Middle East

Iraq and the United States

A Gathering Storm over Iraq

U.S. special forces have been rumored to be already at work in Iraq (Photo: AFP).

London The Times (conservative), Jan. 15: The reaction to 9/11 is beyond anything Osama bin Laden could have hoped for in his nastiest dreams. As in McCarthy times, the freedoms that have made America the envy of the world are being systematically eroded. The combination of compliant U.S. media and vested corporate interests is once more ensuring that a debate that should be ringing out in every town square is confined to the loftier columns of the East Coast press. The imminent war was planned years before Bin Laden struck, but it was he who made it possible. Without Bin Laden, the Bush junta would still be trying to explain such tricky matters as how it came to be elected in the first place; Enron; its shameless favoring of the already-too-rich; its reckless disregard for the world’s poor, the ecology, and a raft of unilaterally abrogated international treaties. They might also have to be telling us why they support Israel in its continuing disregard for U.N. resolutions.
—John Le Carré

London Al-Hayat (pan-Arab), Jan. 15: The chronic crisis in Iraq state is the fault of its centralized military regime that rejects adopting any new ideas. The successive regimes that ruled Iraq failed to achieve a constitutional legitimacy, in the sense of popular approval. And because of the nature of the Iraqi state, this situation could be addressed only by adventurous officers and revolutionary parties, a situation that reinforced a political culture of violence.

Kolkata The Telegraph (independent), Jan. 8: The atmosphere in America's capital today is somewhat similar to what it was in New Delhi in the run-up to the Bangladesh war in 1971. Or the atmosphere in Saudi Arabia in the weeks before Operation Desert Storm for liberating Kuwait. As in 1991, when many people and governments abroad doubted America's determination to go to war, a big gap now exists between how Washington's public position on the coming war is perceived abroad and the actual preparations in the United States for battle. Public debates in the United States have gone on from the “ifs” and “whens” of the attack on Iraq to detailed discussions on the specifics of what a temporary American administration would do in post-Saddam Iraq.... The case is being made that the sooner Iraq is settled on America's terms and Saddam Hussein is consigned to the dustbin of history, Washington will be free to deal with the imperatives of a post-Chávez set-up in Venezuela, which is critical to U.S. interests in Latin America. War against Iraq is also seen in the corridors of power in Washington as vital to the ongoing fight against terrorism....
—K.P. Nayar

Rome Famiglia Cristiana (Catholic-oriented, left/centrist), Jan. 12: George W. Bush has shown no hesitation in choosing between the two possible wars. He is going to leave North Korea in peace and he is going send his troops to the borders of Iraq. Virtually everything is ready for the invasion.... The reason compelling Bush to go to war is not Saddam Hussein's forbidden arsenal. So far the U.N. inspection team has failed to turn up any evidence that Iraq possesses either chemical or biological weapons. It unquestionably had some back in the 1980s, when it used them against the Iranian Army and against the Kurdish people without the United States’ raising any objections at the time. And it still had some in 1991 when it invaded Kuwait and was hounded out of the country by U.S. intervention, but it took great care not to use them.... In a “liberated” Iraq, the United States is hoping, under the protection of a multinational force, to build the first democracy in the Arab world with a representative parliament and a market economy.... It is this scenario, rather than any craving for oil or fear of chemical weapons, that has persuaded the U.S. government of the need for a change of regime in Iraq.
—Bruno Marolo

Cairo Al-Ahram Weekly (semi-official, English-language), Jan. 2-8: An Arab public that has followed the Palestinian plight for so long and that learned recently about the decision to strike Iraq now has to absorb news of Israeli-American plans to target Syria and Libya. My feeling is that, should Washington fail to convincingly discount these suspicions, then the result will be a new and perhaps unprecedented phase of Arab enmity that could jeopardize Western interests in the region. It is up to Washington to make the final statement and prevent the region from falling into the abyss.
—Ibrahim Nafie

