December 10, 2004
IRAQ ELECTIONS: MEDIA FOCUS ON TIMING, SAFETY, FAIRNESS
** Party affiliates in Iraq toe party line on vote date, terrorist intimidation.
** Iraqi independents stress importance of fair vote, cite threats to achieving it.
** Iranian outlets tout nationwide vote as precursor to U.S. exit.
** Global writers split sharply on whether fair vote, however vital, is possible.
** Media in Asian and NATO allies weigh Iraq dangers against importance of U.S. ties.
Party platforms-- Papers affiliated with pro-election parties blasted the "sudden demand" for a postponement as “dangerous to the democratic process.” Chalabi-affiliated Al Mutamer called boycott proponents “against democracy from the beginning.” Allawi-affiliated Baghdad condemned apologists for the “resistance” at a time when “Iraq needs security and stability to establish an elected government.” A Pachachi-affiliated daily, however, treated postponement as "less dangerous than holding elections that will...put Iraq on the verge of an abyss."
Skeptical independents raise nuts-and-bolts concerns-- Independent Iraqi outlets split on the merits of holding the elections as scheduled, but were united in questioning the process. Recently anti-Coalition Azzaman pointed out that "no authority is in charge of looking at complaints of fraud and election violations." A writer in Al Mashreq doubted claims that holding elections will quell the violence: "If only the government were able to tangibly prove that elections will stabilize security in Iraq, we would go bare-footed to the ballot boxes."
Hold the elections, 'end the occupation'-- Iranian media, along with Iraqi outlets affiliated with the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), urged a quick nationwide vote as the first step to ending the occupation. A conservative Tehran daily held that "delaying elections...means giving an opportunity to the foreign occupiers to prolong their stay and further establish themselves in this Muslim country." SCIRI-affiliated Al-Adala asserted that delaying elections "will only make Iraq more chaotic and destabilized."
Outsiders don't agree on whether fair elections are possible-- Elsewhere, election proponents pushed the upcoming vote as the only way to establish Iraqi sovereignty and governmental legitimacy, with the proviso that the polls must be inclusive and fair. Spain's
left-of-center El País called them "the only real hope to resurrect Iraq and for the U.S. to leave." Moscow's nationalist Sovetskaya Rossiya held the pessimistic view that "the whole world except the Americans believes that, as things are going, Iraq can't hold elections."
'Japan Needs To Make Utmost Efforts,' 'NATO Faces Its Limits,'-- Coalition-member media in Japan, South Korea and the Czech Republic saw Iraq testing their governments' abilities to meet dual reponsibilities to their American ally as well as their anxious publics. All urged their governments to clarify their commitment to keep boots on the ground in Iraq. European writers treated NATO's December 9 deal to train more Iraqi soldiers as an illustration of the political complexities of finding any allied consensus on Iraq.
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, email@example.com
EDITOR: Stephen Heath Thibeault
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 72 reports from 30 countries November 30-December 10, 2004. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
BRITAIN: "Just Say No"
The center-left tabloid Daily Mirror editorialized (Internet version, 12/7): "When the Black Watch was sent to help the Americans south of Baghdad, the Daily Mirror had two main concerns. We worried that many would lose their lives. And that if that did not happen, the U.S. would marvel at the skill of British forces and demand even more assistance. Although five members of the regiment were killed, that is a remarkably low number compared with the scores of American dead. Now the Black Watch is pulling out, the U.S. must not think it can always expect our troops to bail them out. If they ask, Tony Blair must say no."
"Missing The Target"
The conservative tabloid Daily Mail concluded (12/6): "The allies were right to invade Afghanistan, which had become a vast training camp for fanatics. But the real reason they failed to catch bin Laden is the unnecessary and ill-thought out invasion of Iraq, which diverted troops and political focus away from the true war against terror.... Yesterday the senior U.S. commander in Baghdad, General Abizaid, warned that Iraqi forces could not cope with security in the run-up to next month's elections without American support. One thing is certain: if these troops are needed to ensure the election takes place, they will be even more necessary to protect whatever government is elected. Seldom have the prospects for the war on terror look bleaker."
"U.S., Britain Have Duty To Ensure Iraq's Elections Take Place Safely"
The center-left Independent commented (12/6): "This is one time when the U.S. president's cheery lack of self-doubt must be accounted an asset. More or less democratic elections are the only basis on which any Iraqi government will acquire legitimacy and with it the chance of acceptance. Only a legitimate regime might have a chance of legitimizing those recruited to keep order and security in its name. Elections represent Iraq's last best hope. If the occupying forces can do nothing else for Iraq, they must ensure that elections are held, and held on time."
"Harvest Of Death"
The left-of-center Guardian editorialized (12/6): "It is hardly surprising that Washington is sounding unusually fractious about the way ahead. General John Abizaid, the head of U.S. Central Command, admitted over the weekend that Iraqi forces did not have the training or experience to do their job without U.S. reinforcements--thus the extra 12,000 men now on their way to join the 138,000 already there, to maintain pressure on the insurgents and to help boost security for election day. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that they are heading straight for a Middle Eastern quagmire."
FRANCE: "Powell Calling All Troops"
Alexandrine Bouilhet wrote in right-of-center Le Figaro (12/10): “Yesterday in Brussels Secretary Powell tried to make use of the feelings of sympathy he has enjoyed in Europe in order to ask for help in Iraq. But his efforts were for naught. During his last ministerial meeting as Secretary of State he was able to measure the immense and irreversible gap which has settled among the allies over the war in Iraq. In spite of repeated declarations in favor of a truce, Europe continues to drag its feet.... Having come to Europe in order to rally the troops, Colin Powell was not able to hide his disappointment.... Because France is not part of the integrated allied military command, France does not have to take part in the mission to train Iraqi officers; the other allies on the other hand are supposed to obey orders. Their refusal to send officers to Baghdad has angered Washington.... This reluctance to train the Iraqi army is in fact obscuring another more worrisome concern for Washington: the simultaneous defection of members of the coalition.... This generalized lack of enthusiasm is not a good omen for President Bush’s visit to Brussels in February.... For the Europeans who are very reluctant to commit in Iraq, resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a priority."
"The Iraqi Chaos And The Virus Of War"
Remy Ourdan observed in left-of-center Le Monde (12/4): “The U.S. has finally acknowledged that the new nature of its conflict in Iraq is that of 'guerrilla warfare'.... The Americans have also learned that even the fall of a symbol such as Fallujah did not mean the end of the battle.... For a long time the Americans, who spoke only of 'terrorists' and 'Saddamists,' hid the truth from themselves.... The good old military method has proven ineffective because it lacked a political solution.... There is talk today in the U.S. of counter-guerrilla training...for units that would be operating outside the law.... The more time passes, the more Iraq runs the risk of settling into war and a drift towards anti-guerrilla warfare.... In the face of the Iraqi chaos, few are those today who dare to revisit the fact that the U.S. were meant to 'liberate' Iraq, not occupy it.... The horrors of the Sunni guerrillas has galvanized the world and the Iraqis.... The discoveries made in Fallujah have revealed the somber reality of the Iraqi rebellion.... The spiral of guerrilla and counter-guerrilla warfare can almost distract us from another reality: that of a civil war. If the occupier were to leave, the Sunni rebellion would do battle against the Shiites.... The potential for such a war exists.... Once the virus of war has been released, the cycle of war is inevitable.... In Iraq, the virus of a civil war has existed since Saddam Hussein’s reign. The U.S. has been able to break the dictatorship but it has been ineffective in fighting that particular virus.... If the Americans stay in Iraq we will have a cycle of guerrilla/counter-guerrilla warfare; if they leave, civil war will erupt.”
“The Pentagon Sends Reinforcements”
Philippe Gelie opined in right-of-center Le Figaro (12/3): “If the Iraqis want to end the American occupation of their country, their only hope lies in the elections that should be held on January 30. But in order to hold these elections the U.S. will have to reinforce its troops bringing the number of American soldiers in Iraq to its highest level since the country was invaded in March 2003.... Bush’s wager to democratize the Middle East hinges on the return of the troops in the short term and perhaps maintaining their presence in the country for years to come.”
