August 6, 2004
IRAQ: 'MUSLIM PEACEKEEPING FORCE' GETS TEPID
** Saudi initiative aims to
curtail violence and bring early end to Coalition occupation.
** Media in Arab, Muslim
world react gingerly to prospect of "dying for the U.S."
** Other papers welcome the
initiative "in principle" but are skeptical it can work.
A 'practical alternative'-- Saudi
dailies termed Riyadh's suggestion of sending a Muslim military force to Iraq a
way "to stop the bloodshed of innocents" by obtaining "an early
withdrawal of U.S. troops." Abha's
moderate Al-Watan said the proposal did not aim to achieve any
"political gain" but came "in response to an accumulated
frustration among Arabs and Muslims" about "the lack of any positive
initiative" toward Iraq. "Iraq
cannot be left alone in a transitional period," papers held, asserting
that as long as "the chaos under the occupation continues...so-called
resistance groups will continue their terror." Jeddah's conservative Al-Madina called
the initiative "a chance that should not be wasted." Outlets noted that the Saudi offer was
conditioned on the withdrawal of Coalition troops and acceptance of the force
by Iraqis. The English-language Saudi
Gazette advised that convincing other Muslim countries to take part in such
a force "will depend on the diplomatic skills of all concerned."
'A ruse' to put Muslims in the line of fire-- Media in other Arab and Muslim nations
reacted coolly; many voiced suspicion that the proposal was not
"originally a Saudi idea."
Lebanon's Arab nationalist As-Safir scoffed that "the U.S.
wants Arab forces to die instead of its own troops." Jordan's semi-official Al-Rai declared
that an Arab and Muslim intervention in Iraq would mean "raising Arab
weapons in the face of an Arab people."
Indonesia's English-language Jakarta Post maintained that a
"so-called ‘Muslim’ contingent" would have no greater success in Iraq
because terrorists there "are not fighting for a true religious cause and
have shown no reluctance to attack Muslims." A South Asian analyst spoke for many when he
concluded "it is doubtful if any Muslim country is prepared" to
participate. Papers in Pakistan and
Algeria tied the proposal to Riyadh's desire to ingratiate itself with
Washington; Algiers' French-language Le Quotidien d’Oran puffed that,
“unlike Saudi Arabia," Algerian policy need not be motivated by an
"obsessive need to be labeled as a 'friend' of America."
Some hopeful, but 'skepticism predominates'-- Many writers elsewhere called the proposal
"welcome" and "worth considering." Singapore's Malay-language Berita Harian
stated that "Muslim countries...should respond to the Saudi
call." Canada's leading Globe
and Mail judged that a Muslim force would "do a huge service to Iraq
and its new interim government," allowing PM Allawi to tell Iraqis that
Baghdad "had the Islamic world on its side" against terrorists and
insurgents. More were skeptical, like
the Belgian analyst who wrote that governments in Muslim countries are under
"heavy pressure" from their publics to stay out of Iraq. German dailies split on the issue. One worried that Riyadh was "following
its traditional policy of strengthening Islam wherever it is possible,"
which might lead ultimately to an unwanted, fundamentalist Islamic state in
EDITOR: Steven Wangsness
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. Some commentary is taken directly from the
Internet. This report summarizes and
interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views
of the U.S. Government. This analysis
was based on 36 reports from 20 countries, July 25-August 6, 2004. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most
IRAQ: "We Do Not Need
More Foreign Troops In Our Country"
Basim al-Sheikh commented in the independent paper he publishes, Addustour
(IWPR translation, 7/25): "Media
outlets are reporting that Iraqi officials are trying to persuade other
countries to send troops either to protect the UN mission or as part of the
multinational forces, as if the U.S.-led coalition forces are not enough. Begging for other countries' participation
might not serve the national interest.
We wonder about the point in increasing the number of troops after we
have become certain they cannot keep peace as Iraqi forces can. We do not want more troops because we are
afraid that we will depend on others in everything, even our security. Let officials talk about international
participation in economic, political, and scientific development rather than
military dialogue which we want to forget about forever."