Cairo Al-Akhbar (government-owned), Jan. 8: America is not so naive that it would wage a war the entire world rejects; it agrees on the necessity of getting rid of Saddam Hussein's regime. While all observers are busy now preparing the scenario for the different phases of war, Washington has begun preparing for the post-Saddam Hussein phase of Iraqi history, especially managing Iraqi resources and selecting a regime that owes obedience and loyalty to the sole remaining superpower. Washington’s continuing buildup of troops in the Persian Gulf and increased threats of an imminent war are parts of the new U.S. script to preserve U.S. strategic interests in the Gulf for as long as possible, not just to launch a war against Iraq.
—Mumtaz Al-Qutt

Istanbul Milliyet (liberal), Jan. 8: Despite the fact that the Bush administration does not say it openly, circles that are close to this administration do not conceal that they have begun to feel distressed about Turkey's Iraqi policy.... [Turkish] Prime Minister Abdullah Gul’s diplomatic tour of Arab countries, State Minister Kursat Tuzmen’s preparations to visit Iraq with a large delegation, and certain officials’ statements on [the future of] northern Iraq have also upset Washington. According to the U.S. diplomats, Ankara did not consult Washington on Gul’s diplomatic tour.... The U.S. administration is being forced to make new assessments because Turkey has avoided giving an answer to the U.S. demand to open a front in the north.... Given that Turkey has not yet given an answer, it seems that the United States will give up the “northern front option” and will go ahead with the operation.... What will Turkey do when it understands that its efforts to prevent the war have failed and that the United States is about to launch an operation? This is what the U.S. officials are wondering. The United States might refuse to give Turkey a say during the Iraqi operation, in the planning in the aftermath of the operation, and in the restructuring of Iraq.
—Sami Kohen

Ankara Turkish Daily News (English-language, liberal), Jan. 7: I have talked with people very close to the Bush administration and I received the same reply from all of them: “We cannot decipher Turkey's approach. At a certain point we received highly positive signals. Afterwards a strange attitude came to be adopted. And, without determining what Ankara wants to do, we cannot complete our plans....” No agreement has been reached yet to combine Turkey's expectations with the size of the support the United States is prepared to give. In Washington, the prevailing mood is: “Turkey is making exaggerated demands. It is as if Turkey is trying to take its economy to sounder ground by using the Iraq operation.” Turkey's expectation, meanwhile, is: “The Bush administration should make a definite statement, making it clear that… the United States will provide [economic] support.”
—Mehmet Ali Birand

Lisbon Diario de Noticias (independent), Jan. 7: The idea of launching pre-emptive wars, which is now part of the official U.S. strategy, is not favored by Pope John Paul II. The head of the Catholic Church is not happy about a possible U.S. attack on Iraq, as he does not see it as falling within the definition of a just war.... However, it is true that the lion's share of George W. Bush's support comes from the so-called Christian conservatives. In general, they welcome a war in the Middle East. They are mostly Protestant fundamentalists who interpret the Bible literally.... This idea seems to us puerile and ridiculous, but it carries a political weight in America that is difficult to imagine in Europe. In other words, there is a growing Christian fundamentalism to oppose Islamic fundamentalism. This is not a healthy situation and is full of danger for the future. That is why religious voices, Christian and non-Christian, with a different outlook, should be heard. History shows us that when religion becomes degraded, and in addition becomes linked to politics, the worst things happen.

Rawalpindi Nawa-i-Waqt (conservative), Jan. 9: U.N. sources are of the view that [chief weapons inspector] Hans Blix will provide proof that Iraq does not possess weapons of mass destruction. Under the terms of Security Council resolutions, U.N. weapons inspectors have been carrying out land and aerial inspections of suspected weapon sites in Iraq. According to reports, Iraq has so far provided access to all possible facilities to the U.N. weapons inspectors. Iraq has also offered to send its own inspectors to the United States. So far none of the U.N. inspectors has disclosed the presence of any chemical and nuclear weapons in Iraq…. Despite this, the United States is not only preparing to attack Iraq but has also sent additional forces to the Gulf region.... It is disappointing—rather, shameful—that the Islamic and Arab world have been silent spectators.... As long as the entire Arab world does not unite against the attack to stop it with the support of its European allies, it cannot be expected that war will be averted…. Pakistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia should make a joint effort to hold discussions with the leadership of various Islamic and Arab states, because after Iraq, any of these three countries could be next in line.

