Russia bombs targets in Syria
Russian fighter jets attacked targets in Syria on Wednesday. The Defence Ministry in Moscow has said the attacks were aimed at IS positions. According to US government sources they targeted areas controlled by moderate rebels. Moscow's military intervention is an admission of failure by the West, some commentators write. Others believe that Washington will benefit from the mission.
Battle not against IS but for Assad
The Russian airstrikes in Syria mark the beginning of a new phase in the Syrian war, comments the centre-left daily Der Standard: "The real surprise is that it wasn't the 'Islamic State', against which the US has also set up an air coalition, that was the target of the first Russian strikes. According to US reports the strikes were carried out north of Homs where there is a strong presence of rebel forces: the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda al-Nusra Front, the Turkish-backed Ahrar al-Sham, and also groups said to be part of the West-backed opposition. If these reports are confirmed once the smoke from the attacks has cleared, then Russia will have made two things clear: firstly it is intervening not (just) against the IS but also for the Assad regime. And secondly this is not about securing the coastal area as a stronghold for Assad, as has been speculated, but about a geographically large-scale military operation. A new phase in the Syrian war has begun."
Putin's resolve better than Obama's dithering
The West's anti-Assad strategy is unwise, writes Marcello Foa, journalist and CEO of Media TI-Holding, in the liberal daily Corriere del Ticino: "As long as it is led by Obama the war against the IS is just, but not if Putin declares it. The airstrikes are okay as long as they're carried out by France, but not when Russia attacks. … Double standards are being applied here, and that is unacceptable. As usual, geostrategic decisions are being made for reasons that are kept hidden from us. We don't know why the US is insisting so stubbornly on Assad's removal from power. The cause of the instability is not Assad, but the caliphate. Putin's approach calling for a Western coalition against the IS therefore seems far clearer and more convincing than the American's zigzag course. The evil that needs to be eradicated now is the fanaticism of radical Islamic minorities. The rest can wait."
Putin's Syria mission helps Obama
Russia's military intervention in Syria works in Obama's favour even if the US president is putting a different spin on things, the left-leaning daily Népszava posits: "Putin is doing Obama a huge favour. Although Washington has repeatedly stressed that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is unacceptable for the US, it would nevertheless be the lesser evil for Obama if peace could be ensured at the price of Assad remaining in power. A hostile 'diabolical' dictator is still better than any kind of chaos. To say nothing of the fact that the current developments could lead to a long-awaited improvement in Russian-American relations. This is a clear case of killing two birds with one stone."
Moscow's offensive will result in more refugees
By providing air support for Syrian troops in the fight against the opposition, Russian President Vladimir Putin is maintaining in power a government that suits his interests with disastrous consequences, the conservative daily Die Welt believes: "Apparently Assad is less afraid of the madmen from the IS than of the national opposition. It was already fighting him when the IS was just getting organised in the mountains around Mosul. Moscow's intervention is an admission of failure by the West, which made a big deal about drawing a 'red line' for Assad without taking any action when Assad crossed it. The West has come across as irresolute and even cowardly, and Assad is now taking advantage of this. But far from reducing the number of Syrian refugees, his pilots and weapons deliveries to Assad will only lead to more refugees."