Spanish troops...has placed our military in a quite
uncomfortable and dangerous position...in the middle of a warlike conflict with
very complex characteristics."
"A Correct Decision"
Left-of-center, independent second leading morning Hoy (4/22):
“President Mejia acted correctly in deciding that those Dominican
soldiers sent to Iraq for reconstruction tasks should return to their
country.... As a political decision, the
withdrawal of Dominican troops in Iraq eliminates, for a president who aspires
to be reelected, the growing risk of casualties on the eve of crucial elections
for his political future. While it is
true that the fight against terrorism imposes sacrifices...we must be clear in
that it doesn’t look good for our countries who have suffered first-hand, the
atrocities of an armed intervention, to intervene in other countries, even if
under the name of a so-called reconstruction brigade.”
GUATEMALA: "The Arabian Nights"
Mendez Vides averred in influential morning El
Periodico (4/22): “The armed
conflict will become more difficult to sustain.
The countries that are retiring express the feelings of their people,
opposed to coercion and convenience.
Little by little, others will pull out, and the problem will remain.…
There is still much blood to be shed in Iraq and for the country to divide,
until a new guru (such as Saddam) appears to exert command. Then the country will be further removed from
the West because of resentment and hate, caused by such a cruel incursion.”
"Retreat Under Pressure"
The lead editorial of right-of-center, business-oriented El
Observador held (4/21): “The
decision made by Rodríguez Zapatero is not necessarily mistaken, but it
obviously turns out to be inopportune for having been so hasty. A large number
of his countrymen will surely be satisfied by opposition to the conquest of
Iraq and by the protection that they can count on in terms of personal security.
But the Iraqi confusion will not be solved through the withdrawal of troops but
rather by the establishment of a coalition with more legitimacy than the
current one does. Rodríguez Zapatero based his action on the fact that he was
complying with a pre-election promise. But the promise was that he would
withdraw Spanish troops if by June 30th the United Nations did not take control
of policy in Iraq. It is true that this probably would not have happened in the
near future, but the mere election of Zapatero had caused Bush and Blair to
discuss a role for the UN in Iraq. Even Democratic candidate John Kerry, in
favor of UN participation, lamented the Spanish decision. But the premature measure taken by Zapatero
will inevitably open a flank in what has, up until now, been a solid front
against terrorism. Al Qaida and its minions could easily interpret that they
have found a weak flank. What will happen if Islamic fundamentalist terrorism,
emboldened by the success of its threats against Spain, now applies similar
technique with attacks and threats against Britain, Japan, Poland and others of
the many nations that participate in the forces led by the United States in
trying to procure some semblance of order in an Iraq torn apart by armed
resistance to occupation and even among rival Muslim factions?"
VENEZUELA: "Spain And Chavism"
Leading liberal daily El Nacional editorialized (4/19): "Chávez and
Castro's optimism about Zapatero's change of attitude towards Latin America
must be observed very closely.
Naturally, for Venezuelan democrats, it is very clear that Spain's
foreign relations will experience an important change in the way that country
understands its participation in international conflicts. The decision to withdraw Spanish troops from
Iraq...makes Venezuelans wonder what will happen when the time comes to review
its relations with Venezuela. Spain is
part of the Group of Friends of Venezuela...Whether he likes it or not,
Zapatero will have to define his stance on Venezuela in the short run, since
the political developments in this country are moving too fast. It will be, without a doubt, his first acid
test in Latin America."