SAUDI ARABIA: "Give Us
Alternatives Or Keep Silent"
Abha’s moderate Al-Watan editorialized (8/5): "We are quite sure that Saudi diplomacy
was not aimed at achieving any political gain when it offered ideas about
sending Muslim forces to Iraq. The
proposal came in response to an accumulated frustration among Muslims and Arabs
about the lack of any positive initiative toward Iraq. Another reason was the concern of the Saudi
government, its people and all Muslims of the world about the situation in
Iraq.... Moreover, it has become very
clear that implementing these ideas will result in withdrawal of foreign troops
from Iraq.... Anybody who attempts to
undermine such an initiative has to offer practical alternatives, or keep
"Our Four Conditions Are Logical"
Jeddah’s moderate Al-Bilad editorialized (8/3): "The Saudi foreign minister put Saudi
Arabia’s conditions for sending troops to Iraq in a clear framework. Saudi Arabia said that sending Muslim and
Arab troops to Iraq is contingent upon four conditions.... These conditions are logical and will
guarantee the troops do what is required of them without wasting additional
"The Saudi Initiative"
Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina contended (8/3): "The Saudi initiative is a chance that
should not be wasted because it simply means putting an end to the occupation
of Iraq, and withdrawing foreign troops.
The initiative also means creating the right environment and conditions
for a free election under the supervision of the UN. The success of this initiative depends on two
fundamental conditions: first the U.S.
and Britain must be willing to remove their troops, and second, the Iraqi
people must accept that Muslim forces control all peacekeeping efforts during
the transition period. This is a chance
that should not be missed. It is also a
test of Washington and London’s goodwill."
"The Initiative And Its Conditions"
Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina editorialized (8/2): "The Saudi initiative with its four
conditions, as announced by Prince Saudi Al Faisal, reveals the Kingdom’s hope
to achieve an early withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. It is also a reflection of the understanding
that Iraq cannot be left alone in a transitional period, especially in complex
conditions such as these. Simply, the
initiative provides a practical alternative.
Muslim forces would enter Iraq based on a request from the legitimate
government in Iraq and supported by public consent. These forces would receive orders neither
from the occupation authority nor coalition forces. Instead they would work under the direction
of the United Nations, which should oversee the implementation of a democratic
election process to build the foundation of a stable Iraq."
"An Initiative To Save Iraq"
Abha’s moderate Al-Watan commented (8/2): "Arab countries realized the importance
of keeping their distance from military involvement in Iraq in the early stages
of the occupation. But now, the Arab
world realizes the importance of not leaving Iraqis alone to face their most
difficult challenges, while living under an occupation brought to them by the
United States alone.... That is why it
is important to bring a Muslim initiative to stop the bloodshed of
innocents. As long as the chaos under
the occupation continues, these so-called resistance groups will continue their
terror. It is difficult now to maintain
the belief that we should leave the U.S. to harvest the fruits of its mistakes
in Iraq, for innocent people are paying the price of this strategy. The question now is: could an Arab-Muslim force, not working under
the direction of the Americans, keep things under control? Will the U.S. agree to withdraw its troops
from Iraq and leave the stage open to others?
We have many questions on our minds, and only time will tell."
The pro-government, English-language Saudi Gazette took
this view (Internet version, 7/30):
"Saudi Arabia once again finds itself at the forefront of efforts
to introduce order in the Gulf region.
The visit by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell...has raised the
prospect of a Muslim defense force to assume security responsibilities in
Iraq.... The prospect that Coalition
forces in Iraq might be replaced by troops from the Arab world must represent a
tantalizing prospect for Washington, mired as it is, in the treacherous
sectarian clashes that are presently taking place in Iraq. The joint statement by Prince Saud and
Secretary of State Colin Powell on the subject of Iraq came only shortly after
news of another suicide bombing....
Riyadh is right, however, to be cautious. Arabs are understandably aggrieved they were
not consulted about the invasion of Iraq and were effectively presented with a
fait accompli that was certain to create regional tensions with which all Arab
countries, especially those in the Gulf, have had to contend. Then there is the tension that exists between
the State Department and the Pentagon, reflected in the more moderate
pronouncements emanating from Mr. Powell and more belligerent ones coming from
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.... It
is not the responsibility of Arab and Muslim countries to pull America's
chestnuts out of the fire, especially as they had no part in lighting the fire
in the first place. Convincing Arab and
Islamic governments to tackle Iraq's security problems may be desirable but
whether it is achievable will depend on the diplomatic skills of all
ALGERIA: "Thanks For
Having Thought About This"
French-language, large-circulation Le Quotidien d’Oran
editorialized (8/2): “There are
certainly more reasons to get embarrassed than proud because of these insistent
and repetitive calls for Algeria to send troops to take part in what is called
the recovery of security and peace in Iraq....
