International Papers

Iraq Backs Down

If you missed the most recent installments of this column, here they are: posted Friday, Nov. 13, and Tuesday, Nov. 10.

The Daily Star of Bangladesh paints the Iraqi crisis as a pitiful Iraq against a ruthless aggressor in an editorial Sunday, saying, ” ‘Defiance’ of a despoiled country resonates with a total back-to-the-wall desperation.” The editorial calls for the lifting of sanctions on Iraq, as does Dawn of Pakistan, which condemns the “genocidal U.N. sanctions in Iraq.” Saying that Iraq was until recently compliant with the U.N. Security Council weapons inspectors, Dawn denounces the bias of UNSCOM inspectors and their insistence on thoroughly searching Iraq’s presidential palaces.

The British papers noted that Tony Blair backed Clinton to the hilt in the Iraqi crisis and said that “absolute and unconditional compliance” was necessary for Iraq. In an editorial, the Times praised the strong, unified action of the British and the Americans and said it was time to seize this opportunity while a large force is assembled in the Gulf and Iraq is apparently in retreat. The piece also recommended that with Britain and the United States now apparently in the driver’s seat, it is time to review the sanctions.

Anews item in the Prague Post says that Iran and Iraq are making trouble for Czech Republic authorities over the broadcast of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty into their countries. The controversial broadcasts, in the native languages of Iraq and Iran, began Oct. 30. Since then, the Iranian government has recalled its ambassador from Prague, and Iraq has warned that trade relations between the two countries could suffer. The Czech government has brushed off these claims.

The Israeli paper Ha’aretz says if the United States had struck against Iraq, it would have spelled disaster for President Clinton’s visit to the Gaza Strip next month. It speculates that the Palestinians would have empathized with the Iraqis and sought to retaliate for the strikes–the Hamas, for example, might have launched an American-flag-burning fest.

Another op-ed in Ha’aretz called “The Saddam Index” complains that the United States did not formally warn Israel before withdrawing nonessential diplomats and cautioning Americans about travel to Israel in the days leading up to the recent crisis. The United States thus scores very low on the Saddam index, the guiding principle of which is “the longer the advance warning to Israel, the greater the level of trust” between the United States and Israel. The editorial detects “symptoms of arteriosclerosis in relations between Washington and Jerusalem.” This is further evident, the editorial says, in the way Clinton has brushed aside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since Wye.

The Jerusalem Post carries a story titled “Arafat Warns: Our rifles are ready,” portraying an angry Yasser Arafat defending the right of Palestinians to pray in Jerusalem. Netanyahu responded by saying that Arafat’s stance “endangers the entire Oslo agreement and casts a very dark shadow over the Wye agreement as well.” This comes, the Post notes, at a time of increased cooperation between the two sides.

The Middle East Times of Egypt has a lead editorial railing against the portrayal of Arab-Americans in the American movie The Siege. “With the exception of Haddad and a miserable-looking courier who gets caught as he tries to bring in cash for the terrorists, the Arabs here are either terrorists or non-persons who provide a poor-looking backdrop,” it said.

An article in the Moscow Times reports that Russia is exporting grain even as it imports it. Russia has already exported 1.5 million tons of wheat, even as humanitarian aid in the form of 2.5 tons of wheat pour into Russia from Europe and the United States. The reason: It is three times more profitable to sell wheat abroad as to sell it in Russia. Wisely, the United States has stipulated that the imported aid grain not be re-exported for profit. But as one analyst said, “You can’t put a ‘Made in the USA’ brand on every grain.”

The South China Morning Post writes that at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the home government got very testy over visiting foreign officials’ preoccupation with the arrest and trial of former Deputy Premier Anwar Ibrahim. The Post notes the deep disappointment in Malaysia over the no-show by President Clinton, who stayed home to cope with the Iraqi crisis and sent Vice President Al Gore instead. Even U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was prematurely summoned home from the summit.