“Mission Accomplished!” tweeted Donald Trump, in an ill-chosen echo of George W Bush’s hubristic declaration of victory in the Iraq war. “Mission Accomplished?” ran the sceptical headline of the Gulf News, the Dubai-based newspaper, in a reflection of the mood across the Arab world at the modest scale of the western strikes delivered on Bashar al-Assad’s war machine. Before the strikes, leading human rights campaigners in the Syrian opposition such as Fadel Abdul Ghany had said they wanted to see the west attack the entire Syrian air force, including all its airfields. His hopes were dashed. “If this is it, Assad should be relieved,” said Randa Slim rom the Washington-based thinktank the Middle East Institute. The Syrian government sent out a video of Assad turning up for work in the presidential palace as normal. The not-very-subliminal message was “it’s business as usual”. The UK foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, has suggested an extra benefit of the strikes might be that they encourage Vladimir Putin to bring Assad to the negotiating table. But it is hard to identify the strategic factors likely to change that would make negotiations any more likely to succeed, and in particular make Russia any more likely to… Read full this story
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