After painfully coming back to the world scene, Algeria is still keeping
its true wealth: its modesty. Algeria is aware and assumes the fact that
its natural place is on this side of the Mediterranean and in the depth of
Africa. Of course, Algeria suffers and
fraternally participates in the Arab Nation....
However, no one in the world could throw Algeria headfirst into a hell
that others had started.... And besides,
let's lick our own wounds first.”
"No Algerian Soldiers For Bush’s Trouble"
French-language, large-circulation Le Quotidien d’Oran
commented (8/2): “Unlike Saudi Arabia,
Algeria does not need to find itself, even indirectly, involved in the Iraqi
trouble of the Bush administration.
Algerian policy has to be motivated by ‘realistic’ considerations and
not the obsessive need to be labeled as a ‘friend’ of America. The realism also has to take into account the
fact that Algerians support the Iraqi people.
We can add that Algeria has nothing to win by tarnishing its
extraordinary positive image as a ‘country of a million martyrs’ in Iraq.”
"Multi-Religious Troops For Iraq!"
Fahd Fanek remarked in semi-official, influential Al-Rai
(8/2): “U.S. Secretary of State Colin
Powell’s recent visit to the Middle East encountered some success, since he got
approval to send Islamic troops to Iraq to function under the umbrella of the
American forces or independently in coordination with the multinational troops
that seem to be turning into multi-religious troops.... Up to now, the official Arab stand has been
clear: Arab troops will not go into Iraq
as long as there is an occupation so that they do not come into confrontation
with the Iraqi people for the benefit of America, but they could go into Iraq
to replace occupation forces when they pull out and upon Iraq’s request. The Iraqi resistance will not welcome Arab
and Muslim forces with open arms. They
target everyone who works or cooperates with the occupation, and even Iraqis
are not excluded. The Islamic troops for
which Colin Powell got approval to send to Iraq will be a target for the
resistance, because they are going to Iraq at a time when troops of other
countries, which America dragged into its war, are pulling out.... The Arab and Muslim military intervention in
Iraq means raising Arab weapons in the face of an Arab people. It also means that the countries involved in
the American project are exposing themselves to becoming an arena for local and
imported terrorism. No interest is
served if any Arab or Muslim government volunteers to serve the American
project at the expense of its own principles, interests and security.”
Proposal: Die For Our Occupation Of Iraq
Talal Salman editorialized in Arab nationalist As-Safir
(8/2): “Over and above the danger of
conflict in Lebanon over the presidential elections...this danger has increased
with the Saudi proposal about sending Islamic Arab forces to Iraq to replace
the American forces, a proposal which was adopted very quickly by the U.S.
administration. This quick U.S. adoption
of this proposal raises doubts...because apparently the U.S. wants Arab forces
to die instead of its own troops.... It
is really difficult to assume that this Saudi proposal was originally a Saudi
idea.... Perhaps clarifications offered
by the Saudi foreign minister...confirm that the U.S. administration is the
real source of this proposal and that it suggested it in a manner which was
impossible to refuse. The regime in
Saudi Arabia has been under intense pressure by the U.S. for the last three
years, particularly that the U.S. has indirectly accused Saudi Arabia of being
responsible for 9/11.... It appears that
the oil of the region is for Americans, hegemony over the whole region is for
the Americans and their partners the Israelis, however, the burden which is
blood and money will fall on the Arabs’ head.”
UAE: "Between Devil
And Deep Sea"
A. Masroor wrote in the English-language, expatriate-oriented Khaleej
Times (8/3): "A mixture of pain, rage and impotence has gripped
Pakistan following the brutal murder of two Pakistanis in Iraq. The nation...is in mourning. At the same time, it is seething with anger
at those who had committed this heinous act.
