The End of Diplomacy

A U.S. soldier prepares for war in Iraq, March 19, 2003
U.S. Army Private First Class Eric Groves prepares his military supply truck to join a convoy headed toward Iraq, March 19, 2003 (Photo: AFP).

Dubai Khaleej Times (pro-government), March 19: The reality is that, despite the stand taken by major powers at the Security Council, there is no tangible evidence of public support for the Iraqi regime in the region where it matters most. And confounding the dire predictions of ivory tower intellectuals, Arab governments have handled the crisis with commendable maturity and wisdom. From the outset, they have put the interest of ordinary Iraqis ahead of polemics and spared no effort to ensure full Iraqi compliance with the U.N. Security Council’s Resolution 1441. That in the end, the permanent members of the U.N. body failed to achieve their objective is something that Arab states regret greatly but for which they can hardly be held accountable.

London The Times (conservative), March 19: As of tomorrow, Britain will be at war with an Arab country that offers no threat to it or to anyone. British troops will be fighting an action which the United Nations would have declared unlawful if asked. Now we can only hope they win fast.
—Simon Jenkins

Lusaka The Post (independent), March 19: It is sad that the United States, a country that is prepared to punish others for not abiding by the United Nation’s decisions, is prepared to act in a lawless manner and attack Iraq….We demand that the world’s mighty superpower abandon its intention to attack Iraq. We also demand that it relinquish its attempts to turn the United Nations into a tool that only serves its interests. We make these demands because the bells tolling for Iraq today will tomorrow toll for the whole poor world and for the whole world….We are told Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction and as such poses a global threat; we are told that the destruction of Saddam Hussein’s regime will lead to democracy and increased observance of human rights in the region; we are told that the removal of Saddam Hussein is not only a humanitarian duty but a moral one. But looking back, recalling what happened in the world in the past few decades, who fathered most of the coups d’état? Who trained the torturers in the most sophisticated techniques? Who trained the sinister culprits? Who armed them? Who supported them?

London Al-Quds al-Arabi (Palestinian expatriate) March 18: We have stopped wishing Jacques Chirac were an Arab. Our hopes have become so humble that we wish we had an Arab leader who has the morals, firmness, and virility of the president of Guinea, Mexico, or Chile. We do not believe that the Iraqi president will give in to Bush’s ultimatum, step down, save the Arab leaders from their crisis, and hand over Baghdad…to the new invaders. He is perhaps a tyrannical dictator and his record on human rights is perhaps the worst but he is definitely not a coward or an agent, as some like to call him. He would not have stood fast against all the conspiracies targeting him if he were a coward or an agent. It is war then.

Tel Aviv Ha’aretz (liberal), March 20: The opponents of the war in Iraq are right: It is indeed a colonialist war. The Anglo-American decision to intervene in the domestic affairs of a Third World country, to disarm it and change its government, is a decision from another era. In the universal terms of equality between nations and cultures, and the supremacy of international law, it is impossible to justify such a war. It is an expression of a relationship of mastery by one part of the West toward part of the Arab world. Thus, it returns us to the conceptual world of 1956. It takes us back to the spirit of the Suez Campaign.

Madrid El Mundo (centrist) March 18: Only a miracle could prevent the war, since Bush demanded…not only that Saddam Hussein should leave the country in the coming hours but that the Baghdad regime should accept, without resistance, the entry of U.S. soldiers. These words only highlight the fact that Bush has never really been interested in the disarmament of Saddam Hussein. What he has always really wanted was Saddam Hussein’s removal and a U.S. protectorate in the region. It is a risky decision, and Bush may ruin his hopes of being reelected if the war grows complicated. Blair has already started to pay a high price.

Moscow The Moscow Times (independent, English-language), March 19: Russia had risked antagonizing the United States by vetoing the resolution or alienating France and Germany by abstaining. While [the U.S. decision to sidestep the United Nations] allows Moscow to save face in Washington’s seemingly unstoppable drive for war, it throws into question the last global checks on the might of the United States. Russia and the rest of the world now must ask themselves what was all the diplomatic wrangling for if the United States is going to be able to go ahead regardless of world opinion….Russia must keep up the pressure. Let’s hope that the United States starts listening, instead of…threatening to use its economic might against those that dare to defy its wishes.

