International Papers

Parsley Sauce

The Spanish-Moroccan spat over Isla de Perejil, described by the Financial Times as “a goat-infested rock,” moved from farce to potential tragedy as the week progressed. On Wednesday Spain retook the island when elite troops, transported in attack helicopters and supported by five warships and two submarines, disarmed the half-dozen Moroccan gendarmes who had “occupied” the rock for six days. Munich’s Süddeutsche Zeitung gave qualified support for Spain: “The clearing up action was justified, but now there must be an end to the laughable squabble at this highly sensitive link between cultures, religions and continents.” (Translation courtesy of BBC Monitoring.) The FT denounced the Spanish operation as “an act of folly” since “Europe does not need a new source of strain with the Arab world.” France’s Libération mocked Spain’s gunboat diplomacy and argued that the islet was merely a pretext “for more serious underlying tensions,” since the Strait of Gibraltar marks “an explosive border separating the worlds of North and South, prosperity and misery.” Even in the Spanish press, jingoism is fading— El Paíspublished a long treatise on the history of Spain’s North African territories that concluded Perejil belongs to Morocco. (Incidentally, why have so many English-language papers “translated” Isla de Perejil to “Parsley Island”? What’s next, referring to Ecuador as “Equator”?)

Other updates: Last Friday’s “International Papers” examined the political crisis in Turkey. This week the ruling coalition agreed to call early elections—probably on Nov. 3—after further defections from the ailing prime minister’s party cost the coalition its overall parliamentary majority. Several papers speculated that after the elections Turkey will be less supportive of the United States’ efforts to bring about a regime change in neighboring Iraq. The ruling parties have become so unpopular in the last few months that it’s possible none of them will gain the 10 percent vote needed for parliamentary representation—indeed both the Financial Times and the Guardian predicted that the Justice and Development Party may be the only group able to cross the 10 percent threshold. The JDP is usually described as pro-Islamist, and as the Guardian observed, “Its victory would concern Turkey’s western allies, who prize its status as a secular Muslim state, and … Turkey’s military, which threw an Islamic government out of power in 1998.”

Tuesday’s IP spanked Pakistan’s English-language press for staying silent about the Daniel Pearl verdict, but on Wednesday at least three of the papers offered comments. The Frontier Post said the sloppy way the Pearl case was investigated and prosecuted could haunt the nation, especially if Omar Sheikh’s appeal is even partially successful: “In their haste to wrap up the case, [the investigating agencies] may have only landed themselves, and the government, in more trouble.” The Nation fretted about agitation from religious parties who have “unanimously labelled the verdict as an appeasement gesture towards Washington.” Worried about reprisals, the editorial said, “The law enforcing agencies need to be considerably more vigilant and organise themselves more professionally than they have in the past.” The News International also expressed concern that international attention to the trial could lead to further involvement in the war on terrorism: “While it is yet to be seen how well the government succeeds in containing the peril given foreign pressure, there is also a need … to ensure that Pakistan is not needlessly drawn into fighting other wars nor made an area for such combat.”

Last Sunday the Israeli Cabinet reversed its decision to support a bill that would allow Jewish-only communities, voting instead to “bury the bill in a committee,” according to Ha’aretz. Yediot Ahronot used similar phrasing when it observed, “[P]ublic criticism brought those ministers who had voted in favor last week to vote in favor of sending the matter to the Ne’eman committee for burial.” The Age of Melbourne concluded that the government’s reversal “was a welcome sign that it remains responsive to reason, not to mention outrage.”