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Washington's Puppets

European newspapers speculate on U.S. moves in the Middle East and fear that bridging differences between Europe and the America isn't in the cards.


The European press, parsed and pared.

The liberal London daily Guardian observes that U.S. President George W. Bush only referred to the completion of “major combat operations” in Iraq in the hopes that the U.S. will avoid having to fulfill a postwar occupying power's legal obligations. The Geneva Conventions require the immediate release of all Iraqi prisoners of war, something Washington is loathe to do.

For the Guardian, this is the latest example of how the U.S. and Britain have sought to “reshape, or ignore, international law in the course of the crisis.” And, adds the paper, this has set a precedent with “destabilizing implications for how states may behave in future disputes.”

The conservative Paris daily Le Figaro says Bush's success depends on combining the reconstruction of postwar Iraq with an overall new order in the Middle East. But the only way to do so is to resolve the cause of all other conflicts, the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, writes Le Figaro.

Munich’s Süddeutsche Zeitung agrees and declares that America’s credibility in the aftermath of the war depends on a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It’s this, and not Baghdad, that will decide the fate of the region, says the paper. But it won't do to simply invite the new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas to the White House. As long as there's no substance to the peace process, such an act of symbolism would only make Abbas -- who has says he rejects terrorism -- and the Intifada appear to be Washington's puppets.

Berlin's left-leaning taz stresses that as long as the U.S. maintains its role as absolutist, international police force, relations with Europe will continue to suffer. This will only change, it writes, if either Europe gives in to America, or America rethinks its policies and its underlying neoconservative ideology.

The Paris daily Le Monde , however, doesn’t expect much change in America’s hardline attitude to world politics. As a consequence -- and in the wake of the Iraq conflict -- the European Union must now ask itself what it would like to achieve as a unified body.

But as Britain and France continue to disagree, Le Monde points out that a common European defense policy is not possible without the cooperation of Britain and the partnership of the United States. And partnership requires a readiness for discussion.