And the fact that it cannot do anything about it by way of retaliation
or retribution has seemingly caused it to feel painfully inadequate as a
self-respecting nation.... Pakistanis,
without exception, feel one with the Iraqis on the issue of occupation. They would like to see the occupiers vacate
the country as soon as possible. And
they are also worried about how things would shape up after the occupation
forces leave Iraq. They have no
intention of interfering in the internal affairs of Iraq. Being brother Muslims, they wish the Iraqis
well. They fervently hope that peace and
calm will return to that country and it would regain its lost glory and
prosperity at the earliest."
WEST BANK: "An Islamic
Front To Rescue America In Iraq"
Hani Habib argued in independent Al-Ayyam (8/4): “The new Saudi initiative that calls on
non-neighboring Islamic countries to send forces to Iraq appears at first to be
incomplete as far as its terms and conditions are concerned. Perhaps this was intended to examine
reactions prior to setting the initiative’s baseline terms and conditions. The picture changed somewhat when [Saudi FM]
Al-Faisal clarified...that the Iraqi government will submit a request with full
public support and that the forces will work under UN supervision.... According to some sources, Al-Faisal also
said that the Islamic forces will serve as a substitute for the current
coalition troops, contrary to the American view, expressed by Secretary of
State Colin Powell, that American forces will not leave and that the Islamic
forces will not be a substitute.... The new
Saudi initiative on Iraq was launched during [Powell’s] visit to the Kingdom,
making it hard to believe, for this and other reasons, that it came about
without Washington’s involvement despite Al-Faisal’s assertion that it was
originally planned in Malaysia.”
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
CHINA (MACAU SAR):
"The Prospect For 'Islamic Troops' Is Not Optimistic"
The pro-PRC Chinese-language Macau Daily News remarked
(8/5): "Starting July 27, U.S.
Secretary of State Colin Powell paid visits to Hungary, Egypt, Saudi Arabia,
Kuwait and Iraq. Troops stationed in
Iraq were the core topic discussed in these visits. In the meantime, the president of the Iraqi
interim government Ghazi al-Yawer also visited Egypt, Kuwait, etc. In all these visits, they hoped that the Arab
world and the Islamic countries could send troops to Iraq to carry out the
peacekeeping mission. The objectives of
the U.S. are to relieve the pressure on U.S. troops stationed in Iraq and to
improve its international image.
However, the prospect is not optimistic.
Why does the U.S. suddenly value the Islamic troops? One of the reasons is that an increasing
number of Americans have lost their confidence in Bush's way of handling the
Iraqi issue. Second, the more and more
foreign troops withdraw from Iraq have embarrassed the U.S. and
Britain.... The Iraqi [insurgents] have
already warned Islamic and Arab countries via the internet not to send troops
to Iraq because they will treat Islamic countries and its comrades that
cooperate with the 'occupier' as targets of terrorist attacks. Hence, even if the 'Islamic troops' go to
Iraq, they will be in a dangerous position.
It is difficult to tell how much they can 'assist' U.S. troops stationed
Out Of Iraq"
The independent English-language Jakarta Post editorialized
(8/4): “The security situation in Iraq
has spiraled from bad to worse since the day American forces entered Baghdad
more than a year ago. Despite the vast
superiority of U.S. and coalition forces, resistance has become unwieldy with
every passing week as more fall victim to insurgent and terrorist attacks. The handover of local authority to a
Washington-picked, Iraqi civilian administration seems only to have intensified
these strikes.... Indonesia did not
support the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, but that does not mean we do not support
the reconstruction of Iraq as a democratic society.... We do not believe that forces arriving as a
so-called ‘Muslim’ contingent would have greater success or be subject to
preferential treatment. Terrorist
elements in Iraq are not fighting for a true religious cause and have shown no
reluctance to attack Muslims.... While
we would not be so bold as to say the present Iraqi administration is
illegitimate, we believe that it would also be best for Indonesia to wait until
a truly representative Iraqi government is established--through a democratic
process--before committing its efforts to Iraq.
Just because Washington and its allies might eventually be successful in
transforming their operations into a UN-sanctioned mission does not sanctify
U.S. policy in Iraq and turn it into a justifiable cause that countries like
Indonesia should heed. The world must be
careful of the politics involved: of a
ruse to put others, namely Muslim states, in the front line of what is
essentially a U.S.-made crisis.”
