March 3, 1998
EUROPE'S NON-POLICY ON IRAQ: WHO IS TO BLAME?
The European media, still smarting over the perceived failure of the European Union to agree on a common policy on the Iraqi crisis, indulged in much hand wringing over how each country blithely took sides according to its national interests. They fretted that Europe's disunity undermined its influence in the Gulf and with Washington. These same pundits, nevertheless, failed to address how Europe could assemble a common front in future crises. A few sadly concluded that it might be impossible for Europe to agree on weighty questions of war and peace and that a common European policy might emerge only on a "case-by-case basis." Papers in Britain and Spain, however, urged the EU to work with the U.S.--now that the Iraqi situation has been defused at least temporarily--in devising strategies to prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and to revive the Middle East peace process. These were additional issues in commentary:
BRITAIN: 'MOST DEPENDABLE U.S. ALLY'--The majority of analysts judged that London--current holder of the EU presidency--sinned in rushing to support the U.S. without first attempting to consult or rally its fellow Europeans behind a common stance.
GERMANY-FRANCE: 'A MUCH LAUDED AXIS FAILS'--Just as many commentators berated France for its stance as blamed Britain. German observers criticized the failure of Bonn and Paris, the leading forces behind the drive to unite Europe, in allowing their differences to override the need to present a common front. While one writer acknowledged that "France considers Germany to be the 51st state" because of its loyalty to the U.S., others deplored Paris's constant striving for "a special role" and its "naivete" in placing its economic interests over "the interests of the global community." Right-of-center Frankfurter Allgemeine held that France's diplomatic activity sprang from its wish not to be forced to choose between its interests in the Middle East and its duty to NATO. "What would be the consequences if France refused to show solidarity with its Allies in...a military strike against Iraq?," the paper asked. Some French editorialists gloated that Paris's "subtle but active diplomacy" had saved President Clinton from "a serious error." But while they denounced U.S. "arrogance" and "hegemony" and crowed about Paris's "strategic role" in solving the crisis, others echoed French President Chirac's words to left-of-center Le Monde: "Alone, France could not have done it." Right-of-center weekly Le Point stressed, "We should not exaggerate our own merits and forget that the first and determining factor (in resolving the crisis) was the U.S. military threat."
NATO CANDIDATES: 'BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE'--The determination to show the U.S. and NATO that Poland and Bulgaria can be "valuable and loyal" allies in conflict was mixed in these countries' press with articles voicing ambivalence about or opposition to U.S. policy on Iraq. Sofia's Socialist-oriented Trud offered a revealing example of the quandary several NATO candidates faced: "On the one hand, we are for NATO.... (But,) if we sent troops to Iraq, we would leave three of our borders without soldiers."
This survey is based on 39 reports from 11 countries, Feb. 19-March 3.
EDITOR: Mildred Sola Neely
Europe South Asia
GERMANY: "Lessons From Iraq Crisis For EU"
Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger dealt in his editorial in right-of-center Frankfurter Allgemeine (2/26) with the European reaction to Kofi Annan's deal, "Depending on the angle you look at it, there is a increase in prestige for the UN, a victory of U.S-British determination or a success for Saddam Hussein. In Europe, people also grumble about the Blair government, its close cooperation with Washington and the military muscle-flexing in the Gulf.
"However, the fact that Britain, as the current EU leader, did not try to reach a common EU position but preferred to show solidarity with the United States is at best a lapse which is excusable, since the show of determination paid off. It is also a call for greater realism. If a situation is getting serious and if quick reaction and the will to use force are necessary, then it will be of little use to lament about national interests determining the EU's foreign policy. The lesson from the Iraq crisis is not British repentance, but the sober conclusion that questions of war and peace can only be at the end of a common EU foreign policy."
