International Information Programs
Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

August 6, 2004

August 6, 2004





**  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 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 Iraq.


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 recent date.




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 silent."


"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 human resources."


"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."


"Muslim Force"


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 concerned."


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.”


JORDAN:  "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.”


LEBANON:  "American Proposal:  Die For Our Occupation Of Iraq And Palestine"


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 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.”




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 in Iraq."


INDONESIA:  "Staying 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.”


SINGAPORE:  "Muslim 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."




INDIA:  "Desperate Measure"


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."


PAKISTAN:  "Pakistani 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 Americans want.


"Iraq Policy:  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."


BANGLADESH:  "Muslim Troops In Iraq:  Is It A Possibility?"


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."




GERMANY:  "Iraqi Results"


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 lose there."


"Saudi Move"


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."


ITALY:  "Islamic 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.”


RUSSIA:  "Sending 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."


BELGIUM:  "Muslim 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."


BRAZIL:  "Endless Chaos"


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."


MEXICO:  "Premier 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."


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