Center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich noted (12/10): "If we could 'provoke' good weather, the sun should have shined across the Atlantic for a long time. These days, the activities of Europeans and Americans are bordering on self-denial to make us forget the bitter fight of words before, during, and after the Iraq war when they conjure up a new bright future for NATO and transatlantic friendship. The public is surprised and does not want to believe this. And this is right, for NATO's nations are measured against their deeds.... When NATO tried to send officers to the most important international missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Alliance groaned again.... NATO is now accepting that scars remain. Further healing is now to come in February when President George W. Bush comes to Europe and puts his hand on NATO and the EU. Then every single word will be important."
"NATO Faces Its Limits"
Rolf Clement commented on national radio station "Deutschlandfunk" of Cologne (12/10): "NATO again and again faces its limits. It makes political decisions whose implementation later result in the phrase: we did not mean it that way. This is risky for NATO. It can achieve its goal of transferring stability to those regions that are interesting for its members only if it reliably implements the things it promised. Secretary Powell's doctrine, which he formulated today, that capability means credibility should be kept as his legacy. Today, NATO is again more hegemonic as it was some day in the past. It can find an understanding of political positions; evidence of this was the position on Ukraine. But it does not have the capability to offer the necessary means on time to turn it into a credible actor. This is a factor that cuts NATO to the quick. With such an approach, it will be unable to implement the interests of the members. In this respect, there will be a need to act if this Alliance wants to do justice to its function."
ITALY: "NATO Splits Again On Training Staff In Iraq"
Andrea Nativi observed in pro-government, leading center-right daily Il Giornale (12/10): “The number of NATO personnel stationed in Baghdad for training purposes will increase.... The decision was made at the conclusion of the North Atlantic Council Meeting, which also marked U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell’s final trip to Europe. The U.S. realized limited success, NATO remains divided [as] a group of countries including France, Germany, Belgium, Greece and Spain, reiterated their unwillingness...to send troops to Iraq.... The U.S. was unsuccessful in its request to ‘merge’ the NATO mission and Operation Enduring Freedom to combat the Taliban and international terrorists in Afghanistan.”
“In Iraq Voting Booths Open for Three Weeks”
Ennio Caretto commented in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (12/9): “From Moscow, where he welcomed Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, Russian President Vladimir Putin paid Bush back for the slight he was dealt during the Ukrainian elections: he cast doubt on the possibility that Iraqi elections can be held within the established timeframe and on their fairness.... But Allawi was not upset. He reiterated that elections will begin on January 30 as scheduled, and he raised the possibility of keeping voting booths open for two or three weeks in order to allow the greatest number of Iraqis to vote.... Bush’s reaction to Putin was immediate. During a speech to Marines in California, the U.S. President said that ‘When Iraqis choose their leaders in free elections, it will destroy the myth that the terrorists are fighting a foreign occupation and make clear that what the terrorists are really fighting is the will of the Iraqi people.'... In the long-distance exchange with cold war overtones...Putin communicated his desire to play a greater role in Iraq, in competition with America.”
“Angered Soldiers: Rumsfeld ‘Grilled’”
Anna Guaita wrote in Rome's center-left daily Il Messaggero (12/9): "The Administration has avoided discussing the handling of the war for months, and in fact Bush renewed Rumsfeld’s mandate, thereby underscoring satisfaction for his work. But behind this silence is the fact that the administration is very hopeful of the successful outcome of the scheduled January 30 elections. The elections should cause a drop in violence and the democratic reconstruction of Iraq could resume--if, in fact, the elections are held.”
"Mud On U.S. Navy Heroes"
Ennio Caretto wrote from Washington in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (12/5): “The photos shown on the internet are not much different from those that documented abuse and torture in the Abu Ghraib prison a few months ago.... This time, however, we are not talking about 'deviant' jailers, but about soldiers of one of the most prestigious branches of the U.S. armed forces, the famous Navy Seals. The photos risk tainting their reputation forever.”
"The Electoral Pattern"
Lucia Annunziata commented in centrist, influential La Stampa (12/4): “The dispute has already begun: the January 30 Iraqi elections will be the new ground for dispute between anti-Americans and pro-Americans. The former claim that these elections are a joke; the latter support the thesis that, although they are not perfect (‘only a beginning’) they represent, in any case, a step forward by democracy.... The elections will take place according to a routine pattern: they will be held; there will be a high turnout; they will be saddened by terrorist attacks and protests; and they will be won by the present chiefs of the various clans, the same who were in power during the Saddam regime, given that the Iraqi social structure has been confirmed, and not dismantled, by the militarized post-war period.”
RUSSIA: "Trading Debts For Dim Prospects"
Vyacheslav Tetekin commented on the visit of Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi in nationalist opposition Sovetskaya Rossiya (12/7): "The whole world except the Americans believes that, as things are going, Iraq can't hold elections. That country is fighting a national liberation war against U.S. occupation. With fighting going on in various cities, only unreconstructed optimists like Mr. Bush and Co., who insist that 'everything is going according to plan,' can speak of free elections.... As its allies flee Iraq, as rats would a sinking ship, America's strategic goal is to drag Russia into the colonialist war. The Americans need cannon fodder. Hence talk about the Iraqi army liking Soviet-/Russia-made arms. Promises to let Russian companies renew their participation in the development of Iraqi oil fields are the biggest carrot used to draw Russia to Iraq. So rather than getting our money repaid as a state debt, we are being offered dim prospects for lean tax revenues from oil companies that may or may not be allowed to operate in Iraq. Hopes that Mr. Allawi will help Russian oil companies get back to Iraq are an illusion, given that it is the Americans, not the Iraqis, who rule the roost in that country these days."
AUSTRIA: "The Reward"
Senior editor Hans Rauscher opined in independent Der Standard (12/7): "Rumsfeld has won a war against an inferior enemy, but almost certainly lost the peace. It is only now that Iraq has become a playground for terrorists. That has to be rewarded. President Bush has just confirmed Rumsfeld for a second term in office."
BELGIUM: "Explosive Iraq"
Foreign editor Jean Vanempten commented in financial daily De Tijd (12/6): "Even the secretary of defense is reluctantly admitting now that the Iraqi resistance had been underestimated and that the situation remains explosive. The quelling of the insurrection in Fallujah has not changed much. While Fallujah was being blown to pieces, insurrections took place everywhere else. The elimination of the insurgents in Fallujah only led to more attacks elsewhere. Consequently, November was the blackest month for the American troops since the beginning of the war. Never before were so many American soldiers killed. November must also be the blackest month for civilian victims--not only because of the attacks but also because of the fighting in Fallujah where the civilian population was not really spared. Many Iraqis do not want elections.... The Sunnis are totally opposed to elections. The Kurds have united to wrest a ‘federal’ Iraq. Only the Shiite majority wants elections--for obvious reasons. At this moment, American bullets must make democracy in Iraq a reality. It is very much the question whether democracy can come from the barrel of a gun."
CZECH REPUBLIC: The Bitter Lesson From War In Iraq
Jan Eichler opined in the center-left Pravo (12/9): "The new NATO countries should realize that it is not always sensible to blindly accept the position of the leaders of the alliance with which they have linked their fate. If other actions similar to [the interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan] are planned [the new NATO members] should always demand specific evidence regarding the urgency of the security threat, and consent to a military operation only after all non-military alternatives have been exhausted. As regards the deployment of Czech soldiers in foreign missions, risks must be considered responsibly. The public must be made aware of possible retaliation threats; such as the one in Madrid or the insidious killing of soldiers in asymmetric wars where no rules are respected. The bitter Iraqi experience only shows how future decision-making will be difficult."
HUNGARY: "Ballots Protected By Tanks"
Foreign affairs writer Miklos Ujvari opined in liberal Magyar Hirlap (12/4): “Before and during the American invasion, they forgot to plan how to consolidate the country, which is divided by religious and ethnic rifts, possesses no real police force and has been destroyed by rebel gangs. In any event, the transitory government with limited legitimacy is pretending that 1) there is no military occupation, 2) the attacks against its own police have not become permanent, 3) there are no cities or parts of the country the government forces and even the Americans prefer to avoid.... Under such circumstances it is not possible to have fair elections. It would only give rise to more hostilities and violence.... What then is the solution? First, they should postpone the elections until the summer, and before then use massive force to try to consolidate the situation in Fallujah, Mosul and the other enclaves. For example, the number of international troops could be doubled.... Postponement is not a question of prestige, but a bad election could even cause civil war. If that is not what is going on there already.”
