Middle East

War in Iraq

Now the Hard Part

A British soldier enters Basrat
A British Desert Rat enters the Iraqi city of Basra, April 1, 2003 (Photo: Mark Richards/AFP).

Abha Al-Watan (pro-government), April 11: Where was the battle of Stalingrad? Where were the surprises the Iraqis were preparing for the “parasites,” the “bastards,” and the “mercenaries?” Where was Baghdad in comparison to brave little Umm Qasr that defended its honor with dignity? What about all the millions that were spent on special forces to defend Saddam Hussein? Or were the Iraqi people the only real enemy of the regime? What happened in Baghdad was a scandal. If other Arab capitals witness the same events, the shame will be far worse.…Saddam Hussein has added to our list of defeats a defeat that is worse because it is infectious, in that it won’t end at the gates of Baghdad. Although all my life I’ve wanted to see the end of Saddam Hussein’s regime, I felt humiliation when I watched the U.S. Marines sightseeing at Paradise Square in the heart of Baghdad, after they toppled the biggest idol that Saddam Hussein had built for himself.
—Jaafar Abbas

London The Times (conservative), April 10: When dictatorships fall, a political structure based on intimidation disintegrates. The vacuum could easily lead to a catastrophic collapse of living standards, endemic violence, and ethnic or tribal disputes. Iraq now stands at that dangerous point between war and peace....The immediate challenge is to hold together a country and society exhausted by everything it has been through.…Liberating Iraq from its past means binding up the wounds, as quickly and fairly as possible, of a society all but destroyed by dictatorship....The road back to prosperity and legitimacy will be strewn with obstacles. A continuation of the European bickering that preceded the U.S.-led liberation must not be one of those obstacles, nor should battles for institutional turf.

Moscow Izvestiya (centrist) April 10: Today Bush and Blair have every right to rejoice. They have won. They have kept their word. They have overthrown the “bloody regime.” They have not found weapons of mass destruction yet, but they will certainly find them. Even if they don’t, who will rebuke them, the winners, after they have captured Baghdad in a matter of days, almost bloodlessly?...To defeat an almost unarmed country, to destroy an army which refuses to fight, and to overthrow a rotten regime is the easiest part of the mission. The most difficult part is still ahead.
—Maksim Yusin

Karachi Jasarat (Urdu-language, right-wing), April 10: After destroying Iraq for the last three weeks, the United States and the United Kingdom have suddenly remembered the United Nations. Only a few weeks ago, these two countries had abandoned the United Nations and the U.N. Security Council to attack Iraq. The forceful resistance of the Iraqi public has further blackened the faces of the United States and the United Kingdom.

Paris Le Figaro (conservative), April 10: Yesterday marked a historic date: Saddam Hussein’s regime is no more. This is a victory for George W. Bush....This is a war than strengthens America’s unilateralist impulses....America’s goal goes beyond Iraq. It would be insulting the United States to imagine that its unilateralist policies are being implemented without vision. The White House has a simple plan: to pacify the Middle East by bringing democracy to Iraq, making it an example. This is why tomorrow’s task is as decisive as yesterday’s victory....No one can predict how the U.S. model will be accepted. Yesterday, a dictator fell. While we cannot accuse President Bush's plans of lacking coherence, we cannot ignore the risks involved.
—Jean de Belt

Jidda Okaz (pro-government), April 11: The situation will not calm down in Iraq after the Americans occupy Iraq seize the country’s oil. The oil pipelines that will stretch for thousands of miles across Arab deserts will be an easy target for guerrilla operations. Blood will flow again if the United States tries to impose its control on other countries, or tries to run an oil pipeline from Mosul to Haifa, as they have been planning to do for a long time. The United States would then find itself in a long war.

New Delhi The Economic Times (conservative), April 11: The United States has set out to find an Iraqi government that is independent enough to gain credibility among the Iraqi people but not powerful enough to challenge U.S. authority. And it is relying heavily on its experience in Afghanistan. The diplomat who did the job in Kabul is now preparing an Afghanistan-like formula to be put in place in Baghdad. The government would then consist of a variety of tribal leaders who are all quite satisfied with their little pockets of influence. And it would be headed by an exile trusted to do Washington’s bidding. The problem, of course, is that Iraq is not Afghanistan. Iraqi nationalism is unlikely to disintegrate into tribal loyalties as easily as in Afghanistan.

