International Papers

Death of a President

Plus, the Iraqi prison scandal lingers.

Middle Eastern papers continued to document the repercussions of the Iraqi prisoners debacle on their front pages, but another item commandeered the headlines in major regional newspapers, namely the assassination in Grozny of the pro-Russian Chechen president, Akhmad Kadyrov, most probably by pro-independence rebels hostile to Russia.

Kadyrov, an ally of Moscow, was killed when a bomb exploded in a stadium during Victory Day, which commemorates the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany. The device, according to reports, had been placed inside a column under the review stand when the stadium was recently renovated. The London-based Al-Hayat published a picture of security men removing Kadyrov’s body from the wreckage under a straightforward headline: “The Chechen President Killed in an Explosion in Grozny; 32 Killed, Including Senior Personalities, and 5 Suspects Arrested.” The Saudi daily Al-Riyadh published several striking photographs, including one on its front page showing an expiring Kadyrov, his face bloodied and apparently crushed. It reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had backed Kadyrov’s regime against Chechen rebels, called him “a real hero” before vowing to bring what he described as “bandits, terrorists” to justice.

None of the Arabic-language papers went beyond describing the details of the attack, but Qatar’s English-language paper the Peninsula ran a wire story showing what the pro-Russian regime in Grozny was up against. It quoted a Chechen separatist saying, “At any time, if we get the order, we have guys who can go into the mountains or carry out an operation in Grozny.” The Qatari paper diplomatically avoided mentioning that two Russians are on trial in the capital, Doha, for the killing of another former Chechen president, Zelimkhan Yandarbayev, who in 1996 briefly headed a breakaway regime hostile to Moscow. Since 2001, and until his death this year, he lived in Qatar, which had refused to extradite him to Russia.

Iraq continued to figure prominently in international newspapers, particularly after the discovery of new photographs showing more abuse of Iraqi prisoners. According to Britain’s Guardian, the photos “undermined White House efforts to limit damage by announcing the first prosecution of a soldier from Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.” The paper went on to say that as more revelations of wrongdoing emerged, including “criminal investigations into allegations that CIA officers were involved with a group of Navy Seals who beat an Iraqi prisoner to death,” the pressure would increase on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to resign. The International Herald Tribune was more optimistic about his chances, observing, “The Bush administration signaled strong support for … Rumsfeld over the weekend, apparently improving his prospects for political survival.” This followed strong endorsement of the defense secretary by Vice President Dick Cheney, but also publication of “a new opinion poll [that] showed broad support for Rumsfeld.”

France’s Le Monde focused on the increasing furor in Britain over abuse allegations in Iraq, noting, “After Washington, it is London’s turn to be embarrassed.” This came as Prime Minister Tony Blair apologized for any mistreatment of prisoners, even as the British government announced that the International Committee of the Red Cross had, as the newspaper recalled, “since February expressed worries about the treatment of those detained in prisons under British control.” Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, the retired former British representative in postwar Iraq, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, declared, “We were not involved with and knew nothing about the methods of interrogation or in any sense the way in which people were being treated. … Interrogating security detainees was the [function of the] military and the intelligence agencies, and was not discussed with us in the [Coalition Provisional Authority].”

A number of newspapers highlighted an article in Sunday’s Washington Post that suggested deepening divisions within the U.S. military command over Iraq. Lebanon’s daily Al-Safir ran a story on its front page under the title, “American Military Commanders [Say That] Washington Is Losing the War,” a reference to the statement by a senior officer who suggested that U.S. forces might be winning battles in Iraq but were at risk of losing the strategic campaign to transform the country. For the left-wing paper, this was a sign that “divisions are appearing,” even as American forces were increasing military pressure on the young Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in several southern Iraqi cities “where U.S. forces engaged in the deepest infiltrations yet yesterday.” Lebanon’s English-language Daily Star was also gloomy about U.S. chances. In an unsigned editorial it recommended that the “only … way out of the Middle Eastern quagmire for the [U.S.] comes in two parts: (a) finally solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and (b) massive investment in rebuilding the Iraqi state, particularly its legal institutions.”