International Information Programs
Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

May 2, 2003

May 2, 2003





** Conservative Western outlets portrayed the Shiite uprisings as a manifestation of freedom, but critics worldwide claimed they meant rejection of the "U.S. model" of democracy.


** The Shia "resurgence" is a warning of the urgent need to fill the power vacuum left by the fall of Saddam and reveals the U.S.' "lack of preparedness" in restoring normalcy to Iraq.


** The "flare-up" of religious sentiment signals that the new Iraq could turn into a "second Iran."




Shiites' right to protest is 'owed entirely' to U.S.' liberating Iraq--  Conservative dailies claimed the anti-U.S. protests and Shia demonstrations validated the rationale "invoked by Bush" to legitimize the war and expressed the "very dialectic of democracy."  Optimists contended that the allied forces have "opened up a society" enabling its "plurality to flower." This, Spain's ABC noted, has put Iraq on its way to the "full exercise of liberties" and determining its own "destiny."  Others also recognized the opposition to U.S. presence as a "democratic right" of the Iraqi people but, with Tanzania's IPP-owned Guardian, cautioned that the "precipitous departure of U.S. forces" would leave Iraqis "on the road to ethnic cleansing."


Iraqis are 'delighted' with Saddam's defeat but don't necessarily want democracy--  While it was "undeniable" that the majority of Iraqis are happy that Saddam's "bloodthirsty regime" is gone, skeptics insisted that an "anti-American theocracy," rather than democracy could take root.  Alluding to the U.S.-Shiite "tradition of incompatibility," European, Asian and Latin papers questioned whether the "newly freed Shiites" were even interested in democracy.  "Clearly the U.S. model of democracy does not inspire Shia leaders," added Russia's reformist Vremya MN.  Arab and Muslim writers agreed with Algeria's French-language Liberte that "peoples do not swear allegiance to newcomers mechanically."


Its 'admitted failure' to anticipate the Shia protests reveals U.S. is 'unprepared'-- Liberal European papers found it "truly novel" that the U.S. had "freely admitted" it did not expect a Shia resurgence.  Outlets in Arab and Muslim-majority countries likewise stressed that the U.S. army seems "particularly unable" to handle the situation and held that the U.S. would never accept an Islamic regime, even if "it turns out to be the choice of the masses."  While a Tunisian daily found the "Shiite vision frightful on many levels," the conservative Saudi Al Riyadh declared: "What is certain is that the Islamic movement is the strongest power in Iraq."


An 'immense similarity' between Iran's post-Shah era and Iraq's post-Saddam era-- Analysts said the Islamic movement in Iraq may be a prelude to another Iran, with Teheran ready to play the "Shia card" to prevent the U.S. from installing a "puppet regime."  Singapore's pro-government Straits Times warned that the U.S. "cannot afford" to let Iran benefit from the removal of "Teheran's archenemy only to replace him with a fundamentalist Shi'ite theocracy."

EDITOR:  Irene Marr


EDITOR'S NOTE:  This analyis is based on 60 reports from 29 countries, 4/22-5/2.  Editorial excerpts from each country is listed from the most recent date.




BRITAIN:   "Democracy In Iraq Requires Both Benevolence And Time"


Martin Wolf, a senior editor with the independent Financial Times said (4/30):  "The U.S. has won its war.  Now it must win the peace.  Its promise has been to help Iraq emerge as a democracy.  The goal is as splendid as it appears remote....  Is all this feasible? Barely.  Obstacles include: the absence of experience with democracy; the atomization of civil society; the country's internal divisions; the lack of independent institutions; and the dominant role of oil as the source of income for the government....  The United States views itself as benevolent.  Iraqis do not necessarily share the same view.  A long occupation by the United States and the UK without UN authorization, can have a limited chance of achieving this goal.  Yet does this mean other countries should rush forward with legitimization and support.  Why should those the United States ignored in its rush to war legitimize its role in a botched peace.  The emergence of a constitutional democracy would be wonderful.  But it cannot simply be imposed in a matter of months.  Alas, the likely escape is acceptance of another despot, albeit a pro-American one....  The United States could indeed commit itself to supporting the difficult transition to democracy.  Only if it does, should the rest of the west be prepared to lend a hand."


"Ferment Of Freedom, Fear And Fantasy"


The independent weekly Economist noted (4/25-5/2):  "Until Saddam is found alive or dead, he will continue to spook Iraqis....  But the bigger fear is of a power struggle between emerging political forces....  Another worry is that if secularist, American-backed oppositionists with little local backing are strong-armed into office, reactions may be fierce....  In public, all Iraqis insis ont heir desire for unity: 'Sunni and Shia together, this land is not for sale!' was this week's favoured slogan both for political rallies in Baghdad and religious processions in Karbala.  Even so, many Sunnis, former Baathist apparatchiks and Christians remain wary of the Shia, not only because of their clergy's mobilising power.  This may be exaggerated.  Shia religious leaders themeselves decry the divisive rivalry between differing schools.  Their one point of unity is that America is not welcome to stay for long."


"Reality Check"


The independent Financial Times held (4/28):  "The overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime three weeks ago created a vacuum in Iraq that the U.S.-UK invasion and the Pentagon-run administrators brought in to run the country have struggled to fill.  That is regretable but not unsurprising.  More surprising is how Washington seems taken aback by the speed with which Shia religious leaders of varying hues have moved to establish their authority among Iraqis....  The Bush administration appears to have believed a bit too much of its own propaganda, and the stirring tales it was told by its favorite Iraqi exiles....  The challenge for Iraq's Anglo-American rulers is to identify and encourage reformist leaders seeking justice and control over their own affairs for the downtrodden Shia as well as a fair share in central government.  All that will be fraught with problems.  But even to appear to be working against Shia interests would quickly bring the revolutionary strain in this faith to the fore.  And that would need little encouragement from Iran."