IRELAND: "EU's Ties To Washington"
The center-left Irish Times editorialized (12/10): “At the NATO meeting in Brussels yesterday there was no inclination by European states to send troops to Iraq ahead of the elections planned for January. But there is a clear willingness to repair damaged transatlantic relations and a growing debate about the best ways to do so. Even those who say the relationship must be recast to reflect diverging values on the use of force, international law and the role of religion recognize there are fundamental interests in common between Europe and the United States in a more uncertain and unstable world.... Washington is becoming more aware of the EU's growing regional and world role and greater political coherence. This is notwithstanding the continuing centrality of bilateral relations between the U.S. and EU states and the temptation to bypass Brussels or exploit EU divisions to achieve U.S. objectives.”
NETHERLANDS: "Confidence In Netherlands Is Decreasing"
Dutch defense expert J. Schaberg observed in the Internet version of influential, independent NRC Handelsblad (12/6): "People here like to take pride in the fact that we have one of the best equipped armies, but the only thing that counts in international intercourse is other countries' confidence in the readiness for action. That confidence is in danger of suffering a serious blow.... In 1985, the Netherlands was the only country out of those present to decide to withdraw its company from Lebanon. This met with resistance. To soften the blow, a few minor risk-free offers were still made, in the expectation of earning credit with them.... What was really thought at the UN about the offer emerges from the notes which were written by Perez de Cuellar's deputy in the margin of the Dutch letter.... Beside the passage saying that things had indeed become too dangerous in the area: 'Bullshit'; and beside the offer possibly to return if the situation were to improve: 'Who needs fair weather friends?' Th
ere is no reason to believe that the international judgment on Dutch solidarity and the readiness to deploy the Armed Forces for risky tasks will turn out better now."
"Brahimi Is Right"
Influential, independent NRC Handelsblad observed (12/6): "Credit to Lakhdar Brahimi, special advisor on Iraq to the UNSG, for giving his views that elections are not possible in the currently destabilized Iraq.... Holding elections is very important and canceling them would be giving in to the Iraqi resistance.... However, the fact is that it is just physically impossible to go and vote in many parts of Iraq.... If the situation does not change in seven weeks from now then there is nothing else to be done but to postpone the elections. If Iraq wants to take democracy seriously then there is no worse signal to send after the fall of Saddam's regime then that elections are only possible for the areas where the situation is quiet. This would automatically imply that the Sunni center of Fallujah would be left out. The Shiite majority wants to proceed with the elections but how representative can a government be which is elected while many could not even or did not dare to vote? Under the worst possible circumstance of violence and intimidation, of massive boycott and fear to go to the polls, elections in Iraq should be postponed. The country is not waiting for a dictatorship of the majority."
SPAIN: "Rumsfeld Continues"
Left-of-center El País editorialized (12/6): "The continuity [of Rumsfeld] at the Pentagon suggests that the president, far from opening the U.S. government to bipartisan participation, has chosen to deepen the political style wanted by the most conservative bases.... It is true that there may be arguments to keep the impulsive chief of the Pentagon. The fundamental one is that to relieve the chief strategist in the middle of a war would be for Bush to admit his monumental mistakes. But common sense and a sense of history should have led the president to overcome this utilitarianism and reconsider the validity of a man to a great extent responsible for the unstoppable 'quagmirization' of the occupied Arab country...and a policy that has engendered, among other evils, monsters such as Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.... Neither Bush nor Rumsfeld has learned in Iraq the essential lesson that assuring peace requires more troops than winning battles.... The primitive Iraqi tactics threaten to sweep away the election and with it the only real hope to resurrect Iraq and for the U.S. to leave that bloody country."
TURKEY: “As If The Truth Were Not Enough”
Kursad Bumin wrote in Islamist-oriented Yeni Safak (12/8): “Today I wanted to address another of U.S. Ambassador Eric Edelman’s concerns--recent statements critical of the U.S. operation in Fallujah, some of which included the word ‘genocide.’ Foreign Minister Gul has said that the Government does not share the view that there is genocide in Iraq. The Minister’s statement was on the mark. Do we have to use the word ‘genocide’ to explain and understand the evils of war? Isn’t the reality of what is happening in Iraq enough for us? Everyone knows that using the word ‘genocide’ mixes things up. Remember how we Turks can never use the phrase."
“Which Terrorism To Fight Against?”
Mustafa Balbay commented in social democratic-opinion maker Cumhuriyet (12/3): “The situation in Iraq will continue to shape the nature of Turkish-American ties in the future. The U.S. seems to be remaining blind to Turkey’s sensitivities on the Iraq issue, including the presence of a terrorist organization in northern Iraq. The U.S. does not seem to mind, because the terrorist activities there do not pose any harm to the U.S.... On the other hand, the U.S. prefers to define its operations overseas as a fight against terrorism. Yet the U.S. fight against terrorism seems to apply only to those terrorists who threaten the U.S. and American interests. Other terrorists do not interest the U.S.. Turkey should have been in a good position to raise this argument. Instead, the Turkish government remains silent and watches developments while the U.S. is almost making a deal with the terrorist organization in northern Iraq.”
IRAQ: "Will Crises Bring Down the Ministers?"
Muhammad Al Shahmani wrote in independent, anti-coalition Al Fourat (12/9): "Usually when ministers fail in their jobs, they resign.... In Iraq, neither the government nor the parliament has the right to depose of ministers because they have American immunity.... Today Iraq is suffering from a severe crisis. Electricity and fuel are basic needs. The present shortages of these goods have led people to begin calling for the resignations of the electricity and oil ministers. Other ministries such as transportation, communication, housing and municipalities also remain unchanged. These ministries are not hiring new employees and do not have a work schedule because they are waiting for the upcoming election. The ministers of crises are enjoying trips abroad while their people in Iraq are suffering from shortages of fuel and electricity. Prices of food, transportation, and other goods are on the rise. However, these ministers are happy and unaware of the Iraqi people's daily crises. We wish for and would like the government to take care of our problems. We want someone to have the authority to ask a minister to leave the job because he/she is unsuitable and there is someone more qualified for the position. We want the government to fix crises, apart from favoritism in ministerial positions. These ministers should know that no one maintains their position forever."
"Commitment To Results Is More Important Than Elections"
Al Taakhi, affiliated with the Kurdistan Democratic Party led by Masood Al Barazani, editorialized (12/9): "For political reasons, some groups insist on holding elections on time. Iraqi ministers and officials always declare that the election will be held whatever conditions may exist. Other politicians discuss the possibility of postponing the election. We could hold elections in safe areas while postponing them in unstable areas. It is worthwhile to mention that President Bush reiterates daily that Iraqi elections will be held on time, even if security continues to deteriorate. Supporters of holding the election on time claim that postponing it would represent a victory for the terrorists. On the other hand, supporters of postponing the election state that deferring it might decrease the violence. Those in support of postponing elections are patriotic and do not want to give in to terrorism. They want to hold successful elections that will be acceptable to the majority of the Iraqi people. The most important factor is the Iraqi people's commitment to abide by the results of the election. Elections depend on three main groups in Iraq: Shia, Sunni and the Kurds. If any of these three groups boycott the election, the results will be deemed illegitimate and lead to disaster. Harmony and national reconciliation can lead to fair results in the election. In regards to the American insistence on holding Iraqi elections on time, we ask whether it would be possible to hold U.S. elections on time if the country was suffering from instability in a quarter of its territory? Iraq is not one nation; it contains different religions and sects. An American diplomat stated that the U.S administration made a mistake by considering Iraq as one nation. Making such an assessment is a mistake. We must focus on securing conditions in order to make the election successful. We must also be ready to accept its results, even if the election is held on time."
