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Home / Press review / Archive / Press review | 06/08/2012



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Syrian rebels kidnap Iranians

A Syrian rebel group published video footage in which it accuses the Iranian captives of espionage. (© AP/dapd)


Syrian rebels apparently abducted 48 Iranians on Saturday. According to reports from a Saudi broadcaster, the captives are members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Iranian state media report by contrast that they belong to a group of pilgrims. The incident reveals the Assad regime's dependency on Tehran, which will ultimately be the dictator's downfall, commentators write.

Der Standard - Austria

Ties to Iran will be Assad's downfall

Assad's regime is locked in a firm embrace with Iran that in the end will be its downfall, the left-liberal daily Der Standard comments: "In political terms the conflict in Syria may still be termed a 'non-international armed conflict' - that is, a civil war: international participation is still limited to external support for the government or the rebels. However the climate is changing, particularly regarding the role played by Iran. Tehran admits outright that it is defending its own interests in Syria; that it's about the 'resistance' in the region. That's why Iran supports Assad. But the opposite is also true: Assad is fighting for Iran. Contrary to what Western and Arab diplomats have been trying to achieve for years, he has not let himself be disentangled from Iran's embrace. Ultimately that will be his undoing, because it is the prime motive for action on the part of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.” (06/08/2012)

La Repubblica - Italy

Tehran doesn't want to lose Damascus

The abduction of 48 Iranians in Syria shows that Tehran is doing everything it can to avoid losing Damascus, the left-liberal daily La Repubblica writes: "The Iranians are hoping to consolidate their religious bond with the Syrian Shiites and Alawites through pilgrimages. Because for Iran, Syria is not just a strategic partner but also the land of its religious brothers, even though the latter are only a minority there. Iran sees itself as the centre of a religious community, and therefore its role as protector of that community is vital in the battle for supremacy. ... Regardless whether Pasdaran [members of the Revolutionary Guard] were among the pilgrims or not, it is more than likely that the Revolutionary Guard has its 'military observers' in the country. Because Tehran can't lose Damascus. It may well be that the true Pasdaran are elsewhere, but with the kidnapping the radical Sunnis want to expose the role of Tehran in the conflict." (06/08/2012)

Süddeutsche Zeitung - Germany

The three wars in Syria

Three wars are raging in Syria, writes the left-liberal daily Süddeutsche Zeitung: "In the beginning it was the battle of a dictator against the impoverished section of the population that is struggling for freedom and dignity. … The second war is being fought between Syria's ethnic and religious groups. The majority of Sunnis - but by no means all of them - oppose the Alawite, Christian and Shiite minorities that have established themselves in power in Syria. … Outside of Syria however, a major geopolitical trial of strength is taking place, the outcome of which will determine the civil war. Washington and Europe are up against Moscow and Beijing in the UN Security Council in an absurd re-run of the Cold War. The Saudis, Qataris and Turks are doing the dirty work, aligning themselves with the US and Israel against would-be nuclear power Iran and inflating the never-ending conflict between Sunnis and Shiites for dominance of the Middle East region into a factor in global politics." (04/08/2012)

Libération - France

International community must help opposition

The situation in the Syrian city of Aleppo is coming to a head: the army is reinforcing its troops in the fight against the rebels and there are media reports of violent excesses on both sides. The international community can no longer sit back and watch the cruelty of the Assad regime, writes the left-liberal daily Libération: "Nothing seems to be able to stop the massacre in the country's second largest city. ... Diplomacy threw in the towel long ago, as Kofi Annan's resignation last week demonstrated. Russia and China continue to protect Assad's hold on power. Can the world really do nothing to save Aleppo and the people of Syria? Can we remain passive while the Russian and Iranian patrons continue to arm and finance the regime? Is it not possible for the world in general and the France of François Hollande in particular to choose a third path between inactivity and a legally impossible and strategically perilous foreign intervention, namely to provide the opposition with political and military support? If only to avoid handing the final victory to the Islamists." (05/08/2012)


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Ependytis - Greece

Europe takes a break from the crisis

The business paper Ependytis is surprised to see how passively the leaders of the Eurozone are behaving this month even though the future of the Monetary Union is at stake: "They act like nothing important is going on. As if there weren't urgent tasks to be fulfilled, as if the existence of the Eurozone, which they so eagerly defend, did not hang in the balance. Let's just let August go by without doing anything; we'll get down to real business in September! We'll let Greece sweat a bit, and Italy and Spain too, with their spiralling credit costs, … and little Cyprus can stew under a tough austerity package as punishment for its sins. It's enough that good habits aren't being broken: the summer holidays of the elite, the lack of action. ... Europe goes on holiday in August, but not the Europeans, or not all of the them. Europe takes a break while the Europeans worry. Europe sleeps while the Europeans have nightmares. The European leaders are recovering from the exertions of their indecisiveness." (05/08/2012)