"Cracks In Euro-Atlantic Alliance"
According to Georg Gafron in an editorial in mass-circulation, right-of-center Bild Zeitung of Hamburg (2/25), "It is true that there will be no military confrontation in the Gulf, but peace remains deceptive.... Saddam Hussein will continue to play tricks.... The tyrant from Baghdad cleverly made a fool of the Americans and the British, but the worst thing is that France, Russia and China helped him do so. Each of them placed their own interests over the interests of the global community. The United States will not forget this. The Euro-Atlantic partnership now has a crack. It is good for Germany that Helmut Kohl has clearly sided with the Americans."
Andreas Zumach commented on national radio Deutschlandfunk of Berlin (2/23): "The dilemma of the only superpower is that it does not have an equal counterpart to formulate and implement political alternatives.... As long as Europe is unable to carry out a common foreign and security policy, and despite the fragile dominance of the United States, the current unipolar world order will remain."
"EU's Sad Policy"
Thomas Wittke observed in his editorial in centrist General-Anzeiger of Bonn (2/20), "In the EU, there is mounting irritation with the view of the British presidency concerning the Iraq crisis. This criticism is justified. But Tony Blair, the vigorous British premier who is rather inexperienced in international affairs, is not the only one to blame for this disharmony in Europe. The much-lauded Franco-German axis has failed in the Iraq crisis. In the conflict with Saddam Hussein, Paris has taken a totally naive position that is mainly characterized by its own economic interests, while the Bonn government said that it wants to support the United States but at the lowest possible level. Neither Jacques Chirac nor Helmut Kohl have made a visible attempt to agree on a uniform position and to implement it in the EU. The United States is right to assume that Europe has no political power."
"Long Overdue Criticism Of EU"
Centrist Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung (2/19) judged: "The criticism of the European Parliament was long overdue. The reproach that there is a lack of coordination among the EU states concerning the Iraq crisis again casts a light on the whole dilemma of political discord in the EU. If the issue is to make Europe's voice heard in the United States, we are witnessing a hopeless muddle of views and criticism. Great Britain has firmly sided with the United States,
while France is again striving for a special role and Germany's place is somewhere in the middle. In light of these differing positions, the EU is losing its influence on the delicate developments in the Gulf. At the same time, it is turning into a paper tiger regarding the dictator in the Baghdad. Only a united EU would have the power to exert pressure on Saddam Hussein. But the EU is as far as it ever was from playing this role. And the London government, which is currently presiding in the EU, is not trying to bridge the gaps."
Guenter Nonnenmacher pointed out in his front-page editorial in right-of-center Frankfurter Allgemeine (2/20), "In addition to general doubts about the success of a military strike against Iraq, the Paris government has specific reasons to press for a diplomatic solution to the Iraq crisis at the last moment--even if this requires certain concessions which would allow Saddam to save face. Part of these concessions could be of an economic nature. In the past, France has struck good deals with Baghdad, and Iraq still owes billions for these deals. If the arms embargo were lifted, French companies would certainly be the ones who would benefit the most. France can also pride itself on the fact that it has always pursued an independent and amicable policy towards the Arab world. A military strike, however, would jeopardize this policy. In addition, a new wave of Islamic-inspired terrorist attacks would certainly also hit France.
"The case of Iraq is also delicate for France's security policy. A tacit premise behind France's special security policy in the Western Alliance is that France would stand with its Allies militarily in case of a worst-case scenario.... But what would be the consequences if France refused to show solidarity with its Allies in case of a military strike against Iraq? The question is so delicate that the Paris government is doing everything to prevent this question from being raised."
"The Provincial Kingdoms Of Europe"
Harald Schultz argued in an editorial in centrist weekly Die Woche of Hamburg (2/19): "The Gulf crisis has shown with brutal frankness that France and Germany are separated by much more than the Rhine.... From the French point of view, Germany is currently suffering from a reversion to its old role. France considers Germany to be the 51st U.S. state. The Paris government is irritated and is now pursuing its own French foreign policy....