"Al Azhar's Care-Taker Supports Beheading Iraqis"
Abdul Khalek Hussein wrote in (PM Allawi) Iraqi National Accord-affiliated Baghdad (12/8): "BBC Arabic quoted the Middle East News Agency as saying that Sheikh Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi, Al Azhar's mosque care-taker, approved of the resistance in Iraq and called on the Iraqi people to unite for the sake of restoring stability. This Fatwa represents a legitimate call for the killing of Iraqi civilians.... The question of whether and when these forces will withdraw is a decision for the next Iraqi elected government to make. Iraq needs security and stability in order to establish an elected government that is able to ask foreign forces to leave. We condemn such provocative Fatwas that aim to prolong the foreign forces' presence.... The resistance has killed 47 children in Baghdad because they attended a celebration for opening a water project in a poor neighborhood. The resistance has killed unarmed Iraqi national guards while on their way home to their families. Everyday the resistance beheads innocent people under the name of Islam. Are these disgraceful acts regarded as 'resistance?' I just want to ask Sheikh Muhammad if is it fair to call Iraq's liberation an 'occupation?' Iraq was occupied by Saddam's regime for four decades. It was under this occupation that everything in Iraq was destroyed.... You, Sheikh Muhammad, did not issue any Fatwa to denounce Saddam's crimes at that time."
Abd-al-Mun'im al-Asam commented in (Pachachi) Iraqi Independent Democrats Grouping-affiliated Al-Nahdah (12/7): "Some influential Iranian officials are...stoking the fire of violence in Iraq by calling for volunteers to fight alongside the remnants of the old regime and the radical Islamic (Arab) groups.... The Iraqis are concerned in their capacity as victims of acts of terrorism and organized crime because of the unjustified, and even inhuman, Iranian intervention in support of the armed actions that primarily target their life and security. This policy exploits a weak and defeated neighbor and uses it as a hostage to achieve regional gains and controversial demands from the United States.... The Iraqis are paying the price of policies and wars decided against their will. They are daily burying their dead as a result bombings, explosions, bombardments, and acts of violence. The Iranian neighbor is supposed to offer help, show a measure of responsibility, and take account of the long-term joint interes
ts and security of the whole region."
"Election In Reality"
Fateh Abdul Salam wrote in independent, widely circulated Azzaman (12/7): "The reality will decide whether the Iraqi election will be held on time as President Bush and some Iraqis demand or whether it will be postponed as other Iraqis are calling for. If that reality is positive, then elections will be held. But, if death and instability prevail on the Iraqi scene, elections will never be held.... Some political groups think that elections will allow them to control power for good. Everyone is dreaming of winning the elections in order to lead this country. But there are some illegal dreams that make these politicians mere opportunists. Dreams of power have made some politicians shed their secular uniform and put on an Islamic face for the sake of gaining power. Of course, we do not know what will happen if they do take hold of power. Will they return to their old ways? We hear that elections will be held on time and I support this. However, nobody can close their eyes to our reality."
"May You Reassure Us"
Hamid Abdullah commented in independent Al Mashreq (12/7): "I do not understand what is the relationship between holding elections and stabilizing the security situation in Iraq. Those who are enthusiastic about holding elections cannot guarantee security in an election that many Iraqi groups will choose to boycott. I am not calling for postponing the election nor do I call for holding it at its scheduled time. I am simply calling for elections to be held. My question is how will this election provide a secure environment in Iraq? Iraqis have been destined to death, fear, and violence regardless of whether or not they support the Iraqi government and the occupation. All Iraqis are being exposed to terrorism whether they support holding the election on time or postponing it. If only the government were able to tangibly prove that elections will stabilize security in Iraq, we would go bare-footed to the ballot boxes. If the election could safeguard our lives, it would be a national, legitimate, and humanitarian duty that all Iraqis participate in. But what is to gain from holding an election if it will only serve to make things worse? Large segments of the Iraqi population do not care about politics; they are only concerned with improving their own conditions, particularly the security situation. I have to reiterate my question and ask whether elections will provide security? This question reminds me of an impossible to solve question that asks, 'Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?' I can answer by saying that both the egg and chicken have come from America and its allies. If you do not believe me, you better ask the coalition forces."
"Those Who Oppose Elections More Harmful to Iraq Than 'Occupiers'"
Mahdi Qasim stated on clandestine, believed to be SCIRI-affiliated, Voice of the Mujahidin radio (12/7): "It can be said that the elections are the real indicator that defines for us the nature of the figures and groups that are really hostile to us as Iraqis, even if these figures and groups belong to Iraq in appearance or in their Arabic language.... By [their] attitude, they are wittingly or unwittingly serving the foreign occupiers because their actions will provide pretexts for the occupiers to stay on in our country and give them further opportunities to suck as much as possible of the wealth and resources of this country.... These figures and groups do this through their lawless methods that are associated with violence, killing, and incitement for murdering our innocent people. Had they not been so, they would have targeted only the occupiers and spared the others.... By opposing the general elections, they want the occupiers to stay."
Al Adala, affiliated with SCIRI led by Abdul Aziz Al Hakim, commented (12/6): "Those who speak about and support postponing the election represent a small minority. In fact, they do not represent real political parties that enjoy popular support among the Iraqi people. There was an exaggerated noise in pan-Arab media concerning the Iraqi election's postponement, as if they were trying to make it a decisive Arab issue. Supporters of postponing the election claim that the current security situation is not suitable to hold elections. This excuse is refuted by the Iraqi people and government's affirmation to stand against any obstacle in order to make the election successful. Supporters of postponement have not submitted any solution to solve the security problems after the election is deferred. Postponement of elections will only make Iraq more chaotic and destabilized. Postponement means that the interim government will fall because there is no legal period to prolong the life of that government. We are afraid that those who call for postponing elections want to establish a new era in Iraq based on sectarianism. This will make the country implicated in consequences that are worse than the results of the current, deteriorating security situation. Shedding light on postponement at this time is a reward and encouragement to terrorists for committing more crimes. Finally, we are asking is this a call for postponement of elections or a call for stopping elections?"
"Time Passes And Neighboring Countries Are Still Helpless"
Al Taakhi, affiliated with Kurdistan Democratic Party, editorialized (12/6): "As soon as time approaches to hold elections, terrorists increase their attacks to put the Iraqi community under severe pressure. Our neighboring countries have not shown any improvement on ensuring Iraq's stability to hold elections despite their pronouncements from time to time that they will support Iraq's internal stability. This contradictory attitude shows that the neighboring countries attempt to deal with Iraq's issues based on specific criteria. It is obvious that the Iraqi community is divided. The other political parties have failed to make a united electoral list with the Kurds. The Kurds have agreed on making one electoral list alone. The Shia have also made their own electoral list. Although there are many other electoral lists, the Sunnis still do not have a united electoral list. The people of Kurdistan, the Shia, and the Sunni cannot be blamed for making independent electoral lists because all relevant parties did not reach an agreement on submitting one electoral list. It is not beneficial to have complete segregation in the Iraqi community because of these electoral lists. The success of the election depends on stability, security, freedom to vote, and accepting the election's results. Rashness will lead to distorted and incomplete results. The Ukrainian election is a good example where election results were disputed and the parliament was forced to re-hold the election. If there is disagreement on the upcoming Iraqi election's results, it will lead to a bloody conflict in Iraq. For this reason, there have been calls for postponing the election for a few months. In the case of postponing the election, it would be possible to hold elections in safe governorates and delay elections for the remaining unstable areas. Iraqi elections can be postponed to next autumn. The Kurdish political parties are ready to hold elections on time and we hope they will be held on time. However, we demand that Kirkuk's election be postponed. Holding elections in Kurdistan is not a problem since the situation there is stable, but we are concerned about the overall Iraqi election."
"Why the Targeting of Police Stations?"
Bassem al-Sheikh wrote in independent Addustour (12/5): "The recent tactics of gunmen, consisting of attacking and taking control of police stations, shows that these groups have new tactics to weaken the government. This development represents a significant challenge to the government as it points to weaknesses in the Iraqi security forces. However, this challenge will serve to make the government desperately resolved to put an end to the violence. This new tactic shows that these militant groups have now started to attack any city unpredictably. Killing Iraqi policemen is a deliberate crime that targets innocent Iraqis. The recent attacks on Iraqi police stations do not represent a victory for the militant groups. These attacks demonstrate that these groups will be defeated because the Iraqi forces, along with the cooperation of U.S. forces, are taking hold of these groups' logistics. The Iraqi government must exert pressure on the neighboring countries, which support militant groups in Iraq, in order to destroy their sponsor."