World Should Help Iraq"
The pro-government Malay-language Berita Harian observed
(8/1): "Saudi Arabia's proposal
that Muslim countries send troops to Iraq was met with cold response.... If Saudi Arabia really sympathizes with Iraq
and is serious about rebuilding the image of the Muslim world, it should be
bold and pioneer the effort. At the same
time, the Iraqi interim government, together with the clerics, should issue
directives and religious decrees to condemn terrorist groups and call upon the
people to rise and defend the country's dignity. It is time for Muslim countries to help
Iraq. They should respond to the Saudi
call. If they do not do so now, when
will Muslims be able to demonstrate their fairness and compassion towards
fellow Muslims? Their refusal or cold
response only reflects a dilemma in their unity."
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
The centrist Asian Age judged (8/2): "The idea of the deployment of troops
belonging to Muslim countries is meant to kill several birds with one
stone. The first and foremost is that
the U.S. intends to maintain its hegemony in Iraq under the protective shield
of the Muslim forces. President
Bush...desperately wants to see an Islamic force deployed in Iraq to prove that
the U.S. still has friends and that too in the Muslim world.... The U.S. describes it as insurgency and
terrorism, but the fact is that resistance to illegal foreign occupation has
gathered momentum since the transfer of power to the Iyad Allawi-led puppet
government in Baghdad a month ago."
Troops For Iraq"
Aziz-ud-Din Ahmad held in the center-right national
English-language Nation (8/5):
"Americans want the Islamic army to act as a cushion between the
militants and the occupying forces....
Islamabad has only made a tactical retreat and would like to oblige
Washington the moment it manages to acquire 'a legitimate cover of UN, OIC, GCC
or any other mechanism.' Iyad Allawi
could come to Pakistan to seek troops. A
military contingent could be dispatched to protect the UN representative in
Iraq who is a Pakistani, and his staff.
The troops sent on guard duty could easily get involved in
fighting. That is exactly what the
Government Should Get Rid Of Confusion"
The center-right Urdu-language Pakistan held (8/4): "The Foreign Office spokesperson has
said that Pakistani troops can't be sent to Iraq in the current precarious
situation. It would have been better if
the spokesperson had outlined the conditions that could allow deployment of
troops in Iraq. What would be the
utility of the troops if peace is established in that country? Would any section of the Iraqi population
ever accept presence of Pakistan troops?
What are the advantages of deploying troops in Iraq, and what are the
downsides of not doing so.... Saudi
Arabia had requested Islamic countries to send troops to Iraq, but the request
did not materialize.... Pakistan troops
have sacrificed their lives from Somalia to Sierra Leone, under the UN
banner. Pakistan can side with the
international community in Iraq in an honorable way, but first it should think
over the pros and cons of this decision.
When Spain and the Philippines have withdrawn their troops from Iraq,
and Russia, Germany, France and dozens of other countries are not willing to
make their soldiers sacrificial goats, why are we confused?"
"More Ambiguity On Iraq"
The Lahore-based liberal English-language Daily Times
judged (8/3): "The dilemma for the
pro-U.S. regimes in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, which depend on American political
and economic assistance for their very survival, is that if they flatly refuse
to help the U.S. in Iraq they risk curtailing a beneficial relationship with
Washington. Therefore, given that both
regimes are rather narrowly constructed in the political sphere, they would be
advised to enlarge their support base at home so that they can better cope with
the U.S. demands. But no, that is not
going to happen. The Foreign Office has
put out a statement that says under the present circumstances there is no
question of sending troops to Iraq. In
other words, if the circumstances change, the issue may be re-examined again.
This is an ambiguous position that reflects General Musharraf's continuing
predicament rather than Pakistan's."
"Saudi Idea Of Muslim Force"
The center-right national English-language Nation had this
to say (8/3): "The task should more
appropriately be assigned to the Islamic Conference rather than leaving it to
one country, Saudi Arabia in the present case.
And should the proposal finally to emerge be to assemble purely an Arab
force, the Arab League would be the right organization to manage it. The present U.S. stand is in no way conducive
to the positioning of Muslim troops in Iraq as correctly judged by Algeria,
Bangladesh and Libya, which have declined to entertain the idea. The latest Foreign Office statement on the
issue indicates that good sense is starting to prevail in Islamabad, though a
firmer declaration would be better."
