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Europe

European Press Review: The Fog of War Continues to Cloud Judgement in Iraq

European editorialists take a skeptical look at the various accounts of skirmishes in the Iraqi city of Samaar that left a reported 54 Iraqis dead.

London's left-wing Guardian took a skeptical look at the accounts of what happened in the Iraqi city of Samarra, where the U.S. Army said 54 "enemy combatants" were killed in ambushes on troops, with only five American dead. The fog surrounding the truth of the incident is emblamatic of the problems in sketching out the big picture in Iraq which the Guardian wrote is notoriously hard to see. The battle for "hearts and minds" in Iraq continues to be a losing one, just before the all-important phase of transferring power to Iraqi hands is about to begin.

France’s Le Monde was skeptical of versions of the story from the American military, which claims an estimated 54 Iraqi insurgents were killed in fierce battles with US troops. Only eight bodies have so far been found. The daily asked where the bodies were being stored and was not satisfied with a U.S. Army colonel’s vague answer that "we don’t linger around to clean up the mess..."

London’s Financial Times wrote that the battle in Samarra illustrates the main frustration of American military commanders since they launched a stepped-up military offensive against insurgent forces three weeks ago – they are not sure exactly whom they are fighting. It added that US-led coalition forces are fighting blind and struggling to understand the guerrilla fighters who are bringing mounting bloodshed to Iraq.

The French Catholic newspaper, La Croix commented that for the Americans and their allies in Iraq, the six weeks of initial combat has now turned into a long and lingering war. The past few weeks have seemed to reveal that there is definitely an organized and efficient resistance to the American’s presence in Iraq, commented the daily. It added that the Americans have little choice – they cannot leave Iraq without disgracing and dishonoring themselves, but they can’t stay without expecting to take in more casualties.

Meanwhile, London’s Times wrote that the recent wave of arrests on terror suspects in Britain underlines the serious threat posed by the extremist element within the British Muslim community. At the same time the justifiable worry by law-abiding Muslims has grown, it wrote. Muslim leaders have a duty to condemn extremism, commented the daily, and added that British citizens must make sure that violence and extremism does not find a place in their religious communities -- Muslims must not tolerate intolerance.