Munich Süddeutsche Zeitung (centrist), March 19: Bush is abusing his power, as the U.S. president stands virtually alone and is now responsible for momentous decisions determining war or peace. Bush is also debasing some of the great American democratic traditions, which he should be upholding more than anyone else….Rarely in U.S. history has Washington taken upon itself to fabricate such an artificial cause as this war in Iraq….as much as the world would like to see an end to Saddam Hussein’s reign, this war really belongs to George W. Bush.
—Stefan Kornelius

Istanbul Milliyet (liberal), March 18: There is no doubt that the United States and Britain are both determined to attack Iraq without waiting for another U.N. resolution….We are currently facing a truly strange picture: Although the Turkish Parliament recently rejected a proposal authorizing U.S. troops to be stationed at Turkey’s military facilities, the Bush administration is even now stockpiling ammunition in Iskenderun and continuing to rent land in the region for logistical purposes. But if Turkey and the United States have failed to reach an agreement on such a proposal, why is the United States still continuing its military preparations within our territories?

Dubai Gulf News (independent), March 19: Bush’s actions have disregarded the powers of the United Nations, despite his protestations that he is revitalizing the institution. The worldwide power of the United Nations is dependent on the common principle of every country sharing in and accepting the results of the decision making process. The domineering disregard the U.S. has shown the Security Council will have terrible effects for many years to come.

Bangkok The Nation (liberal), March 19: Members of the international community, who have been in a quandary over Iraq for the past 12 years, have had the problem solved for them by the United States, the world’s undisputed superpower, and its allies….Iraq will face the full wrath of the world’s best military might, with calamitous consequences….Even if the war is fought for the wrong reasons, the consolation may be that it might yield a desirable outcome for the long-suffering people of Iraq.

Toronto The Globe and Mail (centrist), March 18: This tragedy ultimately will be Saddam Hussein’s fault as well, because the world would not be on the verge of another war in the Persian Gulf if the Iraqi dictator had agreed to abide by his international responsibilities….But the ultimatum also says a great deal about Washington's ineptitude as it sought to rally other countries to its side. Bush’s last message to Hussein should have been to disarm, in accordance with the will of the international community. Instead, it was a demand that Hussein surrender power. The United States has consistently mixed the two objectives—disarmament and regime change—leaving key members of the transatlantic alliance to wonder whether the White House would ever have been satisfied with having a disarmed Saddam Hussein remain in power. This confusion of motives was a fundamental reason why the Bush administration, in a blow that likely will affect the United Nations for years, has had to withdraw its Security Council resolution authorizing force.

Doha Gulf Times (pro-government), March 18: Few people doubt that Saddam Hussein will lose this war. Most expect him to lose quickly, but nobody can predict exactly how the tragedy will play out….The only certainty is that historians, politicians, and diplomats will pour over the history of the diplomacy that ended so badly yesterday in an effort to discover what went wrong, why, and what it means for the future of the international community. In a unipolar world, it is important to have a regulatory body, which tries to regulate international affairs according to its perceptions of what is just, not according to the wishes of its mightiest member. Yesterday may have been the culmination of a diplomatic disaster—but it might also be the Security Council’s finest day.

Melbourne The Age (centrist) March 19: If the Security Council had remained as united on Iraq as it was in 1990-91, the war that now is virtually certain might have been averted. Very soon after the Security Council adopted Resolution 1441, however, it became obvious that France and Germany did not take it seriously. Interpreted in the light of 678, “serious consequences” could only mean further military action. But France and Germany never accepted this….The real effect of the disunity was to send a message to Saddam Hussein that he might get away with non-compliance yet again. And that is what has led to war.

New Delhi Outlook (independent), March 18: If Saddam Hussein refuses to quit; the triumph of the inevitable U.S. military action should not be in doubt. The question is not whether the United States will win, but how soon. But it will be a Pyrrhic victory which will not contribute to enhanced peace and security for the United States, Israel, and the rest of the international community. The world has nearly a billion Muslims. No world leader can afford to be insensitive to their feelings of hurt and anger. Ultimately, whether the world is spared the consequences of their anger is not going to depend on the autocratic rulers of the Islamic world on whose support the United States is counting for removing another autocratic ruler from power. It is going to depend on the perceptions and feelings of rage of the ordinary Muslims in the streets, mosques, and madaris.

