Syria airstrikes: who's on board and who's not

Whereas France and Britain participated in the US airstrikes in Syria, Germany and the EU did not join in. Commentators take stock of the different foreign policy strategies.

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The Guardian (GB) / 17 April 2018

May and Macron at Trump's mercy

Engaging in a joint initiative with the very unpredictable US administration could prove dangerous for London and Paris, The Guardian warns:

“Had Mr Trump not gone ahead, France and the UK would not have bombed Syria by themselves. This is essentially a US military operation. That leaves the UK and France pinning their hopes on the White House. We know that President Trump is impulsive, abrasive, crude and thin-skinned. The former FBI director, James Comey, has branded him 'unethical, and untethered to the truth and institutional values'. We also know that Mr Trump is consumed by a variety of scandals at home that will leave him at best distracted and, at worst, seeking distraction.”

De Volkskrant (NL) / 17 April 2018

A strong start for the French president

De Volkskrant is interested in the background to France's participation in the airstrikes:

“Trump doesn't really get along with German Chancellor Merkel. As for British Prime Minister May, she enjoys little respect and what's more has her hands full with the Brexit. That leaves Emmanuel Macron as Trump's key dialogue partner in Europe. And for a French president foreign affairs are important. La grande nation must live up to its standing in the world. Military operations boost the image of France and its president. ... Macron has made a strong impression with his debut on the world stage. But foreign policy is more than communication. Is Macron also a peacemaker who can get Assad's allies Russia and Iran to rethink their policies?”

Der Standard (AT) / 17 April 2018

Paris far too self-confident

Macron overestimates his influence in Syria, Der Standard believes:

“Spurred on by his success, the French president now also wants to use diplomatic instruments and prepare a 'political solution' for Syria. And this solution, as the media are reporting, is to 'integrate Russia, Turkey and Iran'. Indeed, that represents a very self-confident French appraisal of the reality in Syria, whose future - despite the military strike - is now being determined entirely without the West. Moscow, Tehran and Ankara are settling things among themselves, and are extremely well 'integrated' in the country. The UN talks in Geneva and Vienna by contrast, where the countries involved in the Syria crisis have met in the past, have come to a standstill.”

Frankfurter Rundschau (DE) / 17 April 2018

Berlin must show true leadership

As the EU's strongest country Germany must do more to make Europe's voice heard, the Frankfurter Rundschau urges:

“In particular, for example, it could have immediately called a special session of the European Council, that is of the EU heads of state and government, or of their foreign ministers. At the very least an attempt should have been made to find a joint position aimed at countering the renewed military escalation, to launch new diplomatic initiatives and to finally determine a Western response to the Syrian tragedy, which in view of all the refugees has also long been a European tragedy. Certainly, such an attempt can also fail. Shouldering responsibility and showing leadership always entails risks. But talking about responsibility and doing nothing is too little for a country as important as Germany.”

Al-Hayat (GB) / 14 April 2018

A message to Moscow

The airstrike was above all a warning signal by the West to Russia, political scientist Khalid al-Dakhil writes in the Saudi Arabian paper Al-Hayat:

“The goal wasn't to weaken the Assad regime militarily or to protect the Syrian people. A clear strategy aimed at ending the carnage - with or without chemical weapons - is lacking. In addition, no demand has been made for the withdrawal of foreign militias. ... The main target of this action was Russia. This attack must be seen in the context of the current confrontations between the West and Russia - or to be more precise, between the US and Russia. The idea is to punish Putin for repeatedly challenging the West, both in Syria and in Europe.”

Blog Pitsirikos (GR) / 15 April 2018

Humanitarian reasons just excuses

The West's intervention in Syria is hypocritical, blogger Pitsirikos complains:

“The US and its allies are shocked by the use of chemicals against children. But the US and its allies don't care when these children are killed with their weapons or drown in the Mediterranean. ... Even the dumbest citizen in the West knows by now that the United States and its allies have been wreaking havoc in the Middle East and Africa for years only because of the wealth of the countries there. In other words, the wars are being waged for money. ... All the wars in world history have been fought for money. Why don't the leaders of the West just say so clearly? Why do they seek humanitarian legitimation for causing death?”

112.ua (UA) / 14 April 2018

Global leadership crisis has ended

The US is back in its role as global policeman, political scientist Giorgi Kukhaleishvili comments in 112.ua:

“The Republicans have given Tehran and Pyongyang to understand that the days of the 'new start' and indecision of the former Democratic president Barack Obama are over, and that they must now pursue a constructive foreign policy without provoking international tensions. Otherwise American Tomahawks will be heading their way. With the precise strikes in Syria the US is trying to show to the world that it is making a comeback as global policeman and seeking sole leadership of the multipolar world torn apart by instability and armed conflicts.”

Jutarnji list (HR) / 15 April 2018

A timely attack for the West

The timing of the attack on Assad is convenient for each of the leaders of the three participating countries for different reasons, Jutarnji list comments:

“Trump can divert attention from the investigations into alleged collusion with the Russians before his election. Faced with the difficulties of the Brexit negotiations Theresa May is imitating her only female predecessor in Downing Street [Margaret Thatcher], whose popularity was saved by the Falklands War. And for Macron too, this is a good time for a demonstration of strength abroad: the rail workers are on strike and he's having trouble reforming the Eurozone.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) / 15 April 2018

German security policy nothing but hot air

In view of Germany's non-participation in the airstrikes in Syria Rzeczpospolita asks whether Germany is a reliable partner for the West:

“In spite of the Germans' loud proclamation that in view of Trump's lunacy Europe would seek independence in security matters, the current conflict has shown that German security policy is nothing but PR and hot air. Consequently fundamental questions that are also important for us in Poland have returned like boomerangs: which side will the Germans be on if it comes to a conflict with Russia? On the side of the West and its security interests, or on the side of the interests behind Nord Stream?”

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