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Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

August 17, 2004

August 17, 2004





**  For democracy to succeed in Iraq, the "problem of al-Sadr must be solved now."

**  Many analysts counsel a political solution, as a military one could lead to an "explosion."

**  Arab and Muslim writers denounce U.S. "atrocities" and call for an end to the fighting.




Al-Sadr poses 'a big dilemma'--  Even as Iraq's National Conference convened in Baghdad, beginning "a process no Arab country has ever seen" and possibly witnessing the birth of "a new political culture," global editorialists had their eyes firmly fixed on the "powder keg" of Najaf and the fighting against Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi army.  Many dailies, like Germany's center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine, concluded that "Iraq's fate will probably be decided" by the outcome in Najaf.  The stakes, said Canada's leading, centrist Globe and Mail, "could not be higher."  The fate of the electoral process is "intimately linked" to the fate of Najaf, a British writer argued, while a Japanese outlet predicted that how al-Sadr's supporters are handled "could significantly affect domestic security and politics."  The failure to end the Shiite uprising, an independent paper in Bangladesh judged, "threatens to undermine" the legitimacy of the conference and the government of Iraq's interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi.


The 'Iraqi Stalingrad'--  Pessimists asserted that Iraq's Shiites, once "America's hope...have become its nightmare."  The U.S. can defeat al-Sadr's militia militarily, most observers agreed.  They warned, though, that a final assault on al-Sadr "is likely to fuel the explosive situation" and a military victory would come "at the expense of the larger political goal" of stabilization.  Slovenia's left-of-center Dnevnik said al-Sadr has become "a living legend."  Iraqi papers split on how to deal with al-Sadr.  Baghdad, published by the Iraqi National Accord, accused al-Sadr supporters of "terrorist attacks" meant "to obstruct the efforts" of Allawi to "lay the foundations of the rule of law."  Many papers, such as Al-Bayan, published by the Islamic Al-Da'wah Party, called on the government to forego "the war option" and to "close this file once and for all" through negotiations.  A few global commentators, saying the stand-off "must end sometime," called for "decisive" military action to put down al-Sadr and "finish the war."


Arabs, Muslims condemn 'barbaric methods'--  Arab and Muslim writers outside Iraq charged the U.S. with "random bombings and intentional killing of civilians" in Najaf.  Iran's conservative Jomhuri-ye Eslami intoned that "the intensity and scale of the occupiers' blind attacks...against the defenseless" population revealed their "unquenchable thirst for repressing the Iraqi people, particularly the Shiites."  The conservative Tehran Times also alleged that the Coalition had provoked the fighting in Najaf "to marginalize" the Shiite majority.  A Jordanian daily blared that the U.S. was now fighting "the entire Iraqi people."  Because al-Sadr "opposes the occupation forces and their agents, a sincere man of religion," said an Arab nationalist Egyptian weekly, the U.S. is seeking his elimination to "consolidate the authority of the traitor...Allawi."  Dailies contended that al-Sadr was countering U.S. firepower with "the might of faith" and called for an end to the fighting to allow for "dialogue, reason, and logic."


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 70 reports from 31 countries, August 13-17, 2004.  Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.




BRITAIN:  "Iraq’s Future"


The center-left Independent (8/16):  “The opening of the national conference yesterday, on time to meet its delayed schedule, can be considered either a small triumph or a foolhardy refusal on the part of the prime minister, Iyad Allawi, to accept reality.  Whichever is correct--and it may be a bit of both--it is certainly preferable for all involved that the next stage in the envisaged electoral process proceed, however unrealistic the timetable for elections may seem at present....  The stand-off in Najaf also highlights the chief defect of the national conference....  The fate of Najaf and the fate of the electoral process--arguably the gateway to Iraq’s peace and long-term prosperity--are thus intimately linked.  This is why President Allawi, and the Americans, went to such lengths to try to end the conflict with Sadr and his forces one way or the other before this weekend.  It is also why the absence from the political scene, through illness, of the moderate Shia leader and erstwhile intermediary, Ayatollah Sistani, is so untimely.  If ever a restraining influence was needed, it is now.”


"Dialogue Before Bullets"


The left-of-center Guardin held (8/16):  “Democracy cannot be delivered to the accompaniment of gunfire, and the national conference supposed to take the first step in Baghdad yesterday was marred on its opening day by the renewed fighting in Najaf....  The U.S. and Mr. Allawi are insisting that Iraqi troops, not Americans, will be used if necessary to storm the holy shrine in Najaf, yet this ruse only tarnishes Mr. Allawi’s regime further without diminishing Shia anger against the U.S.  If Iraq is embarking on the road to democracy, as was claimed in Baghdad yesterday, honesty is the first requirement.”


"Freedom Needs Free Press"


The conservative Daily Telegraph observed (8/16):  “Having failed to find WMD, the British and American governments seized gratefully on the explanation that they fought the war in order to introduce democracy to Iraq and the Arab world.  That excuse will crumble into dust if it turns out that all they have succeeded in doing is to introduce yet another dictator to the region....  Unfortunately, however, Mr. al-Sadr is learning to exploit the independent press just as Mr. Allawi has decided he can do without it; his artfully timed request for journalist Jame Brandon’s release was in sharp contrast to the Iraqi government’s swaging insecurity.  Of course, it remains vitally important that January’s elections go ahead; but Mr. Allawi needs to understand that one of the preconditions of a free election is a free press to report it.”


FRANCE:  "Chased Out Of Najaf"


Left-of-center Le Monde had this to say (8/17):  “By chasing away the journalists from Najaf on Sunday the 15th of August with arms in hand, the Iraqi provisional government showed that it was not worth more than any of the others.  This is the government that only a small time ago closed the Iraqi desk of the Arab station, Al Jazeera.  And all this as the National Conference, charged with taking the first steps towards a new 'democracy,' is just beginning....  But we must not be deceived.  Nothing will be decided in Baghdad without the approval of the American protector.  This time, the Bush administration is hiding behind the forces of the new regime, instead of sparking more Iraqi hostility by using GIs to enter the sacred sanctuary in Najaf.”




Patrick Sabatier commented in left-of-center Liberation (8/16):  “The shrine of Ali is nevertheless a powder keg that can produce an explosion that would bury the feeble attempt at political reconstruction in Iraq, of which the National Convention convened yesterday in Baghdad is a first step.  An explosion in Najaf would ruin the hopes of a second term in the White House for George Bush....  It is dangerous to let the authority of a government that already allows control of the north to the Kurds and control of the center to the Sunni, to be defied.  Permitting Moqtada al-Sadr to keep his hold over Najaf would eat away at the power of Baghdad, and would force the United States to prolong an occupation that has already come at a high price in dollars and in men.” 


GERMANY:  "Preacher Of Hate"


Right-of-center Nürnberger Zeitung argued (8/17):  "Moqtada al-Sadr suspiciously quickly approved the mediation proposal from Baghdad to receive a delegation from the National Conference to discuss the withdrawal from Najaf.  The Shiite preacher of hate is a master of delaying tactics and has made a fool of the transition government and the U.S. protective power more than once.  But this should now be over.  Prime Minister Iyad Allawi can no longer afford to be fooled by al-Sadr."