"It is unfortunate, but national traditions, preferences and 'hobby horses' continue to determine the foreign policy of the European Union. So far, this has been acceptable--although in the case of Bosnia this policy created serious damage, but the Americans intervened. But if the euro forces the EU to cooperate, Paris, Bonn and the other provincial kingdoms will no longer be able to afford the luxury of playing this kind of political games."
BRITAIN: "Problems For Blair"
The conservative Times had this commentary by political columnist Peter Riddell (3/3): "Leading senators from both parties have argued for a broadening of the objectives to include the removal of Saddam.... The shift in the political debate in Washington over the past week represents problems for Prime Minister Blair, at home and in the rest of Europe. He is under criticism on the continent for failing, as president of the European Council, to develop a common EU position on Iraq, or at least to try to present a collective European view on his visit to Washington four weeks ago. Saddam must be delighted that his foes are so divided about both ends and means."
"Worrying For Europeans"
In an editorial, the independent Financial Times stressed regarding the gap between U.S.
commentators and leading Republicans and the rest of the world on the merits of the UN-brokered deal with Iraq (3/2): "For them the agreement, so far from enhancing the UN's prestige, has strengthened the view that it is a dangerous restraint on America's freedom of action.... This is very worrying, not least for Europeans whose long term security still depends on the Atlantic Alliance. Europeans have themselves partly to blame. While Britain and France did, in different ways, make some contribution to solving the crisis, other Europeans behaved as if it was simply another tiresome loyalty test sprung on them by the United States. And the EU collectively did nothing. Tony Blair, as president of the European Council, had a chance to play the leading role in Europe he claims to want, and to convey Europe's views to Washington. He did not even try."
"A Chance For U.S., Europe To Better Inhibit Weapons Proliferation"
In the editorial view of the left-wing weekly New Statesman (2/27): "The Annan deal creates the conditions in which the United States and Europe can lay better foundations for their position. That, certainly, involves a state of military readiness, whose costs must be patiently borne--they will be small compared to the costs of war. More important, Europe and the United States must use the respite to think more carefully about how they can combine to inhibit the alarming spread of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East and Asia."
"What Common European Policy?"
The centrist weekly European (2/23-3/1) said in a piece by diplomatic editor Ian Mather: "The crisis over Iraq has demonstrated that when major international security issues are at stake the concept of a common European foreign and security policy crumbles to dust.... At the highest level within the EU there has been no serious discussion of a common European response. Foreign ministers avoided the issue at their last meeting. In recent weeks the EU has issued common foreign and security policy press releases on Colombia, Republika Srpska and on Russia's proposals for security in the Baltic. On Iraq, there has not been one word."
"Collateral Damage: 'European' Policy"
On Iraq, the left-wing weekly New Statesman's editorial held (2/20): "Among the collateral damage is that already done to the fragile idea of a European foreign and defense policy."
FRANCE: "If Iraq Violates Accord, U.S. Will Strike"
Laurence Simon held n government-run France Inter radio (3/3): "If Iraq violates the agreement, the United States will strike. And this time everyone will be behind it, with no choice but to acknowledge that Iraq was not to be trusted."
"Chirac In Favor Of Lifting Sanctions If Iraq 'Plays Fair'"
France's three top political leaders make unanimous declarations on Iraq--opposing the U.S. on a resolution that would trigger an automatic military strike against Iraq. President Chirac spoke in an interview in left-of-center Le Monde, Foreign Affairs Minister Hubert Vedrine was interviewed in left-of-center Liberation and Prime Minister Jospin addressed the National Assembly and spoke on France 3 television. President Chirac in Le Monde (2/27): "Any violation by Iraq of the agreement will lead to severe consequences.... If the Security Council determines that there has been a violation, all options will be open.... I am planning to write to President Saddam.... I will tell him that everything is possible, particularly the lifting of sanctions and the return of Iraq to the international community, but of course on the condition that he play fair.... Alone, France could not have done it. And in reality, it is the show of U.S. military force and the diplomatic commitment, French for the most part, that made it possible, together, to reach a solution and to avoid a military strike."