"Muslim Force For Iraq"
The center-right Urdu-language Pakistan remarked
(8/3): "Saudi Arabia has made it
clear that the proposed Muslim force would be deployed in Iraq only after the
exit of the coalition forces from the country.
Saudi Arabia had to amend its proposal because Bangladesh, Algeria and
Libya refused to agree with the proposal.
Saudi Arabia derives respect from the bulk of the Islamic countries, but
the war in Iraq has impinged on its leading status.... Peace could return to Iraq only after the
withdrawal of the coalition forces, when Iraqi people would be able to
independently form a new government and new system."
"Don't Shove Pakistani Troops Into The Iraqi Fire Now"
The second largest Urdu-language daily Nawa-e-Waqt held
(7/30): "We must now decide whether
American orders are important for us or the safety and security of Pakistanis
living here and abroad. The nation is
justified in asking the government what is the compulsion that we are willing
to risk the lives of our soldiers in Iraq?...
Whatever the justification, the nation is not ready to shove the
Pakistan army into the Iraqi fire. The
government must soon make a decision and announcement to this effect--before
more Pakistani lives are endangered."
Troops In Iraq: Is It A
Harun Ur Rashid opined in the English-language Daily Star
(8/4): "It appears that unless the
U.S. agrees to the conditions of the Saudi proposal, there is no likelihood of
Muslim troops in Iraq. Furthermore, Iraq
does not look like it wants to accept any troops from its immediate
neighbors. This implies that troops from
Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Syria and Iran are ruled out. This leaves other Muslim countries to provide
troops. Given the scale of violence in
Iraq, it is doubtful if any Muslim country is prepared to dispatch its troops
to Iraq. Moreover, the overwhelming
majority of Muslim countries including non-Arab countries, such as Bangladesh,
Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and Iran are opposed to Iraqi war because it was
launched without UN approval. The Saudi
proposal has given a new window of opportunity for the U.S. to withdraw its
forces from Iraq. However, it is
doubtful whether the U.S. will acknowledge the reality that the presence of its
troops in Iraq is an incitement to violence in the country."
Guenther Nonnenmacher opined in center-right Frankfurter
Allgemeine (8/6): "The Saudi
proposal to deploy Islamic troops under a UN mandate in Iraq faces little
enthusiasm. Given the up-coming
elections and the restructuring of the country, it is conceivable that
Baghdad's interim government opposes the idea that neighbors engage militarily
on Iraqi ground. More distant Muslim
nations make note of the dangerous situation in Iraq, but they actually oppose
the U.S.-British intervention in principle.
The American policy change in favor of the UN has not been successful
yet. Secretary-General Annan cannot get
international troops protecting the UN mission that is supposed to prepare
elections in Iraq. There seems to be the
understanding that we cannot get a lot out of Iraq. Hardly anybody is worried about what we can
Wolfgang Guenter Lerch had this to say in center-right Frankfurter
Allgemeine (7/30): "This plan
that was discussed in Jeddah under Saudi leadership to send an Arab-Muslim
peacekeeping force to...Iraq is worth considering. Baghdad's Prime Minister Allawi is in favor
of it as are the Americans. But the
discussion still focuses on the modalities of such a plan. If it were realized, the Arab-Islamic world would
have brought itself in a common action to create law and order in a member
state of its own Islamic hemisphere or to act at least in a de-escalating
way. This would be all the more
important because it would also--at least partially--mean an 'Islamization' of
this conflict. This action could succeed
only if Saudi Arabia and the other sides involved put their own interests into
the background. But according to
previous experience, this is hard to imagine."
"Proposal With Implications"
Heiko Flottau noted in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of
Munich (7/30): "Of course, any
proposal that is appropriate to alleviate the suffering of Iraqis is
welcome.... If the Muslim world were
really able to end the agony in Iraq, this would certainly be a welcome
development. But skepticism
predominates. Even a Muslim peacekeeping
force would run the danger of being considered and treated like an auxiliary
U.S. force. This is all the more the
case because this proposal became public after Secretary Powell's visit to
Saudi Arabia.... A precondition for the
chances of such a plan to succeed would be a kind of timetable for the
withdrawal of international forces. But
from a Western point of view, it would be more worrisome that the originally
secular Iraq would develop into an Islamic state. What is striking of the Saudi proposal is
that it is not directed to the Arab League, which also represents states that
do not have an Islamic state concept like Saudi Arabia. The Saudis emphasized in particular the
Muslim nature of the intervention force.
