Arab newspapers are now warning their readers that the current escalation of United States airstrikes on Iraq could culminate in a major military offensive aimed at bringing down President Saddam Hussein. The Pan-Arab Al-Quds Al-Arabi said Tuesday that the U.S. and British bombings were virtually a repeat of Operation Desert Storm except that they were conducted in slow motion so as to deflect media attention and thus avoid an Arab backlash like the one that followed last December’s campaign. In the Bahrain daily Akhbar al-Khaleej, the Egyptian columnist Assayed Zahra wrote that the United States was now carrying out its intention to carve up Iraq along ethnic and sectarian lines and to trigger a civil war that would unseat Saddam.
Zahra referred to an interview Monday in the Turkish daily Milliyet in which Frank Ricciardone, the American diplomat in charge of “transition” in Iraq, said that the division of Iraq imposed by the no-fly zones was intended to be permanent. Ricciardone also intimated that Iraq has no future as a united country in Washington’s plans. Ricciardone’s interview with Milliyet was also discussed Tuesday in the Saudi Arabian daily Asharq al-Aswat, which highlighted his remark that Saddam was most likely to be deposed suddenly in a military coup. But, in sharp contrast to what Zahra wrote, the Saudi paper stressed that Ricciardone said that he thought the chances of Iraq breaking up after the overthrow of Saddam were minimal.
Meanwhile, in Edinburgh, the daily Scotsman quoted “Washington insiders” Wednesday saying there was now a clear U.S. policy to oust Saddam’s regime in six months to a year through small-scale but continuous air attacks. The paper also quoted a Pentagon official saying that the United States has so far been highly successful in keeping up public awareness levels. “Scale is important,” the unnamed official went on. “Too much bombing will raise Arab hackles, but a continuous campaign will achieve what Britain and its allies, including those in the Middle East, crave–the end of Saddam Hussein.”
The massacre of eight Western tourists in Uganda this week was the subject of much editorial comment in the British press, with the Times of London seeing it as a kind of karmic revenge for the West’s refusal five years ago to act against, or at first even acknowledge, “the extraordinary genocide in Rwanda–the worst action of its kind since the second world war.” It said, “Those who died in the Bwindi Park have been, in a sense, the victims of past indifference of outsiders.” The Daily Telegraph, in an unfortunate play on words, declared Wednesday in its main editorial: “The party in Bwindi set out in search of mountain gorillas. They met instead murderous guerillas.”
The Telegraph also said that “the prosecution of those suspected of war crimes in the 1994 massacre should be pursued with much greater vigour in the court set up for that purpose in Arusha, Tanzania.” The London Evening Standard led Wednesday with a report that Rwandan rebels threatened to kill U.S. and British tourists two weeks before the murders, but the Ugandan authorities failed to pass on the warnings. The Guardian of London listed 27 countries or areas of the world that the British Foreign Office described as dangerous to visit.
The daily New Vision of Uganda led its front page Wednesday with a report not mentioning the murders but stressing that 17 of the 32 abducted tourists had escaped, and it placed this next to an account of a 19-year-old Namibian woman winning the 1999 Face-of-Africa modeling contest at the Windhoek Country Club.
The link-up between Pat Robertson, the TV evangelist, and the Bank of Scotland to launch a new telephone banking service in the United States was the subject of a two page feature in the Guardian, which said questions might be raised over “why a bank presumably looking for long-term deposits might team up with a man who believes the world as we know it might be about to end.” The Bank of Scotland “must just hope that it can recoup its investment before Armageddon looms,” the article concluded.
Wednesday’s Monica Lewinsky event in Europe was an interview with Corriere della Sera of Milan in which she said that she doesn’t believe having oral sex was vulgar: “Some people like pizza for lunch; others prefer a dessert.” She also said she would never again fall in love with a married man.
The Prague Post reported Wednesday that Russia had sought to reduce its $1.3 billion debt to Slovakia by selling it a place on its latest mission to the space station Mir for $20 million. According to the paper, a Slovak defense ministry spokesman said that since the debt would probably never be collectible, Slovakia had decided instead to take advantage of this opportunity to send the first Slovak citizen into space.