Viewing cable 09BERLIN1158, MEDIA REACTION: U.S., AFGHANISTAN, LEBANON
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|09BERLIN1158||2009-09-18 12:12||2011-01-13 05:05||UNCLASSIFIED||Embassy Berlin|
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 BERLIN 001158 STATE FOR INR/R/MR, EUR/PAPD, EUR/PPA, EUR/CE, INR/EUC, INR/P, SECDEF FOR USDP/ISA/DSAA, DIA FOR DC-4A VIENNA FOR CSBM, CSCE, PAA "PERISHABLE INFORMATION -- DO NOT SERVICE" SIPDIS E.0. 12958: N/A TAGS: OPRC KMDR KPAO GM US RS IR PK IN IC SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION: U.S., AFGHANISTAN, LEBANON ¶1. Lead Stories Summary ¶2. (U.S.) Missile Defense ¶3. (Afghanistan) Aftermath of Elections ¶4. (Lebanon) Formation of New Government ¶1. Lead Stories Summary Print media focused primarily on two issues: President Obama's decision to give up the missile defense program involving Poland and the Czech Republic, and the school attack in the Franconian city of Ansbach. Some papers also foregrounded the election campaign, which is moving into its final days. Editorials focused on President Obama's decision to give up the missile defense plan and the school attack. ZDF-TV's early evening newscast heute opened with a live report from Ansbach, while ARD-TV's early evening newscast Tagesschau opened with reports on the missile defense. ¶2. (U.S.) Missile Defense All media prominently reported that "President Obama has put a stop to the plans of his predecessor, Bush, to deploy a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe. He explained this by saying that there are new facts on the threat Iran poses" (ARD-TV's primetime newscast Tagesschau). Many media described Obama's "U-turn" as an attempt to get Russian support for UN measures against Iran. Although most editorials welcomed the decision, it also met with some skepticism. Front-page headlines included: "Obama puts a stop to the missile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic" (Berliner Zeitung 9/18)), "U.S. puts stop to missile defense shield in Eastern Europe" (S|ddeutsche), "Obama gives up Bush's missile defense shield in Europe" (Die Welt), "Obama chooses a 'flexible' missile defense" (Frankfurter Allgemeine), and "Obama declares peace to Russia" (FT Deutschland). Primetime ARD-TV's Tagesschau (9/17) commented: "Although there might be new threat assessments and technological progress, President Obama wants to remove a large diplomatic stumbling block.... Obama hopes that Moscow will make concessions in connection with Iran and nuclear disarmament." Westdeutscher Rundfunk (9/17) radio commented: The renouncement of the missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic does not just come as a relief for Central Europe and Russia, but lets the entire world believe in disarmament again.... Once again, Washington's change towards reason demonstrates once more that Bush's policy was dangerous for the world. The view forward makes us hopeful. Only together with Moscow, we can persuade Tehran to make reliable concessions to prevent the production of nuclear weapons once and for all without ruling out the peaceful usage of nuclear energy.... Obama's decision strengthens those within and outside NATO who believe in disarmament. What remains is the disappointment of Polish and Czech politicians who had hoped to increase their countries' security through the missile defense shield. These backward thinking people should now consider the possibility that they will particularly benefit from Washington's improved relations with Moscow." Deutschlandfunk radio (9/17) commented: "Obama believes that solo runs within NATO are counterproductive. For the current U.S. government, Russia is an indispensible partner in the UN Security Council. However, this is not given as a reason because Obama wants to prevent the impression that he bowed to vehement Russian resistance to the original missile defense plans.... If this decision is interpreted as a weakness, then this is another price BERLIN 00001158 002 OF 004 Washington has to pay for its misguided policies in recent years." ARD-TV late night newscast Tagesthemen (9/17) remarked: "This is realpolitik. Reagan and Bush's Star Wars dreams were ideologically motivated and therefore did not consider costs and dangers. Obama is practical, even when he looks at his budget. In addition, no U.S. President makes such concessions without getting something in return. We might already see next week when the UN Security Council responds to Iran's nuclear policy what kind of concessions Russia makes. Obama will head the meeting and needs a success. And, as a great hope from whom many still expect the impossible, he needs success." S|ddeutsche Zeitung (9/18) opined: "Obama's greatest challenge will be that he must remove the suspicion that he bowed to Russia. He must not just do this in Congress but also in Eastern Europe, where people fear that Moscow could see the renouncement of the missile defense shield as a sign of weakness that encourages the Russians to pursue their interests elsewhere with tanks, like in Georgia. However, Obama will have many opportunities to show that the missile defense shield is not the yardstick for NATO's loyalty to the Poles and Czechs.... NATO could do maneuvers in the countries and if necessary set up bases there. NATO's new strategy should also take the fears of eastern Europeans into account.... Obama will have difficulty implementing his cooperative foreign policy if Europe as a whole does not support him." Die Welt (9/18) commented on its front-page: "One thing was certain in the past: America's Presidents come and go - but their foreign policies remain the same.... Obama is entering a new path and the direction is getting clearer... As expected, the U.S. government is saying goodbye to George W. Bush's plan to establish a missile defense shield in Central Europe. The reason is practical and fundamental... It is a further signal that Obama is pursuing a policy on Iran that is based on building confidence. And it fits in his ambitious project to create a world without nuclear