"Postponing Elections Represents the Demand of the Iraqi Majority"
Khaled Issa Taha wrote in independent, recently anti-coalition Azzaman (12/4): "Months ago I was accused of being against the religious authority when I said that fair elections can not be held at the pre-ordained time. That was before the massacres of Najaf, Sadr city and Fallujah, which targeted all Iraqis. The religious authority's attitude during the occupation's period was always wise and reasonable. This has made people trust and believe in this religious authority. But, Iraq needs a unified authority and the recent electoral lists that contained only figures from one sect will put an end to fraternity and solidarity among the Iraqi people. It is not true that only the Shiites who had been oppressed through the past ages and thus they must be the group that controls the power in Iraq. There is no official census showing that the Shiites are the overwhelming majority in Iraq. I do not like or support sectarianism, but we have to conduct an official census under the supervision of the UN to terminate the recent claims. Not all Iraqis are sectarian. In fact there are many who are secular--who believe in Islam and God but they do not want to mix religion with politics. The expected democracy in Iraq aims to make the political process successful by ensuring wide Iraqi representation in election. Participation in elections should not be forced by threats of violence or fatwas."
Isma'eel Zayyer opined in independent Assabah Al Jadid (12/4): "After two stormy weeks of debate over postponing Iraqi elections, things have returned to normal. The national dialogue and election timeline are running normally. Two important events have happened concerning elections. The Kurdish political parties decided to participate in the election with an isolated electoral list. A new political party led by the Iraqi President al-Yawer was established recently to participate in the upcoming election. This new political party presented its political program through a press conference held by al-Yawer a few days ago. This newborn political movement has increasingly attracted many Iraqis because its political program is clear, independent and strict. This challenge will force other Iraqi political parties to compete and work harder to gain the trust of the Iraqi people. This should make Iyad Allawi work harder and cooperate with other political movements to win the election. The Democrats are facing a big challenge. They will have to compete with other political parties. The most important thing is that the electoral process has begun in a way that is interesting and strong."
"Postponing Elections Needs To Be Considered"
Mushreq Abass opined in (Pachachi) Independent Democrats Gathering-affiliated Al Nahdhah (12/2): "The postponement suggestion has come against the backdrop of the deterioration of security in Iraq. The situation is getting worse day after day. Iraqis are not yet politically mature enough to hold elections. The upcoming election will not be fair and will never represent all Iraqis because many groups are going to boycott it. Postponement does not necessarily mean forcing others to accept opposing opinions. Postponement does not mean submissiveness to the armed extremist groups. But this postponement aims to enable more Iraqis to participate in elections. Our country is suffering from a real crisis and we should deal with it realistically and apart from sectarianism. We want dialogue that does not depend upon marginalization, from which the Iraqi people suffered. Postponement of elections is not an easy measure. But, it is less dangerous than holding elections that will exclude a large spectrum of Iraqi people and putting Iraq on the verge of abyss."
"Elections And The Vision Of The Future"
Muhammad Darwish Ali wrote on the back page of independent Al Mada (12/2): "After two years of chaos we still have elections as a choice to rebuild our community. I am among these who believe that the upcoming election is not completely fair. Tampering in elections occur even in the
most developed countries. I do not justify these negative deeds, but I look for my country's best interest. We have to support this election so that it will become a catalyst for holding more fair and public elections in the future. We have to brace ourselves and participate in elections in order to realize the democratic process in Iraq. Holding elections is the right choice for putting an end to terrorism and to stop sedition among Iraqi sects. Let us confidently carry our electoral cards to the ballot boxes."
"The Risks Of Postponing Elections"
Aziz Al Hajj wrote in Iraqi National Congress (Chalabi)-affiliated Al Mutamer (12/1): "This sudden and strange demand for deferring the election is wrong and dangerous to the democratic process in Iraq. There are no urgent crises that justify postponement. The battle of Fallujah has destroyed terrorists and it reinforced the determination to hold elections. The call for postponement aims to widen the participation in the upcoming election. But, if we notice who wants to boycott election, we can know that only Baathists, the Moslem Scholars Association and the Sunni Advisory Council, which claims it represents Iraq's Sunnis, plan to boycott elections. We know that the Moslem Scholars Association and the Sunni Advisory Council support and justify terrorist attacks. These groups boycott elections because they are from the beginning against democracy and free elections. These groups want to bring back the dictatorial regime to power, or they might want to establish a new Taliban in Iraq. The government should not negotiate with Saddam's followers, who want to spoil the election. Postponement of the election will be a good reward to terrorists.... The upcoming election will not be perfect, but it will represent the first experiment for the Iraqi people in practicing democracy. We know that there are many Arab countries who want Saddam's followers to hold top positions in any new Iraqi government. Some sectarian issues push Arab countries to encourage some Iraqi politicians' call for postponing elections. Probably they will challenge the results of the upcoming elections. The most important thing is to hold elections on time so that terrorists will be defeated. We should be wary of some neighboring countries' interference in our elections. Iran attempts to support some parties that call for sectarianism. Syria backs the Baathists. Turkey clearly supports Iraq's Turkmen. Arab countries send funds to the fundamentalist Sunni groups in Iraq. The current government's parties make use of government funding to win the upcoming election. We all know that the first election will never be perfect, but it will a good and important experiment for Iraqis to boost their morale and to defeat terrorism."
"Autumn Is The Best Time To Hold Elections"
Kurdistan Democratic Party's Al Taakhi editorialized (11/30): "We support holding elections on time; at the same time we call on the commission to consider the recent calls for postponing elections. The territory of Kurdistan has always been ready politically, administratively and security-wise to hold elections despite our reservations about Kirkuk. But, for this reason we would like to postpone the Kirkuk election until Article 58 of the Transitional Administrative Law is applied in the city. After that we will be ready to hold elections. The current problem concerns all Iraqi cities and provinces. We heard that the main Iraqi political parties called for postponing the elections for a couple of months. We think this postponement is good as long as it aims to achieve national reconciliation and wide participation in the upcoming elections.... Bad weather in January that may spoil election participation.... Elections could be held in autumn because this season is characterized by a moderate temperature and schools are not open. Finally the fall is a season for harvesting, so let us make our elections like a harvest for Iraq."
Nedhal Al Laithi wrote in independent, recently anti-coalition Azzaman (11/30): "The recent appeal by some Iraqi political groups to postpone elections revealed that there are legal gaps surrounding the feasibility of elections.... There are many pending questions that need answers about elections law and the absence of an authority with oversight of the Independent Electoral Commission's rules on accepting or refusing nominations. All democratic countries have legislation that states the requirements for political party nominations. Ninety percent of our political parties have armed militias. These parties can resort to their militias to implement their nominations by using force. Most of the political parties represent a specific sect. The second legal gap is that there is no authority that is in charge of looking at complaints of fraud and election violations. The Transitional Administrative Law deliberately did not mention these important issues because all the former Governing Council's parties would have been damaged. There are some sections that say Iraq's problems will be solved by drafting a permanent constitution. They think that the majority will win and will impose their opinion on the rest of Iraqis. Some minor political parties think that it is necessary to reach national agreement on the permanent Iraqi constitution before holding elections. Elections will be held as scheduled in the Transitional Administrative Law, which was drafted by the appointed Governing Council members, and I am sure they already considered the costs before everything else."
SAUDI ARABIA: "In Order Not To Repeat The Same History In Iraq"
Adnan Hussein opined in Pan-Arab, London-based Asharq Al Awsat (12/8): "The first Iraqi state, which was established according to 1924 constitution, was not one based on equality, justice and freedom. The government established at that time did not represent all Iraqi sects. The Shia and Kurds were marginalized because of the Shia decision to boycott the election and the unsettled dispute over what constituted Kurdish land. This lack of representation in that government resulted in various problems and crises that continue to linger today. These problems have worsened over several decades and became impossible to solve under Saddam's regime, which destroyed Iraq. Today the unstable security situation is part of that ruin. Iraq is now experiencing a situation similar to what happened eighty years ago. In order to rebuild and establish a new democratic Iraq, we need all Iraqi sects to be equally represented in the upcoming national assembly. Equal representation can only be achieved by holding public, fair, and free elections in a secure environment. Unfortunately, such a scenario is currently non-existent because of the neighboring countries' continued support for the terrorists in Iraq. I think it is better for Iraq at the present time to make the upcoming elections responsible for establishing elected interim authorities. These authorities would be responsible for providing suitable conditions for electing a national assembly, in which all Iraqi sects will be represented. This option may prevent our country from being destroyed."
