US Press: pick of the papers

The ten must-read opinion pieces from today's US papers.

1. In Iraq, a man of the shadows (Washington Post)

Is Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki - suspicious eyes, wary demeanor, brows furrowed by years living in the underground - really the face of today's Iraq? Unfortunately, the answer is yes, and America helped make it that way, writes David Ignatius.

2. Cuba restrictions: bad on policy, bad on tactics (St. Petersburg Times)

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami is using thousands of Cuban-American families as pawns in a game of chicken with Democrats and President Barack Obama over next year's federal budget.

3. Save marriage: let gays wed (Washington Post)

It might be up to gay men and lesbians to save marriage, according to Jonathan Capehart.

4. What Wyden-Ryan hath wrought (Washington Post)

Matt Miller explains why the new Wyden-Ryan Medicare framework is the most fascinating policy and political maneuver of the year.

5. The 'hot mess' of politics (Los Angeles Times)

Political figures including Gingrich are lucky Americans' tolerance for screw-ups is fairly high, according to Meghan Daum.

6. Republicans and Democrats play games with payroll tax cut (New York Daily News)

Both parties need to get their heads out of the schoolyard and into the public interest.

7. Huge odds that Newt comes up snake eyes (Boston Herald)

Newt Gingrich provided on Monday redundant evidence for the proposition that he is the least conservative candidate seeking the Republican nomination, writes George F. Will.

8. The great eight: attacks to remember (Politico)

The Republican presidential field's long nightmare is almost over, writes Maggie Haberman.

9. Mayor Bloomberg rightly takes aim at online gun sales (New York Daily News)

Anonymous Internet cash business puts weapons in criminals' hands, no questions asked.

10. A United States of Europe? (Los Angeles Times)

There are uncanny similarities between the current round of wheeling and dealing and the founding of the United States of America. Bruce Ackerman asks whether we are witnessing the birth of the United States of Europe.

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Britain is running out of allies as it squares up to Russia

For whatever reason, Donald Trump is going to be no friend of an anti-Russia foreign policy.

The row over Donald Trump and that dossier rumbles on.

Nothing puts legs on a story like a domestic angle, and that the retired spy who compiled the file is a one of our own has excited Britain’s headline writers. The man in question, Christopher Steele, has gone to ground having told his neighbour to look after his cats before vanishing.

Although the dossier contains known errors, Steele is regarded in the intelligence community as a serious operator not known for passing on unsubstantiated rumours, which is one reason why American intelligence is investigating the claims.

“Britain's role in Trump dossier” is the Telegraph’s splash, “The ‘credible’ ex-MI6 man behind Trump Russia report” is the Guardian’s angle, “British spy in hiding” is the i’s splash.

But it’s not only British headline writers who are exercised by Mr Steele; the Russian government is too. “MI6 officers are never ex,” the Russian Embassy tweeted, accusing the UK of “briefing both ways - against Russia and US President”. “Kremlin blames Britain for Trump sex storm” is the Mail’s splash.

Elsewhere, Crispin Blunt, the chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, warns that relations between the United Kingdom and Russia are as “bad as they can get” in peacetime.

Though much of the coverage of the Trump dossier has focused on the eyecatching claims about whether or not the President-Elect was caught in a Russian honeytrap, the important thing, as I said yesterday, is that the man who is seven days from becoming President of the United States, whether through inclination or intimidation, is not going to be a reliable friend of the United Kingdom against Russia.

Though Emanuel Macron might just sneak into the second round of the French presidency, it still looks likely that the final choice for French voters will be an all-Russia affair, between Francois Fillon and Marine Le Pen.

For one reason or another, Britain’s stand against Russia looks likely to be very lonely indeed.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.