Russian military assistance for Assad
Moscow confirmed on Thursday that it has been supplying weapons to the troops of Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad and sending military experts to train Syrian units. Russia's interests in the Middle East are not to be trusted, some commentators write. Others call for an alliance between the West and Moscow to fight the IS terrorist organisation.
Putin wants access to the Mediterranean
Moscow wants to do more than just support the Syrian ruler, the Catholic daily Avvenire warns: "Putin's intentions are often inscrutable. But this time they seem clear: the Syrian coast and its hinterland - the coastal strip where the strategic port of Tartus lies and where since 1971 Moscow has its only marine base in the Mediterranean - will no doubt soon become the fortress to which Assad retreats. ... This is where Assad, should he manage to stay in power, will transfer his regime. Under Russian protection of course, since Moscow is Damascus's traditional ally and is ready to set up an enclave with its navy in the Mediterranean. It is the same strategy Putin used to annex the Crimea over a year ago and with which he took over the port of Sevastopol, the Russian navy's main base on the Black Sea."
West must choose between plague and cholera
Russia is no longer making a secret of its weapons deliveries to Damascus and this ups the pressure on the US and EU to reach a decision, the liberal online paper Observador comments: "For the US and the allies bringing down the Assad regime remains the top priority while the fight against the IS remains confined to rather unsuccessful airstrikes. Moscow hopes to reverse these priorities by increasing its military support for the Assad regime and forcing the West to choose between helping Assad stay in power and enabling a broad coalition against the IS or accepting that the situation in the Middle East gets even worse. ... Despite all the differences between Russia on the one hand and the US and EU on the other it seems that in this particular case the latter could act according to the maxim 'My enemy's enemy is my friend'."
With Moscow and Assad against the IS
Only a joint strategy with Moscow can lead to a solution to the Syria conflict, comments Middle East correspondent Peter Steffe on the website of public broadcaster tagesschau.de: "Even if the West doesn't like the Russians helping their ally Assad militarily, this volatile situation could turn into an opportunity - although it doesn't look like it right now: the opportunity to forge an international alliance to fight the murderous IS fighters - the real threat for the entire region - effectively. ... In my view Assad is the lesser evil. It's far more important to put an end to the perverse power games and suspicions that are going on between the West and Russia right now and finally find a solution to the conflict in Syria. Otherwise the spiral of violence and suffering will never be stopped."
No bombing Syria without a strategy
After a debate in the Dutch parliament on Thursday a majority of MPs are in favour of extending airstrikes to IS positions in Syria. So far the country has participated in attacks against the IS in Iraq only. But the decision would be premature, the centre-left daily De Volkskrant warns: "Major questions must be clarified. Who exactly are we going to be attacking? What can we do to step up the ground war too? Can we accept the possibility of Western soldiers also dying? Who should take power when the fighting is over? The Western coalition has a very ambivalent attitude as it is afraid of becoming bogged down in an unwinnable war. Doing nothing is not an option, but that doesn't mean we know what should be done. As Foreign Minister Bert Koenders recently said: 'It is important for us to come up with a far more effective political strategy for Syria.' That's true. And until that time the Netherlands would do best to show reserve. No matter how tempting it is to take decisive steps now."