European Press Review: Should Iraqis Regain Sovereignty as Planned? | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 18.05.2004
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European Press Review: Should Iraqis Regain Sovereignty as Planned?

Europe's papers on Tuesday commented on the assassination of the head of the U.S.-appointed head Iraqi governing council, Izzedine Salim, in Baghdad, and on the promised transfer of power to Iraqis at the end of June.

Poland’s Gazeta Wyborcza wrote that Salim died because he symbolized collaboration with the occupying power. There's no way the violence will end with the hand-over of authority on June 30th, the paper commented, and added that "the foreign civil administration will leave on that day, but Iraqis and remaining coalition soldiers will continue to be attacked." The paper said that the only spark of hope left lies with the elections planned for next year, as only a democratically elected government can change the situation.

But another Polish paper, Rzeczpospolita, said the worst thing that could happen now is for sovereignty to be handed back to Iraqis. It observed that Salim's murder shows that the propaganda that would have us believe that terrorist insurgents are fighting against the occupying forces is wrong. "As usual, the terrorists' strategy is directed first and foremost at their own society, with the goal of eliminating moderate voices that could provide an alternative to the extremists," the paper commented.

Germany's Stuttgarter Nachrichten agreed that the hand-over will make little difference to the violence. It pointed out that the front lines in this war don’t just run between the American occupiers and the Iraqi resistance; they cut right through Iraqi society. Since it became apparent that the U.S. wants to make a gradual retreat from Iraq, the guerrilla war against the occupiers has turned into an Iraqi civil war, the paper wrote.

The more problems that the American and British forces have in Iraq, the more compromises they will have make, noted Moscow’s Kommersant. If they don’t start making them, the paper warned, things are only going to get worse.

The British tabloid Daily Mirror called for a gradual pullout of British troops from Iraq, and praised British Prime Minister Tony Blair for listening at long last to growing demands for an exit strategy. "It is not an option to cut and run, as Mr. Blair said. Pulling out our forces immediately would be irresponsible," the paper said. "But a planned, strategic withdrawal would be for the good for Iraq as well as our soldiers and Britain's reputation."

Also on the topic of a possible withdrawal of British and American troops, Italy's Corriere della Serra wrote that not a day goes by without someone in Washington or London announcing plans for an exit strategy, which is then later denied, corrected or confused with murky hypotheses. The paper commented that the confusion on the issue is a sign that both governments find themselves in a difficult quandary.