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Doubts about retaliation in Syria

August 30th, 2013

Commentators have little doubt about the imminence of punitive strikes against the Assad regime, but are highly sceptical both about their moral grounds and their expected impact.

On Mandiner, Péter Bakodi suspects that the United States is wrong in asserting that the latest chemical weapons strike was ordered by the government forces. He believes it would have been foolish on Assad’s part to give such an order, when he knew that it would entail retribution by the United States. Only the opposition could benefit from that horrible incident, and it consists of extremely diverse groupings, some of which are extremist enough to resort to such methods. Bakodi adds that, all things considered, Assad is a factor of stability in the present Middle East turmoil, unlike his potential successors. Therefore he voices serious doubts about the wisdom “of a Nobel Peace Prize winning US president embarking on the fourth – and least promising – war of his presidency”.

On Komment.hu, József Makai also suspects that the chemical attack may have been perpetrated by opposition forces, but “appearance counts for everything”. His main problem is what the US wants to achieve with its almost certain punitive strikes, given that White House spokesman Jay Carney has said the aim is not to remove Assad from power. Although it may seem hypocritical to overlook mass killings with conventional weapons while reacting with force once the same thing is done with chemical ones, he admits that the US must show determination. “It would not be advisable to test a scenario in which North Korea, for example, reaches the conclusion Washington is not a determined enough player.”  In Syria the problem is that over a hundred thousand people have already died, while perhaps one fourth of the population, including three million children have fled their homes, and the United States does not find a participant to side with. In the absence of a long term strategy and a realistic goal, Makai concludes, limited military strikes will not be of any help to the Syrian population. “And before we forget, they are the victims in this story.”

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