While President Bush has said little about what will happen in the Middle East when the war is over, foreign journalists in Washington stressed the need for postwar stability in the region.
"The real battle in the region is just starting now," Taran Yavuz, Washington correspondent for the Turkish newspaper Milliyet, at a forum held this week at American University.In Israel, the war has divided the public, according to Yoel Esteron, the Washington bureau chief for Hadashot. "The Scuds (that fell) on Tel Aviv and Haifa reminded many Israelis that it is not only a Palestinian-Israeli question, but also an Arab-Israeli question," Esteron said.
For some Israelis the bombings have hardened sentiment against Palestinians, he said, while others have concluded that, "the real chance not to have gas masks on your children in the middle of the night is to make peace."
"I am not worried about the future of Saddam Hussein - if there is any future - but I am worried about Iraq and about the Iraqis," said Hamdi Fouad, Washington bureau chief of Al-Ahram, Egypt's official state newspaper. Fouad said that because Saddam had kept Iraq together since taking over the presidency in 1979, "If Saddam goes, there will be major problems in Iraq."
Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev's failed attempt to broker peace agreement positions the Soviets well for influencing the postwar Middle East settlements, several journalists stressed. "The Soviet Union is in an excellent position," Yavuz said. "The main aim of Gorbachev was to show the world that the Soviet Union was a superpower."
However, the Turkish reporter added, "I think George Bush will get even with Gorbachev in the Baltics."
Peter Stothard, Washington bureau chief of The Times of London, said Gorbachev "was doing exactly what you would expect a new-world-order Soviet leader to do. I thought the most curious thing about it was how outraged everybody was about it."
"They want to prove that this new world order can never be built "without a major card to be played by the Soviet Union," Fouad said.
Vladimir Nadeine, Washington correspondent for Izvestia, referred to Iraq's Scud attack on an American military barrack in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, on Monday. He said there is a feeling of "great sadness that Soviet-made missiles killed 28 Americans."
He added that uprisings in the Baltic states were one of the domestic considerations that motivated Gorbachev to introduce the peace initiative. Nadeine said Gorbachev was hopeful that pushing for an end to the war would encourage the United States to look the other way in his handling of domestic unrest.
The journalists also discussed press coverage of the war. "The most important thing is that the official censorship machinery won," said Yavuz, referring to American and Iraqi censorship. Most importantly, he added, the American and Israeli military offered very narrow interpretation of which military information should be classified.
"We journalists are in desperate need for facts," said Klaus Juergen Haller, Washington bureau chief for two German radio stations.
"This kind of censorship does not prevent the truth from coming up, but it delays it somewhat."