"Sadr's Limits"


Right-of-center Die Tagespost of Würzburg noted (8/17):  "The Baghdad leadership will be interested in showing the rebellious Shiite leader al-Sadr his limits and allow him to go into exile or Premier Allawi's resolute activities could aim at cutting down al-Sadr to size by cleverly using U.S. influence and by pointing out to him that there is the basic possibility of making a political, ambitious contribution in the framework of law and order....  In this sense, the inner-Iraqi tribal leader assembly, which is supposed to elect a 120-head National Council, can give the Iraqi government the bitterly needed political support for its difficult tasks."


"Democracy Based On Guns And Bombs"


Joerg Kaminski argued on national radio station Deutschlandfunk of Cologne (8/16):  "Iraq needs peace and order to create democracy.  Therefore, it needs a government of national unity and not a provisional one with faked legitimacy.  The Iraqi democracy, if there will ever be one, is based on guns and bombs.  This is its greatest mistake.  Those who met in Baghdad's heavily armed congress center are not responsible for it, but those who plunged Iraq into chaos."


"In Najaf"


Center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine editorialized (8/16):  "Allawi was right to call the national conference a movement towards democracy.  After decades of tyranny, an assembly in Baghdad starts a representative process no Arab country has ever seen.  However, Iraq's fate will probably be decided further south in Najaf, where the young Shiite leader al-Sadr has become remarkably strong.  With greatest cheekiness he is trying to push through his thirst for power.  The question is no longer whether Americans should stay in the country, but who should govern Iraq.  Allawi had to start negotiations, simply because of respect for his countrymen's religious feelings.  But there is no way around finally disarming al-Sadr's militias.   Otherwise he will be in the same position as Americans, who had to watch for months how the preacher challenged them again and again.  However, Allawi might not be downgraded to the mayor of Baghdad, because his troops don't have to stop before the gates of mosques."


"Conference Under Fire"


Peter Muench commented in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (8/15):  "Democratization in the time of war seems like wanting to square a circle.  The national conference is certainly pursuing noble goals, but the foundation of interim government under Allawi is far too small; old exiles dominate.  They were installed by Americans and, therefore, enjoy little confidence among Iraqis.  A broad spectrum of political, religious, ethnic groups, lords and representatives must be established.  However, the conference lacks two things.  The power of the future national council, which is supposed to check the interim government, is very limited.  On the other hand, radical groups like al-Sadr's Shiite movement or the Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars have rejected participation in the conference.  They have chosen the way of total confrontation, and U.S. troops are fighting them with all their might.  What could be won in Baghdad is being destroyed in Najaf and Samara."




Dietrich Alexander commented in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (8/16):  "Anything else but exploding grenades at Baghdad's opining of the Iraqi national conference would have been a surprise.  The security situation is probably not any better today than two weeks ago, when the conference was supposed to start.  But this important movement towards democracy must no longer be delayed.  It is not he results of the conference that are important, but the symbolism of 1,300 different social, religious, political and ethnic representatives attending one conference in Iraq....  It bears witness to a new political culture, an alternative to what we see in Najaf.  The Baghdad conference is about a peaceful reconstruction, politics, human rights and law making.  In short, it is about creating a civil society, which Saddam had systematically destroyed during his gruesome reign.   To boycott this meeting means to reject a new beginning, helping create a free society and establishing the rule of law."


"The Occupiers' Legacy"


Matthias Krause opined in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (8/16):  "The national conference is an important movement towards democratizing Iraq.  Its start showed once more what kind of chaos former administrator Bremer left behind....  But there is no alternative to the current policy.  The radical cleric al-Sadr has turned out as a two-faced politician, who simply pursues his agenda.  His demand that his army can keep its weapons is unacceptable....  If Baghdad gave in, Sunnis and Kurds would be the next to rebel.  In just a few weeks, Allawi has shown himself to be a tough politician, but he also had to fight another American legacy.  Saddam's old army had been dissolved although the new troops cannot cope with the battles that must be fought in Najaf.  But they are the only Muslim soldiers Allawi has.  Washington's attempts to get more Muslim soldiers to counter the impression that this is a clash of religions have finally failed.  U.S. special forces will have to fight beside Iraqi soldiers against al-Sadr.  We will see more ugly picture of American troops in destroyed holy sites."


"From Najaf To Baghdad"


Business daily Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg editorialized (8/16):  "If you want the democratization of Iraq to be successful, the problem of Sadr must be solved now.  The big dilemma is that any attempt to fight against him and his comrades, who are hiding in the holy sites of Shiite Islam, will cause new protests against Allawi's government and the Americans who support him....  If Sadr died in bloodshed, the entire country might be quaking, but Allawi and Americans have no option but to exert enormous pressure on Sadr.  They must show that private threats as political means do not pay off."    


ITALY:  "See-Saw For The Holy City Irritates U.S. Generals"


Andrea Nativi opined in pro-government, leading center-right daily Il Giornale (8/17):  "U.S. commanders...disagree with this strange way of conducting a war, which, among uncertainties, cease-fires, negotiations and clashes, only favors the enemy...while U.S. soldiers continue to be killed....  Allied forces have a greater number of soldiers, enjoy both technical and tactical superiority...and yet it is not possible to drive Sadr and his supporters out of Najaf.  It’s necessary to decide not to go to war 'a little.'"


"Government Divided"


Francesco Battisitni wrote from Baghdad in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (8/15):  "The breakdown in talks at Ali’s mausoleum seems to be connected with what is happening in Baghdad.  The Iraqi government is divided over the Sadr issue....  The fight is for the future...between doves and hawks over possible relations with rebellious Shiites."


RUSSIA:  "Iraqis To Take Care Of Own Destiny"


A. Safarin commented in nationalist opposition Sovetskaya Rossiya (8/17):  "The Americans will knock together some kind of parliament, of course, and have it sitting in the Green Zone, along with the interim government, as its 'voters' will train their mortars on the place to shell it as they have done for weeks now.  But run Iraq, the legislature will not.  Its architects, the U.S. Embassy, will do that for it.  Sometimes the Iraqi parliament will be presented to the world public, and its members will probably come to Moscow to pool experience with Yedinaya Rossiya (United Russia) activists on how to build a manageable democracy, and the Russian Foreign Ministry will tell them about its brainchild, an international conference on Iraq.  Since Moscow has nothing to say on the matter at hand (it can't help the Americans, nor can it take chances by condemning them, either), it suggests calling an international conference.  The new parliament now being formed by the Americans and the Moscow-proposed international conference will have no greater impact on events in Iraq than traffic jams in New York and pulling down Europe's biggest hotel in downtown Moscow.  This is something you can't say about an anti-colonial movement in Najaf, Fallujah, and a host of other big and small cities where Iraq's fate is being decided.  U.S. and Russian politicians need not bother--Iraqis need no one to help them take care of themselves."


"It Can't Go On Forever"


Aleksey Bausin said in reformist Izvestiya (8/17):  "The great stand-off in Najaf must end sometime.  As seen by the Americans and allies, Moqtada al-Sadr is the chief obstacle to political progress and has to be removed.  The way to do this--either through talks or violence--is still an open question."


"Moving To Democracy (Or War?)"