Bangkok The Nation (liberal), April 11: Now that they have liberated the Iraqi people, Washington must not let its troops linger any longer than local hospitality will allow. Like it or not, the Americans can do some peculiar things. When the U.S. crane was about to pull down Saddam Hussein’s statue, a Marine used an American flag to cover his face. That picture alone, seen all around the world, was a big insult to the Arab street….It is still not clear what the U.S. government wants to do now. Washington is playing with too many cards and with too many partners….Without the United Nations’ imprimatur, whatever the U.S. chooses to do in postwar Iraq will not be considered legitimate in the eyes of the world.

Frankfurt Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (conservative), April 10: It would be naive to think that America would give up control over Iraq, just as it has achieved a swift victory over a feared terror regime and demonstrated to the world and itself its power. It would also be naive to think that the United Nations could take control immediately. A massive military presence will be necessary to end this war, prevent a rekindling of the conflict, and to restore a more or less stable order in the country. The surprisingly quick collapse of Saddam Hussein’s rule should not prompt us to assume that a democracy could be set up on the debris of the regime….There will be a lot of work for experienced civil-society builders like the Europeans. But for a long time to come, someone with a gun will have to stand right next to them.
—Berthold Kohler

Turin La Stampa (centrist), April 10: It is not the foregone conclusion to this military campaign that weighs on our minds, but the climate of its conclusion. It is also the relief at being liberated we saw so eloquently expressed on the faces of the Iraqi people. These images will offer the Americans a deserved opportunity to court greater solidarity from the rest of the world—solidarity, that, until now, was markedly absent. They will have the opportunity, in some cases, to break out of their isolation and build, once again, the broad chain of worldwide friendships they had established the day after Sept. 11, 2001. But for President Bush, the price of this (positive) change in events would consist of his reassessment of the doctrine of “pre-emptive strikes.”...And victory could push him towards a less prudent approach.
—Marcello Sorgi

Brussels Le Soir (centrist), April 10: Despite the persistent doubts about Bush’s reasons for waging this war, and despite the legitimate criticism on the way it was imposed on the rest of the world, the fall of this dreadful regime and of its vile dictator arouses a feeling of relief....The upcoming challenges are bigger, riskier, and more difficult than ever. Iraq must promptly become a democracy that is not the vassal of a superpower or of Islamic fundamentalism, and that is not economically colonized….Bush must demonstrate that he does not want to impose this “new American order” on the Middle East, but that he wants to participate in the reconstruction of a genuine democratic project….[an] undeniable sign of this would be the real resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
—Beatrice Delvaux

Jerusalem Al-Quds (pro-Palestinian authority), April 10: Baghdad’s fall is a catastrophe. And it will not be the last, because the Anglo-American victory will whet the appetite of the colonialists to devour more Arab capitals. In addition, this victory will encourage them to reshape the Arab world according to the political, cultural, and social values of Washington.

Rabat Al-Alam (pro-government), April 9: America has come to Iraq to liberate it. This is a new style of liberation, a liberation that consists of thousands of airplanes bombing Iraq and destroying all cities, all villages, all schools, all hospitals, all museums, and historical sites with a 5,000-year history. All these sites have become rubble as a result of the U.S. bombers liberating Iraq....It may become a tradition for America and Britain to liberate other Arab and Islamic countries so that Israel will remain the master in our Arab and Islamic Middle East. Let’s learn a lesson from the liberation of Iraq, a lesson well-taught by the United States and the United Kingdom.
—Abdelkrim Ghallab

Amman Al-Arab Al-Youm (independent), April 7: The Americans and the British will eventually come to the realization that the occupation of Iraq is not the end of the line, that they are not going to achieve security and stability and open doors for investment companies. Occupying Iraq will be the beginning, because Washington has no political solutions for Iraq that could overcome Iraq’s historical, geographical, political, and ethnic complexities and difficulties....We are certain that the occupation of Iraq and its tragic repercussions are going to entrench the Arabs’ and Muslims’ feelings of hatred and animosity toward the United States. This, in turn, is going to destabilize Iraq and extend instability across the region.
—Mohammad Kawash

Tokyo Asahi Shimbun (centrist), April 10: The Anglo-American war goals were to topple Saddam Hussein’s regime, destroy Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, and the democratize Iraq. We must grapple with the job of reconstructing Iraq and helping to create a new administration for the country, a task which rests in the hands of each Iraqi. The U.S. and England must first spread military rule, and then speed up the process and restore a tentative control structure made up of Iraqis themselves. In order to restore real stability, the most urgent need is to end Anglo-American military rule. To accomplish this, the United States should…let the United Nations take the lead role in setting up a temporary administration. This way there will be more international support for the operation and it will be easier to gain cooperation from Arab countries.

