International Information Programs
Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

April 23, 2004

April 23, 2004





** 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 off'-- Many 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. Government.  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 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."


"Domino Effect"


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.”


"Kept Promise"


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 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 to Spain."


"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 Strategies"


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 Withdrawal"


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.”


GERMANY:  "An Invitation"


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 after Saddam."


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 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 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 world.”


"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."


"Fait Accompli"


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 Europe."


ALBANIA:  "Iraq, 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 figure."


"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 U.S."


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 better.” 


CROATIA:  "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 This"


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.  What’s Next?"


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 Iraq."


HUNGARY:  "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."


"European Dimension"


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"

Tom Clonan 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 approaches." 

"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 Somosierras"


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 false arguments."



"Spaniards’ Withdrawal"


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.”


PORTUGAL:  "Disconcerting"


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 America"


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.”


UAE:  "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 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." 




CHINA (HONG KONG SAR):  "Spanish Withdrawal Triggers A Domino Effect"


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 Peace"


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 Iraq"


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 Iraq."     


INDONESIA:  "Spain 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.”


NEW ZEALAND:  "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."


PHILIPPINES:  “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 Crusade"


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 occupation."



PAKISTAN:  "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 occupying Iraq."


 "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."


BRAZIL:  "Bush Effect"


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.”


MEXICO:   "Bush’s Nervousness"


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 nervous.”


CHILE:  "Spanish 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.”


COLOMBIA:  "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. cause.”


"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 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.”


URUGUAY:  "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."



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