De Volkskrant - Netherlands

Eurozone fighting a losing battle

According to its international creditors Greece has made progress in its efforts to cut spending and must now persevere with this course of action. After the troika's visit to Athens its latest report is expected for the end of September. But the verdict is already clear, because a bankrupt Greece is taboo, writes cultural historian Thomas van der Dunk in the left-liberal daily De Volkskrant: "Apart from all the chaos, a bankruptcy would also mean that other European countries wouldn't get back the money they have lent the country. And more importantly: Europe's politicians would be forced to concede this and admit that they were wrong - first and foremost [Dutch Finance Minister] Jan Kees de Jager. This would be an enormous psychological setback for the proponents of stronger European integration and grist to the mill of the eurosceptics and populists: the voter would see that they were right. For these reasons this step is being delayed as long as possible. Athens, too, knows this. It's like with the generals in the First World War: continuing to fight is pointless but they can't admit it. Because otherwise all the sacrifices would have been in vain. So they soldier on." (06/08/2012)

Lietuvos žinios - Lithuania

Fears about the end of the Baltic states

During an appearance on a Latvian TV programme Latvia's president Andris Bērziņš on Tuesday expressed doubts about whether the three Baltic states would survive unless they start cooperating more closely with each other. Writing for the conservative daily Lietuvos žinios political scientist Kęstutis Girnius notes a lack of clarity in his remarks: "The statements made by the Latvian president are dramatic, but it remains unclear what he meant by them in concrete terms. I don't believe he is contemplating the establishment of a political union or a federation. Such and option wouldn't be acceptable to any of the Baltic countries at present. They see themselves as individual nation states. … Bērziņš mentioned economic interests. Perhaps he believes that without closer economic cooperation the Baltic states won't thrive, that people will continue to leave in droves and that domestic tensions and above all national hostilities will be stirred up in these states. In this respect Latvia is the weakest country of the Baltic region." (06/08/2012)

Dagens Nyheter - Sweden

Wallenberg too awkward for Sweden

On the weekend Sweden celebrated the 100th anniversary of diplomat Raoul Wallenberg's birth, who saved thousands of Jews in Hungary at the end of World War II. The Swedish government made little effort to free Wallenberg from the Soviet imprisonment in which he probably died in 1947. The liberal daily Dagens Nyheter explains why: "Raoul Wallenberg didn't fit in with the Swedish neutrality policy, either during or after the Second World War. While the Swedish government granted Hitler's Germany far-reaching powers, there was a young Swede that joined the battle against totalitarianism. Wallenberg raised awkward questions about Sweden and National Socialism. He risked opening up a wound in Sweden's history and disrupting the increasingly charged and moralising rhetoric of those who were in charge of the country's foreign policy." (06/08/2012)


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Hospodárske noviny - Slovakia

Draghi tangles with Germany

The head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, came in for massive criticism on the weekend - particularly in Germany - over his propoals for a greater role for the ECB in the euro bailout. And it's no wonder, writes the business paper Hospodarske noviny: "Already at the start of last week Germany declared that it didn't agree with Draghi's plans because they overstep the ECB's mandate. ... This forced Draghi to capitulate. And he has yet to propose any genuinely concrete steps. Whereas the markets were still on the upswing before his press conference, the euro quickly lost two percent after it amid widespread disappointment. And it was even worse for Draghi himself. He gambled away his credibility by saying things without consulting Germany beforehand. And Germany, it would seem, is still firmly in control of the development of the euro crisis." (06/08/2012)

Expansión - Spain

Systemic error in Spain's federalism

After the insolvency of several Spanish autonomous communities a debate has broken out about reforming the country's federalism. The varying level of autonomy among the regions is a serious birth defect of the present system that will be difficult to remedy, Francism Cabrillo of the think tank Civismo writes in the conservative business paper Expansión: "As the years pass it becomes increasingly clear that the special status regarding fiscal prerogative accorded to the autonomous communities of Navarre and the Basque Country represents a fundamental flaw in the current constitution. … The major problem with our strange form of federalism lies not in the lesser or greater extent of decentralisation or the varying degrees of competences for the different autonomous communities. It lies in the fact that we have created a system that grants privileges to certain communities over others. At the same time it leaves the central government in a weakened position vis-à-vis the communities, which collect all the tax revenues and then reach a 'deal' with the central government as to how much they contribute to the upkeep of the national public sector." (06/08/2012)