"Resurgence Of The Shias"


 The far left Guardian argued (4/24): "U.S. and British politicians predicted before the war that indigenous Iraqi leaders would emerge to fill the post-Saddam, post-Ba'athist power vacuum. That process is now indeed gathering pace but with results both unanticipated and potentially inimical to coalition plans. All over non-Kurdish Iraq, Shia clerics and their followers are taking de facto charge of towns and neighbourhoods while well-meaning American consuls scratch their heads and debate democracy in Irbil....  On one level, this nascent, unfettered Shia bid for local self-determination after years of repression is a positive outcome of the war. But on the national level, it may yet come to present a serious challenge to U.S.-British hopes of inclusive, integrated statehood.... The Shia have not turned hostile yet. But in time, if their aspirations are frustrated and they are denied a leading role in Iraq's future governance, they surely will. That breakdown may in turn suck in Iran and affect Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, too. Such destabilising scenarios are hardly new. What is truly novel is the now freely admitted failure of the U.S. to anticipate this Shia resurgence; its feeble efforts to scapegoat Tehran's mullahs; and the embarrassing cluelessness of Jay Garner, the ex-general currently puzzling, glue-pot in hand, over the myriad broken pieces of the Iraqi mosaic. Hamstrung by legal ambiguities and its own ideology, the U.S. risks losing the political initiative. The case for the UN taking charge grows more urgent by the day."


FRANCE:  “The Specter Of The Iranian Revolution”


Right-of-center Les Echos editorialized (4/25):  “The Kerbala pilgrimage is a warning for the U.S.  Not so much because of the slogans carried by the crowds, but because it proves the Shiites’ ability to get organized.  For the time being the demonstration, which was made possible thanks to the Americans, looks more like a community gathering than a revolution.  But Jay Garner needs to move very fast: otherwise the vacuum left by the fall of Saddam’s regime could be filled by an Islamic Republic, similar to Iran’s.”


“Shiite Warning”


Pierre Rousselin stated in right-of-center Le Figaro (4/23): “The Kerbala pilgrimage proves that Allah has a stronger attraction for the Iraqis than U.S. soldiers.  With the knowledge that the Shiite majority feels it has to take its revenge for so much oppression, these demonstrations should serve as a warning to the Americans.… Secretary Rumsfeld’s comments about Iraq’s administration by the U.S., lasting ‘no longer than necessary,’ useless.  It is urgent to fill the power vacuum.  As for the democracy promised by George Bush, it will take several years.… General Garner’s first gesture in Iraq was for the Kurds, not the Shiites. Will he receive the same welcome when he goes to Kerbala? He must not waste anytime if he wants to keep the Shiites from forgetting to whom they owe their freedom.”


“The Crusade of the Humiliated”


Patrick Apel-Muller held in communist l’Humanite (4/23): “The Shiites of Kerbala say ‘no’ to Saddam and ‘no’ to the Americans.  They are demanding power.  But who should govern Iraq?  They, or the Iraqi people?  This is the ambivalence that is raising much concern.  As we watch the demonstrators we can rightly wonder whether dreams of freedom will soon be replaced by fanaticism and an Islamic regime where secularism will be considered a crime....  An American temporary government instead of an Iraqi elected administration could well lead to a very different conclusion from the one planned by the Pentagon."


"Freedom Of Religion”


Michel Kubler in Catholic La Croix (4/22):  “For the first time Iraq’s Shiites can come out into the open.… Could they be planning to take over the country which has just been liberated?  We must be neither naïve nor overwhelmed by paranoia.… It would be naïve to forget the close ties that exist in the Muslim religion between expressions of faith and social structures. It would be paranoia to see in every Muslim...a potential fanatic.… To avoid such pitfalls we must be both tolerant and vigilant.… Dialogue is the only way to bridge the differences.”


“America And Iraq’s Islamic Awakening”


Pascal Riche in left-of-center Liberation (4/22): “The Shiites are making the Sunnis very nervous. If religious radicalism leads to a civil war, Washington may soon be facing a difficult choice. Leaving Iraq as soon as possible...or putting in prison the more threatening opponents, which would be going back to Saddam’s methods.”


GERMANY:  "Old Enmity Never Dies"


Center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich opined (4/25):  "Whenever Washington can accuse the mullahs of wrongdoing, it will do so.  After all, the U.S. would like to see the end of the mullah system sooner rather than later....  But the Iranians aren't the only victims of crude U.S. threats.  The Shiite majority in Iraq and the Iranian Shiites are brothers in faith, something that makes it easy for the mullahs in Teheran to exert influence in Iraq.  After all, they are keen to have a neighboring country that is not hostile.  It doesn't have to be a theocracy; given Iraq's position of strength, it would be enough if it were to treat the Iraqi Shiites in a way that was not anti-Persian."


"Everything Is Possible"


Martina Doering commented in left-of-center Berliner Zeitung (4/25):  "Almost every single group that has become politically active in post-war Iraq rejects the U.S./British administration of the country, and some want to actively oppose it.  Cooperation with the U.S. so far means the loss of influence or even life.…  The glue that held the country together and prevented all the differences from surfacing disappeared with the collapse of the old regime, and now the Americans are rulers in a country in which anything could feasibly take root: a theocracy like Iran, a struggle for liberation like Algeria - or a democracy, something that has never before existed in the region."


"Shiite Shadow Empire"


Heiko Flottau opined in an editorial in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (4/23): "Those who like the professed Christian George W. Bush want to democratize Iraq should welcome the fact that the want to practice their long suppressed creed.  And those who like George W. Bush want to free a people should not be surprised if the liberated people, the Shiites in particular, are now trying to introduce their beliefs into politics and want to found religiously motivated parties.  By releasing the genie from the bottle, Americans and British have also released the spirit of piousness and religious zeal.  It will be impossible to put it back again....  Iraq is living in a state of uncertainty.  Because the British and their imperial successors, the Americans, thoughtlessly promoted Saddam Hussein's rise, they felt forced to straighten this devastating development with a colonial war of correction.  A strongly Islamic-oriented order could follow."


ITALY: "Anti-U.S. Protests, The Paradoxes Of Victory"


Mario Cervi's commened in leading center-right Il Giornale (4/23):  "What is happening in Iraq represents an extraordinary seal of guarantee for the reasons invoked by Bush to legitimize...a preventive war.  We have not come, he said, to exploit the oil business or to colonize, we have come to introduce democracy.  He has kept his word.  He tolerates and nearly praises the political attacks against him at the end of military battles.  The very dialectic of democracy implies, after a war, developments that may seem paradoxical and unfair to many.  But that's the way it is, one lives in a democracy also in order to have the right to criticize and perhaps vituperate simultaneously Saddam...and Bush the liberator....  We should thank God for the fact that the world's only remaining superpower does not see political disagreement the same way that Stalin saw it or Fidel Castro sees it.  That is reassuring."