Islamabad Pakistan Observer (English-language), Jan. 9: The head of the international peacekeeping forces in Afghanistan has said that a U.S.-led war against Iraq could provoke terrorists to step up attacks against foreigners.... The fact is that the yearlong U.S. war against terrorism has failed to eliminate Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, whose remnants are regularly targeting the U.S.-led international coalition forces [in Afghanistan]. Attacking Iraq will certainly incite them to step up their anti-U.S. military operations. We are, in fact, convinced that the attack on Iraq will deepen the worldwide hatred against the United States. The extremist elements will find an opportunity to target the Americans and other foreigners everywhere in the world.

Toronto The Globe and Mail (centrist), Jan. 15: “Time is running out on Saddam Hussein," U.S. President George W. Bush warned yesterday, but time is also slipping away for Washington to maintain a credible, war-ready, military buildup in the Persian Gulf. Delaying any war until after the summer—as an increasing number of United States allies now seem to prefer to allow more time for United Nations inspections—would create a rotation nightmare for Pentagon planners…. The UN's nuclear-weapons inspections teams have said it could take as long as a year to reach a credible assessment of Baghdad's capability. In that case, Bush could be soon left with a war-ready force in the Persian Gulf and little or no backing from the international community to use it.
—Paul Koring

Tel Aviv Ha’aretz (liberal), Jan. 10: Is it in fact certain that the United States and Britain will go to war against Iraq? And if so, when will it happen? Suddenly, we are hearing voices to the effect that this most-talked-about of wars will not take place. This, however, is not the view in Israel. The appraisal of the situation here is that Washington has even decided on the exact date for the start of the war—during February or March, according to the Israeli assessment.

Sydney The Sydney Morning Herald (centrist), Jan. 11: This prospective war [in Iraq] is, for Australia especially, not an urgent defensive operation. It is a pre-emptive war, with all the calculation and premeditation that implies. For that reason among others, there is no universal agreement in Australia on this war. The dissent from and opposition to such a war, it is fair to say, have been muted by two promises. One is its promise of a parliamentary debate before any commitment. The other is the promise to await the outcome of U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq—that is, to move according to the broader international process of the United Nations Security Council, not a unilateral timetable of the United States. So far, the case for war has not been made to the people of Australia. Yet the government's actions imply its mind is already made up.

Tehran Aftab-e-Yazd (reformist), Jan. 8: The newly-elected prime minister of Turkey has begun extensive diplomatic efforts to prevent a war between the United States and Iraq. He is currently visiting most countries involved in the crisis and is due to come to Iran; he has also said he is ready to visit Iraq to talk to Saddam Hussein. At the same time, a possible visit here by the Iraqi foreign minister has provoked negative reactions, with deputies threatening to impeach the foreign minister…. A little while before the Turkish prime minister's justified and laudable initiative, political disputes in Turkey were at their peak and the previous Turkish government was barely able to control domestic crises, let alone undertake any regional initiatives. The miracle of the people's vote has humbled the secular extremists wielding power within the army and given the victorious Islamic party a free hand to pursue the country's national interests. Now, in spite of the people's negative opinion of a dictator such as Hussein, Gul feels strong, within his country and abroad, and may talk to Hussein to consider ways of avoiding armed conflict. If Turkey is even partially successful in this endeavor, it will markedly enhance its position within regional and international relations. Iran, meanwhile, in spite of possessing the potential, capabilities, and talents of a great nation, will only be able look on with regret.
—Ja'far Golabi

Ljubljana Ljubljana Delo (independent), Jan. 8: There is little likelihood that the United States will attack Iraq earlier than in a month’s time, but it is highly likely that this will happen before spring. If international inspectors in Iraq fail to find any weapons of mass destruction, it will become clear that the United States will not have any legitimate reasons to attack. And Slovenian public opinion will probably not be indifferent to the fact that the leading NATO member is being aggressive toward a sovereign state without any reason. This could push support for NATO even lower.
—Rok Praprotnik