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European Press Review: Blindly Pushing Ahead

European editorials on Tuesday also commented on the situation in Iraq.

The question has been debated by experts for months: Whose side will the new Iraqi police force and army take during the conflict? The answer has been one of the most shocking for U.S. forces in Iraq, said Der Standard in Vienna. Things became clear once a battalion that was supposed to help American forces in Falluja refused, saying it didn’t sign up to fight other Iraqis. Another pillar in Washington’s plans for Iraq has collapsed, the paper concluded.

Switzerland’s Basler Zeitung wrote that the June 30 date for handing over power is looming ever closer. The paper thinks U.S. President George W. Bush is pushing ahead with his eyes closed. The fact is, he doesn’t have any other choice, noted the paper. Bush can’t pull out now because it would be a blow to him and his country. The superpower can’t show any signs of weakness because the consequences for Iraq and the region would be incalculable.

Bush’s strongest supporter in the war, British Prime Minister Tony Blair has also argued that retreating now from Iraq would be endless and it would be endlessly punished. Who could disagree, Britain’s The Guardian commented. But the problem of course is that so many people do. The paper took the middle ground and wrote that observers in Iraq acknowledge things are likely to get worse before they get better. However, it’s important not to exaggerate how bad things are or to miss the genuine signs that they may eventually get better.

Washington’s tone over Iraq is changing. It’s admitted there’s a crisis there following heavy losses to American troops, observed the French paper Sud-Ouest. Above all the Bush administration recognizes that coalition troops are not just fighting Sunnis in Iraq but the Shi-ites as well, the ones who were oppressed under dictator Saddam Hussein and should have been America’s natural allies in the country, the paper noted. With this in mind, the planned handover of power to Iraqis in less than three months time might at best cause civil war between the Sunnis, Shi-ites and Kurds in the country. But the paper thought the worst case scenario would be if Iraq was handed over to the fundamentalists.

The U.S. is paying a high price for it’s mistakes in Iraq, wrote Oslo’s Aftenposten. It’s becoming obvious that President Bush and his advisors didn’t have a comprehensive plan once Saddam Hussein was removed. As long as there is unrest in the country, its oil industry can’t be repaired and modernized, something the economy there badly needs.