Ivan Groshkov said in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (8/16):  "Yesterday Iraq took a long-awaited step to democracy.  With one leg stepping in the direction of a democratic future, the other stepped to war.  The United States and allies have stumbled into the Iraqi resistance once again.  As the confrontation between the U.S.-Iraqi forces and the insurgent Mahdi army is in its third week, support for the insurgents' leader al-Sadr grows steadily.  Both Shiites and Sunnis express solidarity with the Najaf defenders.  Observers are in no hurry to place big hopes on the National Council, a product of the National Conference.  The resistance is likely to see it as illegitimate, the way it sees the interim government."


"Legitimacy Of National Conference Questioned"


Aleksandr Samokhotkin held in reformist Vremya Novostey (8/16):  "Obviously, the Americans, concerned about the situation in Iraq, wanted this conference.  The White House and the new Iraqi authorities think it very important to show that the rebels can't stop Iraq's progress to democracy.  But many Iraqis question the legitimacy of the conference now that the country is in a crisis caused by a renewed Shia uprising in the south and armed attacks in the Sunni Triangle.  A number of influential organizations have refused to attend.  Clearly, as long as the Americans keep shelling Muslim shrines, antigovernment forces will grow more daring.  Terrorists will strike anything coming from the hated 'occupiers and collaborators,' be it a constituent conference or parliament.  There have been more doubts lately about the ability of the Iraqi government and the U.S.-led coalition to handle the uprising in the South.   Now is the most critical moment since George Bush declared a military victory in Iraq on May 1."


"Al-Sadr More Popular Than Allawi"


Maksim Yusin argued in reformist Izvestiya (8/16):  "Al-Sadr is a military opponent, not a terrorist or murderer.  Also, unlike al-Zarqawi, he is a Shiite.  As demonstrated by the latest events, he is more popular inside the country than Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, a U.S. stooge.  This means that the formal authorities in Baghdad and the real powers that be, the Americans, may have to talk to al-Sadr sooner or later not only about peace in Najaf but also about the future of Iraq.   What one hears about not talking to terrorists does not apply to armed opposition.  Sometimes a military opponent becomes a partner, more rarely an ally."


"Hussein Isn't The Only Strong Leader In Iraq"


Mikhail Overchenko mused in business-oriented Vedomosti (8/16):  "As they set out to invade Iraq, the Americans asserted that to depose Saddam was all it took to put that country on the road to democracy.  They were acting on the assumption that Iraq had no strong leaders other than Saddam Hussein.  The Moqtada al-Sadr-led Shia uprising has proved them wrong.  Iraq does have strong leaders with perceptions of their country's future that differ greatly from the Americans and Iraqi moderates.  It is just that Americans don't know how to talk to those people.  Since the occupation al-Sadr, leading a far-flung network of charitable agencies, has done a lot to restore the ruined infrastructure, helping Shia neighborhoods set up local administrations, combat crime, and form militia units, now the backbone of the national army."


AUSTRIA:  "The Fight For Najaf"


Foreign editor Georg Hoffmann-Ostenhof opined in independent political weekly Profil (8/17):  "Once, the Shiites were America’s hope.  Now they have become its nightmare.  And this nightmare has a name:  Moqtada al-Sadr....  He succeeded in mobilizing the underprivileged Shiite classes against the occupying forces and establishing his so-called Mahdi militia.  But his strength does not lie in the fighting capability of his armed combatants who last week resisted the attacks on the city of Najaf, a sacred site and hiding place of the Shiites.  His strength rather lies in his use of symbolism....  Of course the Americans, together with the Iraqi troops, could gain a military victory over the Mahdi militia in Najaf.  But this would be a Pyrrhic victory, and this seems to have dawned on Washington in the meantime.  For what is happening in the south already amounts to more than single acts of terror or sporadic fighting between fractions.  A veritable resistance movement has developed in all larger cities in the south and in the Shiite suburbs of Baghdad...a mixture of uprising and guerrilla war....  Although one can understand the resistance movement against foreign occupying forces:  to regard this development with joy is out of place.  The leadership of the resistance movement lies in the hands of Islamist radicals and a peaceful path to a stable and possibly half-way democratic post-Saddam Iraq seems more blocked than ever."


"Rules of the Game Already Changed in Iraq"


Senior foreign editor Anneliese Rohrer opined in centrist Die Presse (8/16):  “The positions of the Shiite and the Sunni, in fact the power struggle between the Mullahs in Iran and the Saudi dynasty is now the dominant factor on the big Middle East game board....  In Najaf and other contested cities, the U.S. military does not seem to be the decisive force any more.  A situation has developed which leaves little room for negotiations:  the rebels demand the withdrawal of the Americans as a precondition for putting a halt to the fighting, and the Americans, on the other hand, demand a withdrawal of the militia.  There is no authority in the country that can bring about either option and so avert the danger of a civil war.  That this danger continues to exist until the power struggle between the Shiites and the Sunni has been decided, could be in the interest of the neighboring states."


"Trapped Between Al-Qaida And Iraq"


Foreign editor Livia Klingl wrote in mass-circulation Kurier (8/16):  "In the U.S., panic mongering reflects politicians’ power to shape the issues.  Hardly two weeks ago, papers and news channels were full of reports about the government’s decision to raise the level of terror alert to ‘orange’....  Now, hardly noticed, this decision has been retracted.  The administration has acknowledged that there are no indications of immediate terror attacks on U.S financial institutions.  Also, there are no indications of attacks during the presidential election campaign....  Nevertheless, George W. Bush stays on the terror topic, where he believes to have acquired leadership qualities, or at least has left Americans with the impression that he has.  In Los Angeles California, the most densely populated state (which traditionally votes Democratic), he praised himself as commander-in-chief in the fight against terror.  In the meantime, his soldiers in Iraq are involved in a seemingly pointless fight against rebels who are gaining more support the more they are under attack.  Whether Bush’s questionable anti-terror policy will win him points with the voters is completely open at present.”


"Allawi Is Fed Up"


Foreign affairs writer Markus Bernath commented in liberal Der Standard (8/16):  "Lacking possible alternatives, Iyad Allawi has now put all his eggs in one basket and, after two days of ceasefire, ordered an all-out attack on the militia of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in the almost two week long uprising....  Supported by the Americans, who would like to present him as the independently acting head of government, Allawi nevertheless is taking a big risk.  The success of the Iraqi troops in Najaf is anything but insured.  Al-Sadr could flee.  The mosque, the most sacred site for the Shiites, could be shot to pieces.  The offensive comes at a critical time.  It could put an end to the National Conference in Baghdad that is convening at the same time to determine an interim parliament.  But Allawi, too, is fed up.  He wants to get rid of al-Sadr, who keeps attempting to trip him up."


DENMARK:  "U.S. Goes Wisely Forth In Najaf"


Center-right Berlingske Tidende opined (8/16):  “The U.S. has learnt some important lessons about military action in Iraq.  The offensive in Najaf has been carried out in a most sensible and wise way.”


"Glimmer Of Hope"


Left-wing Information judged (8/16):  “Even though the 1,300 delegates met to the accompaniment of mortar fire and had to barricade themselves in to the so-called, Green Zone, the three day national conference may have signaled the beginning of a new day in Iraq.”


"How Long Should Denmark Stay In Iraq?"


