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Highlights from the world's press

Compiled by Ravi Agrawal for CNN
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(CNN) -- Editorial pages from papers around the world continue to feature reactions and commentary on the recently released Iraq Study Group report.

The report said the U.S. should embark on a robust diplomatic effort to establish international support, including Iraq's neighbors Iran and Syria. The New York Times says the recommendation to talk to Iran seems so sensible that the Bush administration's past reluctance to follow it is hard to fathom.

"We should have engaged Iran in Iraq years ago. Before and during the war in Afghanistan, the Iranians were quite helpful to the United States. They shared our hatred of al Qaeda and the Taliban, and they provided us with extensive assistance on intelligence, logistics, diplomacy and Afghan internal politics. After we turned our sights on Saddam Hussein, the Iranians suggested that they would be willing to cooperate on that too. Unfortunately, the Bush administration declined the offer, preferring to lump Tehran with Baghdad and Pyongyang in the 'axis of evil.'"

In The Boston Globe, Peter Galbraith writes that the recommendation that U.S. combat forces be withdrawn is a step in the right direction, but it is unlikely the Bush administration will accept the proposal, and the newly Democratic Congress lacks the will and the votes to force a withdrawal.

"The panel's most publicized recommendation is for U.S. combat troops to be mostly withdrawn by 2008 with the remaining forces training and supporting the Iraqi Army and police. This seems to assume that Iraq's police and army are, or can be, neutral guarantors of public safety. In fact, they are Shiite or Sunni, and combatants in a civil war. The Shiite police include the death squads that have abducted, tortured and killed thousands of Sunnis. The Sunni police are insurgents or insurgent sympathizers. American training can make the Iraqi security forces more effective killers but it cannot make them loyal to the idea of an inclusive Iraq."

Pakistan's Dawn says the group's recommendation that the U.S. should engage Syria and Iran on Iraq is awkard "for an administration that has been pandering to the Zionist lobby so brazenly."

"This is a better way of putting the two countries' role in Iraq than describing it as "interference". How the Republican administration goes about implementing the recommendations remains to be seen. President George Bush's initial reaction after receiving the report on Wednesday was to say that it constituted "a tough assessment" of the Iraqi situation and that he would probably not agree "with every proposal". Nobody expects the White House to accept the report in its entirety, but the key point which represents the views of a majority of the American people is its insistence on troop withdrawal by the first quarter of 2008... Regrettably, the Bush administration has made no attempt to revive the roadmap, which the president himself had unveiled in April 2003, and has consistently supported Israel's refusal to talk to the elected Hamas government."

The Jerusalem Post wonders whether a single Iraqi, Jordanian, or Saudi with whom the committee spoke actually believes that Iran has an interest in averting a chaotic Iraq.

"On this, the ISG sages are right: rather than see Iraq disintegrate, Iran would be greatly pleased to see its neighbor ruled by an allied radical regime -- as Iran is currently attempting to also engineer in Lebanon and Syria, and even in Afghanistan and Gaza. What they fail to explain is why the policy they suggest would not further such an Iranian goal, in direct opposition to US interests. We can only hope that the unrealistic nature of such proposals will shock Americans from both parties out of their faddish swooning over the 'realist' camp."

Lebanon's Daily Star says the respective views of the Jewish state and the Islamic Republic speak volumes about how and why the U.S. has come to be deeply -- and calamitously -- involved in the Middle East.

"The bipartisan US panel rightly determined that many of Washington's challenges in Iraq stem from the fact that so few Arabs and Muslims trust America. It also acknowledged that this state of affairs is but a symptom of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a festering wound that has been infecting the rest of the region for decades. It has led, for instance, to problems like Israel's continuing occupation of the Golan Heights -- another issue that the report recommended addressing. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, whose country benefits in myriad ways from all forms of American largesse, summarily dismissed this line of reasoning, rejecting any "linkage" between Bush's mess in Iraq and his own in the Occupied Territories."

Iraq's Azzaman says it is doubtful the U.S. is capable of delivering first itself from the Iraqi quagmire and then the Iraqi people who have "borne the brunt to the gates of hell its invasion has unleashed."

"The U.S. administration must first define the concept of victory it wants to achieve in Iraq. In the lack of a proper definition, any strategy is doomed. The word 'victory' is so frequently used in the U.S. political rhetoric that it has almost lost its meanings. For example, U.S. officials call the opening of a hair dressing saloon led by a Muslim woman in Afghanistan a victory even if they are certain that the hapless woman will eventually lose her life as a result. And the talk of victory over 'terrorists' in Iraq has been these officials' mantra since the fall of the former regime. But they hide the fact that the country was free of all forms of their so-called terror."

In the UK, The Guardian poses the question why there is no British Iraq Study Group report, asking why Britain's war in Iraq -- its most protracted, costly, and savage war in half a century -- dance in attendance on events in Washington.

"The only remaining obligation on those who have brought Iraq to this pass is not to postpone this reorganisation and thus postpone the subsequent reconstruction of a civil society, presumably under some new dictatorship. It is doubtful if Syria or Iran or Saudi Arabia, let alone the west, can help. They can only hinder. But such help as Iraq's neighbours might offer will never be forthcoming as long as western troops remain in occupation. That era in Iraq is over. The sooner a new one can begin, the better."

Kashmir

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf said this week that he was willing to drop his country's demand for an independent Kashmir if the disputed region was given autonomy, with Delhi and Islamabad sharing sovereignty. In the UK, Nirpal Dhaliwal writes in The Times that the "Andorra solution" -- a reference to France and Spain's dual sovereignty over the state of Andorra -- only works because both nations are responsible democracies that can be trusted to act in good faith. Dhaliwal adds that the same cannot be said of Pakistan.

"It would be strategically dangerous and morally wrong for free and democratic India to cede control of its territory to a corrupt, despotic failing state that is infested with Islamofascism. How can Pakistan be trusted to help to govern Kashmir, when it has no record of good governance within its own borders? Like Iran's proclaimed solidarity with the Palestinians, Pakistan's stance on Kashmir is odious and hypocritical. Both states support 'freedom fighters' abroad (ie, they assist Islamic terrorist factions), while refusing to apply democracy and human rights at home."

The Times of India says while New Delhi's mistrust of Musharraf is understandable, it is in India's interest to see if it could improve upon Musharraf's formula.

"New Delhi should accept that the Kashmir dispute is not just an Indo-Pak issue, and the claim of Kashmiris for political autonomy, if not independence, can't be ignored. No dispute redressal mechanism can work at the ground unless the demand for political autonomy is accounted for. Any solution that doesn't propose redrawing of boundaries and transfer of people is worthy of consideration. The challenge is to reconcile the demand for self-governance with the proposal for a joint rule of India, Pakistan and Kashmir."


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Iraq Study Group co-chair James A. Baker testifies before a Senate committee.

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