RUSSIA: "Tension Still There"


Aleksandr Umnov observed in reformist Vremya Novostey (4/25): "With tension in Iraq remaining, Washington will now have to bear the burden of easing it, and will certainly not use Saddam's methods to do so.  The way things go in Iraq, liberalism is no guarantee of success.   It is not ruled out that what the Americans, for all their good intentions, will get in the end is a divided country and a rise in anti-Americanism.  That leaves an opportunity for Saddam or whoever may succeed him."


"Shiia Not Excited Over U.S. Model Of Democracy"


Vladimir Skosyrev noted in reformist Vremya MN (4/25): "Clearly, the U.S. model of democracy does not inspire Shiia leaders.  Many in the Middle East believe that the current flare up of religious sentiment among Shiias in Iraq is a prelude to a mass movement to build an Islamic state similar to Iran.  The irony is that it is the Americans' elective democracy which may bring Shiia leaders to power."


"Iran Out To Play Shiia Card"


Sergey Strokan said in reformist business-oriented Kommersant (4/25):  "In the on-going fight for Iraq, Teheran is ready to play the Shiia card, hoping to stop Washington from installing a puppet regime in Baghdad.   With the Baathist regime fallen, Teheran has found itself with a windfall of opportunities.  Even if Iran fails to bring its people to power in post-Saddam Iraq, it has a splendid chance to have America scared out of its wits over prospects of having another Iran, thereby making it less arrogant and more tractable."


"U.S. Favors Communists"


Mikhail Zygar stated in reformist business-oriented Kommersant (4/23): "The Americans are seriously worried about Iraq's Shi'ites having been suddenly radicalized.  There is a real threat that Iraq may become a second Iran, a theocratic state with anti-American tendencies.  Lately, the Arab media have been reporting about the Americans having set their sights on the Iraqi Communists as a potential ally.  That the U.S. has allowed the Communists to publish a newspaper, the first publication in post-Saddam Iraq, speaks volumes....  If the events in Karbala should follow the worst scenario, an 'Iranian-Islamic' revolution might go in parallel with an 'American-Communist' one."


BELGIUM:  "Decades Of Repression And Militant Islam Are Bad Cornerstones"


Diplomatic correspondent Mia Doornaert in independent Christian-Democrat De Standaard remarked (4/30):  “There is a great unknown: the internal developments in Iraq.  It is undeniable that the large majority of the Iraqis are happy with the disappearance of Saddam Hussein’s bloodthirsty regime. But, it is equally clear that they do not want a continued presence of the American ‘Zionist enemy.’  Moreover, decades of ruthless repression and the militant Islamism of the Shiite majority are extremely bad cornerstones for a responsible and representative government.  If the United States gets sucked into the morass of internal conflicts and instability, it may lose its attention for a decisive engagement in the Israeli-Arab peace process.  That would undermine the dearly paid strategic chance of peace in that unstable region.  From every point of view, that chance is fragile, given the numerous conflicting passions.  It depends, above all, on the question whether George W. Bush is prepared to spend equally as much energy on Israeli-Arab peace as on the war against Saddam Hussein.”


"Pressure From Iran"


Foreign affairs writer Ludwig De Vocht in financial De Financieel-Economische Tijd (4/22):  “It is Iran’s every interest to exercise as much pressure as possible on the new rulers on its Western border.  The best means (to do that) is the important Tehran based Shiite opposition movement against Saddam Hussein: the High Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Hriri)....  Washington is dreaming of a scenario in which Iraq - as the first country in the region - carries out democratic reforms.  Other countries ought to follow.  After the fall of the last symbol of Arab nationalism, the Hriri is trying to gain favorable positions -- through the Iraqi religious leadership - in the future democratic government in Iraq.  The Shiites are the majority in Iraq.  In the long term, America’s support for the Hriri may have a bitter aftertaste.  It is not unrealistic that, more than 25 years after the revolution in Iran, a rather strict Islamic order is created in Iraq via democratic means and that a Tehran-Baghdad-Ryad axis is born.  That is probably not what the United States is aiming for.”


NORWAY:  “From The Ashes To The Fire?”


Erik R. Selmer wrote in social-democratic Dagsavisen (4/25):  "The U.S. admits that they have underestimated the Shias’ strength and organizational ability.  It is not unexpected that the Shias look to their religious leaders in difficult times.  But it is important to remember that the Shias in Iraq are Arabs, not Persians, and they have a strong Iraqi identity.  One of the country’s foremost Shiite Imams, Hussein al-Sadr, said this week that even if the Shia Muslims keep Iran close, that is not to say that they would copy Iran’s model for leading Iraq.  He also said that the U.S. must stay in the country until the security was restored.  This signifies a realistic and pragmatic position.  And it should calm Washington.”


POLAND: “Americans’ Calculation At Risk”


Stanislaw Lem opined in liberal Gazeta Wyborcza (4/29): “The U.S. reports that Teheran is trying to politicize the celebration by millions of Iraqi Shiites rejoicing at their liberation by its claim that Iraq is to become an Islamic theocracy modeled after Iran. Supposedly, agents sent across the border are working to this end. If such actions of antidemocratic character intensify, there may appear a substantial danger of America clashing head-on with Iran.”


SPAIN:  "Putting The Iraqi Puzzle Back Together Again"


Conservative ABC editorialized (4/25):  "Highlighting the new risks can not lead to the misery of praising a dictator who, filling the country with blood, prevented any radicalism that was not his own....  The allied forces have opened up a society and its plurality has flowered.  There are new risks because freedom is guaranteed and [those risks] have to be faced through a democratic approach not through oppression....  It can be done well or badly, but despite the apocalyptical prophecies everything seems to indicate that the steps that are being taken in post-Saddam Iraq--although still of uncertain results--are those which will lead to the creation of the conditions for economic recovery,  the full exercise of liberties and the assumption by the own Iraqis of their own destiny in democratic conditions."


