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Europe

European Press Review: Indications of a Fiasco in Iraq?

Europe's editorialists are concerned that the United States appears unable to establish order in Iraq, since it has already replaced its head civilian administrator in the war-torn country.

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Commenting on the current situation in Iraq, the British daily Financial Times said on Tuesday that U.S. forces appeared to have been wholly unprepared for the task of establishing order and inserting a minimal civil administration. “Three weeks of rule by Mr. Garner and electricity, telephone and even piped water wait to be reconnected,” the paper wrote. And it warned that politics and piped water ran together. “Across the Arab and Islamic world, where the state has failed to provide health and education, welfare and infrastructure, Islamist forces have stepped into the vacuum. Iraq will be no different.”

The German daily Märkische Oderzeitung also said that the Bush administration had a problem. One month after the fall of Baghdad, the U.S. was already having to replace the leader of its civilian administration in the country. And because American special forces had still been unable to find any chemical and biological weapons, they were going to be replaced by a new team. Both developments were indications of a fiasco.

The bomb blast that killed over 40 people in Chechnya on Monday attracted the attention of many European papers. The Moscow-based Wremja Mn wrote that there were no more safe places in Chechnya, suggesting that this was exactly what the terrorists had in mind when they chose the location for the attack. The village next to the Terek River was always thought to be a peaceful place and a part of continental Russia, the paper said, concluding, “The disgusting terror attack is a challenge for Moscow, and it shows that for the separatists in Chechnya the war is not over yet.”

The Spanish daily El Mundo also condemned the attack in Chechnya, but it put part of the blame on the Russian government. According to the paper, the attack proved that Moscow was incapable of keeping order and security in Chechnya. The poorly-paid and unprofessional Russian army didn't even manage to preserve an appearance of normality. And the paper was pessimistic about a political solution to the conflict, writing, “As time passes, the hatred on both sides grows along with the number of victims.”

Many French papers previewed a day of strikes and protest against pension reforms in France on Tuesday. The daily La Libération called the Prime Minister Raffarin's planned reforms a “cultural revolution,” as they meant working longer while receiving lower pensions. “The government wants to reverse the current understanding of social progress which has people wanting to work less,” the paper stated, blaming Raffarin for not having explained the underlying need for this revolution. And it concluded, “The street will answer him. Even though it is not the street which rules, it will make a clear statement about the prime minister’s method of talking about irrelevant matters rather than about what is really important."