August 17, 2004
NAJAF CRISIS A KEY TEST FOR U.S., IRAQI GOVERNMENT
** 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, and...is a sincere man of
religion," said an Arab nationalist Egyptian weekly, the U.S. is seeking
his elimination to "consolidate the authority of the
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
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
"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
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
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."
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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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."
"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.”
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
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."
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.”
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
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
IRAQ: "Rein In Wayward
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 conditions...to 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."
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".
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."
"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
"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."
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
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."
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
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
"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."
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."
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
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
"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.”
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
nationals...at home and abroad.... The
U.S. predicament is rooted in...its current policies of unilateral, preemptive
wars...as 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."
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
INDIA: "U.S. Options
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."
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
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
"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
BANGLADESH: "Which Way
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."
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."
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."