"The Shiites And The Iraqi Jigsaw Puzzle"


Independent El Mundo declared (4/23):  "The outburst of Shiism probably represents the main complication that Bush will face in shaping a representative government, while respecting other liberties, because a very important part of this group is inclined to Islamic fundamentalism of an anti-democratic nature....  The U.S and the allies are talking about 'reconstructing' Iraq, but the story is that the country has never existed as such.  The only link between the different communities was the terror, and now this has disappeared.  A difficult job awaits the U.S. in putting the pieces of the Iraqi jigsaw puzzle together."


"Time For The Shiites"


Left-of-center El País noted (4/23):  "The freedom stemming from the overthrow of Saddam Hussein may have opened a Pandora's Box of ethnic and religious tension in an Iraqi society extremely complex in terms of religious and tribal feelings....  The occupation troops and the U.S. Administrator in Iraq...are going to confront a very difficult task....  The fundamentalist group Dawaa, always armed and active in Iraq, is now the group from which the U.S. has most to fear....  But today is a moment of happiness, freedom and celebration for Iraqis Shiites.  Democracy, if it comes, could arrive late.... What is more incongruous is that Donald Rumsfeld, after a waging a war against dictatorship, is suggesting that the U.S. won't accept an Islamic regime in Iraq after even if it is achieved through elections....  But it won't be easy for the U.S. to avoid the Shiites extending their power not only in Iraq, but throughout the Middle East."  


TURKEY:  “What Type Of Regime In Iraq?”


Sami Kohen noted in mass appeal Milliyet (5/2): “As declared by President Bush, the military operation part of the Iraq war has ended.  It is now time to rebuild Iraq.  The U.S. won this war rather easily. However as Americans also acknowledge, winning the peace might be a more difficult mission to achieve.  In this new period, the US has set three main targets for success.  The first is to establish peace and security in Iraq.  The second is to revitalize Iraq’s economy and infrastructure.  The third is to revitalize Iraq’s political system, in other words, to establish a democratic regime, which will unite the people of Iraq.… Regarding the very last part of the mission, which is the most difficult one, we keep hearing different tunes from the U.S. officials.  Is Washington really going to accept an Islamic regime in Iraq if it turns out to be the choice of the masses?  That is the main issue to answer.  Jay Garner is saying that the U.S. will not impose any type of regime and will respect the people’s decision.  However, some other U.S. administration officials, including Secretary Rumsfeld, state that the U.S. will not allow an Iranian style regime in Iraq.” 


"Future Of Iraq And Shiites"


Yasemin Congar wrote in mass appeal Milliyet (4/28): "Washington plans for a transition democratic regime in Iraq to begin functioning by the end of May. The Bush administration is aware that time is short, but is not pessimistic about achieving the goal....  Regarding the ongoing worry about an Iranian-type radicalism in Iraq, U.S. officials are not singing with a single voice.  Secretary Rumsfeld clearly said that the U.S. will not allow an Iranian-type of regime in Iraq.  Yet State Department officials acknowledge that the U.S. continues to be in dialogue with the Shiites, and note that the Tehran-based Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution of Iraq (SCIRI) could play a positive role in the transition process.  Their message is 'an Islamic-based regime in Iraq is a possibility if the majority of Iraqi people support it.'... When I mentioned all of this to a US diplomat, the response was as follows: 'It is up to the Iraqis to decide.  We will not let a new dictatorship emerge, but we are not going to impose a model either.  Yet I don't think that Iraq will adopt a Turkey-style secular model.'"


"Islamic Revolution In Iraq With U.S. Support"


Sedat Ergin opined in mass appeal Hurriyet (4/25): "The Shiite reality in Iraq seems to be a big surprise for the U.S., particularly the active role Shiites play in the society and the effective organizational model they have.... And American officials acknowledge that they were caught unprepared on the dimension of Shiite factor.... There is an immense similarity between Iran's post-Shah era and Iraq's post-Saddam era.  The Mullahs are rapidly assuming a role and taking charge within the collapsed state structure in Iraq and the Shiites are becoming a driving force to fill the existing power vacuum.  Like the Iranian Shiites, the Iraqi Shiites stand against the U.S., and their priority is Islam.... It seems very likely that the Islam factor will play a determinative role during Iraq's transition to democracy."


"Bush Has Chosen To Democratize A Very Complicated Country"


The English language Turkish Daily News noted (4/22): "(T)he U.S. should also read the Shiite demonstrations carefully....  If you think such demonstrations are rather innocent then you have to think twice.  After all, that is how the Islamic revolution took shape in Iran.  Yes, it is excellent for people to exercise their new-found freedoms in Iraq, but in the Middle East such freedoms may well be used to further the cause of radicalism that will actually end those freedoms and prevent the creation of a pluralistic system.  The U.S. is obliged to be on the alert when it comes to the 'de facto' leaders of Iraq and the motivations of Shiite radicals.  Negligence in these areas could lead to the disintegration of Iraq."




EGYPT:"Producing Tyrants"


Leading pro-government Al Ahram's columnist Hazem Abdel Rahman (4/30): "There is currently a chance to make radical change in Iraqi society at the hands of Iraqis. Whatever Americans do or say, the situation in Iraq will always depend on the will of Iraqis alone.  American hopes for freedom and democracy and placing natural wealth in the service of citizens are mere intentions, but Iraqis are the ones to turn these wishes into reality.  The U.S. said it intended to transfer power totally to Iraqis in two years.  This period can be an opportunity for Iraqis to make basic changes in their lives.  They should ask why power in Iraq became corrupt.  The answer is that they did not answer to a strong and free parliament...some may think that opening the door for freedoms may raise ethnic and religious sensitivities. There is nothing wrong in that.  It is the only way for a conscious settling of basic is not true that expressing ethnic or religious problems necessarily leads to division....  The Iraqi future is determined by seeking consciously to stop producing tyrants, because these brought about destruction, death, occupation and waste of wealth."


"Iraqis Emerge from Hiding"


Hazem Abdel Rahman wrote in leading pro-government Al Ahram (4/23):  "We have to open our eyes to see what is happening in Iraq.  The most positive image is the demonstrations, which broke out after Saddam Hussein disappeared.  They did not shout to defend him with blood and soul but expressed the real needs of the citizens--demanded security and the return of power and water.... They even evolved into demanding the rapid evacuation of American and British troops and to calling for a democratic Iraqi government....  More importantly, some Iraqis announced a readiness to serve their local and national societies....  All of this proves the Iraqi people enjoy great political vitality and, once the tyrant fell, numerous political figures appeared to be much improved, much more honest than the dummies who surrounded Saddam for years.... This proves the Iraqi people can very soon rule themselves."