Center-left Politiken editorialized (8/15):  “Are the foreign troops in Iraq a part of the solution or a part of the problem?  What kind of human and political price is the Danish government willing to pay?  It is a discussion that ought to be started, because it would be unfortunate if we made panicky decisions when things go totally wrong in Iraq.”


NORWAY:  "Iraq’s Future Is Being Debated"


The newspaper-of-record Aftenposten commented (8/16):  “As the Shia Muslim protest on the opening day [of the talks] proved, both the interim government and the United States must do everything to end the fighting in Najaf and the conflict over al-Sadr....  He is supported mainly by poor and underprivileged Shia Muslims....  If this group does not feel that the government is also their government, they could directly or indirectly give their support to al-Sadr, and in that way undermine the important dialogue that after all has been established in Iraq.”


"Holy Grounds"


The independent Dagbladet commented  (8/19):  “The Americans have made al-Sadr a more important figure than he would ever have managed to become on his own.  He is now portrayed as a symbol of the resistance against the United States both by Shia and Sunni Muslims in Iraq.  The unwise decision of the United States to send their marine soldiers to ‘clean up’ in Najaf has undermined the already minimal legitimacy of Iraq’s interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, and kindled the flame of resistance among the Shia Muslims.  Not because the Iraqi Shia Muslim majority feels that al-Sadr has the right to fight on holy grounds, but because they feel he is fighting for a holy reason.  And as the Iraqi and the rest of the world know by now:  the United States has no holy reasons left for their attack on Iraq.”


POLAND:  "A Martyr In His Lifetime"


Mariasz Zawadzki opined in liberal Gazeta Wyborcza (8/14):  "It does not matter how much Moqtada al-Sadr is wounded.  He is already a national hero.  The truth is, he was perfect for this role:  he comes from a very-well known family of ayatollahs....  But his good background and tradition is not everything and Moqtada would not be able to promote himself on his own.  It is [due to] the Americans and their Iraqi allies, who have been working for months, that he is becoming stronger and stronger.  Putting moral dilemmas aside on how to build democracy with the use of tanks and against the will of the majority, one should either not have started this fight or one should have quickly finished it by force....  With al-Sadr becoming increasingly stronger, Washington’s vision of a modern Iraq governed by lay people and elected in democratic elections is vanishing."


ROMANIA:  "No Improvement In Security Situation"


Foreign policy analyst M. Hareshan commented in the English-language daily Nine O’Clock (8/17):  “Since the sovereignty handover to the interim government led by premier Iyad Allawi in late June, the security situation in Iraq has not improved.  One may even say, by taking into account the latest events, namely the insurrection by the militia of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, that this situation has deteriorated....  Settling the situation and the energetic start of Iraqi reconstruction are not wanted by those domestic and foreign political forces interested in fishing in troubled waters.  In other words, (they are) interested either in the division of Iraq, or in the start of a heavy civil war that would have a strong impact on the security situation in the area and on the international oil market.”


SLOVENIA:  "In Flames"


Ales Gaube observed in left-of-center independent Dnevnik (8/13):  "The goal of the offensive against the 'Iraqi Stalingrad' is to thwart the growing influence of Moqtada al-Sadr.  With a breakdown of the Mahdi army, attacks against the American military would decrease in number along with the public’s support for al-Sadr.  This is what the Americans naively assume....  But al-Sadr has long ago outgrown the status of an ordinary partisan fighter.  He has become a living legend....  Al-Sadr's rise is a product of bad American post-war planning....  The Americans found it more important to handle the loyal Iraqi expatriates gently than to open public discourse with the critical locals....  Even if the Americans...seize Najaf and arrest al-Sadr they will not break the uprising of his supporters.  All Muslims (including the Sunnis) see the violent attack by the infidels on the most sacred Shia place as a symbol of horrendous disrespect for the Islamic religion....  The exasperation, which has spread through the entire Muslim world, is understandable.  Only Prime Minister Allawi was silent.  He can hardly blame his American friends, since he himself asked them for help.  This was his worst mistake.  The Pentagon's implementation of the carrot-and-stick policy has brought Iraq much closer to a civil war.  Allawi’s new appeal to al-Sadr to put down arms may well be in vain.  The elephant in a china shop has been leaving nothing but shards behind, and--among other things--Allawi's credibility has been falling apart."


TURKEY:  "The Iraq Impasse"


Murat Belge observed in the liberal-intellectual Radikal (8/17):  “American forces have stopped their attacks in Najaf, but have not been able to reach a negotiated settlement.  In fact, there is a real question about whether a settlement can be found.  Given the current circumstances, finding a solution through negotiation seems very unlikely....  Had the elder Bush finished the job he started in 1991, things would have been different today.  At least when father Bush intervened, Iraq had been involved in a clear violation of international law....  Today things are more murky.  We don’t really even know why the U.S. is in Iraq and what is the reason for all of this mess.  Even those basics remain unclear.  The strongest argument the U.S. had when it began this war--WMD--has now been invalidated by the Americans....  When we look at the future of U.S. politics, there is not much hope there either.  The Democratic candidate supports the Iraq war and says he would have been given the same order had he be in Bush’s position.  If that is the case, what would be the reason for choosing Kerry against Bush?  It seems the Western world is going through a serious crisis.  Things are just not moving in the right direction.”


"Democracy In Iraq"


Yilmaz Oztuna wrote in the conservative Turkiye (8/16):  “The convening of the Iraqi national council does not provide much hope for democracy in the country.  Iraq continues to suffer from a serious lack of democracy since the Baathist dictatorship was established in 1958.  Given the current circumstances, the Iraqi national conference will have to tackle the struggle between tribes and religious groups as well as an outdated social structure rather than wrestle with a transition to democracy....  In this picture, the only positive element is the elimination of Saddam Hussein and his regime.  A Saddam-style dictatorship has ended in Iraq and no longer has any place in this geography.  However, a transition to democracy requires stronger steps.  This region most likely will be ruled under an oligarchic structure in which constantly changing leaders will get orders from the United States, especially on foreign policy issues and oil-related matters.  There might be some promising developments in Iraq, but democracy in Iraq or in Afghanistan remains a very remote possibility.”




IRAQ:  "Rein In Wayward Trends"


Abd al-Husayn Salman commented in Al-Adala, twice-weekly published by the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (8/17):  "After such a long and bitter experience of tyranny, Iraq can never again be governed by a single person, party or clan.  We, Iraqis, are ready and willing to make countless more sacrifices to establish and consolidate belief in the rule of law in the consciousness of every single one of us.  Hence, it is from a sense of responsibility that we find ourselves impelled to call upon our wise elders and influential dignitaries, our tribal chieftains and party bosses who have chosen to join in the political process and who recognize the important role of civil society institutions to rein in wayward trends and strife-stirrers and strike hard at them before their evil becomes virtually uncontrollable."


"Al-Sadr Seeks To Obstruct Rule Of Law"


Baghdad, published by the Iraqi National Accord editorialized (8/17):  "Even as the presumed al-Sadr-followers among the ranks of al-Mahdi Army commit arson against provincial offices of the National Accord Movement, they routinely see to it that the killers and criminals held in custody are all set free after every attack launched at an Iraqi police station.  Such a combination of terror attacks is clearly meant to obstruct the efforts being made by Dr. Allawi's cabinet to lay the foundations for the rule of law and to build its relationships with civil society institutions on the basis of democracy."


