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European Press Review: Mission Accomplished

November 15, 2004

Many European editorial writers on Monday commented further on the death of Yasser Arafat, the situation in the Middle East and the US-led attack on the Iraqi city, Fallujah.


Britain's The Independent said the resistance in Fallujah may have been crushed, but the cost has yet to be counted. The paper was concerned about the civilian casualties and the fact that no one really knows the extent of them and that US-led forces aren’t letting any international aid into the city. One thing that is certain is that this operation "has been an utterly unrestrained demonstration of US military force," the paper asserted. The action also shows how determined the US and Iraq’s interim leaders are to stamp out the resistance in the hope that this will facilitate the planned elections. The daily tried to take a positive view by opining that the conquest of Fallujah could encourage Iraqi acceptance of the interim government, but it also wonders if this might just make Iraq less governable than it currently is.

Zurich’s Tages-Anzeiger was also concerned about the causalities and the lack of numbers and information regarding the civilians in Fallujah. We’ll only really know what happened once the city is opened again to journalists and aid organizations. The daily was extremely skeptical about the comments made by Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, who spoke of a "clean war." It wrote that US-led forces crushed the insurgency in Fallujah with their superior fire power. "Mission accomplished" indeed.

Parisian daily Figaro wondered what the current insurgency will mean for the elections. It pointed out that if Sunnis, who make up 20 percent of the population, aren’t allowed to vote because of instability in that region, and only people in the Kurdish and Shiite zones can go to the polls, then how can the future government be regarded as legitimate?

The other main topic of comment in many European editorial columns was life after Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's death last Thursday.

Germany’s Handelsblatt predicted a dismal situation when it comes to who will replace the legendary leader. He will probably only be supported by around 40 percent of the Palestinian population and will hardly be strong enough to implement difficult decisions alone. It also said that he will be too weak to keep the radical Islamic organizations in check. More likely, radical groups will attempt to play a larger role in the government. But the paper wasn't necessarily against this idea. It noted how the new Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is holding talks with the militant group Hamas in order to prevent chaos from breaking out. The daily suggested that if Hamas were to become more involved in politics, it might help calm the situation.

La Repubblica, in Rome, was much less optimistic about the elections being held in the post-Arafat era and about the roles of radical groups. Armed fractions are already starting to battle it out and things are going to go down hill from here, the paper wrote.

A positive aspect of Arafat’s death is that it’s brought the Palestinian question back into the center of world-wide attention, Der Standard in Vienna argued. It seems that his passing has created a chance for Palestinians that was never possible while he was alive, a chance for an independent, democratic Palestinian state. The daily called it Arafat’s last hurrah.

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