Riyadh is thus following its traditional policy of strengthening Islam
wherever it is possible. Such a turn in
Iraq would certainly not be in George W. Bush's interest."
"Dreams For Baghdad"
Business daily Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg noted
(7/30): "The proposal from Saudi
Arabia is no more than a diplomatic encouragement for the U.S. government. Islamic forces have as little chances to fight
terror as have British or U.S. forces.
The Iraqis meet their neighbors with a suspicion that borders on
persecution mania. They waged a war
against Iran for more than eight years.
Kuwaitis are the number one object of hatred, and Syria is the country
with whom Iraq did not have any diplomatic relations for years. Jordan is considered a minion of the United
States, and Saudi Arabia the main competitor at the oil markets and always
suspect.... But even if we ignore the
question of whether Muslim forces would be able to cope with the problem, the
affected governments have not shown any inclination to help. Egypt refused to send soldiers, and even if
they only protected UN members, the Cairo government must fear that dead
soldiers would upset Egyptians."
Contingent For Iraq"
Leading business daily Il Sole-24 Ore noted (7/30): “It wasn’t violence, which is a daily
presence, that marked yesterday, but politics.... Saudi Arabia's proposal stated ‘only Islamic
countries could constitute a contingent to help Iraq’.... Secretary Powell views the Saudi plan as ‘the
means to provide additional forces for the coalition.’... Powell refers to the forces as ‘additional’
while the Arabs refer to them as ‘replacement.’
It will be difficult to reconcile the two ways of thinking.”
Troops To Iraq Is Ill-Advised"
Viktor Gogitidze held in reformist Vremya Novostey
(8/5): "A wave of terror in Iraq
won't abate. Apparently, the U.S.
military can't ensure stability, so Washington is looking for more recruits
among Muslim states and big nations like Russia, France and Germany, which
directly opposed armed action. Their
involvement would hardly help very much to ease tension and solve the security
problem in Iraq. The idea, so it seems,
is to divide responsibility for what is going on, primarily the United States'
failures.... Washington is desperate for
the Iraqi government to receive all-round support. To support the Iraqi government means to
support the policy it defines jointly with the United States. Painful setbacks like the withdrawal of
several IMF members may eventually reflect on the United States as the leader
of the antiterrorist coalition. As it
tries to expand the coalition, Washington hopes that even the formal
participation of the above-mentioned countries would serve as moral and
political stimuli, helping to stop or at least to curb subversive activities in
Iraq. Russia surely is an interested
party, as far as Iraq goes. Stability
and a real sovereignty transfer meet our interests. But sending troops to Iraq wouldn't be to the
good of our relations with that country and its neighbors. Rather than depending on the number of
troops, stability in Iraq is determined by a combination of political, social
and economic measures taken by the government.
In that sense, Russia can and should play an active role, acting both on
its own and in cooperation with its partners."
"Arabs Do Favor For Bush"
Aleksandr Gabuyev said in business-oriented Kommersant
(8/2): "The Arab states' decision
to send troops to Iraq to replace the Coalition forces would hardly remove
tension. The number of Muslim hostages
in Iraq grows every day.... The proposed
Islamic force is a big favor to George Bush, as he will soon be able to promise
his voters at home more victories, with Arabs dying for them in Iraq. It will also be a response to John Kerry's
accusation that the Republicans have had the United States fall out with the
rest of the world. Arab leaders voicing
their readiness to become allies may deprive the Republicans' Democratic
critics of their main trump card."
"U.S. Pull-Out From Iraq Would Be Good For Bush"
Ivan Gorshkov wrote in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta
(7/30): "Riyadh is dead sure that
its plan (a Muslim peacekeeping mission) can work. But there are many questions that have yet to
be answered or don't seem to have answers.
First and foremost, it is the Muslims' strong opposition to the war and
the Americans themselves. Any
cooperation with the Americans would be unwelcome. Who will command the troops is
another...point. Obviously, the United
States is out of the question....
