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Highlights from the world's press

Compiled by Ravi Agrawal for CNN
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(CNN) -- The 142-page Iraq Study Group report was released yesterday, confronting U.S. President George W. Bush with a strong argument that his policy in Iraq is not working and that he must move toward disengagement. The New York Times says the study report was never going to change the basic facts that there is no victory to be had in Iraq, and however American troops withdraw, they will leave a deadly mess. The high profile group was commissioned by the U.S. Government and was led by James Baker and Lee Hamilton.

"The central point of the group's 79 unanimous recommendations is that Washington should focus far more aggressively on training Iraqi forces and prepare for a withdrawal of American troops. The report says all combat brigades could be out by early 2008, but that would still leave tens of thousands of soldiers behind to hold the Iraqi Army together... Make no mistake, the report is a stunning indictment of Mr. Bush's failure  in Iraq and no less in Washington. But its recommendations are still couched in language vague enough to allow the president to pretend it is the 'new way forward' his aides are now talking up, rather than a timetable for withdrawal, which is on Mr. Bush's no-go list."

In the UK, The Times says the group has produced a carefully crafted compromise designed to ensure consensus among its own membership rather than a precise plan for the Pentagon.

"[The report] is an effort to narrow the partisan differences on Iraq and enable, as electoral events have turned out, a Republican President and a Democratic Congress to co-operate. It is also a response to a change in the challenge that the United States faces on the ground. The principal problem there is no longer the damage that extremists can inflict on the U.S. military but the spread of sectarian strife."

The Washington Post says the Iraq Study Group -- just like the policy it was intended to critique -- has been overtaken by the unexpectedly rapid crumbling of the U.S. position in Iraq since the group was formed this March.

"It is beyond dispiriting that after 45 months of war an American official can think that this semi-genocidal conflict over the survival of groups divided about the meaning of God's will can now be dampened by clever economics. By what the ISG did not recommend -- e.g., many more troops and much more money -- it recognized that the deterioration is beyond much remediation."

In another editorial in the same paper, David Ignatius says the report achieved the goal of any blue-ribbon commission by emphatically stating the obvious.

"This report asks the world to help us find our way back home. Even if its proposals don't succeed, the Baker-Hamilton report can still accomplish its purpose, to 'enable the United States to begin to move its combat forces out of Iraq responsibly.'"

The Atlantic Monthly says that read carefully, the report is a tough, intricate policy statement -- albeit with serious flaws.

"The document's core strategy, as the Group admits, is imperfect. It calls for changing the military mission from combat to the support of Iraqi security forces by 2008, even as we and the Iraqi government immediately launch what it labels a 'New Diplomatic Initiative' in the Middle East."

Blair in the U.S.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair visits Washington D.C. today, and British newspaper The Independent says despite the publication of the Iraq Study Group report yesterday, it is unlikely U.S. President Bush will look to Blair to help develop a new exit strategy from Iraq.

"Bush has never, to anyone's knowledge, sought Blair's independent view. He has always seen the British Prime Minister not as a partner, but as a loyal and dependable ally willing to fall into line whatever Washington decides upon. And that, as far as everyone who has witnessed their meetings, is exactly how Blair has behaved... When the two men meet today, it will not be as two statesmen filled with new purpose and fresh ideas. It will be two tired and now redundant politicians, propping each other up with the forlorn hope it won't all end up quite as badly as they now suspect it will."

The Boston Globe speculates how special the "special relationship" between the U.S. and the UK really is: the paper says that for all his fervent loyalty and the trans-Atlantic admiration it once inspired, Blair has never really understood America -- nor how little he and his country now matter in U.S. calculations.

"With only months left in office, the British prime minister is frantically seeking a 'legacy,' which he sees in the form of a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict... But he should have noticed by now that, despite the occasional American gesture, it is on Palestine that he is most at odds with Bush, and least likely to find his friendship reciprocated... It is painfully clear that Blair got very little if anything in return for his unconditional support of Bush. As [political analyst Kendall Myers] grimly said, 'Nothing. No payback, no sense of reciprocity in the relationship.'... By a nice irony, the final and public recognition that the special relationship is a myth that itself needs to be parked will be the true legacy of Tony Blair's prime ministership."

Crisis in Fiji

In Fiji this week, a slow-motion coup came to a head on Tuesday as the military was led to take control of the country by renegade commander Commodore Frank Bainimarama. The Australian says this is just another example of a crisis of governance throughout the Pacific.

"From East Timor to Tonga, constitutional governments are falling apart and societies breaking down... With a few exceptions, the region's island nations are a shambles. Papua New Guinea is a disaster in humanitarian and law enforcement terms. East Timor is in disarray after the unrest of earlier this year. The Solomon Islands is an all-but-failed state, having seen its prime minister ousted this year. Pro-democracy riots in Tonga last month left much of the capital in ruins."

India's Hindu has denounced the coup in Fiji, saying it cannot be justified on any grounds.

"There might be an element of truth in the allegation that the Government was corrupt and chauvinistic. However, the fact remains it was returned to power in May 2006 with the support of a large majority of Fijians. In fact, Commodore Bainimarama put his compatriots on notice, nearly a year before the election, that the military would take over if the civilian leadership did not mend its ways. Against this background, the strong electoral endorsement of the Qarase regime could not be read as anything other than a signal that the Fijian people preferred a democratic dispensation. Commander Bainimarama has promised to surrender within a week the presidential powers he usurped but will he be able to do that? This is not the first time a military dictator in some part of the world has invoked the 'doctrine of necessity.'"

In an editorial today, The Fiji Times describes how it was ordered by the military on Tuesday night to suspend publication and not publish any "propaganda" against the new political leadership.

"Although the army admitted yesterday it had made a mistake and apologised for it, the newspaper, like any other responsible media organisation, would continue at all times to champion the constitutional right to freedom of speech and would do all it could to defend it. Any threat to this right is a threat to democracy and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."



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