Missiles against the Assad regime: What comes next?

The US has hailed the airstrikes it carried out in Syria together with Britain and France as a success, claiming that they have considerably reduced the Assad regime's ability to produce chemical weapons. Journalists speculate on what comes next - with Iran in particular in mind.

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Novi list (HR) / 17 April 2018

Iran is the next target

The US attack in Syria was not directed at Russia but at Iran, Novi list posits:

“The US missiles weren't just a warning to Putin but also to Iran, whose Shiite militias control Syria with Russian backing. ... In the context of the US's announced withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran and the arrival in the White House of Bush's hardliner John Bolton, who believes that only an airstrike can solve the problem with Iran, the situation is growing increasingly tense. And it is becoming clear that Syria is just a means with which Washington is seeking to achieve its goals in Iran, perhaps even through a military intervention.”

Helsingin Sanomat (FI) / 18 April 2018

Riyadh and Tehran on the verge of open conflict

Helsingin Sanomat also examines what the airstrikes might mean for the US's current Middle East policy:

“There have been no comprehensive efforts for a peace process. Apart from the airstrike the US doesn't want to be active in any way, and is instead letting the countries in the region do the fighting. The use of chemical weapons will be punished but attacks on civilians with conventional weapons can continue, Bashar al-Assad may well assume. If the Syrian government now attempts to break the rebels' resistance, this could strengthen Iran's position in the region. That could be the dreaded spark that turns the differences of opinion between Iran and Saudi Arabia into an open conflict.”

Radio Kommersant FM (RU) / 17 April 2018

Assad gains ground until next chemical attack

Radio Kommersant believes the events of recent months could be repeated:

“Until the next chemical attack or a provocation that simulates such an attack, the Syrian war will continue to unfold in the same favourable scenario for Damascus that has existed for the past few months: the gradual liquidation of the remaining opposition enclaves, many of which no longer exist. But there is the danger that this wasn't the last crisis of this kind. It's clear how people in the Western capitals will react to new reports of real or fake chemical attacks: reflexively, without deliberation and certainly without the presumption of innocence, because it doesn't apply for Assad. But unfortunately in view of the escalating tensions between Moscow and Washington there are no guarantees that a new 'chemical crisis' would be overcome as smoothly as the current one.”

Deutsche Welle (RO) / 16 April 2018

Embarrassing and counterproductive

The US needn't boast about its intervention, explains Petre Iancu of German broadcaster Deutsche Welle's Romanian Service:

“Such a mild reaction to the barbarity of a chemical attack - first giving warning and then sparing Russian targets - is odd, ridiculous, and embarrassing. And if the military action supposed to serve as a warning not to resort to weapons of mass destruction, it could even be counterproductive. If that's all the West can come up with, then Putin and his allies will actually feel emboldened. All the more so given that this modest military strike, which hasn't really weakened Assad's troops and monstrous regime, provoked shrill pacifist protest from left and right-wing extremists as well as Putin supporters in the West.”

Daily Sabah (TR) / 17 April 2018

Only a partial success

Daily Sabah also remains unconvinced that the strike was effective:

“After all, the only good outcome of this operation was to make sure that the Syrian regime will not be able to use chemical agents again. Besides, the operation prevented Iran from enlarging its influence zone in Syria. Nevertheless, it is hard to see, in the short run, what the operation's result will be with regard to the People's Protection Units (YPG) or the Free Syrian Army (FSA). It is hard to see, too, if this operation will make sure that no more Syrians will die in this war, if displaced people will be able to return home, or if the normalization of the region is nearer. In other words, perhaps the strategic 'mission' is accomplished, but the humanitarian one is nowhere to be seen.”

Il Manifesto (IT) / 17 April 2018

The West destroyed evidence

Richard Falk, a former UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur in the Palestinian territories, is highly critical of the airstrike in the left-leaning daily Il Manifesto:

“This time too, in a dangerous race against time unreflected decisions were made despite the credible voices of dissent that were also coming from UN sources. So the most cynical of all reasons for the airstrikes in Syria is exposed: destroying the evidence that might incriminate a government other than the Syrian one. The timing of the strike also raises suspicions. Rapid and accelerated so as to make sure that the OPCW [Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] inspectors wouldn't have time to verify anything. Trump's 'mission accomplished' harks back to the speech delivered by George W. Bush on the victory in Iraq in 2003. Bush paid a high price for his action.”

