Will the gas attack change the US's Syria policy?

After the presumed poison gas attack in the Syrian province of Idlib, US President Trump has indicated that there could be a radical change in the US's Syria policy. Just a few days ago Washington had announced that it was no longer prioritising Assad's removal from power. Now he has said his attitude to Syria and Assad has changed. Commentators take a sceptical view of the statement and look back at the US's Syria policy under Obama.

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Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

US presidents also to blame

The White House still isn't reacting to events in Syria, the Tages-Anzeiger fumes:

“Trump announced that the US firmly backs its allies in - careful! - 'condemning' the attack. The lesson for Assad: He can bomb, torture, and gas as much as he wants - he has no reason to fear Trump. The lesson for the world: the last president in Washington drew a red line in the air but didn't defend it. Today the president in Washington doesn't draw any red lines at all, or at least any that defend international law or what is left of humanity from criminals like Assad and his accomplices in Moscow and Tehran. The price for this situation was paid on Tuesday by dozens of Syrian civilians.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Obama left a dangerous vacuum

Donald Trump is right when he says the toxic gas attack is a consequence of his predecessor's weak policy, Lidové noviny explains:

“For Trump's opponents it is clear that the chemical attack on civilians is a result of Assad's sense of impunity, which arises from Trump's announcement that his removal from power was no longer a priority for Washington. Trump, for his part, blames Obama's weakness. Obama said in 2012 that the use of chemical weapons would cross a 'red line' which the US would not tolerate. But when a chemical weapon attack killed 1,700 civilians in Damascus on August 21, 2013, Obama did nothing. … Trump is right: Syria is exploiting Obama's legacy. Obama's government withdrew its troops from the Middle East. The resulting vacuum was, logically, filled by Moscow. And for this Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize eight years ago as a preventive measure.”

Gość Niedzielny (PL) /

Trump will turn his back on Putin

There can be no more talk of a rapprochement between Washington and Moscow after the gas attack, Gość Niedzielny is convinced:

“The news of the chemical attack in Syria, which some are blaming on Assad's soldiers or even on the Russians, will certainly not have a positive effect on American-Russian relations. It seems that the Russians' hopes that relations would improve were in vain. In today's world it may be simple to give the representatives of the old world order a mental single-digit salute, and to show sympathy for Putin. But when the issue at hand is governing, national interests come into play. ... Trump is now being attacked by the US media for contacts between people in his entourage and representatives of the Russian state. Clearly, certain democratic principles are still in effect on the other side of the ocean.”

Spiegel Online (DE) /

At least help the refugees

To ignore Assad's murdering is not a viable option, but neither is intervention, Spiegel Online concludes, describing the West's predicament:

“It is a terrible, unbearable dilemma. But those who don't want to or can't decide between the evil of Assad and the evil of waging a war against Assad must continue to tolerate the terrible war in Syria. They must continue to tolerate the pictures of dead children. And they must receive every Syrian who manages to escape this hell with open arms and offer them help and protection. Perhaps we can't stop the war in Syria. But we can help the refugees from Syria. This is the least we can do. Perhaps the only thing we can do.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Assad even crueller than IS terrorists

The toxic gas attack is further proof that Assad is even worse than the IS terrorists, Dagens Nyheter contends:

“Notwithstanding all the atrocities committed by the IS, Assad is the bigger executioner. His regime has killed far more people and ruthlessly employed any means at its disposition to do so. Civilians have been indiscriminately killed, entire residential areas bombarded, and not even aid convoys can get through safely. His comrade-in-arms Vladimir Putin sent military support and has blocked all resolutions in the UN Security Council. Military interventions have only intensified the killing and all attempts to negotiate peace have collapsed. … Bashar al-Assad says we have the choice between his regime and Islamist terrorists. Even if this were true, it's not clear which is the worst fate for the Syrians.”

Frankfurter Rundschau (DE) /

US change of course is carte blanche for regime

The timing of the Damascus regime's attack was particularly malicious as representatives of 70 states and organisations have been meeting since Tuesday to discuss further humanitarian aid to Syria, the Frankfurter Rundschau writes, seeing this as a sign that Assad is sure of his victory:

“He is confident that no one will touch him now that the United States has officially dropped his removal from its Middle East strategy. The ruling clique in Syria promptly interpreted this freshly announced change of course under US President Donald Trump as a carte blanche to annihilate the remaining population on Syrian soil. Assad and his regime needn't fear international pressure. With this constellation it's no wonder peace is not an option for Assad. In his country's power struggle he has long since become the champion of brutality. And with each day that passes the common people are the victims - women, men and children.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Assad likely not behind the attack

La Stampa, on the other hand, points out that Syria signed the chemical weapons convention in 2014 and doesn't believe the Assad regime is behind the attack:

“The incident is as unexpected as it is absurd. Unexpected because once the agreement [of 2014] came into force it hadn't ever been violated and there should have been no more nerve gases in this part of the Middle East. Absurd because it is incomprehensible why the Assad regime would commit such a heinous, spectacular and illegal crime now that the war, whose outcome seemed uncertain for years, seems to be slowly but inexorably drawing to an end in Damascus's favour. … And do we really believe the Syrian armed forces could take the decision to carry out a bomb attack of this kind without first informing their Russian ally, who was the driving force and the guarantor of the agreement that banned chemical weapons in Syria? That is definitely inconceivable.”

De Standaard (BE) /

In this war we have all gotten our hands dirty

The West is partly responsible for the never-ending horror in Syria and has a responsibility to help, De Standaard urges as the donor conference begins:

“We must face the danger of attacks on our own soil and at the same time try to cushion the consequences of the war in the region with every means at our disposal. …. It is tough that we are forced to work at least some of the time with dubious partners, and even war criminals of Bashar al-Assad's ilk. … In this complex and multi-layered war no one gets to keep their hands clean. Everything one does or doesn't do can be morally questionable, despite all good intentions. … But the obligation to alleviate the consequences of the humanitarian tragedy remains. If only to avoid legitimising the cynicism of the criminals who used the toxic gas with cynicism of our own.”