"Virtues And Limitations Of The French Way"
Claude Imbert judged in right-of-center weekly Le Point (2/27): "On the Iraqi issue, France has done well.... The Arab world appreciated the fact that France stood out amidst the rest of the Western world.... But we should not forget how dangerous Saddam Hussein is or the virtues of the American armada.... We should not exaggerate our own merits and forget that the first and determining factor (in resolving the crisis) was the U.S. military threat.... In short, if the United States appears so 'arrogant,' it is the natural arrogance of the strongest."
"An Intelligent Dose Of U.S. Threats And French Diplomacy"
Left-of-center weekly Le Nouvel Observateur remarked in a piece by Jean Daniel (2/26): "There is one thing we can all be grateful for, and that is that an incredible combination of an intelligent dose of U.S. threats and French diplomacy gave Kofi Annan the means to reach a diplomatic solution."
Jean-Marie Colombani concluded in left-of-center Le Monde (2/26): "(The recent Iraqi crisis) has revealed the failings of a system that was to be 'a new world order' and which is in fact nothing other than U.S. monopoly and hegemony.... (While) all is not arrogance and all of Clinton's policies are not to be condemned...special interests in the United States seem to hold foreign diplomacy hostage, as in the case of the Middle East peace process.... The Pentagon, which oversees NATO issues, is very anti-French and in favor of embargoes, seems to have been guiding the president.... Washington's number one fiasco in foreign policy is the Middle East.... The United States will find its original level of influence (in the Middle East) only when it has forced Netanyahu's hand.... America's provincialism sometimes has its charm, but its power should put it in a position to be free from special interests or the likes and dislikes of Jesse Helms.... Washington is looking for two privileged allies: Poland on the Eastern front, Great Britain on the Western front. Its goal is to progressively dismantle the policies of the European Union and to reject the existence of a political Europe with Franco-German leadership in favor of a British-American controlled NATO."
"France Managed To Save Clinton From A Serious Error"
Alain Peyrefitte asserted in right-of-center Le Figaro (2/24): "France alone dared to get involved and in so doing gave every chance of success to Kofi Annan's mission. France has shown that Washington's best partners are those who know how to hold their own. With discretion, without embarrassing President Clinton, France managed to save him from a serious error, keeping a diplomatic option alive.... This is the French diplomatic way of doing things. "
Bruno Fanucchi wrote in right-of-center Le Figaro (2/24): "It is undeniably Chirac's first major diplomatic victory.... With his personal commitment to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis, Chirac was playing a winning card no matter what.... In case of failure, France would have still enjoyed the success that comes from having tried everything to save peace. If war was averted, the president was sure to reap the fruits of success."
"A Major Lesson For France"
Readers of Communist L'Humanite saw this piece by Charles Sylvestre (2/24): "For the first time in years, Washington's tendency to dictate its law, not only to its enemies but also to indebted partners, has failed.... A lesson among lessons for France, which played a strategic
role in finding a solution to the crisis.... A major lesson to be remembered because France's subtle but active diplomacy must be compared to a divided and inefficient European Union."
"Embargo Must Not Be Forgotten By EU"
Joseph Limagne stressed in regional Ouest France (2/24): "Fighting against weapons of mass destruction remains an urgent issue. One that could be defended by the European Union."
ITALY: "Dini: It Was A Victory For Italo-Russian Line"
Under the headline above, Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini's interview in centrist, influential La Stampa read (2/24): "If Iraq respects the UN resolutions and this agreement, I think that it is not in any government's intentions, including the United States, to overturn its government.'"
BELGIUM: "By Dispatching Westdiep, Belgium Engages Itself In Gulf"
Foreign affairs writer Paul De Bruyn maintained in conservative Catholic Gazet van Antwerpen (2/20), "The government has approved the U.S. request to send a frigate to the Persian Gulf surprisingly quickly.... Belgium did not have much choice. It could not turn down the Americans, especially not now that the NATO Allies--most of them rather reluctantly--are all gathering in one line behind Washington. Following the Netherlands' decision to send a frigate, in particular, Belgium virtually had no other option....