Adevârul - Romania

Political chaos hurting Romanians

Romania's Constitutional Court has moved its decision on the validity of the referendum on the impeachment of President Traian Băsescu forward to August 31. The court's announcement that the decision on the referendum's validity wouldn't be made until September had already led to a further devaluation of the country's currency, the leu, the daily Adevărul complains: "Millions of voters were summoned to the polls only for the government to call its own referendum into question - because it sees that its 'goal' has not been achieved. Over eight million voters participated in this national muddle, and no one can tell them yet whether their vote has changed anything or not. ... This is both hilarious and tragic, because so much is riding on it. And every one of us can feel the pain. We all have to pay sums in euros - be it loan repayments or telephone bills - and feel the weakness of the leu. The national bank must waste additional hundreds of million euros to counteract the negative trends on the currency markets. Added to that, our reputation with all those who thought serious business could be done in Romania has taken a severe blow." (06/08/2012)


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Kaleva - Finland

Full voting rights for immigrants, too

Local elections will take place in Finland in October, and once again immigrants will be able to cast their ballots. If these voters are to participate actively in local politics, they should also be able to vote in national elections in the future, writes the liberal daily Kaleva: "It is one of the basic tenets of Western democracy that citizens have a general and equal right to vote, regardless of their race, creed or other factors. Immigrants only enjoy this right in local elections. But if they were to participate actively on the local level, it would be good for democracy and their civic engagement. This is all the more important as their numbers swell. In future it could prove difficult to come up with a reason for why immigrants should not take part in all levels of the decision-making process." (06/08/2012)


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The Independent - United Kingdom

Olympia puts riots in the past

Exactly a year ago heavy riots broke out in London's outlying districts. The left-liberal daily The Independent notes that the successful Olympic Games have helped the city and its image take a turn for the better: "The London Olympics, whatever else can be said about them, have shown Britain's sunnier side to the world. The thousands of hopeful, helpful volunteers who at times outnumber the visitors looking for directions are the other face of British youth. They have demonstrated that young people can be altruistic, community-minded, and kindly. As for the organisational triumph of the Olympics, it shows a London that is as different as possible from the out-of-control streets that we saw last year. The security operation, in which the army and police have made good the limitations of private operators, has been remarkable for its friendly efficiency. The forces of law and order are patently in control, as they seemed not to be a year ago. Where the riots presented an ugly and fractured aspect of Britain, the Games are an advertisement for the opposite. This is a time when society feels whole." (05/08/2012)

Rzeczpospolita - Poland

Waste no money on weak Olympians

Polish athletes have only won four medals at the Olympic Games in London, even though the Polish government supported the preparations to the tune of 130 million złoty (32 million euros). Support for Olympic athletes must be overhauled, the conservative daily Rzeczpospolita demands: "The defeats in the first rounds and the absurd mix-ups are more firmly planted in the memory than the medals. For example, our boxing federation didn't know when the pre-fight weigh-in would be held although only a single female boxer was competing. It is also very difficult to understand why the Venezuelan fencer [Rubén Limardo], who has lived in Łódź for years and has a Polish trainer, wins gold, while our fencers have come home empty handed for the first time since 1976. ... It would be better to just support those athletes who stand a chance of winning a medal. Otherwise we'll just be throwing money out the window every two years at the Olympic Games." (06/08/2012)

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung - Germany

Athlete's choice of partner is a private matter

The German rower Nadja Drygalla left the Olympic Games on Thursday night after it was revealed that she is in a relationship with a neo-Nazi. Ever since, the German media have been discussing whether it is permissible for Olympic icons to have ties to members of the far-right scene. The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung sees the public condemnation of the athlete as unfair: "Hardly anyone has bothered to ask what sin Nadja Drygalla has committed - and whether an athlete should be repudiated simply owing to her choice of partner. This is poking around in the fog - and in the private life of a young athlete. A girl falls in love with a boy. What they have in common is a matter of speculation: perhaps their love of rowing, which her partner also used to do. And what else? Their views? There has been no evidence of this so far. … In London, too, efforts were made to stress that Nadja Drygalla adhered 'to the tenets of the Basic Law' and had professed her commitment to the 'values of the Olympic charter'. Until the contrary has been proven society must put up with the athlete's choice of partner." (06/08/2012)

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