The world’s muted reaction as U.S. bombs fall in Iraq again


President Obama leaves after talking about the humanitarian relief situation in Iraq in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington on Aug. 7. (Larry Downing/Reuters)

Perhaps the best press review of Obama's authorization to use airstrikes against the Islamic State is a look at the articles that don't actually exist yet.

For example, Iranian media watchers have pointed out that the country's state media, usually hostile to the United States, has been remarkably quiet so far:

The absence of harsh criticism reflects the fact that the Islamic State has few allies. Neither global powers such as Russia nor regional ones like Iran have much love for the extremist group. Reactions in European newspapers have so far predominantly been supportive of America's latest operation in Iraq. The Telegraph commented:

"Barack Obama has been a reluctant warrior during his time as US president, but has taken a bold step, underwriting efforts to find a political solution in Iraq with hard American power. (…) Perhaps given Mr Obama’s muted response to the group's advances in June, the Islamic State commanders were betting that America would not have the stomach for another military engagement in Iraq: that now appears to have been a serious miscalculation."

In France's center-leftist Le Monde, an op-ed reminded its readers of historical killings that must not be repeated.

"As the world prepares to commemorate the centennial of the Armenian Genocide perpetrated on the neighboring lands of Ottoman Anatolia, while Eastern Christians everywhere are threatened, we cannot let it happen again."

Its conservative competitor, Le Figaro,   meanwhile sees broad support among French politicians and forecasts  stronger involvement for France in the Iraqi combat.

"The political sphere is almost unanimous on the subject: France must help stem the advance of the Islamic state in northern Iraq. After a conversation with Barack Obama, Hollande assured that France is ready to 'provide support' to forces engaged in combat in Iraq against the jihadists."

Germany's Spiegel Online – usually known to be skeptical of U.S. military interventions – doubts whether Obama's authorization of airstrikes is enough to stop the Islamist terrorists and calls on the president to go further.

Obama is right: A new, and massive operation would be fatal. But what he offers instead is too hesitant. It is necessary to pointedly target the extremists to prevent a genocide. The U.S. has a responsibility to act because it substantially contributed to today’s situation.

In the British Guardian newspaper's "Comment is Free" section, University of Exeter Prof. Christine Allison thinks about the long-term implications of U.S. airstrikes for the Iraqi Kurds. According to her, their role needs to be reevaluated.

"In addition to our humanitarian efforts, we must turn to the Kurds, who, with their referendum on independence are apt to be perceived as causing “the break-up of Iraq.” But paradoxically, with their forces on the ground, they are the best protectors of northern Iraq’s diverse population. Air strikes and humanitarian drops are a beginning. But in the medium and longer term, London and Washington must find a way to maintain the balance of power between Baghdad and Kurdistan and still work closely with Kurdistan’s fighting forces to assure security."

Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, not usually known for military saber-rattling, voiced his support for American airstrikes on Twitter:

Not everyone is pleased, however. In another article for the Guardian, Scholar David Wearing is among the few to raise doubts about the airstrikes today:

"It is clear that humanitarian air drops are needed as a matter of urgency in northern Iraq, and these are to be welcomed. The prospect of US air strikes, however, is concerning – for two main reasons. First, as shown by Obama’s drone-led extrajudicial execution programme, there are bound to be civilian casualties. Second, as things stand, any air strikes will, de facto, be carried out on behalf of Nouri al-Maliki’s widely despised sectarian government. There is a real danger, therefore, that air strikes could inflame the situation further, entrenching alienation among Sunni Arabs and driving more people into the arms of Islamic State."

Other Twitter users see the airstrikes with mixed feelings as well:

Rick Noack writes about foreign affairs. He is an Arthur F. Burns Fellow at The Washington Post.
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