"Side With Dialogue"


Muhammad al-Haydari wrote in Al-Adala, twice-weekly published by the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (8/16):  "The Iraqi government, and the prime minister in particular, should side with dialogue to contain the crisis and drive the al-Sadr movement towards the political process.  This movement should realize that its own interest, the interest of Iraqi people and that of Najaf are in joining the political process, even as opposition.  As for the military option, it will not bring about positive results in these circumstances.  Rather, it will only lead to more bloodshed, and may even end up with the destruction of Iraq, if Iraq enemies find an opportunity to strike."


"Rule Out The War Option"


An editorial in Al-Bayan, daily newspaper published by the Islamic Al-Da'wah Party, read (8/16):  "The government's announcement to suspend negotiations for a political solution to the crisis and to revert to the military option was a setback to Iraqis' hopes and aspirations to see an end to the horrible, bloody scenes that cost hundreds of Iraqi lives.  Protecting Iraq from a losing battle by all standards and providing all the push the political process in Iraq towards the rule of law, permanent constitution and a government elected by the people are the responsibility of all true political forces concerned with Iraq's interests and future as well as the interim Iraqi government.  Therefore, all effort should unite to rule out the war option and go back to the serious and decisive negotiating table to close this file once and for all."


"Al-Sadr Movement"


Baghdad's weekly Al-Bayyina, published by the Hezbollah Movement in Iraq, judged (8/16):  "Has it not been possible to turn the al-Sadr movement into fighting the Saddamist, Zarqawist and Wahabist forces of terror, which is its normal position? Who has dragged us into these fabricated wars?  Is the blood being shed non-Iraqi?  What is the Shia council's response to all that has happened?  Where are the Islamic parties and political forces that continue to watch the bloodshed from high towers?....  What will history write about us, and what will we tell posterity?  These are all questions that need to be answered not through electronic mail but through taking to the streets.  Otherwise, the reply will remain between the rock--the occupier's gun--and the hard place--our sectarian neighbors--because events have proved that our slaughter is more likely [than not] and needs only a decision from the U.S. White House".


ISRAEL:  "Iraq's Arafat"


Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (8/16):  "What is a country to do when it has tried to finesse its way out of a military conflict, only to be faced with a stronger, more entrenched enemy?  Let us just say that we have sympathy with the U.S.-Iraqi dilemma over terrorist-cum-cleric Moqtada al-Sadr....  [The bombing of Sadr's house] reminds us of the ever-tightening circles drawn around Yasser Arafat's Mukata headquarters, leading to the Palestinian leader's essential imprisonment.  The analogy between Arafat and Sadr is obviously an imperfect one....  The similarity lies in the fact that Sadr, though from a lesser position of power, stands astride the future of Iraqis the way Arafat thwarts fundamental change for Palestinians....  The new Iraq is supposed to be about freedom and democracy, the rule of law, and an end to terro --both against Iraqis and abroad.  Sadr stands for the opposite of all that....  Though it may take some time for violent threats, like Sadr and the remnants of Saddam's regime, to be defeated, this is the only foundation on which other elements of democracy can be built.  The price of avoiding such difficult confrontations, as Israelis have only slowly and perhaps not fully realized, tends to be even higher."


WEST BANK:  "The Atrocities Expose The Falsity Of U.S. Allegations"


Independent Al-Quds editorialized (8/14):  “The tragic scenes of U.S. atrocities in Iraq once again expose the falsehood of the slogans raised by the U.S. administration when its troops, along with British ones, invaded Iraq, particularly what they described as the liberation of the Iraqi people and the establishment of democracy in the country.  It has become quite clear that the Iraqi people, who are supposed to be liberated, are being killed at the hands of the U.S. troops, and that those killed include women, children, and the elderly.  It is also clear that the so-called U.S. advocates of democracy are using the language and logic of brutality against whoever disagrees with them or defends Iraq's dignity and future.”


EGYPT:  "The Concerns Of Moqtada Al-Sadr"


Sana al-Sa'id observed in weekly, Arab nationalist Al-Usbu (8/16):  "Because [Moqtada al-Sadr] is a hero and opposes the occupation forces and their agents, and because he is a sincere man of religion who lived for his principles, homeland, and faith, [the U.S.] sought to eliminate him in order to consolidate the authority of traitor and agent [Iraqi PM] Allawi ahead of the U.S. presidential elections.  This because elimination of the al-Sadr group will help the occupation forces and the Allawi government rid themselves of the symbol of free resistance.  It was only natural for al-Sadr to enjoy an overwhelming popularity, now that a huge difference emerged between him and other aged religious Shiite leaders.  It was strange that the Sunnis should rush to issue fatwas prohibiting fighting alongside the Americans and calling for the U.S. forces withdrawal from Najaf, while the Shiite religious authority maintained dubious silence.  This silence revealed the Shiite religious authority's collusion with the occupation forces to get rid of Moqtada al-Sadr after he exposed this authority's subservient leaders and their involvement with the occupation authority....  It was strange that four Shiite religious leaders should leave Iraq on the eve of the attack on Najaf in an unprecedented development.  Al-Sistani went to London and Bashir al-Najafi traveled to Iran, while Muhammad Sa'id al-Hakim and Ishaq Fayyad went to Germany.  They left Iraq to be looted by the occupation forces and their agents.  There is no doubt that Moqtada al-Sadr's actions embarrassed the four big leaders whose image became shaken and withdrawn after they gave up all their principles and chose to secure their own lives....  The Allawi government relished this action even though the dead were his own people.  Thus, Allawi emerged as an agent and traitor who has no intellect, conscience, or moral restraint.  He is not like Moqtada al-Sadr who will remain a hero and symbol of principles and deep faith.  As for Allawi, he condemned himself and his dark history to death."


SAUDI ARABIA:  "Necessity For Calm In Najaf"


Dammam’s moderate Al-Yaum editorialized (8/16):  "The bloodshed happening now in Iraq is an introduction to worse times....  Iraq lacks a foundation for establishing a new age and democracy.  Democracy cannot be implemented through military operations that leave no room for diplomatic efforts....  The U.S. believes that it must win any war it enters.  We do not know if reaching al-Sadr’s house would satisfy the American expectations in this battle.  The Iraqi Interim Government has been calling for the end of the fighting in Najaf and the American air attacks.  However, the calls have been ignored....  Evidently, the relationship between the Interim Government and the multinational forces is being tested.  The relationship should be based on consultation."


"A Chance For Iraq"


Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina judged (8/16):  "The Iraqi National Convention was held yesterday under unusual conditions of air strikes and a curfew.  Those who attended the Conference realize that they have a responsibility to rebuild Iraq.  They also know that a sick body cannot nurture healthy organs.  That is why they need to admit that they have their own differences.  They must accept a diverse Iraq.  Iraq is composed of a mixture of ethnic, religious, and racially diverse groups of people.  Those who have chosen the military way to free Iraq should also realize these facts.  The differences between those in the Conference and those fighting on the streets is not about the future of Iraq; rather it is about the methods of achieving and securing that future.  The Iraqi National Convention is a chance for Iraq to move peacefully towards actual sovereignty.  So let us give negotiations a chance to achieve peace." 