"What Next In Iraq"
Riyadh's moderate Al-Jazirah noted (12/6): "The message Americans are trying to convey in the course of the war against Iraq is that the promised democracy will be implemented despite violence by those opposed to it, even over many dead bodies."
"Elections And Priorities"
Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina editorialized (12/4): "Some observers present the upcoming elections in Iraq and the Palestinian territories as if they were going to bring an end to the tragedy of those two nations. Yet, election campaigns must not let us divert our attention from the daily suffering of the two nations due to occupation and destruction of basic infrastructure. Freedom, security and honorable life are essential conditions for any healthy political development."
"Who Can Save The Sunnis From The Sunnis?"
Abdul Rahman Al Rashed wrote in London-based Pan-Arab Asharq Al Awsat (12/1): "The Sunnis are starting to believe that there is a conspiracy to marginalize them. But, they are making a big mistake today by doubting and criticizing the current situation. The new Iraqi era is not so bad for the minorities. The new Iraqi political system is being founded to ensure all rights for the minority and the majority. Unfortunately, the Arab Sunnis withdrew from the political process rather than participating. This is may be due to absence of real leadership. The Fallujah operation reveals that Arab Sunnis lack experience in leadership and negotiation. In fact they have no political expertise. Whereas the Shia became very good at being the opposition. During Saddam's regime the Sunnis were just submissive followers of the regime. This nature made them easily led without giving their objection or opinion. This characteristic has become a shame for the Sunnis, because now they are the minority and they will also have to be
submissive to the government. But, at least this government ensures freedom and democracy."
ALGERIA: "Impossible Comparison"
La Nouvelle Republique, French-language daily considered close to the Army, editorialized (12/4): “During the past decade the Algerian government faced a certain type of terrorist resistance that today serves as a model for resistance actions being conducted throughout the world and especially in Iraq.... It is the Iraqi Army officials' turn to announce that they have started looking into the war conducted by Algeria since 1992 against fundamentalism in a conflict that killed more than 100,000.... Those who dare view the model of Algeria’s war against terrorism as a panacea against all types of armed rebellion do not see that the support of most of the Algerian people for the security services' counter-terrorism efforts was the key element and primary stimulant in eradicating terrorism until a political solution was reached. The solidarity that characterizes Iraqi resistance today, even if it is being led against an army recognized by international institutions, makes the war taking place in Mosul suspect and annihilates any comparison with Algeria. In the future, no comment.”
EGYPT: "The Legitimate Resistance Against Torture"
Small-circulation, pro-government Al Gomhouriya held (12/6): "An American woman has disclosed a new dimension of torture against Iraqi prisoners--evidence that torture is a general policy put in place by top [U.S.] leadership and was not a breach by disobedient soldiers.... The disgraceful barbaric physical and psychological torture of Iraqi detainees in the occupation prisons with the complicity of U.S. marines, is being carried out against the resistance fighting for the freedom and independence of their country. The Iraqi national resistance against the occupation makes strong and legitimate gains every day and besides its struggle for freedom it also carries out the right punishment against the occupation, which disrespects sanctity, violates basic human rights and can be stopped by no one but the resistance."
LEBANON: "Cleaning Up Washington's 'Iraqi Problem': Invest Authority In Al-Yawer"
The moderate, English-language Daily Star took this view (Internet version, 12/7): "Is there a 'Sunni problem' in Iraq, as the United States would like us to believe? If there is, it is entirely of Washington's making. The 'Sunni problem' is, more likely, an exercise in transferring to Iraq what is essentially an American problem. In this matter of semantics and international public relations, also known as politics and diplomacy, the mess the U.S. has made in Iraq is an 'Iraqi problem.' This mess has been created over the course of more than a year of compounding U.S. blunders. Washington's invisible dictatorship in Iraq--particularly during the Bremer period--is now proving to be very costly. One of the mistakes of this period was a failure to listen to anyone who might know better. One of the people on the ground who knew better, but who was ignored, was Ghazi al-Yawer, now the interim president of Iraq. Yawer is the head of the Shammar tribe in Iraq, which numbers some three million in that country. Because of the power, influence and prestige of this tribe, there is a case to be made for saying that Yawer represents the Sunni leadership in Iraq. His Shammar constituency is unlikely to be hijacked by the al-Qaida-linked fanatic Abu Musab al-Zarqawi or by anyone else, as the 'Sunni triangle' has been hijacked, or as Najaf was hijacked by the young rebel Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. He is, in a word, a man with whom the Americans should do serious business. Yawer is even in favor of the elections scheduled for January."
UAE: "Big Idea On Iraq"
The English-language, expatriate-oriented Khaleej Times concluded (Internet version, 12/10): "Not many days are left for Iraq polls. As the crucial date of Jan 30 looms, all those who have a stake in Iraq are growing increasingly concerned over the security situation in the country. Last week, some prominent Sunni political parties had called for postponing the poll.... Even the U.S. media has raised questions over the plausibility of polls in the prevailing security situation. That is, perhaps, why Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has floated the proposal of staggering next month’s elections over a period of 15 to 20 days.... The proposal by Allawi is already gaining ground among both Sunni and Shia political parties. We believe that the idea of a staggered election is tailor-made for Iraq in view of the current security situation. It would not only ensure the participation of all political parties but would encourage voters to come out in greater numbers to exercise their democratic right. India, the world’s largest democracy, has successfully tried the idea in the last several elections. The country had to hold staggered elections in view of its sheer size, number of voters and strife in areas like Kashmir. So if it could work for India, why can't it work for Iraq?"
Pro-government Al-Ittihad editorialized (12/6) "On the advantages and disadvantages of conducting or postponing the Iraqi elections, it is a well known fact that postponing the Iraqi elections will have a negative and dangerous effects on the Iraqi society and on political life in general."
JAPAN: "Deep Anxiety Remains"
Liberal Asahi remarked (12/10): "Prime Minister Koizumi publicly explained yesterday that Japan would continue its deployment of troops in Iraq, citing the importance of the U.S.-Japan alliance and Japan's contributions to the international community. Tokyo's deployment has also served to strengthen bilateral relations with Washington. However, the global community remains divided over Iraq reconstruction. Iraqi opposition to the U.S. occupation of their country and the insufficient international commitment to rebuilding efforts are said to be the major reasons for the current chaos in the postwar nation. However, the Japanese prime minister appears to deny the hard reality in Iraq. The Japanese public is worried that the Koizumi government would refuse to pull out even in the event of SDF casualties. Despite the energetic efforts of the Japanese force, local conditions in Iraq do not appear to have improved substantially. Koizumi's lack of courage and wisdom to withdraw the SDF from a nation in turmoil is disappointing."
"Japan's Mission Not Yet Complete"
Top-circulation moderate Yomiuri editorialized (12/10): "Prime Minister Koizumi has stressed that his decision to extend the SDF deployment in Iraq was based on an aim to fulfill Japan's responsibilities to its alliance with the U.S. as well as with the international community. In order to avoid undermining the U.S.-Japan alliance or hindering the democratization process in Iraq, Tokyo needs to closely coordinate with the U.S. and Iraqi governments in the event of an SDF withdrawal."
"Japan Needs To Make Utmost Efforts To Help Iraq Reconstruction"
Conservative Sankei said (12/10): "Prime Minister Koizumi stated yesterday that Japan is responsible for helping Iraq reconstruction.... Although the SDF mission in Iraq faces numerous dangers, Tokyo must continue its mission in order to counter new threats such as terrorism. However, the GOJ decision not to increase the number of SDF personnel in Iraq is regrettable. The GOJ must look at possible ODA projects in order to meet strong local demands for large-scale infrastructure projects."