"Ten Lessons Learned from the Fall of Saddam Hussein's Regime"


Ahmed Meneisy observed in leading pro-government Al Ahram (4/23): "The rapid fall of Saddam's regime is a unique event with lots of lessons learned especially since the Arab region still has similar regimes...which have failed to achieve real political openness which could lead to their modernization and responsiveness to democratization."


SAUDI ARABIA: "Will The U.S. Accept An Islamic Regime In Iraq?


Riyadh's conservative Al-Riyadh speculated (4/22): "The United States says it will not interfere with the will of the Iraqi people in determining who represents them in power, which is a good thing.  But with the large absence of (political) parties, other (civic) organizations, lack of experience in democracy and the failure of the Ba'ath Party...Islamic movements emerge as a prominent power, regardless of their ideological differences and the diversity of their leaders.   If it is possible to form an Islamic front from Sunni Arabs and Kurds and the Shia and if that movement won the power, will the U.S. accept it?   The U.S. chases religious governments and understands that they do not like it or share its objectives or policies, similar to any Iraqi government run by Islamic (groups.)  Although it is difficult to read future from uncertain perceptions, what is certain is that the Islamic movement is the strongest power in Iraq."


ALGERIA:  "Preventive Massacres"


French-Language independent Liberte commented (4/30): “The United States is proving that a foreign army, even powerful and with good intentions, cannot play the role of a police force in occupied territories.... Peoples do not swear allegiance to new comers mechanically, just because they have brought some progress in their luggage. The fact is that the host imposed his self-invitation.... Apart from this not being a normal situation, the American army seems to be particularly unable to handle this kind of circumstance. The comparison with the British army, in its contact with populations, highlights the American shortcomings regarding their relations with the local populations. The British reluctance to confront populations contrasts with the repeated blunders on the American side....  As a matter of cause and effect, the American maintenance of law and order might shift to a brutal subjugation of the populations and, perhaps, to a vicious cycle of agitation-repression.  Moreover, the populations are more delighted with Saddam’s defeat than with American presence.  So after having won the war, the United States might sink into a less conventional confrontation. An Iraqi solution, incidentally very problematic, imposes itself if the Americans will not expose themselves to the dilemma of having to act harshly or get out. And at the risk of other ‘preventive massacres’.”


“Pax Americana”


French language independent L’Authentique commented (4/29):  “After having ‘liberated’ Iraq from Saddam’s tyranny by the GI’s force of iron, B52’s and Thomahawk missiles, G. W. Bush’s America, super powerful and arrogant, is trying today to repair the damage caused by its apocalyptic aggression at its victims expense and to establish its model of democracy. Here is a hazardous venture for the Pentagon hawks, a remake of the Afghan scenario with an Iraqi ‘Karzai,’ in defiance of international law and the majority of the Iraqi people, i.e., the Shiites, whose loudly proclaimed ambitions to create an Islamic state in Iraq are not mere sabre rattling! But sooner or later, when the strategic intentions of the US occupiers are revealed to the public, the Iraqi Shiites aided by many other patriots hostile to any type of foreign presence, could beat the drums of war against American occupation and their model of democracy, which aims to cast Iraqi society in a western mold. A prolongation of the war can however be the game of the Pentagon’s strategists whose boss Donald Rumsfeld has affirmed that ‘letting a shouting minority make Iraq like Iran is out of the question’ and that the US forces will remain there until ‘the achievement of stability.’ It is obvious that at the end of the day, the US and the Hebrew state will gain the greatest part of the dividends.”


"Red And Black"  


Principal French-Language independent Le Quotidien commented (4/28):  “It was a possibility, and now the hypothesis has become reality. Shiite leaders are about to conquer political power.... They are acting as privileged and inescapable partners for any form of temporary government. They impose themselves by their number, being the majority of the population.... Within the prevailing disorder, Mullahs with black robes are perceived as irascible and strict. A manifest incapacity of an invading army to convert quickly into an occupying administration? Or is it a strategic error of the Bush team.... While the democratic hawks make confused efforts to bring their strategies into harmony, the wave coming from Iran is realizing how difficult is their wager to conciliate Sunnis and Shiites to stand against a common adversary on one side and to raise the people’s consciousness to understand that the American military presence is no more than an occupying enterprise of a colonial nature and a messianic intention produced irremediably by the religiosity of the White House occupants and the Zionist lobby.”


LEBANON:  "What Is Happening In Iraq?"


An editorial in pro-Syria Ash-Sharq asserted (4/30): "The massacre that was committed by the American Army was not enough...they also stopped any ambulances from reaching the slain Iraqis.  This massacre is the real image of what is happening in Iraq and will add to tension in the Iraqi street.  Today, Iraq is in the process of crystallizing its resistance against the American presence...a fact that totally contradicts Bush's claims that his Army came to Iraq as a liberator.  So far, only innocent civilians were victims of this war...It might be beneficial to remind people that the Iraqis, who were oppressed by Saddam Hussein's regime, are being oppressed in the same manner by the U.S. today....  What is happening in Iraq today is extremely dangerous.  A national conference should be held among Iraqis who were oppressed by Saddam and Iraqis who were outside Iraq.  This national conference should be held away from people like Ahmad Chalabi and away from the pressures of American Generals"


"The Last Stop"


Sateh Noureddine remarked in Arab nationalist As-Safir (4/24):  "We can say that the first impression we got from the celebration in Karbala yesterday was that the Shi'a in Iraq are different from the Shi'a in Tehran and are also different from the Shi'a in Lebanon.  In Karbala, we did not see many Iranians, and we did not see the flags of Hizballah or the photos of Hassan Nasrallah....  Apparently, the Iraqis did not want to have anything to do with the Shi'a of Tehran and Lebanon....  The feeling that dominated the celebration was that of sadness for the death of Imam Hussein and happiness that Saddam was removed....  Perhaps, the Shi'a in Iraq really believe that the Americans are their saviors."


