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Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S., Afghanistan, Lebanon

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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

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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

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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

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his team because Tehran's influence is to be contained in Lebanon,
too. But these are not favorable prospects for an early agreement."


MURPHY

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