"Exit Plan Needed"
Liberal Tokyo Shimbun editorialized (12/10): "Prime Minister Koizumi insists that it is not appropriate to ignore strong calls by the people of Iraq for an SDF extension. However, the majority of the Japanese public is against the extension due to concerns about the deterioration of Iraq's security situation. The prime minister explicitly stated that he took the U.S.-Japan alliance into consideration when deciding on the SDF extension. On the other hand, countries such as France and Germany continue to distance themselves from U.S. policy on Iraq. Prime Minister Koizumi, who clearly places more importance on the U.S.-Japan alliance than on public opinion, bears a heavy responsibility for securing SDF safety in Iraq."
"Government Is Tasked With Timing of SDF Withdrawal"
The Internet version of Japan's liberal Mainichi editorialized (12/6): "The government should explain how important the alliance with the United States is; how significant the presence of the SDF in Al-Samawah is provided as moral support for the United States; how if Japan withdraws now, U.S.-Japan relations--which have been built over a long time--will fall; not only that, but how international confidence in Japan will diminish, and how even the pending possibility of becoming a permanent Security Council member in the UN will be placed at risk. If the above represents the government's thinking, the Prime Minister should repeatedly seek to win over the Japanese people. In a democracy, our current system, isn't that the way it is supposed to be?… Since...the U.S. as a superpower, which is inclined toward unilateral action...there is a possibility a similar situation will occur every time something happens. How does the government intend to respond?"
"Restoration Only 'Halfway' Complete"
Conservative Sankei editorialized (12/6): "The GOJ is expected to approve an extension of the SDF deployment in Iraq this week. We view the extension as a reasonable decision in light of local expectations for continued humanitarian assistance from Japan. The SDF mission should be pulled from Iraq only when local residents and NGOs are ready to take over its operations. Some are calling for a withdrawal, citing the completion of SDF tasks. However, the job of the Japanese troops is only 'half-way' finished. Furthermore, there are growing local calls for the continuation of the mission. It will not be long before the people of Iraq can independently rebuild their country. Until then, Japan needs to continue providing assistance."
"Japan Should Check U.S. Unilateral Action"
Liberal Mainichi asserted (12/6): "The GOJ appears set to decide on an extension of the SDF mission in Iraq without providing a sufficient explanation to the public. Prime Minister Koizumi must tell the people of Japan about the importance of the U.S.-Japan alliance and of the assistance provided by the SDF to U.S. operations in Iraq. He should also express honestly his view that the withdrawal of the SDF mission could jeopardize U.S.-Japan relations and undermine international confidence in Japan. Japan should use the SDF deployment as a tool to help prevent the U.S. from taking unilateral action in the future."
INDONESIA: "Situation In Iraq Tends To Shatter"
Leading independent Kompas maintained (12/7): “The situation in Iraq is shattering because violence is not abating. Bombing and armed attacks are mounting and spreading. Almost not a day passes without casualties among the Iraqis and the U.S.-led occupational forces.... It is obvious that U.S. forces and other coalition forces are interested in the success of the Iraqi election and the new government. The coalition forces want to leave Iraq because they cannot stand the mounting attacks from the guerrillas and militant groups. The Iraq insurgent movement is mounting because the presence of U.S. forces as a foreign power has hurt the self-esteem and dignity of the free people of Iraq.”
MALAYSIA: "The Situation In Iraq Is Worsening"
Badrul Azhar Rahman opined in the Internet version of government-controlled Utusan (12/7): "The move to increase the number of troops is proof that Washington's campaign to annihilate the insurgents did not progress as expected.... The dispatch of additional soldiers also means that the United States is still not confident in the Iraqi forces maintaining peace and security.… This is an indication that Iraq will be Americanized again."
SOUTH KOREA: "Politicians Irresponsible About Iraq Troop Extension"
The Internet version of center-left, generally anti-U.S. Hangyore commented (12/9): "The National Assembly's National Defense Committee…approved the bill that if passed on the main floor would extend the time Korean troops are in Iraq for a full year [and] Defense minister Yoon Kwang Ung is saying that Korea has to leave open the possibility that troops could stay longer than another year. That kind of thinking is as dangerous as it gets, because it means Korea is supposed to share the same course of action as the United States military there, which is an occupation force.... Iraq is in a quasi-civil war.... Many countries that sent troops have withdrawn or are preparing to leave. That being the case, the rightful duty of the National Assembly would be to give thorough examination to questions such as why Korea has troops in Iraq, what the people's wishes are in this case, and how to resolve the problem that is Iraq…. The National Assembly fact-finding mission that went to Iraq last week did little more than go through the motions.... They returned to file a report saying that Iraqis 'strongly want Korean troops to extend their time' there. They said also that an extension would contribute to the U.S.-Korea alliance and enhanced national prestige for Korea. It's like saying the alliance will go well if we just do what the U.S. wants us to."
VIETNAM: "The Election Game"
My Hanh wrote in Quan Doi Nhan Dan, a daily run by the Ministry of Defense (12/7): "The biggest impediment to the election is the flame of conflict that has been smoldering inside Iraq among ethnic communities for decades.... The majority Shiite want to have the largest position in Iraq's political arena. Meanwhile, it is not easy for the Sunni to give up the supreme position they have had since the Saddam Hussein regime. And the Kurds want to establish an autonomous zone in the north, threatening a unified Iraq. Iraq is like a carriage drawn by three untamed horses, and that makes it very difficult for the carriage to arrive at its destination, which is the election next year.... The obstinate dispute among the ethnic groups may lead Iraq to chaos before, and even after, the election."
"Complicated Calculations For An Election"
Duong Ha wrote in Quoc Te, a weekly run by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam (12/3): "Why does the U.S. press on to hold the general election in Iraq according to the original plan? At present, the government headed by Allawi is seen by many Iraqis and neighboring Arab countries as a product created by the U.S. A new government formed through an election, although the election is held under U.S. security protection, is in many ways more legitimate in the eyes of Iraqis, and that somewhat will make it less reasonable for insurgents to continue their resistance movement."
INDIA: "Arrangement Of Elections In Iraq"
Calcutta's nationalist Urdu-language Akhbar-e-Mashriq editorialized (12/7): "America's puppet interim Iraqi government is bent on holding general elections on January 30. This...is certain to lead the Iraqi nation...to another catastrophe. Puppet Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's party along with others is against holding the elections...because they know well that the common Iraqi people will reject it straightway.... How can it be justified that due to enmity with Saddam the whole nation, its land, its authority, and its oil wealth should be placed under the control of a foreign army? Presently most Iraqi people, whether supporters or opponents of Saddam, are very much against the occupying forces. It is the agenda of the U.S. to hold elections in Iraq, as it was the case with Afghanistan.... After a long time Bush has spoken about Afghanistan's reconstruction, which was to start in December 2001. It was not possible then because Bush's eyes were fixed on the oil wealth of Iraq.... With Iraq now fully under his control, Bush has turned his eyes toward Afghanistan."
PAKISTAN: “The Utility Of Holding Elections In Iraq”
Lahore's Independent Din editorialized (12/8): "The insistence by the U.S. and the Iraqi interim government on holding elections in Iraq is understandable as it has become a prestige point for both. If elections do not take place on time, it would be a demonstration of the fact that both (the U.S. and the Iraqi government) have failed to bring the situation under control and that they are helpless before the resistance.... While conducting elections on time is important, it is equally important that the electoral process be meaningful and trustworthy. For this, it is imperative that elections are held in an atmosphere where people can go and cast their votes without any threat to their safety.... In the presence of U.S. troops, the exercise would remain strained. Therefore, it is necessary that U.S. troops withdraw and UN supervises the set-up of an impartial body to conduct elections in Iraq."
“The Use Of Fabricated News Reports In The Baseless Iraq War”
Populist Khabrain opined (12/8): An American website, quoting the Los Angeles Times has reported that U.S. Generals had used psychological warfare tactics prior to the attack on Fallujah. In this connection, American army officers had made fabrications on TV channels. According to the report, in February 2002, the New York Times had reported that that the Pentagon was preparing to send out news reports that would be lies and would be released to foreign news outlets.... If this report (in the LA Times) is correct then the U.S. not only attacked Iraq on false pretexts, but also used tactics to gain a victory in this war that fall way short of any moral or political standards."