MOROCCO:  "High Tensions In Iraq"


Caroline Berges reflected in French-language, independent Aujourd’hui Le Maroc (4/29):  “The meeting that was held by the U.S. on the post-Saddam era took place last Monday in Baghdad with a background of anti-American demonstrations, led by the Shi’a leaders who want to be in charge of managing the country....  Jay Garner wanted to reassure the 250 Iraqis, who were invited to discuss the political progress of the country. The big question is: Who will play what role in post Saddam Iraq? The problem is primarily linked to the administration that has been imposed, even ‘temporarily,’ by Washington on a population that is more and more dejected and worried.”


TUNISIA:  "Karbala Or The Freedom Of The Self-Flagellating"


Hamadi Khammar stated in independent French-language Le Temps (4/23):  "Millions of TV spectators throughout the world have watched with fear the photos coming from Karbala, confirming the magnificent success of the promise made by the coalition to bring freedom and democracy to Iraqis.  The mission was one hundred percent successful, at least for 60% of the Iraqi population that are of a Shiite persuasion.  The regained freedom by thousands of formerly chained people by a dictatorial and bloody regime has favored the revival of this cruel tradition forbidden for 30 years by Saddam Hussein....  The Shiite vision is frightful on many levels, as it gives no room to the other components of today's Iraq....  This liberation has succeeded in awakening and unleashing this unconscious collective....  The energies of this sleepy devil are here to say openly and insolently to you, their liberators,: 'If you don't leave, we will kill you.'  That bodes well!....  The power of governing Iraq has been a dream of the Shiite for the past 14 decades....  Gentlemen, these people are not respectable, they are dangerous.  If you intend to make agreements with them, I can predict the failure of your mission....  Tomorrow, gentlemen, will be worse than yesterday and it might even make you miss Saddam."




JAPAN:  "U.S., Iran Returning To Game Of Recrimination"


Liberal Asahi observed (4/25):  "The U.S. and Iran, who 'worked closely' behind the scenes during the U.S.-led war to remove Iraq's Saddam Hussein from power, appear to be returning to a 'war of recrimination.'  While the U.S. blames Iran for goading Iraqi Shiite groups to abet anti-U.S. feelings in Iraq, the Iranian government is calling the U.S. the occupier of Iraq."    


"U.S. Alarmed By Iran's Interference In Postwar Iraq"


Top-circulation, moderate Yomiuri  commented (4/25):  "The U.S. has become increasingly wary of Iran's influence peddling through Iraqi Shiite groups over the formation of an interim government in Baghdad.  As rival ethnic and religious 'anti-Hussein' groups are intensifying a power struggle for leadership in the planned authority, the USG has become increasingly concerned about the negative impact of Iran's move on Shiite groups in Turkey and other neighboring nations, making the formation of a democratic nation in Baghdad, according to the U.S. scenario, more difficult. The U.S. has warned Iran against abetting Iraqi Shiite groups living on the Iran-Iraqi border."


SOUTH KOREA: "Iraq War Is Not Over Yet"


Chief Editorial Writer Park Woo-jung wrote in the nationalist, left-leaning Hankyoreh Shinmun (4/29): "The Bush Administration fails to justify its invasion of Iraq.  Even though plenty of time has passed since President Bush proudly declared U.S. victory in the Iraq war, the U.S. remains unable to find weapons of mass destruction, the reason it invaded the Gulf country....   U.S. hardliners are running into other unexpected difficulties in their plan to install a succession of pro-U.S. regimes in the Middle East after toppling the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein....  This is because Iraq's majority Shiite Muslims, who have a strong bond with Iran's revolutionary government -- one of President Bush's 'axis of evil' nations -- are emerging as the strongest political force calling for the pullout of U.S. troops....  A showdown between the U.S. and the Shiite Muslims seems inevitable....  Some analysts are already starting to warn that the U.S. might get bogged down in Iraq, as it did in Vietnam.  The U.S. war in Iraq is not over yet.  It is only entering a second round."


INDONESIA:  “Democracy Versus Theocracy In Iraq”


Christian-oriented Sinar Harapan maintained (4/24):  "The Iraqi Shiites want a government that is free from foreign intervention.  It is not clear what is meant by 'must be free from foreign intervention.'  One thing for certain is that the Iraqi people do not accept the concept of U.S. democracy.  If that is the case, the strong political spice in Iraq, namely religion, will color the character of the Iraq new government....  We highly appreciate the U.S.’ good intention to democratize the Iraqi people, although we disagree with the U.S. way of entering Iraq though military action as the starting point of that democratization.  Maybe the U.S. military action could be forgiven if the U.S. did not rob the oil fields after overthrowing Saddam.  Otherwise, the U.S. will be attacked by the world: democracy is only a disguise for inter-continental robbery and lootings....  From the Iraq side, however, we demand one thing: the Iraqi people should avoid being overly emotional: attacking the U.S. while at the same time they are incapable of being united.”   


PHILIPPINES:   "Pax Romana Vs Pax Americana"


Walden Bello held in the widely-read, independent Philippine Daily Inquirer (4/25):  "Just a few days after its military victory over a fourth-rate power, we are already witnessing the political quicksand that the Americans have stepped into in Iraq, as fundamentalist Islamic political currents among the majority Shiites appear to be the political inheritors of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.  If a stable pro-U.S. order in the Middle East is Washington's goal, then that is nowhere in sight.  What is likely instead is greater instability that will tempt Washington to employ more military power and deploy more military units, leading to a spiral of violence from which there is no easy exit....  The Bush people are not interested in creating a new Pax Romana.  What they want is a Pax Americana where most of the subordinate populations like the Arabs are kept in check by a healthy respect for lethal American power, while the loyalty of other groups such as the Philippine government is purchased with the promise of cash.  With no moral vision to bind the global majority to the imperial center, this mode of imperial management can only inspire one thing: resistance."


