How judicious was Washington's attack in Syria?

The US army's attack on a Syrian airbase continues to fuel debate. After a poison gas attack presumed to have been carried out by the Assad regime in the province of Idlib, the US fired around 60 missiles at the Syrian target. Commentators speculate about whether this was an impulsive act by Trump or if there is a strategy behind the surprise strike.

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Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Trump as the anti-Obama

With the US missile attack in Syria Trump has shown that he is a president to be reckoned with, Lidové noviny writes approvingly:

“Trump showed determination. He didn't just draw a 'red line', he took action and earned himself more respect than Obama did in the last four years. He has reassured his European allies that he won't go over their heads and become Putin's handyman. Moreover, with his action he sent a signal to Tehran, Pyongyang, Beijing and Moscow: 'Take me seriously!' Morally and strategically it was important to react to the use of chemical weapons. In the long term that will save innocent lives. And finally, Trump also chalked up points with members of the US establishment who had scorned him until now. On the down side, a single missile attack doesn't add up to a strategy. It could be the first step towards getting Washington bogged down in the Syrian War, which is neither in Washington's nor the West's interests.”

Dnevnik (BG) /

US president walking a fine line

Dnevnik also recognises the domestic and foreign-policy advantages that Trump has gained with the attack in Syria, but notes that the US president is walking a fine line:

“The decision to attack the Syrian government troops could secure Trump three major victories: it gives him a breather on the home front, both in relation to the Republicans and to the Democrats, who clearly have the moral upper hand in today's political debate. He can strengthen his position vis-à-vis his Western partners and China, which he's chosen as his geopolitical arch-rival. And it allows him to allay suspicions that he's being controlled by Russia. As the FBI's investigations into his Russian contacts pick up speed, however, if his decision backfires it could lead all the quicker to impeachment proceedings.”

Delo (SI) /

Geostrategically a risky display

Trump acted impulsively and has ushered in a dangerous period in global politics, Delo worries:

“The biggest problem with this affair is that Donald Trump is willing to take the lead in such a risky situation for the sake of appeasing public opinion. And in order to reinforce unnecessary messages to global rivals. So to score a few political points he is ready to risk a war of regional and even global dimensions. This confirms suspicions that we are beginning an entirely new geostrategic game with the new leadership in the White House in which impulsivity overrules strategic considerations and proportional steps. This is bad news not just for the Syrians but for us all.”

Salzburger Nachrichten (AT) /

From isolationist to world policeman

Trump may have suddenly understood that the US needs to act like a superpower, the daily Salzburger Nachrichten speculates:

“It would be unfair to accuse Trump of threatening with the big stick just to score political points. … He may have realised that his 'America first' and 'Make America great again' slogans certainly can't be injected with dynamism through isolationism and withdrawing behind one's own borders. The turnaround from Putin admirer to opponent of the Kremlin boss indicates that this is the case. Trump must have realised how important it is for the US to fulfil its role of superpower all over the world.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Trump now making a racket with missiles

There is no recognisable strategy behind the US attack in Syria, Der Standard criticises:

“In a decisive phase of his still young presidency, Trump has shown that his approach to foreign and security policy is the same as his approach to life in general: spontaneous, impulsive, haphazard and only focussed on himself. The attack on targets in Syria on Thursday night fits in with this. … Trump has deployed missiles but doesn't seem to have any strategy in place. The operation in Syria will remain a one-off symbolic action - or will lead the US far deeper into a conflict with Russia that no one wants and for which there are no long-term plans. The president is making a racket again - but this time with missiles.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Assad is Trump's savior

Assad has become a life saver for Trump, Vittorio Zucconi, La Republicca's Washington correspondent bitterly observes:

“Trump needs to divert attention from his disastrous first 70 days in office, from the impression of dilettantism and improvisation that his government team has conveyed. Now Assad of all people, with his brutality and Russia's backing, is offering Trump a life saver. If well presented to the public, a war or military operation can be the last resort for a president in need. And the universal horror that the toxic gas attacks in Syria have provoked, which according to American radars and satellite pictures were carried out by Assad, represent a perfect and undeniable opportunity. Teaching Assad a lesson will no doubt do desperate Trump good. But the 'war effect' is a stimulant, and as with all such drugs it will be followed by a crash once the effect has worn off and perhaps one of 'ours' falls or, worse still, is taken prisoner.”

Financial Times (GB) /

Second chance to topple the Syrian dictator

This latest poison gas attack is a unique political opportunity for the international community to get rid of the intolerable Syrian ruler, the Financial Times admonishes:

“ It is important that he not be allowed to escape without paying a price. ... But not acting can be every bit as consequential as acting. For many in the Middle East and beyond, inaction in the face of chemical weapons use became the defining moment of the Obama presidency, raising fundamental questions about its credibility. Mr Trump has an opportunity to differentiate himself from his predecessor and show there is a new sheriff in town; Theresa May, UK prime minister, has a similar opportunity. History rarely provides second chances. This one should not be squandered.”

Al-Hayat (GB) /

Deposing Assad the only solution

Al-Hayat, a Saudi daily based in London, also believes toppling President Assad is the only way to put an end to the tragedy in Syria:

“The gas attack carried out by the Assad regime is on a par with the crimes committed by the IS in Raqqa, Palmyra and other cities. ... It's time the West and the Arab countries understood that the IS terror is a result of the terror of the Syrian regime, which despite what the West thinks is not an ally in the fight against terrorism, but produces terrorism. The alliance seeking to free the eastern Syrian city of Raqqa from IS control should think twice about who will control the city afterwards. Should it really be controlled by the regime's gangs? Negotiations have failed to bring any solutions so far. The regime is playing for time. The way out of this dreadful situation is for the Russians and Americans to agree on deposing Assad.”

Karar (TR) /

Democratic world stuck in an impasse

There is still no sign of a solution to the Syria conflict, Mustafa Karaalioğlu laments in Karar:

“Everyone knows that an appropriate solution to the Syria conflict has become impossible because action was not taken at the appropriate time. Let's be realistic: the Trump administration seems to have neither a strategy nor the strength to solve the problem. What's more, Turkey - one of the most important countries in this equation - is entirely focused on the PYD question [concerning territorial gains by the Kurds]. ... The UN is completely blocked by its veto system. Putin and Assad see that the democratic world is in an impasse and are taking full advantage of it.”

Expressen (SE) /

Pave the way for Syria's reconstruction

The pledges made at the international donor conference for Syria are still inadequate, Expressen argues:

“The result will be far lower than that achieved at last year's conference in London. The United States with its new Trump administration pledged around 500 million dollars - that's just over a half of what it paid last year. Instead of serving as a wakeup call the gas attack seems to have spread a sense of hopelessness among the donor countries. … This feeling must be combated. The organisation of aid supplies for remote areas of Syria requires more resources. The programmes for refugees in the region need stable financing that also helps the economies of the countries in question. Syrian children must be able to go to school. Such measures will prevent the creation of a lost generation of Syrians and initiate the vital reconstruction of the country.”

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Irish Examiner (IE) / 10 April 2017
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