Fighting trumps diplomacy in Syria

Hopes for a ceasefire in Syria have receded into the distance despite the attempts at dialogue in Munich. Hospitals and schools have been bombed in Aleppo and Idlib. Russia and the US are blaming each other for the attacks. Commentators voice growing concern about world peace.

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Phileleftheros (CY) /

Ankara has only its own interests in mind

The Turkish army is shelling Kurdish controlled areas in northern Syria. The Kurdish troops are among the West's most important allies in the fight against the terrorist organisation IS in Syria. Ankara is merely pursuing its own interests in the region, the liberal daily Phileleftheros comments:

“Ankara wants to eliminate the Kurds because it knows that Turkey won't be safe as long as the dream of an independent Kurdish state persists. But Ankara's options are limited. An independent Kurdish state has been evolving in Iraq for some time now. And in Syria the situation is similar for the Kurds, who it seems have both the US and Russia on their side.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Putin dictating peace terms with bombs

The Kremlin has denied responsibility for Monday's attacks on schools and hospitals in Aleppo. But combining dialogue and bombs is a speciality of Putin's, the centre-left daily La Repubblica points out:

“The fight for Aleppo that intensified with the Russian airstrikes and is now entering the decisive phase rightly seems like a repetition of what took place exactly a year ago in Ukraine. Back then, while the heads of state and government (of Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia) sat down at the negotiating table in Minsk, the separatists' artillery intensified their attacks on Debaltseve with Russian support. ... And Vladimir Putin made no secret of his satisfaction at the negotiating table in the Belarusian capital. Negotiating while the guns are doing the talking is a good strategy for those who then lay claim to the freshly-conquered areas.”

Slate (FR) /

Russia puts US in a dilemma

Russian President Vladimir Putin is using the days leading up to the ceasefire agreed in Munich to improve his negotiating position, the online magazine Slate believes:

“The stepped-up Russian airstrikes and the seige of Aleppo are not aimed at sabotaging the negotiations. Rather they serve to create facts on the ground which will force the West to accept what it has rejected so far: Bashar al-Assad's remaining in power. 'What do you want me to do, go to war with the Russians?' John Kerry said [in answer to accusations that he wasn't doing enough to protect the civilian population]. The US faces a dilemma: either it boosts its commitment in Syria - perhaps by sending in ground troops or setting up no-fly zones to better protect civilians (although military resources would be required for these to be respected), or it accepts Russia's terms.”

Delo (SI) /

Syrian revolution now a world war

The Syrian revolution against Bashar al-Assad's regime failed in the very moment the uprising turned into a religious war, the centre-left daily Delo explains:

“The secular rebels were left without help - and the radical Islamist groups stepped into this void. With the aid of the Sunni Arab states they have fought against the Shiite regime and its global and regional warlords and sponsors. All that remains of Syria is a ravaged geographical region where a conflict in which over 70 states are involved has long since turned into a global war. And among the warring parties is the terrorist Islamic State, which in the Syrian world war has the unofficial backing of all those who officially claim to be fighting it. In other words all those who stand to gain from a never-ending war.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Kremlin could prevent civilian deaths

Almost 50 civilians were killed in Syria on Monday as a result of missile attacks on hospitals and other targets. Moscow bears partial responsibility for these war crimes, the centre-left daily Süddeutsche Zeitung points out:

“Even if Russia is not dropping the bombs itself, it is an accessory to the scorched earth policy with which Bashar al-Assad has for years been trying to destroy opposition forces that are not part of the IS or the al-Nusra front. To prevent attacks on civilian targets there is no need for military cooperation with the US, as Moscow is demanding. All that is needed is a command from the Kremlin. The agreed ceasefire in Syria is not yet in force. And as yet there has been no sign of good will on the part of the Russian government or the Assad regime.”

Radikal (TR) /

Turkey must stay out of Syrian war

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu vowed on Monday that Turkey would do all it can to prevent Kurdish militia from capturing the city of Asas in northwest Syria. The liberal online daily Radikal sees the current situation as highly dangerous:

“What is behind the fact that Turkey is being dragged to the brink of war and is allowing such unease to arise both at home and abroad? Turkey explains this as follows: since the country, which shares 910 kilometres of border with Syria, has been ignored by the US and Russia and its security concerns disregarded, the deal agreed by those two countries won't have any effect. … But history is full of examples of wars that broke out unexpectedly and for no valid reason. So it is very important to at least learn a little from the past and stay out of situations that could end in war.”

Kristeligt Dagblad (DK) /

Assad firmly in control again after Munich

The conference in Munich has strengthened Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad's position because Russia was able to get its way, the Christian daily Kristeligt Dagblad comments:

“The Munich deal is the proof that Russia and President Putin are calling the tune in Syria. The US and the West have submitted to this and thus bolstered Assad. The Americans can insist that President Assad must go until they're blue in the face but the Russians are sticking to their demand that the Syrian population be allowed to decide the fate of their country and their despised leader. As they haven't been able to agree on what a transitional government should look like, the two biggest hurdles on the road to peace remain despite the hopeful signs from Munich.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Putin has gone too far this time

Putin's strategy of gaining ground in Syria to strengthen his position vis-à-vis Nato and the EU could backfire, the liberal daily La Stampa writes:

“To understand Putin's mysterious strategy we must first take a look at his agenda. Two dates will be crucial: the Nato summit on the 8th and 9th of July in Warsaw and July 31st, when the extension of the sanctions will be discussed. … Personal relations between Putin and Obama were never great. Putin has often found the strategy of setting the bar for negotiations higher useful in the past, at least in the short term, but this time it testifies to a fateful short-sightedness. If he refuses the White House's extended hand he will push Nato into the waiting arms of those who want to see it become a purely anti-Russian alliance. And in that way Putin would rule out any rational deliberations by the EU on the intensity of the sanctions from the start.”

Hürriyet Daily News (TR) /

No moderate opposition in Syria

The search for a solution in Syria is complicated by the fact that all the opposition groups are extremist, the liberal paper Hürriyet Daily News believes:

“It is now an open secret that there is no such thing as a 'moderate opposition' in Syria anymore (if it ever even existed before). We all know that the U.S. and its allies could not find even a handful of moderates to train to fight against Isil and al-Nusra and that many opposition groups share very similar views as al-Qaeda and Isil. We all know that the majority of Syrians are moderates, which is why they chose to flee the country rather than get involved in an armed conflict against the regime. We know that those who chose to fight do so for some sort of an Islamic state or caliphate, and that those who flee Syria seeking Western countries would rather live in liberal societies.”

Postimees (EE) /

Powder keg Syria a major threat

The involvement of a growing number of players in the Syria conflict constitutes a growing threat to global peace, the centre-right daily Postimees warns:

“Whether Russia is really ready to run the risk of a conflict with the Saudis and Turks - who also are backed by the US - for the sake of protecting Assad's regime is still unclear. What is clear, however, is that the ceasefire in Syria that the Western powers and Russia agreed on in Munich last week will not last. This has dealt another blow to President Obama's much-lambasted foreign policy. Syria remains the powder keg of our time, and a serious threat to global peace.”

More opinions

The Independent (GB) / 15 February 2016
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Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) / 15 February 2016
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