US Press: pick of the papers

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

1. Romney Wins Iowa Caucus by 8 Votes (New York Times)

In the first Republican contest of the season, the top two candidates were separated by only a sliver of votes, offering Rick Santorum a chance to emerge as the alternative to Mitt Romney, writes Jeff Zeleny.

2. Pull the parachute (Boston Globe)

Jeff Jacoby argues that with Congress's approval rating barely above single digits, you might think support for a modest one-time Congressional pay cut would be a no-brainer.

3. California Legislature has plenty to do in 2012 (San Fransciso Chronicle)

California legislators passed, and Gov. Jerry Brown signed, 745 measures last year, but they still left themselves plenty of critical work to do, argues this Editorial.

4. A small sign of progress toward Mideast peace (Washington Post)

Envoys meet, but the odds remain against real movement toward a deal, signals the Editorial Board.

5. Legal Fight for Mother of Suspect in Arsons (New York Times)

Investigators are looking into the possibility that the man accused in an arson spree acted because his mother faced the prospect of being sent back to Germany, writes Ian Lovett.

6. Iran threatens U.S. ships, alarms oil markets (Washington Post)

U.S. officials attribute Tuesday's harsh language to Iran's growing frustration over its faltering economy Joby Warrick and Steven Mufson write.

7. China Takes Aim at U.S. Naval Might (Wall Street Journal) ($)

China is building a new class of ballistic missiles designed to arc through the stratosphere and explode onto the deck of a U.S. aircraft carrier, potentially forcing U.S. carriers to stay farther away from its shores argue Julian E. Barnes, Nathan Hodge and Jeremy Page.

8. Post-Iowa, GOP prospects promising (Washington Times)

Grover G. Norquist argues that what matters now is what each candidate would do within the executive branch. 'Will they commit to undo the Obama and Bill Clinton (and some George W. Bush) executive orders that expanded government?' he asks.

9. The high art of disenfranchisement (Miami Herald)

The Miami Herald Editorial believe the Justice Department should start in Florida on its review of new voting laws, rights restoration.

10. Minnesota must battle against anti-Somali bigotry (Star Tribune)

Hussein Samatar is concerned that Somalis are being singled out in Minnesota.

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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.