weapons. It must be seriously asked whether this policy isn't naove and dangerous, also because disappointment is spreading in Central Europe." Under the headline "U-turn," Frankfurter Allgemeine (9/18) said in a front-page commentary: "There is no doubt that the decision has an enormous impact on foreign and security policy, not to speak of the style of communicating it [to Poland and the Czech Republic]. It will have an effect on the potential countries where it was supposed to be deployed. They had to take a lot of unpleasant criticism from their western neighbors, threats from Russia and skepticism among their own people when the topic of missile defense was hot under Bush. In the future when the next controversial topic is debated, they will think twice whether they should move so closely to the U.S. and take such risks." Frankfurter Rundschau (9/18) remarked: "Russia is a partner that the U.S. cannot ignore. Until the end of the year, both countries have to agree on renewing the START treaty if they want to avoid a new arms race. Russian President Medvedev has made clear what the price is: the U.S. must renounce the missile defense shield, return to the ABM treaty that builds mutual confidence and renounces missile defense systems. Iran seems to be playing only on the regional level. The renouncing of missile defense is not just a tactical move. It is a change of course. The leaders in Moscow should not be under the illusion that their toughness has paid off. However, Europeans can hope that Washington's current understanding for bearing global responsibility will continue." ¶3. (Afghanistan) Aftermath of Elections Many papers carried factual news reports on the events in Afghanistan, but the majority of them focused on the aftermath of BERLIN 00001158 003 OF 004 the airstrike near Kunduz and the elections and, in reports on the Karzai government's reaction to allegations of election fraud, mentioned that six Italian soldiers died in a suicide attack in Kabul. Frankfurter Allgemeine (9/18) headlined on its front page: "Many People killed in Attack on ISAF Soldiers in Kabul." In another report FAZ (9/18) wrote that "the death of six Italian soldiers of a unit based in Siena in a suicide attack in Kabul has caused a shock in Italy but has, for the time being, not resulted in a new debate over the [Italian] mission in Afghanistan." Tagesspiegel (9/18) headlined: "16 people Killed in Attack in Kabul - Six Italian Soldiers Die," and wrote: "This was the thus far most serious attack on the Italian forces in Afghanistan. Italy has sent 2,800 soldiers to the ISAF forces in the country. As of Thursday, 20 Italian soldiers have lost their lives in the mission." Sueddeutsche Zeitung (9/18) reported under the headline: "Serious Attack In Kabul - Six Italian Soldiers Dead - Karzai Defends Elections" that "In Italy, the death of the soldiers caused a shock and a new political debate over the Italian military engagement in Afghanistan." Editorial commentary, however, focused on the outcome of the presidential elections. Die Welt (9/18) demands: "Recount! Now," and judged: "In Berlin, the question of whether the re-election of Afghan President Karzai is credible or fraudulent has major domestic political significance. The question is not whether Afghanistan is ripe for democracy or whether a certain degree of corruption...is acceptable. The question is whether a fraudulent majority for Karzai offers the Taliban a lever to present themselves on the international stage as the political opposition against a corrupt regime and then get rid of the description 'terrorists.' If the Taliban are trying to be recognized as a party in the civil war and are able to refer to a fraudulent election, the government in Berlin could no longer use the argument that the Bundeswehr presence in Afghanistan as a 'stabilization mission,' not a 'war.' Hamid Karzai rejected the allegation that one quarter of the votes was falsified. The West must now examine this in the same resolute way as it did in Pakistan in 2008 after former ruler Musharraf suspended the parliamentary elections. If the West uses different yardsticks for Karzai than it used for Musharraf, the Taliban supporters will expand their assistance. And then it is only a small step to the foundation of a 'National Liberation Front' with which the Taliban could legitimize themselves internationally. That is why all votes should be recounted and, if necessary, new elections be held." According to Frankfurter Allgemeine (9/18), "people easily talked about a 'success' after the Afghan presidential elections...but the degree of egregious vote-rigging, which is now gradually coming to the fore, is surprising. What is even worse President Karzai is left looking like the main sinner. The international community that is supporting his government with financial means and supports him with 100,000 soldiers who are risking their lives for the country's survival on a daily basis is faced with a dilemma. It cannot continue to support him but cannot drop him either. The best way out is to give the election results the greatest possible legitimacy by reviewing them, if necessary also with a runoff election, even if it takes place early next year." ¶4. (Lebanon) Formation of New Government In an editorial Sueddeutsche (9/18) said: "The surprising thing about Lebanon is that life continues there even without a government. For more than three months now, the parties are unable to agree on a coalition. One reason is that the possible coalition parties recklessly pursue their own political and economic interests. Second, the neighboring states and the major powers are also involved in Lebanon. The opposition parties led by Hezbollah tend to look to Iran, which wants to enter into talks with the United States at the beginning of October. The Saudis and with them the Americans are strengthening prime minister-designate Hariri and BERLIN 00001158 004 OF 004 his team because Tehran's influence is to be contained in Lebanon, too. But these are not favorable prospects for an early agreement." MURPHY