Assad's troops recapture Palmyra

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is celebrating his army's recapture of the ancient city of Palmyra from the Islamic State as a major victory. The US has also greeted the move as a major positive development. Commentators warn that Assad's position has been strengthened and that there is still a long way to go before the fight against the IS is over.

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Vasárnapi Hírek (HU) /

Victories against IS dangerous for Europe

The IS could seek to compensate for territorial losses on the battlefields in Syria and Iraq by carrying out more attacks in Europe, the centre-left Sunday paper Vasárnapi Hírek fears:

“Paradoxically, the dangers to Europe could grow with the military successes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria: so far the 'new caliphate' has been able to recruit young Muslims with the slogan that the time for a historical revenge against the infidels had come. For that reason the terrorist militia is likely to try and compensate for its military defeats with attacks (and warnings) in Europe. That means we are now in a difficult stage in the fight against the Islamic State. As it turns out, the campaign against the 'sleepers' in Europe is a far more complex task than the war against the IS fighters in Syria and Iraq.”

an-Nahar (LB) /

A potential turning point in the Syrian war

The reconquest of Palmyra could promote a political solution in Syria if it is used in the right way, Amin Kammourieh writes in the Lebanese daily an-Nahar:

“Palmyra has come under the control of the Syrian regime at a time when an agreement on the Syria conflict is becoming increasingly likely. ... This military development could result in two scenarios. It could provide the impetus for the opposition to participate in the ongoing political process. However, it shouldn't take part on the basis of the current military power balance but on the basis of the results of the Geneva Conference and the guarantees worked out there. That said, it's also possible that the conquerors of Palmyra will use this victory to force their way of seeing things onto the others. In that case not only will the long-lasting repression continue, it will also create something far more dangerous than the IS.”

Primorske novice (SI) /

IS left deep wounds in Palmyra

The IS's destruction of internationally renowned cultural assets in the Syrian city of Palmyra is a major loss for the world, the regional paper Primorske novice laments:

“What happened in Palmyra can be described as a crime against humanity. Shock and anger are the right reactions. Something was destroyed that belonged to us all. It was not just a major tourist attraction but proof of the existence of a civilisation, of the existence of the past. Something was destroyed that could help us in our attempts to understand the present and ourselves in the present. … It will take decades for these wounds to heal.” (ES) /

One tyrant drives away another

With the conquest by Assad's troops the ancient city of Palmyra has not been freed but simply taken over by another tyrant, the Spanish-Syrian blogger Leila Nachawati observes in the left-leaning portal

“'Bravo Assad!' London's mayor Boris Johnson exclaimed when the Syrian government's victory was announced. 'He's a tyrant,' Johnson conceded, 'But he's saved Palmyra'. To which some cynically responded: 'Bravo Mussolini. He was a brutal dictator but at least the trains arrived on time.' … Although many are breathing a sigh of relief to see the cultural heritage of Palmyra freed from the IS's grip, the capture of the city by Assad's troops is far from a liberation for the Syrian people, who have suffered under the Syrian government's rule of terror for decades.”

Expressen (SE) /

Limit Assad's power through negotiations

Now that Palmyra has been retaken the international community must push for a comprehensive peace process, the liberal daily Expressen urges:

“One conclusion is that the parties involved must now do at least as much to further the reconciliation processes in Syria and Iraq as they did on the battlefield. Otherwise the danger is great that the blood-smeared dictator Bashar al-Assad and his Iranian cronies will draw a new map in the sand and further marginalise the Sunnis. In that case the barbaric violence of the IS will merely be revived in another form.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Moscow secures its influence in the Middle East

The recapture of Palmyra is above all a sign of Moscow's strong position in the Middle East, the conservative daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

“This victory consolidates Russia's control over large swathes of Syria and also boosts the self-confidence of Syrian ruler Assad, who claims he alone is fighting the Islamist terror in Syria effectively. Now he is even less inclined than before to approve a compromise at the talks in Geneva. … Two weeks ago Russia announced its withdrawal from Syria in the hope of breaking Assad's resistance to the political solution Moscow and Washington are hoping for; both want Assad to go - the Russians at a later point in time, the Americans sooner. … The recapture of Palmyra has shown everyone that Russia is Assad's main supporter.”

Jornal de Negócios (PT) /

IS setting its sights on North Africa

The IS seems to be losing ground in Syria but the problem will only be transferred to a different area, the liberal business daily Jornal de Negócios warns:

“The IS is under pressure from all sides right now. It is therefore starting to transfer its operations to Libya and is already looking to Algeria and Tunisia. … In other words: the IS has found ideal conditions for its fight in Libya - a country which is sliding further and further into chaos. … The main problem is that with its operational centre in Libya the IS can focus more on its destabilisation campaign in Tunisia and Algeria. … Europe will thus be left facing a huge problem in the short term: the total destabilisation of the North African coast extending literally all the way to the Mediterranean borders.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

Fight against terror on more than one front

More than just military victories against the IS are needed to end the war against terror, the conservative daily Le Figaro warns:

“Striking the vipers' nest won't put an end to the poisonous bites of the IS far from its military bases, and may even multiply them. Four attacks in one year in Europe, five in Turkey, Sunday's massacre of Christians celebrating Easter in Lahore: the battle is far from over, even though we are forcing ourselves to go from the defensive to the offensive in terms of police and intelligence activities. To say nothing of the ideological confrontation, where we are lagging behind dramatically. Saving the ancient treasure of Palmyra is just the start of the battle.”