"The Responsibility Of The Iraqi National Council"


Jeddah’s moderate Okaz remareked (8/16):  "The New National Council in Iraq bears the responsibility of ending the turmoil in Najaf.  Those who withdrew from the Convention must find another way to end the crisis.  It is fine if some people chose to boycott the convention, but it is unacceptable to withdraw from the responsibility of resolving the problem.  A withdrawal of this kind has a negative meaning and does not serve the interests of the Iraqi people."


"Wrong Solution"


Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina editorialized (8/15):  "The scenes of random U.S. bombings and intentional killing of civilians in Najaf brought back memories of organized crime and mass murders that Saddam Hussein used to practice against his own Iraqi people.  This is what makes the slogans of the U.S. administration about bringing freedom and spreading democracy sound like a big lie.  This is a democracy and freedom for mass murder.  The Iraqi tragedy is compounded when an Iraqi citizen kills his brother Iraqi."


"A United Iraqi Stance"


Abha’s moderate Al-Watan editorialized (8/15):  "For the past eight days Iraqis have stood united during the American battle in Najaf.  This unified position proves that Iraq is strong and its national solidarity is firm.  Iraqis are united because they have the same concerns.  The different Islamic factions in Iraq have agreed to a schedule for the withdrawal of occupation troops.  In addition, it is unreasonable to have this destruction continue.  The destruction that military operations produce in seconds takes years to be rebuilt."


"End The Fighting In Najaf Quickly"


Riyadh’s moderate Al-Jazira editorialized (8/14):  "Although there are voices in the Iraqi interim government who ask for withdrawal of foreign forces from Najaf and to reduce air attacks there, it is clear that the relationship between the interim government and the multinational forces is being tested.  The relationship as was defined should be based on consultations, and the interim government should approve all military operations....  Now it is extremely important to end the confrontation quickly in order to reduce loses and to pave the way for mediation."


ALGERIA:  "Faith Against Apaches"


French-language, top-circulation Le Quotidien d’Oran editorialized (8/15):  “Nobody doubts that America holds the means to defeat Moqtada Sadr's supporters, almost unarmed with their Kalashinikovs and RPGs....  The American troops' actions in Iraq are not different from the brutality of Russian troops in Chechnya.  The number of ‘enemies’ killed, which U.S. soldiers keep mumbling about with a morbid satisfaction, is evidence of the U.S.' fascination with firepower, which is supposed to settle all problems and answer all questions.  Rumsfeld will undoubtedly win the battle of Najaf by provoking a bloodbath....  Iyad Allawi has no future with the Iraqis, although he may have one with the Americans....  Iraq is going through tragic days that will mark the future.  The turning point will not take place in a ‘national conference’ but in the old city of Najaf.  By establishing himself in the mosque of Imam Ali, Moqtada Sadr makes up for the lack of military might by calling for the might of faith.  From the top of their Apaches, Americans can smile before such naiveté  Yet, they shouldn’t.  Every Iraqi they kill gives birth to 10 resistance fighters, while on the other hand Allawi and his like do not bring forth any support.” 


JORDAN:  "The War Did Not Stop"


Chief editor Taher Udwan wrote in independent, mass-appeal Al-Arab Al-Yawm (8/16):  “After seventeen months of occupation, American forces continue to fight in Iraq, despite the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime, the collapse of the Baath state and the return of all the Iraqi ‘American parties’ to Baghdad.  So who is this enemy that the Americans have been fighting all this time?  In the beginning, this enemy was said to be the members of the old regime, then it was said to be al-Qaida, then the Wahabis, followed by Zarqawi and infiltrators from Syria, and now the enemy is said to be Iran and its followers.  The truth that the U.S. administration does not want its people to know during the elections campaign is that the enemy that America is fighting now in Iraq is the entire Iraqi people....  What democracy is this that the Iraqi National Conference is trying to launch in Baghdad in view of the renewed war against the Iraqis?  It is an empty democracy that does not include the opponents, or contrary opinion, or the representatives of the Shiite and Sunni trends, or the nationalist and Arab parties.  Under the current formula, the Conference is going to be just like the temporary government, useless and incapable to rule absent the presence of 130 thousand fully-equipped American soldiers.”


"The American Aggression Against Najaf"


Daily columnist Fahd Fanek noted in influential Al-Rai (8/16):  “The temporary Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Alawi had the chance of a lifetime to prove that he is an independent Iraqi president and a representative of Iraqi sovereignty.  He could have declared his opposition to the attack on Najaf and asked the American forces to withdraw from the holy city and leave him to deal with Moqtada al-Sadr.  But he kept silent....  The [U.S.] president wants to tell his people that he did not fail in Iraq and that the American forces are capable of imposing order and controlling all the cities and the militias, thus presenting an image of a victor instead of his current loser and defeated image, and getting more votes in his campaign for a second term in office....  The current battle proved that the war goes on.  It has put a stop to the myth that the resistance movement is limited to the Sunni triangle, and proved that the resistance is on a much wider scale, thus confirming it as national in scope.”


LEBANON:  "The Language Of Force And The Language Of Reason"


Awni Kaaki held in pro-Syrian Ash-Sharq (8/13):  “The American army, armed with the latest and most developed weapons, and which is considered the strongest force in the world, has become similar to a militia...and instead of making the act, they are reacting in a stupid childish game that is extraordinarily dangerous....  What is happening in Iraq reflects the complex of grandeur that is overcoming the Master of the White House George Bush Junior.  Shelling the Iraqi streets, and neighborhoods in a random manner...killing and injuring children, women, and unarmed people, as well as destroying houses on top of their residents, can only be described as a crazy operation of a show of force that leads us to wonder who is more criminal than the other America or Israel?  Actually they are both equal in carrying out criminal acts, killing, destroying, looting, and armed robbery, because they pursue the same style in storming, air raiding and using internationally prohibited weapons such as uranium depleted missiles, and cluster bombs that cause huge destruction and turn victims to skeletons in seconds.  It is time for America to understand that force will not rob the Iraqis of their rights.  It will be confronted fiercely.  There is no solution in Iraq other than dialogue, reason, and logic.  America should be convinced that it should place a timetable for its troop withdrawal from Iraq and put an end to its occupation."


SYRIA:  "Occupation Impasse"


Mohamed Ali Buza commented in government-owned Al-Ba'th (8/17):  "The tragic and terrifying scene in Najaf reflects the political and military impasse of occupation and its failure to market its schemes.  It also refutes its false allegations under the deceptive slogan of spreading democracy and freedom.  The intensified use of advanced war-machines sends a message to everyone rejecting occupation in and outside of Iraq and throughout the world.  The message is that there is no political solution to the situation unless it runs according to Washington's vision, will and instructions which persist in the policy of containment, suppression of freedoms and redrawing the map of the whole region....  It is true that the approaching U.S. elections might increase the enthusiasm of the U.S. administration's hawks for achieving a military victory that could be used for election purposes.  But this dangerous wager on the ruin of another country...cannot be used as a useful means to break the people's will and force them to surrender to occupation."