Tokyo Sankei Shimbun (conservative), March 18: Saddam Hussein, who invited the crisis, bears the responsibility to avoid it. President Bush’s statement allowing Hussein to leave the country left the final decision in the hands of the Iraqi dictator. In response, Hussein is said to have expressed his intention to resist the demand in a do-or-die manner in a meeting with military commanders. He said that if the United States, the United Kingdom, and others carry out an attack on Iraq, the war will be expanded into a world war….Strangely enough, the antiwar demonstrations around the world do not demand that Hussein resign or go into exile, which would peacefully resolve the issue. The demonstrations only voice anti-American, antiwar, and pacifist sentiments. Who should be blamed at this historical juncture? From the viewpoints of national interest and security, Japan should firmly maintain its stance in support of the United States.

Jidda Arab News (pro-government, English-language) March 18: The Security Council had been given two false choices: Either meekly to submit to the will of the United States or, by rejecting a U.S.-led proposal, reveal itself as powerless to stop the war. [U.S. Secretary of State Colin] Powell has gone on record as saying that the goal of this war is not only to remove Saddam, but to redraw the regional map as a whole. That he has the nerve, again and again, to talk in such language betrays an extraordinary arrogance, bolstered by a conviction that his government holds all the trump cards. This war—which is illegal according to international law and immoral by any standards—is about oil and America’s strategic dominance of the Middle East—no more, no less.

Bratislava Sme (independent), March 18: According to the U.S. president, [March 17] was supposed to be the “moment of truth” for the whole world. Instead, it was the “moment of truth” for the permanent and nonpermanent members of the U.N. Security Council. Everyone else’s turn will only come later.
—Marian Lesko

Singapore The Straits Times (pro-government), March 19: The Americans have a valid reason for being angry with President Saddam Hussein.…It is not because he had clandestinely acquired weapons of mass destruction for use against the United States and Israel—despite all the Americans’ fabricated evidence, so diplomatically and so embarrassingly exposed by the United Nations inspectors for what it was...It is not because he was hand in glove with Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda—he was not… It is because he funded the acts of suicide terrorism against Israel and failed to grieve over the deaths of thousands of Americans on Sept. 11, 2001
—B. Raman

Kingston The Jamaica Gleaner (independent), March 19: After Bush’s ultimatum expires at 8 p.m. tonight…the war will begin….The war in Iraq is going to affect the Jamaican economy in many unfortunate ways, from high fuel prices to declining tourist arrivals. Even if we suspend judgment on the morality of the war, we must pray that it will be quick and decisive.

Ruwi Times of Oman (English-language) March 18: It is now fairly certain that the United States will lead a “coalition of the willing” to pulverize Iraq in a bid to overthrow Saddam Hussein….The war allies say that this is to end all wars. But the reality could be quite the opposite because following a so-called preventive war against Iraq, all warmongering countries can arrogate to themselves the power to invade weaker nations, not least their neighbors, on the principle of…preemption. The upshot will be that global arms race will intensify with the inherent danger of a profusion of wars and—with several nations in possession of nuclear weapons—the world scenario could be nothing less than nightmarish.

Damascus Syria Times (government-owned), March 19: Objective observers cannot believe the U.S. administration’s statement on the revival of the so-called road-map plan at a time when President George W. Bush himself continues to connive with the daily war crimes being perpetrated by the Sharon government….The 48-hour ultimatum given by Bush is tantamount to a declaration of war. This declaration is the worst move made by the leader of the only superpower, who is supposed to be a peacekeeper not a warmonger.
—M. Agha

Tehran Tehran Times (conservative), March 19: The dark shadows of war have fallen on the Persian Gulf, creating an abnormal situation in countries of the region. In the meantime, there is every indication that these countries are doing their best to avoid the serious repercussions that the outbreak of war could have on their countries….Undoubtedly, the outbreak of a U.S.-led war against Iraq would worsen the already critical situation in the Gulf states. This, in turn, could lead to an unpredictable development that would itself aggravate matters even further….It goes without saying that the U.S. insistence on attacking Iraq augurs an unclear future for the Persian Gulf.