Washington risks losing control over Iraq if the Muslims take all of it
under their guardianship. That is hardly
possible, though. It is more likely that
that the Muslim coalition will operate under the UN auspices. Clearly, Bush pulling out the troops from
Iraq would do him good in the elections at home."
Troops Are Difficult To Sell"
Foreign affairs writer Isa Van Dorsselaer held in
Christian-Democrat De Standaard (7/30):
"Saudi Arabia wants to establish a contingent of troops from Muslim
countries to help the new Iraqi government make Iraq a safe place. However, most (of these countries) are under
heavy pressure from their public opinion not to do a 'favor' to the United
States--which is the demanding party.
The murder of two Pakistani Muslims makes the decision even more
difficult.... The offer gives the Saudis
an opportunity to improve the relationship with its old ally which cooled down
after the 9/11 attacks. But, (Saudi
Arabia) realizes that a large unstable neighbor is not in its interest. In recent weeks Saudi officials expressed
concern about infiltration of extremists from Iraq.... For Iraq, the situation is urgent. After the transfer of power to Allawi's
interim government at the end of June the insurgents remained quiet for some
time, but the last few weeks they hit back brutally--with the sad climax of the
heavy attack in Baquba where 70 people were killed. Since last week the Iraqi security services
have carried out genuine offensives, but they are insufficiently prepared and
equipped to fight the insurgents efficiently.
The fact that the crucial national conference--the next step towards
democracy--has been postponed until mid-August is also bad news."
CANADA: "The Need In
Iraq For A Muslim Force"
The leading, centrist Globe and Mail asserted (8/2): "At present, no Arab country has troops
in Iraq and few Muslims serve in the U.S.-led international coalition. Sending Muslim troops would help the
coalition, which has been hurt by [defections].... It would also do a huge service to Iraq and
its new interim government, which is struggling to establish its authority and
legitimacy. With Muslims represented
among the international forces in the country, Mr. Allawi could tell his
countrymen that his government had the Islamic world on its side in its battle
with the insurgents and terrorists now wreaking havoc in Iraq. That would help deflect the insurgents' claim
that his government is merely an American puppet. But by sending troops, the Muslim world would
be helping itself, too. Arab and other
Muslim nations have an obvious interest in making sure that Iraq does not
spiral into anarchy or fall into the hands of Islamist fanatics and Baathist
retreads. The failure to establish a
stable representative government in Iraq could destabilize the whole region and
encourage Islamic terrorists all over the world.... Arab and Muslim countries fear that by
sending troops to Iraq, they would enmesh themselves in what is seen by their
peoples as the Western occupation of an Arab nation. But that is exactly the point. If they join in, it will not be a Western
occupation. Their participation would
show that the whole world, Muslim and otherwise, has an interest in rebuilding
Iraq and defeating those who are trying to thwart its revival. Mr. Allawi is right. It is time for the Muslim world to 'stand as
one' in Iraq."
Liberal Folha de S. Paulo editorialized (7/31): "In principle, it may be a good idea to
send Muslim troops to participate in the pacification efforts in Iraq. An Islamic force would probably help to break
the image of a U.S. puppet government that affects the Iyad Allawi
administration, and that might help make Iraq a democracy. However, this is one of those proposals whose
conception is much simpler than its realization. The main difficulty is finding nations
willing to send troops.... Violence is
another concern because everything indicates that the Iraqi resistance would
treat the Islamic forces as enemies....
The sending of Islamic troops to Iraq would be so convenient for the
Bush administration (that could distance itself even more from the chaos it has
created in that nation) that some Islamic nations are reluctant to
participate--as is the case with Indonesia."
Shaukat Aziz And The Muslim Army"
Gabriel Moyssen contended in business-oriented El Financiero
(8/2): "Last Friday, just as the
negotiations to set up a 'Muslim army' that would support the Pentagon's
counter-insurgency campaign were developing, the newly appointed prime minister
of Pakistan Shaukat Aziz escaped a suicide terrorist attack outside Islamabad.... Once again, the government of President
George W. Bush is taking pressure beyond its limits, so that its allies and
'client' states in the Middle East and Asia will give in to the demands of the
U.S. and begin taking over the operations of the U.S. invading forces...which
are stuck in Iraq because the insurgency continues and the U.S. domestic
electoral scene is becoming more complex."