Middle East


Bush, Blair, Blix, and the Battle for Baghdad

Mural of Saddam Hussein
Photo: Karim Sahib/AFP

Sydney The Australian (conservative), Feb. 26: George W. Bush is on the verge of the most sweeping recasting of America’s role in the world for half a century. The consequences are mammoth, dangerous, and unpredictable. The United States is set upon a new course of preemptive global intervention because its own threshold of threat tolerance has been rapidly eroded.

Beijing Renmin Ribao/People’s Daily (Communist party), Feb. 26: A war against Iraq without legitimate authorization could bring about huge negative impacts well beyond the trigger-pullers' anticipation….On the surface, the warmongers have so far claimed, a war against Iraq is necessary to counter terrorism and stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction. But terrorism cannot be so easily eliminated through war, especially without getting rid of its root causes….Uncle Sam's stubborn unilateralist stance has already reduced the level of sympathy the international community has shown to it in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, incident….An unjustified war could only deepen the suspicion and brew hatred against the United States in victim countries. Such an aggression itself may provide soil for terrorism.

New Delhi Outlook (independent weekly), March 3: Tony Blair, if anyone, can put the brakes on the march to war George Bush is on. And it is people-power that could put the brakes on Blair. There was no way Blair could ignore the biggest demonstration London has ever seen....Blair cites public opinion polls to show that “more than three quarters [of respondents] say they would support war if it has U.N. support.” Little surprise that Blair is now pushing for a second U.N. resolution—one the United States does not particularly want.
—Sanjay Suri

London The Times (conservative), Feb. 25, 2003: Consider where Britain would be today if the Prime Minister had aligned himself with France and Germany. Consider the country’s position if Blair had offered Washington sympathy but withheld real support. The United States would have toppled Saddam Hussein last autumn. The U.N. Security Council, on which this country has a permanent seat, would have been rendered an impotent observer, once-warm political relations between America and Europe would have been plunged even further into the deep freeze and NATO would have been reduced from a military alliance of enduring value to a Cold War relic. It is hard to envisage, as Blair was wise to appreciate, how any of this would have served Britain’s interests.

London The Guardian (liberal), Feb. 25: Tony Blair’s efforts to keep George Bush on a U.N. route in Iraq are increasingly focusing on the aftermath of war. As lobbying starts for a new security council resolution, getting a powerful presence for the United Nations in Baghdad once Saddam Hussein’s regime has fallen is seen as no less important than getting a U.N. mandate for military attack. Britain carved out modern Iraq and has a bloody record of ruling it, either directly or behind the scenes. But in the new world order an American proconsul swaggering round in combat fatigues is the ugly image of imperialism Blair wants to avoid.
—Jonathan Steele

Munich Süddeutsche Zeitung (centrist), Feb. 24: Ultima ratio: This saying is found in almost all commentaries on the Iraq crisis. It is found in the SPD [Social Democratic Party] resolutions against Bush’s Iraq policy and in the CDU [Christian Democratic Union] declarations for in favor of Bush’s policy. It is found in the messages from the Pope, and it is found in the documents that invoke the smallest common denominator among the European nations: War is the very last resort....But the ultima ratio formula is hollow: You do what you wanted to do all along and, in order to obfuscate, you say it is the last resort. “I’m waging war, I cannot do anything else.”
—Heribert Prantl

London Al-Quds al-Arabi (Palestinian expatriate), Feb. 24: It is obvious that the next Arab summit [scheduled for March 1 in Sharm al-Sheikh] will be required to exercise pressure on Iraq and to call on its leadership to surrender to U.S. pressure and to willingly step down and hand over Iraq to the U.S. occupation without suffering any losses. The overwhelming majority of our Arab people want the Arab summit to be held for one single purpose: To pool all Arab energy, particularly all military power, into one trench and defend Iraq against the aggression. But the ruling regimes, or at least most of them, have a completely different opinion. All Arab regimes, or most of them, are colluding with the U.S. aggression. They do so by offering their land as military bases or by facilitating navigational or airspace operations. The only difference is that some regimes boldly confess to this sin; such as Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates, while others prefer to keep it quiet; such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan.

Tel Aviv Ha’aretz (liberal), Feb. 21: On the one hand, Arab countries are voicing loud objections to a war, yet almost all of them share the approach that it would be a good thing to be rid of Saddam Hussein, because he is endangering the region. The young Jordanian king is especially impressive. Contrary to the position taken by his father, King Hussein, in the 1991 Gulf War, King Abdullah has come out unequivocally on the side of the United States and intends to reap the full benefits of this move. That is also a good thing for Israel, of course, in case of an Iraqi attack.

Cairo Al-Ahram (government-owned), Feb. 26: All of us are in earnest about stopping the war. No one wants to have more humanitarian disasters on her hands, or see the way paved for a clash of civilizations, that, once it has begun, will probably snowball. While the world’s big powers are seeking an exit from the predicament in which both the Arab world and they themselves are embroiled, the Israeli military machine is seen killing off Palestinians and besieging them. Israeli crimes against the innocent and defenseless are being committed on a daily basis. Arab leaders, gathering in Sharm al-Sheikh soon, should realize now, before it is too late, that the future poses more difficulties and that public opinion cannot be deceived any longer.