Kauppalehti (FI) / 17 April 2018

Sanctions perhaps the better option

Kauppalehti asks whether sanctions are the right way to bring Russia to back down in Syria:

“Over the last year the Russian economy has already showed signs of recovery. Nevertheless the rouble and the stock markets reacted violently to the most recent sanctions, and the Russian economy could well drift into recession once more. If that happens countries that do business with Russia would also suffer. The war in Syria has already lasted far too long. A solution must be found. If the goal is to put pressure on the warring parties, economic sanctions are perhaps more effective than airstrikes, but negotiations would be better still. The Syria war must not become a trial of strength between the major international powers.”

Eesti Päevaleht (EE) / 17 April 2018

Use France's Middle East expertise

Eesti Päevaleht also stresses that there can only be a diplomatic solution to the war in Syria:

“It's a paradox that more comprehensive intervention would be unreasonable. In this century US military intervention has only led to even greater chaos. Nevertheless the West can't just sit back and watch as events unfold in Syria, because the Islamist extremists and the floods of refugees must be kept in check. There can be no military solution to the war in Syria. What is needed to establish peace in the wake of the attacks is a comprehensive diplomatic initiative. Here France could indeed play a constructive role - as a state that has both competence and contacts in the Middle East.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) / 14 April 2018

Nothing but symbolism

Dagens Nyheter views the missile attacks with a sense of resignation:

“It's extremely doubtful that the missile attacks will make any impact. When an airbase was bombed a year ago in an act of reprisal, it was up and running again after just one day. Since then Assad has used poison gas several times, and there is good reason to believe that the deterrent effect will be lacking this time too. The US, Britain and France declared that this was a limited action to show that the use of chemical weapons cannot become the norm. But it's nothing more than symbolic politics. ... What the US intends to do next in Syria or other parts of the Middle East is unclear. The missiles haven't cleared up the confusion. There is no sign of a 'political solution'.”

La Repubblica (IT) / 15 April 2018

Assad still has plenty of nerve gas left over

Bernardo Valli, an international political analyst, also questions the effectiveness of the airstrikes in La Repubblica:

“The goal was to re-establish the 'red line', the ban on chemical weapons which Bashar al-Assad has repeatedly used on his people. ... However, Trump's announcing the airstrikes as well as the precise instructions given to the Russians regarding the targets of the US-French-British missiles will have ensured that not just the people working at the research and production facilities were brought to safety, but also the materials and laboratory equipment. ... So it's hardly surprising that shortly after the attack Bashar al-Assad appeared on television as calm and composed as if nothing had happened. ... We know from experience: no matter what happens Assad will still retain adequate reserves of nerve gas.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) / 16 April 2018

Syrian suffering hasn't been eased yet

This airstrike must be followed by others if the situation in Syria is to change, the Tages-Anzeiger believes:

“A single airstrike won't stop the killing. But nor has the Western non-interventionism of the past seven years. ... The airstrikes will only bring about change if they're carried out every time Assad uses chemical weapons. Even if there are no photos of dead children. And they must be combined with more Western aid for Syria's neighbours, the reception of refugees (which Trump stopped) and increased pressure on Russia and Iran. Otherwise the bombs won't ease the suffering in Syria - no matter how precise they are.”

Star (TR) / 16 April 2018

An unconvincing attack

Journalist and AKP member of parliament Mehmet Metiner explains in Star why the US's reaction has left him dissatisfied:

“If the US-led West bloc had really wanted to get rid of the murderer Assad and his regime, there would be nothing left of them today. Clearly this bloc has no problem with Assad, whose hands are covered in blood. ... If this were really about humanity and following one's conscience, it would have been necessary to show from the start that there is no place - either in Syria or anywhere else in the world - for the murderer Assad and his regime. Consequently I am not convinced when this military offensive is justified with reference to a set of values. I cannot believe that there is any true resolve behind military offensives that are not directly aimed at toppling Assad.”

Hospodářské noviny (CZ) / 16 April 2018

On the path to a joint Syria strategy

Trump can no longer be accused of military incompetence now, Hospodářské noviny concludes:

“He has made it clear that the use of chemical weapons against civilians won't be tolerated on our planet. And he let his military advisers tell him how to go about the whole thing. What's more, he also got the French and British on board on short notice. So no one can say he's on his own warpath. This view of the situation is important for us. Trump has opened up the possibility of finally finding a joint strategy for Syria.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) / 15 April 2018

International law no argument against strikes

The action taken by the US, Britain and France was justified even if it contravened international law, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung concludes:

“That law depends to a large extent on a functioning UN Security Council, or in other words the permanent members - three democracies, a country with an authoritarian leadership and a country led by a party dictatorship - agreeing on targets and instruments. Whenever a veto is used the Council is rendered ineffectual. In the Syrian war that has often been the case despite all the atrocities; Russia played a lamentably large role in this. If the breach of the chemical weapons convention is not investigated, there is no need for any big speeches about the primacy of international law.”

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