CHINA (HONG KONG AND MACAU SARs):  "A Foolish Showdown In Najaf"


Gwynne Dyer wrote in the independent English-language South China Morning Post (8/17):  "U.S. troops could have fought their way into Najaf, violated the Imam Ali mosque and killed Mr. Sadr if they were willing to pay the political price.  But they were not, and U.S. forces were called off in May.  Why are they attacking again, now?  Whatever the truth about the incident that restarted the fighting, it is clearly an American choice to go for broke against Mr. Sadr.  The likely answer is that the sudden removal of Mr. Sistani from the scene (he flew to London for heart treatment two weeks ago) has made Mr. Sadr too powerful--and too dangerous to the transitional government--to be left alive.  There are to be no witnesses this time:  he few journalists in Najaf have been ordered to leave or face arrest.  But if this ends in a last stand and a massacre of the Mahdi militia in the most sacred site in the Shiite world, possibly doing serious damage to the Imam Ali mosque itself, the long-term cost to the U.S. will far outweigh any possible gains.  The logic of the strategy is still very hard to follow."


"Why Conflicts In Najaf Can Hardly Resolve?"


The pro-PRC Chinese-language Macau Daily News remarked (8/16):  "Moqtada al-Sadr attributed the failure of negotiations to the lack of sincerity of the Allawi government and to the U.S. military for abruptly recalling negotiation representatives when both sides were ready to close a deal.  One of the spokespersons said the result of the negotiations need the signature and execution of U.S. military.  However, the U.S. military had always refused to participate in the peace talks.  He said that the Iraqi interim government might resume military action soon.  On August 14th, the U.S. military encircled Najaf without military operations.  However, they were making assaults in other areas and they killed about 50 insurgents near the northern Iraqi town of Samarra.  The U.S. military admitted that they were cleaning up guerrillas in those places....  The social, religious and political situations in Iraq are complicated.  The preset model adopted by the U.S. is not welcomed and may not be applicable.  It is still uncertain whether the military strategy of the U.S. can destroy anti-U.S. militants and settle the matter once and for all....  Hence, if al-Sadr's requests are not satisfied, it will be difficult to calm down the chaotic Najaf and a shadow will be cast over the Iraqi national conference."


JAPAN:  "Tough Road Ahead For Stability And Reconciliation"


The top-circulation, moderate Yomiuri editorialized (8/17):  "The Iraqi interim government has made some progress in boosting its legitimacy and standing by finally convening a national conference.  But Prime Minister Allawi and other leaders must admit [there are] current obstacles to stability and reconciliation, including the presence of anti-American hard-liners within the Shiite community.  The handling of Shiite cleric al-Sadr's supporters could significantly affect domestic security and politics....  A tough stance may instead fan anti- government sentiment among Shiites believers.  The government must continue negotiations with Sadr in order to come to a truce."


INDONESIA:  "Ever-Worrisome Future Of Iraq"


Independent Media Indonesia commented (8/16):  "The future of Iraq is indeed worrying.  The major strikes by the U.S. on the holy city of Najaf, in particular, have dimmed peace expectations following the establishment of a new administration in the country.  Instead of peace, the strikes have been going on for one week and turned Najaf into a killing field.  Again, hundreds of those who were killed were those who should not have been hit by a bullet, women and children....  Given the escalation of the U.S. strikes and the resistance of the Iraqi guerrillas, there seems to be no sign that the Iraqi people will live a better life.  There has even been a yearning for the life during Saddam Hussein’s rule.  In addition, more and more is revealed that the attacks on Iraq constitute the personal ambition of President George Bush.  This will certainly cause a new wound and grudge among the oppressed Iraqi children.  It is the seed of radicalism that the U.S. is sowing in Iraq."


"Escalation Of Warfare Makes Iraq More Chaotic"


Leading independent daily Kompas editorialized (8/14):  “Regardless of shortcomings and mistakes by the Baath Party, the attacks by the U.S. and the UK that destroyed the political organization completely have brought about major damage to the effort to make Iraq a pluralistic and multicultural country....  In retrospect, Iraq would not have been in such a chaotic condition if the U.S. and the UK had not invaded and occupied the country.  Iraq and Saddam’s administration have become victims of U.S. and UK arrogance.”


"U.S. vs. Iraqi Shiites"


Independent Indo Pos of Surabaya argued  (8/14):  “The fierce warfare of U.S. forces and its puppet government in Iraq against the Shiite fighters in Najaf, Iraq, illustrated very clearly the orientation of the Washington-led military occupation in Iraq.  During the beginning of the military aggression in Iraq in March 2003, the U.S. argued it wished to oust Saddam Hussein for possessing chemical weapons and helping anti-American terrorist groups.  Now the U.S. military wishes to eliminate any Iraqi groups that oppose the occupation....  The U.S. has other agendas with the main goal of fully controlling Iraq.  Because the major obstacle comes from the Shiites, [apparently] there is no other choice for the U.S. than to fight with full force against militant Shiite fighters.”


PHILIPPINES:  "Staying The Course Of War"


Luis Teodoro wrote in the liberal Today (08/17):  "The U.S. military believes it can decisively win the battle against al-Sadr....  It most probably can.  But it would be at the expense of the larger political goal of stabilizing Iraq....  This explains why U.S. military commanders agreed to a cease-fire called by the interim government, albeit begrudgingly....  The battle for Najaf has already outraged millions of Muslims....  Among the results of a U.S. victory against the Mahdi Army could be fresh recruits for the terrorist network worldwide, and a setback for the larger U.S. goal of assuring the safety of U.S. cities, interests and home and abroad....  The U.S. predicament is rooted in...its current policies of unilateral, preemptive a plank of its overall strategic goal of global...dominance....  The bad news for everyone is that...the Bush clique is far from relenting in its single-minded strategic purpose of global dominance through preemptive war and regime change.  In keeping with the 'new' strategy...the U.S. will be withdrawing troops from Asia and Europe in preparation for deploying them to those other countries it regards as possible threats."




INDIA:  "U.S. Options In Iraq"


Columnist S. Nihal Singh took this view in the centrist, independent Tribune (8/17):  "Despite the three main divisions in Iraq among the Shias, Sunnis and Kurds, Americans have persistently underestimated the pull of nationalism, a significant contribution of Saddam Hussein....  And Americans have discovered the limitations of using Iraqi police and troops in policing roles to maintain security.  Here again, nationalism comes to the fore, whatever the spin Americans put on it....  The Bush administration has given up promoting democracy in West Asia as an immediate goal.  Rather, its urgent business is to smoothen the evacuation of the bulk of its forces while retaining permanent American bases to pursue its national interests in which issues of oil and security are inextricably mixed.  Any major new initiative is on hold until after the U.S. presidential election in November.  Meanwhile, the resistance in Iraq has escalated the cost of the occupation....  Security concerns, which have slowed down the reconstruction process considerably, are inhibiting UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's desire to help Americans out of the Iraq quagmire."