"Chemical Bombing Over Fallujah...Isn’t It A Crime?"
The Karachi-based, pro-Taliban/jihad Urdu-language Islam charged (12/7): "Reports of resorting to chemical bombing by the American troops in Fallujah have exposed the real face of the United States. How surprising that a country which has imposed war on Iraq just on the basis of the allegations that Iraq was in possession of chemical weapons is now itself using it against the innocent Iraqi citizens. This is expected to result in a vast human destruction."
IRAN: "Iraq's Elections In A Cloud Of Ambiguity"
Mohammad Mehdi Mazaheri observed in Tehran's conservative Afarinesh (12/6): "The Iraqi elections have mainly divided the neighbors of that country into two major blocs. The Arab countries under the leadership of Saudi Arabia and Egypt want the increase and the preservation of the traditional influence of the Sunni minority in Iraq in the political future of that country and are extremely concerned about the formation of a Shiite identity in Iraq. At the same time, these countries announce their open opposition to any division and endangering of the independence of Iraq. Turkey also fears the formation of an independent Kurdish identity in Iraq, because this could affect the internal security of Turkey....
"Regarding Iran, it can be said that this country has benefited from the overthrow of the regime of Saddam; in fact, with the elimination of that regime from the international equations, its regional power has increased. Iran has widespread influence among the Shiites, Kurds, and Sunnis in the Iraqi society. For this reason, Iran wants the widespread participation of all Iraqi ethnic groups in the next elections. In conclusion, it must be said that the neighboring countries of Iraq, while avoiding the existing conflicts and while supporting the unity of Iraq, must demand the holding of elections and the end to the occupation of Iraq."
"Difficult Elections In Iraq"
Mohammad Mollazehi commented in Masshad's conservative Qods (12/5): "It is clear that Iran's national and security interests are not in the continuation of the occupation of Iraq, and it is this fact that encourages Iran to take a position in favor of holding the National Assembly elections as soon as possible. But holding the elections…is also coupled with another negative phenomenon that thus far seems to have been rarely taken into consideration. This negative phenomenon is the increase in the number of American forces under the pretext of preserving security during the elections of the National Assembly.... The likelihood exists that the fresh American forces in Iraq will remain alongside the former forces, and this itself will be problematic with a more wide-ranging scope than in the past.... The elections...require efforts to ensure the participation of all ethnic and religious groups. Obviously, for the Sunni group to boycott them will reduce the credibility of the future government, and it is likely that it will end in new divisions inside Iraq and at the regional level, which undoubtedly will not guarantee the interests of a unified and powerful Iraq."
"Elections In Iraq: Why the Delay?"
Yusef Gharavi Quchani wrote in Tehran's conservative-traditionalist Abrar (11/30): "With the end of U.S. military operations in Fallujah talk about delaying elections in Iraq has intensified. Non-religious parties, Kurds, and other religious minorities in Iraq have called for a delay in the elections that are set for 30 January for a number of reasons, including the continued violence and fighting.... The religious leadership in Iraq has adopted a rational solution for the people of Iraq to achieve their independence and national sovereignty, end the occupation, and take their affairs into their own hands through national elections. They consider any change to the timing of elections contrary to the law and have invited all Iraqis to participate in their first national election since the downfall of Saddam's regime....
"We should stress that delaying elections in Iraq means giving an opportunity to the foreign occupiers to prolong their stay and further establish themselves in this Muslim country with a religious background. Iraqis who have now found an opportunity to establish a government by their votes are not ready to lose this historic opportunity and they are not ready to accept the rule of occupiers in place of the tyrannical rule of Saddam. Also, since the public believes that the Ba'th regime was supported by foreign powers...they are not ready to accept another similar scenario to bring another foreign dependent government to power. Thus because of these concerns and worries it is important to conduct this election in Iraq on time."
CANADA: "Electoral Mess"
Serge Truffaut opined in liberal Le Devoir (12/8): "Of all the elements that are muddling the Iraqi electoral scene like it never has been muddled before, the most worrisome is the fact that a dozen Shiite groups which had been until now members of the United Iraqi Alliance created at the instigation of Grand Ayatollah Ali-al Sistani, defected to help found the Shiite Council. The worrisome aspect is that the Council was shaped by Moqtada al-Sadr who could not bear being relegated to the back benches by the Shiite hierarchy. The scission was made when it as it was discovered a Shiite militia group had recently been created with the goal of launching attacks against Sunni militants. If unity is wavering in the Shiite camp it is almost non-existent on the Sunni side.... Only three days ago, 17 groups felt the insecurity prevalent in provinces where Sunnis form a majority was so constant and widespread that it prevented the holding of elections on January 30. The Council of Ulemas went, further, stating no elections should be held until the Army of occupation leaves Iraq. One thing is certain: the violence of the battles recorded in the province west of Baghdad does not make it possible to organize elections. That is why, to the surprise of everyone, Prime Minister Allawi suggested to delay the vote according to the geography of the armed oppositions.... But while in Washington, Iraqi President Ghazi Yawar maintained that the initial date of January 30 should be respected.... With all of these facts taken into consideration, it looks as if the credibility of the vote will be tenuous. "
"Iraqi Democracy Is Unlike Ours"
Editorial writer David Warren commented in the nationalist Ottawa Citizen (12/8): "If democracy in any form can survive, we must wait for the subtleties to evolve. For now, just having a government with a popular mandate, however ethnically defined, is such a revolutionary innovation for the Arab world that quibbling is out of place. For the fact that Iraq's large Shia majority go from decades of victimhood to power by an electoral process sends, in itself, a note of thunder across the region. It does so in a way that is ultimately fairly safe from a U.S. and western point of view. The Shia of Iraq have, beyond some residual gratitude for their liberation, no overriding reason to love America. But they have every reason to grasp that America is not their enemy. The threats to a quiet life come from two more immediate sources: first, the now disempowered Arab Sunnis, who persecuted them under Saddam Hussein, many of whom support the attempt to recover their hegemony through jihad, massacres, and terrorism; and second, revolutionary Iran next door.... The good news is that this Iraqi Shia majority has been persuaded to buy into the election in a big way. The Shia mullahs are now spouting 'get out and vote' from pulpits across the south and middle of Iraq, and as of tomorrow, their slate is fielded.... The Bush administration is still in the act of imposing democracy on two Muslim states. What it cannot do, especially over time, is determine the evolution of those democracies. Nor will it be any business of the U.S., so long as regimes that result do not again threaten the West, or their neighbours. We have a deus ex machina, but from this point, the native Arab genius for finding accommodations may play with the machine--as an alternative to playing with aircraft and car bombs."
ARGENTINA: "Facing The Most Important Challenge"
Jorge Rosales, Washington-based correspondent for daily-of-record La Nacion, commented (12/2): "Elections in Iraq, scheduled for January 30, are the most important challenge to be faced by the Bush administration in the Middle East. Violence and claims to postpone elections jeopardize the first democratic elections to be held after Saddam Hussein's downfall. The Pentagon's decision to increase the number of troops is a clear sign of the difficulties that are being met in attempting to stabilize the region and the importance granted by the White House to successfully hold elections, on which Bush's ambitious project to spread democracy in the Middle East largely depends.... The Republican administration, which was strongly supported in November presidential elections, wants to advance on January 30 elections in Iraq as planned.... But violence and prevailing disagreement among the different groups and the claims from important Sunni leaders to postpone elections could undermine them."
CHILE: “More Troops To Iraq”
Libardo Buitrago commented in financial daily Diario Financiero (12/5): “Things in Iraq are not encouraging. No formula has been found to build a bridge between the government and the rebels that can stop the wave of violence and brutality with which the soldiers are attacking--Fallujah, for example--in their search for al-Qaida, and which has led to an increase in the discontent of civilians who are trapped in the cross fire.... What we are seeing is a threatening situation in which Iraq will become a mortal trap for the soldiers who have been unable to put down the rebels, and the possibility of constant and increasing citizen reaction against the presence of the coalition, which has swept away the housing, property, and belongings of people who are unrelated to the military targets.”
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