Istanbul Milliyet (liberal), April 6: Thousands of people died. It is uncertain how many more will die. The reason for the war is about to be forgotten, but the results of the war have started to emerge before it is over. Evidently, the United States has already determined its contractors for the reconstruction of Iraq. It had made a proposal to the former head of Shell to manage Iraq’s petroleum. According to the calculations made, a minimum of US$100 billion is needed for the reconstruction of Iraq. This is not a problem when the value of the Iraq’s petroleum resources is taken into consideration. The United States and England will have their own companies construct Iraq with the revenues from the Iraqi petroleum! It is just the time to ask, “Whose property are you giving to whom?” But who will ask? The United Nations? NATO? The poor Iraqi people?…The United States, which did not listen to the United Nations when it started the war, will also not listen to it when it finishes the war, unless it wants the United Nations to act as a mannequin in the streets of Baghdad in order to save appearances.
—Fikret Bila

Tel Aviv Yediot Aharonot (centrist), April 9: The true victory in Iraq will only come about when a new and stable regime is established....The process that Iraq undergoes will be fragile and vulnerable to shocks....It is worth paying attention to the most recent statements by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. He warned that an American victory in Iraq would be a catastrophe for Hezbollah’s and the Palestinians’ fight. For him, this is a battle for the entire pot. If a democratic regime is established in Iraq, it will put other less democratic Arab regimes in an uneasy situation.

Damascus Al-Thawra (government-owned), April 9: Statements made by extremist U.S. officials concerning the postwar stage reflect great arrogance and haughtiness and use a vocabulary that departs from standard political and diplomatic ethics....These statements were meant to say that the United States is proceeding with its unilateral policy and will not accept any discussion or objections to its goals from the region or the world.
—Sayyah Al-Sukhni

Melbourne The Age (centrist), April 10: Debate about the United Nations’ postwar role is largely ignoring the fact that many of the leading Iraqis who will soon take control of their country actually do not want the United Nations to run the show or even play a “vital role,” as U.S. President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have put it. What is important for the Iraqi National Congress...is an end to the war, restoration of law and order, and an interim authority that leads to government of Iraq by Iraqis as soon as politically possible. Coalition forces are delivering the first two faster than many thought possible, and moving quickly to establish the mechanism for the third, under retired general Jay Garner. Where then does the United Nations fit in? Delivering the humanitarian aid, but possibly not much more. For the Iraqi opposition, freedom from Saddam Hussein has been achieved despite the United Nations, not because of it. Having failed to endorse the war, why should the United Nations expect to organize the peace, they argue. The Iraqis are grateful to the coalition, but also do not need them to hang around once the job is over. Exactly how the United States intends to move from restoring law and order (now), establishing an interim authority (soon), and then delivering free elections (in a year or so) remains unclear.
—Peter Fray

Santiago El Mercurio (conservative) April 5: Winning the war is just the beginning of a gigantic task for the coalition forces....It is also the beginning of a debate that promises to become very complex....And it is at that point that we will see how much the U.S. truly values working with its allies and the international community.

London Al-Sharq al-Awsat (Saudi-owned), April 5: Amid most Arab countries’ suspicions of the real intentions of the Iraqi opposition and the absence of open relations at the political and media levels with it, the Arab countries are not expected to rush to recognize any government that the U.S. administration will try to install once the war ends. The Iraqi opposition, which is bound to the U.S. administration and intelligence services by strong ties, did not find any Arab capital willing even to let it hold its expanded conference few weeks before the war. The Iraqi opposition therefore turned to the British capital, thousands of miles away from the Arab world.

Cape Town Cape Times (liberal), April 10: It will still take a long time before the full ramifications of yesterday’s U.S./U.K. military victory in Iraq become clear....Immediate relief must be provided to the civilians affected in various ways by the conflict.…The rampant looting and complete breakdown of order must also be halted....But that is just the beginning of what will be a long and arduous process....[The United States] must make room for the United Nations in this process. It cannot be both player and referee....The United Nations must not become an unintended casualty of the war in Iraq. International peace and security is not the exclusive concern of the United States. The United States made many enemies through its [nearly] unilateral decision to go to war....It can still win back some of the goodwill by behaving graciously in victory.