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German Press Review: Kowtowing to Washington

Disappointed German editorialists lamented on Friday that the European politicians who led the charge against the U.S.-led war in Iraq, kowtowed to Washington by supporting the lifting of sanctions Thursday.


The Frankfurter Rundschau dismissed the lifting of sanctions against Iraq as kowtowing to the last superpower, rather than working for a compromise to strengthen the United Nations. For the first time, the U.N. Security Council, the newspaper's editors argued, approved the occupation of a country after it had earlier rejected its invasion. This was a precedent that would carry long-term consequences with it, the paper wrote, because it essentially established that countries fearing for their safety could act first and then seek approval later.

The Rostock-based Ostsee-Zeitung newspaper opined that Europe had suffered a defeat with the adoption of the resolution. The United States and Great Britain unilaterally removed Saddam Hussein from power and successfully persuaded the world community to carry out the difficult political burden of rebuilding Iraq. It would have made no sense for opponents of the war – including French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder -- to continue to resist American demands, the paper concluded. In agreeing to pass the resolution, they showed that they wanted neither to block trade with Iraq, nor to deepen the rift between the United States and continental Europe.

The Financial Times Deutschland wrote that passing the U.N. resolution to lift sanctions was a bitter pill for the anti-war countries -- France, Germany and Russia -- to swallow. But many were keen to see this quarrel end, as France's foreign minister expressed. Importantly, the United States has allowed the UN a more important role in Iraq and, with the right person at the helm, there may be a chance for the UN to reappear on the scene through the backdoor, the Hamburg-based paper concluded.

On it's editorial page, the Stuttgarter Nachrichten commented that it is shameful that the United States, which led the war against Iraq, is not fulfilling its post-war obligations. As some Arabs have claimed, it seems the U.S. is purposely allowing chaos to reign in the country in order to justify its long-term presence.

Back in Germany, meanwhile, the nationally circulated Die Welt criticized the inability of the Schröder government to institute needed reforms to the country's social welfare system and labor market. No day passes without some terrible piece of news, the paper noted. €40 billion in new debts. €126 billion in lost tax revenues. A recession is looming. Former Social Democratic Chancellor Helmut Schmidt recently said the situation in Germany is cause for great concern. The conservative Berlin daily agreed and did what Schmidt couldn't: It blamed the problem on Schröder's party, the Social Democrats.

Halle's Mitteldeutsche Zeitung opined about what it saw as a fundamental problem with the Social Democrats – namely that they seem prepared to fight to keep social benefits at any cost. And this without any consideration of the side-effects. The editors observed that this had to do not only with the party’s historical roots in the labor movement, but also with the many years it spent on the opposition bench in parliament. The slightest hint of cuts to social benefits simply causes an aggressive reflex in the Social Democrats, the paper concluded.