With Assad against the IS?
In the debate on a solution to the Syria conflict more and more voices in Europe are calling for cooperation with Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad in the fight against the IS. The foreign ministers of Austria and Spain, among others, called on Monday for negotiations with him. There is no alternative to cooperation with Assad, some commentators concur. Others see such deliberations as mere games that won't alleviate the refugees' suffering.
No getting around Assad
As long as the Syrian opposition is too weak to ensure the smooth running of society there is no avoiding negotiations with Assad, the liberal daily La Libre Belgique stresses: "Refusing to speak with Assad means refusing to speak with a secular regime. Yes, his is a police state, but it is one that functions, with schools, ministries and municipal services. Only the IS has so far been able to set up public services in the zones it occupies. However there can certainly be no talking with the IS, the champion of a totalitarian ideology. Let us not repeat the errors committed in Iraq and Lybia, where we thought that the problems could be solved by toppling the dictator. The Syrian opposition is still too weak for us to bypass Bashar al-Assad."
Let the arch-enemy step down with diginity
The French air force began its first reconnaissance flights over Syria to gather information about potential targets on Tuesday. The airstrikes must run parallel to negotiations with Assad for a political solution to the conflict, the liberal-conservative daily Corriere della Sera urges: "As far as the West is concerned there are only arch-enemies in Syria: the terrorist IS and al-Qaeda on the one side and Assad's military forces on the other. The airstrikes that are to hit the IS and al-Qaeda as enemy number one will however indirectly help Assad. So the efforts to end the bloodbath can only be of a diplomatic nature today. Parallel to the vigorous air strikes against the IS a political process must be set in motion, in consultation with Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia, that is aimed at a changeover of power in Damascus and gives Assad the chance to step down without losing face. … Because the alternative is Syria's disintegration and the arrival of thousands more refugees in Europe."
Humanitarian aid better than military strike
The decision as to whether to carry out a military operation in Syria or negotiate with Assad is basically a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea, writes the liberal daily Kurier, and recommends humanitarian measures instead: "The international community is still miles away from a UN mandate. There is neither a ceasefire nor negotiations leading up to it. Moreover there are no no-fly zones, much less protected zones on the ground. By contrast the position of [Austrian] Foreign Minister Kurz, who explained that Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad should also be involved in the fight against the Islamic State, is clear. Faced with choice between the devil and the deep blue sea Kurz has opted for the deep blue sea. … All these experimental games won't help the refugees leaving the camps in Jordan or Lebanon to seek hope. But a few billion euros really would help Syria's neighbours and the millions of uprooted people."
Putin's ticket back to Europe
According to information gathered by US intelligence Moscow is stepping up its support for Assad's troops in Syria with tanks and aircraft. This could rehabilitate Putin as Europe's partner, the business paper Verslo žinios fears:"If Russia is really providing key support to Syria's current leader Bashar al-Assad and helping him to decide the civil war in his favour, it will calm down the entire region. ... Against the backdrop [of the refugee crisis], Russia can cast itself as a saviour that is at the very least stemming the flow of refugees. The West itself cannot and does not want to do this. Its logic is simple: the sanctions have long since proven successful, Moscow is economically weakened. If Moscow now does the dirty work in the Middle East, it will make itself particularly attractive to one part of the West."