Ottawa The Ottawa Citizen (conservative), Feb. 25: Critics of the United States like to depict it as isolationist and a threat to global cooperation and multilateralism. Yet for a country that supposedly knows nothing but cowboy diplomacy, the United States is spending a lot of time at the United Nations, looking for consensus on Iraq....A new U.S.-British-Spanish draft resolution submitted to the Security Council yesterday affirms that Saddam Hussein has failed to meet the conditions spelled out in last November’s Resolution 1441, which gave Iraq a “final opportunity” to comply with U.N. disarmament obligations. Bulgaria, also a member of the Security Council, has indicated support for the new resolution. Far from being unilateralists, the Americans aren’t even alone on the Security Council.... The United States, Britain, and Spain seek only to extract from the council an acknowledgement that Iraq is not fully disarming. Even Iraq’s supporters would be hard-pressed to deny that. The Security Council’s credibility and relevance will be tested by this draft resolution. An admission by the council of Saddam’s non-compliance would allow U.N. members to take military action to enforce the terms of Resolution 1441 and earlier resolutions. But if council members such as France and Germany oppose the resolution, their denial of the truth about Iraq’s continued defiance of the United Nations will erode the council’s credibility—and their own.

Toronto The Globe and Mail (centrist), Feb. 25: The new Iraq resolution circulated by Britain and the United States at the U. N. Security Council yesterday is a shrewd, even cunning, example of high-stakes international diplomacy. The resolution is aimed nominally at Iraq, saying Saddam Hussein’s regime has missed its last chance to disarm. But the real target is the Security Council itself. The resolution aims, first, to put the council's antiwar members on the defensive by underlining the inconsistency of their position and, second, to give fence-sitting members something they can sign on to without explicitly voting for war. Take the antiwar faction. The Anglo-U.S. resolution says flatly that Iraq has failed to accede to the demands placed on it by the last Security Council resolution on Iraqi disarmament: Resolution 1441, passed last fall. That will be hard for antiwar countries such as France and Germany to dispute. Resolution 1441 did not merely call for Iraq to let weapons inspectors return to the country. It called for Iraq’s “immediate, unconditional, and active” disarmament under the inspectors’ supervision....For the other members of the Security Council—smaller countries such as Mexico, Cameroon, Angola, and Pakistan—the clever drafting of this spare, just-the-facts-ma’am resolution offers an opportunity to get on board without looking like warmongers.…Not so long ago, France and other war skeptics were calling for a second U.N. resolution on Iraq and Washington was saying it wasn’t necessary. Yesterday, those positions were exactly reversed.
—Marcus Gee

Madrid ABC (conservative), Feb. 24: The talks held by George W. Bush and José Maria Aznar in Texas over the weekend may noticeably broaden the focus of the conflict with Iraq if the international agenda which the United States is following in the short and medium term incorporates the proposal by the Spanish prime minister to tackle all the problems of the Middle East, especially the constant confrontation between the Israelis and Palestinians....The Spanish government’s contribution to achieving a wide-ranging peace in the Middle East may be significant and facilitate a change in the public assessment of the decisions being taken on Iraq’s position on United Nations resolutions....It is a question of Spain legitimately taking advantage of the position it has earned itself in this thorny process of affirming its alliance with the United States and of including the Palestine conflict in a more ambitious pacification program.

Karachi Dawn (centrist), Feb. 26: Baghdad can turn the tables on Washington and London by inviting the U.N. inspectors to be present at the site as it goes about destroying the prohibited missiles and other lethal weapons it possesses. Such a move would only strengthen the resolve of the antiwar members of the Security Council to continue to oppose the U.S. and British designs on Baghdad. Full and willing compliance with the U.N. directives and resolutions is the only way to deny the United States and Britain the pretext they need to go ahead with their war plans.

Budapest Nepszabadsag (liberal), Feb. 19: Europe has granted Saddam Hussein a few weeks’ postponement. The Iraqi dictator is now allowed to stay in power for a bit longer. The commonly expressed European goal—to disarm Saddam Hussein peacefully and to apply force only “as a final option”—is, of course, sheer illusion, especially since, even according to the European Union, military action depends on whether Baghdad satisfies U.N. Security Council demands either in accordance with Resolution 1441 or a new Anglo-U.S. resolution. Realistically, European powers debated not so much war or peace but the timing of military action made legitimate by Security Council authorization.

Sofia The Sofia Echo (English-language) Feb. 26: Even the most superficial understanding of the international politics surrounding the Iraq crisis must lead one to grasp that Bulgaria can hardly do otherwise than do its best to be on cooperative terms with the United States. Bulgaria’s stance can hardly be said to damage the European position, because it is perfectly obvious that there is no European position, unless England and Spain, among others, cannot be said to be European countries….Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg Gotha is correct in saying that in the long term, the spat will be forgotten and there will be no negative effect on European accession. In the meantime, Chirac would be best advised to direct his antagonism toward Washington; to target it toward the players, and not the pawns.