PAKISTAN:  "Resistance In Iraq"


The center-right national English-language Nation editorialized (8/17):  "Najaf has however added to the anti-U.S. sentiment in Iraq.  On Sunday, 1,100 members of the council chosen to take the country towards constitutional democracy staged angry protests against the military operation in Najaf.  Resorting to barbaric methods, the U.S.-led forces may win the battle but they are bound to lose the overall war in Iraq.  What is more:  American standing in the Muslim world is bound to undergo further slippage....  In order to get the support of the powerful Zionist lobby, one American president after another has pursued policies in the Middle East which have angered the Muslims.  The attempt by Washington to equate freedom struggles with terrorism is widely seen as a favor extended to those who are forcibly occupying the lands of the Muslim communities in Middle East and Kashmir and are subjecting them to state-sponsored terrorism.  Unless Washington reviews its policy it cannot have the goodwill of millions of Muslims all over the world."


IRAN:  "Evanescent Democracy In Iraq"


Hassan Hanizadeh wrote in the conservative Tehran Times (8/17):  "The opening ceremony of the Iraqi National Conference was held in Baghdad...while insecurity and clashes continue unabated in Iraq....  For quite some time, the U.S. forces and the Iraqi interim government have been making provocations in order to marginalize the Iraqi majority, especially in Najaf, which is the center of Shia resistance and the place where they make their political decisions.  The unprovoked invasion of Najaf was initiated only to keep the Shia religious leaders busy, thus preventing them from playing a more active role in discussions on the future government of Iraq.  This conference definitely will not meet the needs of the Iraqi people because the U.S. is attempting to isolate the Iraqi majority, despite its claims about seeking to establish democracy in Iraq.  Indeed, the efforts to create tension in Najaf by certain officials of the Iraqi interim government with ties to the former regime are in line with the U.S. policy to marginalize the Shia with the express intention of allowing the Iraqi minority to retain power."


"Idiocy Of A President"


Tehran's very conservative Jomhuri-ye Eslami editorialized (Internet version, 8/15):  "The intensity and scale of the occupiers' blind attacks from land and air against the defenseless Iraqi people these days demonstrates their unquenchable thirst for repressing the Iraqi people, particularly the Shiites.  Reliable reports indicate that the occupiers are using cluster bombs and other banned weapons of war and also vengeful Israeli officers.  Meanwhile, the puppet government of Iraq has also turned in a poor test result....  The occupiers' puppets have smeared their hands with the blood of the Iraqi people and have left behind a black record of themselves.   Reports indicate the encirclement of Najaf and disconnection of water and electricity, and a food and medicine embargo being imposed on this holy city have been carried out by the head of Najaf police's orders.  Iyad Allawi, the puppet prime minister, has also given the green light to the occupiers to attack holy sites in Najaf.  Thus a picture of disgrace has been drawn of the occupiers, and those professing to grant democracy to the Iraqi people have once again rolled in the blood and dust of their victims and have trampled underfoot all international standards."


BANGLADESH:  "Which Way Iraq?"


The centrist English-language Independent editorialized (8/17):  "The collapse of a cease-fire in Najaf and resumption of hostilities has coincided with the arrival in Baghdad of over a thousand delegates from across the country for a national conference seen as key to establishing democracy in the land.  Allawi’s agenda in organizing the conference is to add legitimacy to his interim government, which is still heavily dependent on the presence of about 140,000 U.S. troops.  The failure to end the Shiite uprising in Najaf along with the continued Sunni-led insurgency elsewhere surely threatens to undermine the conference.  In this atmosphere Bush will find it extremely difficult to pull out his troops from Iraq.  This explains why he is in a hurry to withdraw at least 200,000 U.S. troops from Germany and South Korea before the November election."




CANADA:  "Calling U.S. Troops Home From The Field"


he leading, centrist Globe and Mail commented (8/17):  "Yesterday's announcement by Mr. Bush by no means solves his military/political problem....  The toll in Iraq mounts....  So dire is the military's need that more than 5,000 former U.S. soldiers have been recalled into active duty, like it or not, and thousands more have been prevented from quitting or retiring....  Which brings us to the current standoff at the Imam Ali mosque in Najaf.  The stakes, both for Iraq and for the political process in the United States, could not be higher.  If Iraq's interim government, backed by the U.S. military, can win the day without turning radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr into a martyr, the outlook for Iraqi democracy, and for Mr. Bush personally, will improve markedly.  But if the standoff ends in a bloodbath and a general Shia uprising across southern Iraq, all bets are off.  Mr. Bush would then face the ugliest of political scenarios:  a full-blown Iraqi revolt and correspondingly sky-high oil prices just as he hit the campaign trail."


"Bush Just Like Clinton In Matters Of War"


Editorial writer David Warren observed in the nationalist Ottawa Citizen (8/14):  "In the first two years after Sept. 11, the Bush administration acted decisively, if in slow motion.  Now it is frittering in slow motion....  What had seemed so promising in Najaf was the permission given by Iraqi and U.S. authorities to pursue Moqtada al-Sadr's psychopathic blackshirts into the Wadi al-Salam cemetery and the Imam Ali shrine, from which they had been firing with impunity.  There is absolutely no moral, let alone legal objection (in international law), to such pursuit:  Americans (and Israelis, for that matter) should be at liberty to destroy mosques, cemeteries, or any other positions from which the enemy is firing, when necessary.  These will not cease to be used as cover until the scruples are disowned.  There is a public relations objection, when a Western army is fighting a Muslim adversary within a Muslim country.  The optics are not good, but the Bush administration gets no points for optics, anyway.  Part of their mission is, after all, a teaching exercise, in which Western rules of warfare are among what must be imparted.  If they are expecting the Arabs to master representative democracy and constitutional law, it follows that they expect them to learn the Geneva Conventions....  The Arab Street is not Sesame Street, and no sympathy is gained by being sweet and ineffectual.  Instead, hopelessly trying to find a way to make your enemies love you has reappeared as the American way.  The Bush administration is proving almost Clintonesque in its willingness to let its most lethal enemies off the hook....  To Middle Eastern observers, with their conspiratorial obsessions, this hardly counts as gentlemanly behavior.  It instead suggests that the U.S. and its visible enemies are secretly in cahoots.  The American military is superb, but the political will to use it decisively is not there....  Either there is a war to finish, or they should return to barracks."


MEXICO:  "Iraq's Turn"


Academic Alonso Lujambio wrote in the independent Reforma (8/16):  "The Iraqi political process faces a critical situation.  After two weeks of attacks by the Mahdi army headed by the young Shiite clergy Moqtada Sadar, the U.S. troops and the Iraqi national guard have decided to take over Najaf.  This is likely to fuel the explosive situation.  The Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has already said that if the Iman Ali's holy sanctuary is violated, Muslims all over the world will respond....  Given the current situation, can anybody think that elections in Iraq will take place in 2005 as scheduled?  The U.S. offensive in Najaf has not only polarized politics in Iraq, it has also brought about strong divisions and even resignations in Allawi's government."


"Najaf:  Savagery, Desperation And Random Strikes In The Dark"


The center-left La Jornada editorialized (8/14):  "Desperation is a bad advisor.  The huge U.S. political and moral failures in Iraq--illustrated by the increasing armed resistance, the exposure of the torture taking place in the concentration camps of the invading army, the incapacity to form a reliable government--have motivated the U.S. troops to conduct unfounded barbaric actions against the civilian population and to strike random blows in the dark against the Shiite religious leadership and against Iran....  The United States is accumulating defeats just a few months before their presidential election, with local support diminishing in a spiral of violence."


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