"If it were to come to a clash of arms, the government virtually cannot do anything else than actually engage the Westdiep. Sending a frigate to the Gulf and fleeing away when the Allies enter into battle would entail a shameful international loss of face--as bad as (Belgium's) infamous refusal to supply ammunition to the British in 1990.... On the other hand, the danger must not be overestimated. Iraq has never had a navy of any significance and, since the Gulf War, its air force has not meant anything. The only danger might come from an Iraqi missile, which does not distinguish between an American and Belgian vessel. However, the chance that it will hit the mark is virtually nil.... No matter what the government claims, by sending the Westdiep, it has engaged itself already further than it is willing to admit."
"EU Was Again Nowhere"
Foreign affairs writer Frank Schloemer offered this opinion in independent De Morgen (2/25), "No news from Western Europe, once again. The European Union's relief over the cancellation of a confrontation cannot but demonstrate that a joint foreign policy is mere wishful thinking. As in every international crisis, the EU was again nowhere and the 'heavyweights' were internally divided."
"Blame The Brits"
In conservative Catholic Het Belang van Limburg (2/24), foreign editor Robert Capiot pointed out, "It has been said and written so often: The European Union should launch a new, global Middle East policy because it is viewed in the rest of the world as a neutral or non-threatening entity--which cannot be said of the United States and Russia. However, Europe has given a sad example during the last few weeks, and it is mainly the British who are to blame. Without any consultation with their European partners, they have backed the United States unconditionally--almost in a slavish manner. A number of EU countries, including Belgium, has followed suit reluctantly, with half-hearted political gestures."
BULGARIA: "This Would Not Help Bulgaria"
In an editorial, centrist 24 Hours observed (2/19): "The suggestion that Bulgaria could earn
NATO membership through participating in a military strike against Iraq is a trivial ideological image which would destroy the sense of our foreign policy. By obeying someone else's 'superior' will, neither Atlantic sponsorship nor state egotism could help a suffering Bulgaria. Doing so would reduce our state to a quasi-subject in international relations. Bulgaria has no real need either for inclusion in an armed strike against any other country, or for inclusion in NATO."
"Sofia Between A Rock And A Hard Place"
Socialist-oriented Trud said (2/20): "Sofia is between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, we are for NATO. On the other hand, we do not want to lose our remaining small share in the Arab market. Our army is in the same position. If we sent troops to Iraq we would leave three of our borders without soldiers."
POLAND: "Poland's Shameful Decision"
Piotr Kuncewicz asserted in leftist Trybuna (3/1), "I presume we [Poland] have made a decision we will recall with shame in the time to come. I mean our military participation in the Iraqi conflict. True, Poland's participation is rather symbolic, [but] what is at stake is the moral aspect--an assent to war. Sure, we will not be the ones to kill, bomb, and tear down--this will be for 'them' to do, whereas we will wash our hands of it.... But no one will shift from us responsibility for the war.... What wrong has Iraq done to us? Nothing. Not only has it not threatened Poland, but until recently it was our biggest trading partner...especially in the construction sector. Now, what Polish hands have built, Polish alliances will destroy....
"We made a shameful decision, but [one] very profitable to us. America will repay [our decision] by admitting us into NATO...our political 'to be or not to be.'...The end justifies the means."
"A Chance To Prove We Can Be Valuable, Loyal Ally"
Centrist weekly Wprost's Tomasz Nalecz wrote (2/22), "Poles, for several dozen years now, have been unable to forget the French aversion to 'dying for Gdansk.' In 1939, many Frenchmen thought that Hitler's invasion of Poland was a very remote and rather insignificant development.... Only later did they grasp that it would have been best to defend Paris by defending the fields near Katowice, Bydgoszcz and Warsaw. We should bear this in mind today, as well as a number of other historical experiences, when we are facing the question of the sense of Poland's participation in operations to restrain Saddam Hussein. To many Poles this conflict seems as exotic as the September war for Gdansk seemed to the French.