SINGAPORE:  "After President Saddam, The U.S. Stares At Ayatollah Saddam"


Janadas Devan declared in the pro-government Straits Times (4/25):  "The American victory in Iraq was so conclusive, the Bush administration's critics (both foreign and domestic) have been stunned into silence....  The serious critics of the administration never doubted that the U.S. would win the war. They always thought peace would be the real problem....  Even the administration is beginning to realize that an easy war need not necessarily be a prologue to an easy peace.  Indeed, the way things are shaping up, it may be a hard and bitter peace....  And there, in a nutshell, is the chief problem America will face in post-Saddam Iraq: The newly freed Shi'ites are not interested in democracy, let alone secularism.  Many want an Islamic state, resembling Shi'ite Iran's, the ideological and material supporter of many Iraqi Shi'ite groups.  Bush administration officials say they want a democratic Iraq, an 'Islamic democracy', like Turkey's.  Never mind that few Arabs consider Turkey 'Islamic' in any way, but what if Iraqi Shi'ites (and also many Sunnis) have their own conception of 'Islamic democracy'?  Is Washington going to be undemocratic, reject their conception and impose its own--all in the name of democracy?  It may have to.  It cannot afford a President Saddam to be succeeded by an Ayatollah Saddam.  It cannot let Iran be the main beneficiary of the U.S. invasion--removing Teheran's arch enemy, only to replace him with a fundamentalist Shi'ite theocracy."




INDIA: "How Liberated Are Iraqi People"


Front-page commentary independent Urdu biweekly Dawat stated (4/28): "The war-ravaged Iraq is witnessing everything contrary to what the invading powers had wanted the world to believe. Reports coming from the 'liberated' Iraq have completely exposed the claims made after the fall of Baghdad about the Iraqi people greeting and celebrating the arrival of the invading forces. The reality is just the opposite. With strong resentment across Iraq, people are demonstrating against the presence of the allied forces, demanding them to leave the country and questioning the right of the U.S. and UK to impose a government of their choice.  Not only Shias and Sunnis are united in this demand but even Kurds are reported to have opposed the prolonged presence of the allied forces in Iraq.... In contradiction to the earlier assurance of maintaining the territorial integrity against any attempt to divide Iraq, reports suggests that all kinds of differences and disputes are being intentionally fanned. Special efforts are focussed on fuelling Shia vs. Sunni differences and pitting Kurds against Arabs with a goal to strengthen the foreign occupation of a divided Iraq and ultimately breaking it into smaller entities."


"U.S. Trickery In Iraq"


Independent Urdu-language biweekly Dawat contended (4/25):  "In addition to making false allegations about the WMD and conducting a campaign of disinformation, the U.S. employed other trickery in Iraq.  It was to propagate and instigate differences between the Shia and Sunni communities of the country.  Invented stories of oppression and exploitation of Shia population at the hands of Sunni rulers were being propagated with the specific purpose of fomenting internal fighting which would help the invaders to strengthen their hold over the country....  The American aggression has, fortunately, brought the Shia and Sunni communities closer in Iraq who had no serious differences anyway."


PAKISTAN: "Arms And Irony"


An editorial in the pro-BJP right-of-center Pioneer noted (4/30): "Iraqis who have reportedly seen the surrender by Tariq Aziz as an indication of the end of the Saddam Hussein era in Iraq, are perhaps right.... As the disruption and chaos continue, even people who had welcomed the arrival of U.S. troops are beginning to get angry. Their anger will increase if they think that the government installed by the U.S.-and even the interim administration that will run the country in the meantime-does not genuinely represent them but dances to Washington's tune. Unfortunately for the U.S., the chances of this happening are very real...a substantial section of Iraqi Shias want an Islamic dispensation, similar to Iran's, and do not want the Americans to stay.... That such a Shiite theocratic dispensation would be unacceptable to Washington was made clear by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld when he said during an interview last Thursday that an 'Iranian-type government with a few clerics running everything in the country...isn't going to happen.'"


"Bitter Truths In Iraq"


An editorial in the Karachi-based independent national Dawn (4/29):  "There are distinct signs of exasperation among the U.S. authorities at the Iraqi people's ambivalent reaction to the ouster of the Saddam regime.  The Americans are still unable to comprehend why the Iraqis' joy over the departure of the despot has not translated into any gratitude towards the U.S.  The inability to predict such a response clearly represents a massive failure of U.S. intelligence and betrays a complete lack of understanding of the highly complex situation on the ground....  The latest, and for the Americans most alarming, development is the emergence of a major power vacuum in the country following the fall of Saddam.  As the U.S. authorities looked on, self-proclaimed leaders appointed themselves mayors of cities and local Shia clerics took charge in parts of the south. If U.S. troops challenge this emerging Shia leadership, it is bound to provoke a bigger backlash.  On the other hand, if such a situation is allowed to continue, an orthodox and essentially pro-Iran leadership could well emerge....  By not heeding such possibilities well in time, the U.S. could now end up reaping the bitter harvest of a wholly unnecessary and adventurous war."


 "Shi'ites Rise Against Invaders"


Islamabad-based's rightist English-language Pakistan Observer editorialized (4/25):  "The Shia population of Iraq has certainly disillusioned the U.S. war strategists and has demonstrated tremendous spirit of nationalism in the face of the Anglo-American attack on their country.  Contrary to the projections that the Shias will shower petals on the invading forces, they have emerged as the most vocal segment of Iraqi society to oppose the U.S. occupation of Iraq....  Iraqi Shias' demand for the U.S. and British troops' withdrawal from Iraq should not be misconstrued by Washington, as they never wished to fall in the fire from the frying pan.  It's, therefore, not fair to blame Iran for the Iraqi Shias' conduct simply because it's a Shia Muslim State.  It must not be used as a pretext to target Tehran."


SRI LANKA: "The U.S. Entangled In Problems"


State-owned Tamil weekly, Thinakaran Vaaramanjari commented (4/27):  "The war on Iraq will definitely create more enemies to the U.S....  The Shiia faction is demonstrating against the US invasion. Under these circumstances, even if the U.S. wants to form a government of its choice in Iraq, there won't be any support from the Iraqis. If they try to appoint a government, against the wish of Iraqi people, they may rise against the invaders. They are not going to hide like Saddam's forces.  Because it is their country."




CANADA:  “Heading Toward An Historic Mistake”


Haroon Siddiqui observed in the liberal Toronto Star (4/24):  “Long before the bombs fell, Iraqis knew that their country would not have been targeted had it been a major producer of, say, corn rather than oil.  What they have seen since, and like even less, are the early manifestations of the American agenda....  Various groups, not Shiites alone, have therefore been grabbing what turf they can and asserting their political presence....  Iraqi Shiites are further divided among those who struggled under Saddam's tyranny and those who fled it.  Among the exiles, the ones from Iran are more acceptable than those from the West.  Yet America has distanced itself from most religious Shiites....  Another leading group is also sitting out the consultative process.  Hakim and other Shiites have signed on to a pluralistic Iraq, with respect for majority religion as well as minority rights for the Sunnis and Kurds.  We need to hold their feet to the democratic fire.  Shunting them aside, or letting them conclude that the promised democratic process is a sham, is to push them into active resistance.  Given that five factions--two Shiite, two Kurdish and one pro-American--have militias, a la Afghan warlords, the hope for a peaceful transition fades.  This is no time to be making historic mistakes.”


