On Monday evening, the Pentagon announced its airstrikes against militant positions in Syria had begun, marking a watershed moment in the fight against the Islamic State and other militant groups.
The strikes will have a global impact, and first reactions of international newspapers and TV channels have portrayed the attacks in very different ways. Many of them agree, however, that the use of weapons against the militants will not be sufficient.
Here's some of the reaction from a selection of countries:
Britain is considering to join the U.S.-led coalition which has struck the Syrian militants overnight, but the British press has been largely reserved in its response to the attacks. The leftist Guardian newspaper urged the United States to "avoid repeating its past mistakes in Iraq." According to an op-ed published in the paper, "air strikes and drone strikes won't work to effect regional change." Instead, the Obama administration and its allies should focus on political reconciliation and regional cooperation to resolve the roots of the problem. "The [Islamic State]-led insurgency in Iraq and beyond is a fight for natural resources as much as political control," the newspaper concluded, demanding a stronger engagement of regional leaders from the United States.
The Independent took a similar stance, but focused on the the possibility that airstrikes could "displace thousands more local residents" amid an already surging number of refugees. An editorial from the BBC offered similar skepticism: Its diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus predicted military action in Syria to have a negative impact on the United States by making the Islamic State fighters even more resolute and radical. Furthermore, the success of American airstrikes on Iraqi soil were not having the desired impact, according to the British broadcaster. "The US air activity has not yet really begun to evict [the Islamic State]."
The Financial Times pointed out, that conducting airstrikes in Syria is also much more delicate than doing so in Iraq where they "are designed to pave the way for local forces to retake territory occupied by the Islamic State." In Syria, however, the U.S. goal is to fight the Islamic State -- as well as to push for a regime change from President Assad to moderate rebel leaders. "The dilemma for the U.S. is that there is no guarantee the struggle against [the Islamic State] will not create a vacuum that the regime and its Iranian-backed allies will be better positioned to fill than the rebels."
France is conducting airstrikes in Iraq alongside the United States, making the country an important part of Obama's anti-Islamic State coalition. On Sept. 11, military analyst Jean Guisnel had already emphasized that it was "important to include Arab countries in the fight against the Islamic State, as well." France's leading centrist newspaper Le Monde reiterated this point this Tuesday in an editorial by criticizing an allegedly prevalent and wrong Washingtonian worldview. "Contrary to the discourse in Washington, the Islamic State militants will not be defeated in airstrikes," the newspaper argued. Victory, however, can only be achieved by Arab countries themselves, according to Le Monde.
Many German newspapers – no matter whether they are right-wing, leftist or centrist – were already hugely skeptical of Obama's announcement to use airstrikes in Iraq. The campaign's expansion to Syria has provoked similarly critical reactions.
The conservative Die Welt viewed the strikes as "an act of desperation" and the last remaining tool to prevent boots on the ground. There seemed to be little or no debate on German opinion pages about a potential participating of the German military in the Syrian airstrikes. "The Islamic State is more of an idea. One cannot just bomb the militants, but must fight them ideologically," Die Welt argued.
The Israeli press put an emphasis on the United States' Arab allies. While the Jerusalem Post prominently featured President Obama's remarks that he is "proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder" with Arab powers, an op-ed published in Haaretz blamed the West (and U.S. President Obama) for "sending fighter planes and commandos, [while] everyone is ignoring us." Even in case the latter remarks were meant to be rhetorically exaggerated, they nevertheless summed up an opinion which seemed to be present among many Israeli commentators.
Russia, which is allied with Syrian President Assad, is particularly critical of the strikes. Russia Today, the foreign wing of Moscow's state media that is typically critical of American foreign policy, featured an interview with Abayomi Azikiwe, the editor of the pan-African news wire, who blames the U.S. for having "created ... conditions in which the Islamic State has spread its influence to other regions." Azikiwe views the airstrikes as an escalation of "U.S. and NATO militarism" under the Obama administration. NATO, however, is in fact not directly involved in the current military operation.
The Moscow Times stuck to the official interpretation of the Russian Foreign Ministry which portrayed the airstrikes as a violation of international law. The newspaper quoted a Foreign Ministry statement criticizing the absence "of explicit consent from the government of Syria or a corresponding U.N. Security Council decision."
Although many western editorials emphasized the shared goals of the United States and Iran in the fight against the Islamic State, reactions among Iranian media were mainly critical. In an interview with Iran's Fars News Agency, freelance writer Yuran Abdullah Weiler was quoted as saying that the Islamic State was "a joint creation of the United States, Saudi Arabia and Qatar."
A similar allegation was made in another commentary published on the news agency's Web site which condemned a "steady flow of money to [the Islamic State] from the same petrodollar racket that happens to be part of [Obama's] reluctant coalition." The writer considered the U.S. airstrikes an attempt to bring Syrian President Assad to fall -- an opinion which stood in stark contrast to those voiced in many western media outlets on Tuesday.