"It stands to reason that every effort should be made to resolve the issue by peaceful means.... Should these actions fail and NATO countries decide to take military action, however, Poland ought to stand by their side--to make all those who doubt in the sense of 'dying for Baghdad' recall their own history lessons which expose the naivete of such arguments. We should also use this occasion [support for possible military action in Iraq] to prove to NATO's nations and parliaments that we can be a valuable and loyal ally. We will then undermine the arguments
presented by those Americans who do not want NATO expanded because they cannot see any sense in their country's being engaged in remote parts of Europe."
"Is It Worth Going To The Gulf?"
Robert Soltyk suggested for center-left Gazeta Wyborcza (2/19), "When the political goals of the possible attack declared by the United States are not clear, we can assume that the true ones are different. And, as usual, they go hand-in-hand with [the United States'] maintaining the dominant role in the region, securing peace for Israel, and testing its weapons of war.... These are, however, the U.S. goals. What are they going to do with the Polish soldiers? In
spite of the doubts...we should send our troops to Iraq, but not because the U.S. Senate might not vote [in favor of] our NATO membership.... Maybe we are risking our interests in the Arab world by making the decision to go to the Gulf, but we will show that we are team. And we do believe that the team will play with us when someone might ask one day if it is worth dying for Gdansk or Bialystok."
PORTUGAL: "EU Did Not Exist In Crisis"
Former Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs José Lamego lamented in center-left Público (2/25): "Once again, the European Union did not exist in this crisis. The national policies of England and France existed: [With] England posing as the most dependable ally of the United States in a policy of show of force; [with] France reinforcing the traditional characteristics of its identity and political and diplomatic specificity, and putting faith in its diplomatic cachet with the Arab world."
SPAIN: "Will Clinton, Europe Take Up Mideast Mission?"
Liberal El Pais declared on Iraq (3/2): "Equally urgent for the credibility of the United States and the EU in the region, Washington and Brussels must now breathe new life into the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. Clinton, the Europeans and the UN have a daunting task before them. Will they take it on? Are they up to it?"
TURKEY: "France Won't Hesitate To Profit"
Sami Kohen took this view in mass-appeal Milliyet (2/27): "There are signs of change regarding the power equilibrium in the Gulf. After reaching an agreement, many countries connected to the crisis, from the United States to Russia, from Iraq to France, claimed credit.... France seems to be enjoying its influence vis-a-vis Iraq and Arabs. Most likely France will not hesitate to turn this sympathy into its own profit."
INDIA: "European Union Spoke In Many Voices"
This analysis by Vaiju Naravane in Paris ran (3/1) in the centrist Hindu: "Kofi Annan's successful mission to Baghdad is being interpreted in Paris as a diplomatic coup for France and a personal victory for...President...Jacques Chirac.... Levity aside, France has come out on top in the episode, its reputation enhanced and its credit in the Arab world sky-high.... But if France has taken a strong, determined and, in retrospect, responsible position, Europe as a whole presents a sorry spectacle. Once again, the 15 European Union nations offered a hardly edifying spectacle: Britain, current EU president, aligned itself with the United States without as much as consulting its European allies. A little later, and with varying degrees of hesitation, the other EU members with the exception of France supported the United States....
"It became clear very early on that any support from the neutral members of the EU (Ireland, Sweden, Finland and Austria) would only be of the verbal kind.... All this only highlighted the deep divisions present within the EU on the fundamental question: The need to make war or rather to pursue diplomacy through other means.... It is becoming increasingly clear that a common foreign and security approach cannot be made on each and every issue and a common European response to new global situations will have to be adopted on a case-by-case basis."
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