Newspaper review: Syria crisis dominates papers

Sunday newspapers

With a new president preparing to take power in Iran, the Independent on Sunday leads with a report that Tehran is preparing to send 4,000 Revolutionary Guards to support the Assad government in Syria.

The paper says Iran is deeply committed to preserving the regime in Damascus and the deployment was planned before the election.

The Independent says the US decision to send military help to the opposition in Syria has plunged Washington into what it calls the great Sunni-Shia regional conflict - a struggle that dwarfs recent Arab revolutions.

The paper's Robert Fisk says future historians will ask how the US could have so blithely allied itself with one side in such a titanic struggle.

In its editorial, the Sunday Times says the shift in American policy, however welcome, is desperately late.

Diplomatic ambush

The time for separating what it calls "the good guys" from a bad regime was easier two years ago. In the meantime, President Obama has been dithering.

The paper says the White House looks bewildered; the administration divided, making life difficult for Mr Obama's allies and easy for Syria's ally Russia.

The paper concludes that with conflicting voices swirling around him, the buck now stops with the president.

The Mail on Sunday says a diplomatic ambush by David Cameron and US Secretary of State John Kerry persuaded what it calls "a nervous" Mr Obama to arm Syrian rebels.

It says his U-turn came after lobbying which included a low-key visit to Washington by William Hague.

Deeper involvement

David Cameron has been warned he faces an embarrassing defeat in the Commons if he tries to win agreement for Britain to arm the Syrian rebels, according to the Sunday Times.

The paper says Mr Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague are keen to help those fighting President Bashar al-Assad.

But Conservative whips think two-thirds of Tory MPs oppose deeper British involvement and Labour and Lib Dem MPs are also be likely to vote against.

The Sunday Telegraph reports that Conservative MPs and retired officers are telling Mr Cameron he should not be contemplating intervening in Syria while he is simultaneously cutting thousands of Army jobs.

The Independent on Sunday says senior Liberal Democrats are warning that a move to involve the armed forces in another conflict would effectively destroy the coalition.

But the paper says the prime minister will support US plans to impose a no-fly zone over parts of Syria. It says he and Mr Hague are haunted by the West's failure to stop the Bosnian War in the 1990s.

Acted in advance

The Observer says Google is to hand out £3m grants to schemes to protect children after coming under pressure to act against what the paper calls "the growing tide" of child abuse images online.

Google has acted in advance of a summit on the issue this week at which internet service providers are likely to be urged to take tougher action against illegal sites.

The paper says web companies have been reluctant to do anything to inhibit users finding anything they want online - and will only block access to websites on an agreed list.

Finally, the Sun on Sunday reports that secret service spooks are disguising themselves as farmers to protect the US president as he attends the G8 summit in County Fermanagh.

The paper says agents have even bought a fleet of tractors - under the headline "Barack O'Farmer".

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