"An Important Day For Shiites And Iraq"


The conservative National Post observed (4/22):  "Already, there are reports that a significant contingent of pilgrims from both Iraq and Iran will use their religious journey as an opportunity to protest against the U.S.  Though the U.S. military has wisely pared down its presence in the area, and is generally confining its mandate to securing order and providing humanitarian assistance to pilgrims, at least a few angry confrontations seem inevitable.  Such confrontations betray a double irony: The two fundamental rights Shiites are practising--freedom of religion and political expression--are owed entirely to the fact that the U.S. has liberated Iraq from Saddam Hussein, whose typical response to open protest was poison gas and torture chambers.  Thus, even if anti-American images dominate our newscasts, it is important to keep this week's events in perspective.  Riots and protests will pass.  But the sight of millions of Shiite Muslims worshipping Allah in the manner of their choosing bespeaks a welcome new era in Iraq's history."


BRAZIL: "Iraqi Chess"


Right-of-center O Globo editorialized (4/29):  "Don't invite Americans and Shiites to the same reconstruction project: They are more used to mistrust and dissent than to dialogue and understanding.  The State Department has included the Shiite clergymen of Iran among those who President Bush called 'the axis of evil.'  The Teheran Ayatollahs, in turn, see the U.S. as the incarnation of The Great Satan. It would be an exaggeration to talk about shock of civilizations here. But the fact is that there is a sort of armed mental conflict making relations difficult....  The Shiite issue is appearing to be the most unmanageable one: Shiite clergymen have taken over sectors in Baghdad and other cities. The Bush government is divided.  The most intransigent ones as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld fear an alliance of Islamic, Iraqi radicals with Iranian Ayatollahs.  The most tolerant ones as State Secretary Colin Powell say the Shiite majority has to be properly represented if we want Iraq to be a democracy.  It's difficult to imagine a solution to this dilemma without the participation of other actors --such as the European Union and, above all, the U.N."


"After Saddam, The Shiites"


Center-right O Estado de Sao Paulo (4/27) editorialized: "Only next week will the occupation government in Iraq begin to function.... Since Baghdad was taken, the U.S. has demonstrated a lack of preparation for restoring a semblance of normalcy in Iraq.... Bush is proving to be incapable of establishing peace because he has only a vague idea of the history and reality of the nation he invaded. Washington does not see what is happening before its own eyes.  The Iraqi Shiites do not need to be encouraged by Iran to be hostile to the occupying forces.... The Shiites are not just a group of fanatics. In the days following Saddam's fall, while the American troops watched the pillage, the fundamentalists were working to put an end to the chaos.... The strongest alternative to Saddam's dictatorship is not democracy, but a more or less repressive and certainly anti-American theocratic regime that the U.S. is not prepared to prevent.... The U.S. did not need the UN to enter Iraq, but it will probably have to resort to it to leave."


"In The Lion's Den"


An opinion piece in right-of-center O Globo (4/26) noted: "Americans and Shiites have a tradition of incompatibility.  It's this way in Iran with the anti-Americanism of the Ayatollahs; and it couldn't be otherwise in an Iraq occupied by Americans. But how to establish a democracy without satisfying demands from the Shiite majority - with its notorious difficulty to separate political discussion from religious dogma?  Defense Secretary Rumsfeld says: 'A government as the Iranian with clergymen bossing around is out of question.' He is right: it would be absurd for the Bush Administration to replace Saddam's regime with one of Ayatollahs. Secretary of State Powell notes: 'The Iraqi people should decide, not the U.S.' He is also right:  it's so in any democracy. As we can see when it's about dealing with Shiites the lack of intelligence starts in Washington."


DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: “Balaguer And The Ayatollahs”


Bernardo Vega, former editor-in-chief of third morning, conservative, independent, El Caribe and former ambassador, stated in an op-ed:  (4/28):  “It will be very hard for President Bush to find a Balaguer in Iraq that will unify that country and provide it with democracy....  In Iraq there is no electoral tradition and the country’s division between Kurds, Shiites and Sunni Moslems makes it much more difficult for the creation of a democratic government....  It will be easier for the United States and Great Britain to win the war than to win the peace.”


GUATEMALA: “Iraq, Far from  Democracy”


Influential El Periodico ran a comment by columnist Gustavo Berganza stating (4/29): “To turn Iraq into a source that glows with democracy and freedom, the United States pretends the provisional government it has installed will call for elections.…  Iraq is a country that currently has no political organizations, other than the remnants of Saddam’s webs...the scenario does not give a picture of an easy transition into a model state that Americans want to install.”




 TANZANIA: “Iraq: Neighboring States Should Seek Harmony First"


The English-language IPP-owned Guardian editorialized (4/23):  "Shiite believers for the first time made a pilgrimage to the holy sites of Kerbala and Najaf, which they had not been free to do in 35 years of Baath rule....  Opposing the U.S. presence in Iraq, and even disapproving of its action to remove the regime of Saddam Hussein, is part of the democratic rights of all Iraqi people.  Still each political group or religious (groups) with political positions are obliged by virtue of their Iraqi citizenship to do everything they can to ensure that the next phase of its political life is peaceful....  The former followers of Saddam Hussein will rally back to Baath if they discover that the Shiite imams are thinking not about a free Iraq but one taking orders from Teheran, etc.  The basis of a free Iraq, democratically organized, disappears.  That is why it cannot be over-emphasized that the crucial issue in Iraq at the moment is not a precipitous departure of U.S. forces, leaving Iraqis on the road to ethnic cleansing.  Doing so would feed the doubts originally raised by a section of the anti-war camp, saying democracy is a cultural issue, and Iraq won’t be in position to adopt democratic government in the next 30 years.... It is therefore important that Arab countries use their good offices with the various political groups in Iraq to come to a minimum of understanding.



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