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Viewing cable 09BERLIN1158, MEDIA REACTION: U.S., AFGHANISTAN, LEBANON

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09BERLIN1158 2009-09-18 12:12 2011-01-13 05:05 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Berlin
VZCZCXRO9064
RR RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHLZ
DE RUEHRL #1158/01 2611235
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 181235Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY BERLIN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5236
INFO RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUCNFRG/FRG COLLECTIVE
RUEHBS/AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS 1546
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0238
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0761
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 2286
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 1293
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 0479
RHMFIUU/HQ USAFE RAMSTEIN AB GE
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE//J5 DIRECTORATE (MC)//
RHMFISS/CDRUSAREUR HEIDELBERG GE
RUKAAKC/UDITDUSAREUR HEIDELBERG GE
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