Middle East

Press apprehension as Syria tension builds

UN vehicles in the Damascus suburb of Mouadamiya
Image caption UN vehicles in the Damascus suburb of Mouadamiya

As allegations of a recent chemical attack in Damascus continue to swirl, newspapers across the globe are busy weighing up the chances for a possible foreign military intervention in Syria. Arab commentators are largely supportive of the move, while the press in Syria itself and its ally Iran dismisses the accusations as nothing more than a Western ploy.

Newspapers in Russia warn of disaster if the West intervenes in Syria, but a commentary in China argues that proof of chemical weapons use by President Assad's troops may move Moscow to warm towards the idea.

And in the USA and the UK, commentators argue that armed intervention in Syria would by no means be a quick fix for the long-running crisis.

Commentary in pan-Arab, Saudi-owned daily Al-Hayat

"Regardless of all the various reservations about intervention, today it remains the only way to slow down the quick decay of the region, not Syria alone."

Editorial in pan-Arab nationalist newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi

"The USA only needs to take quick military action, which may last for a day or two, to deter Assad from continuing to use banned chemical weapons."

Commentary in pan-Arab daily Al-Arab al-Alamiyah

"After spending more than four years in office, Barack Obama is completely unable to put military solutions on his operational schedule as long as America's national security is not under threat."

Commentary in Syrian pro-government newspaper Tishreen

"Can a rational person believe that these military units [of the Syrian army] could ever think about using chemical weapons, if they have them, against people who are dying?"

Commentary in privately-owned, pro-government Jordanian newspaper Al-Ra'y

"It seems that the world has woken up, even though belatedly, to the horrors of the Ghouta chemical massacre in Damascus, and is preparing for military action against the Assad regime... those who paid no respect to the life of their people for the sake of clinging on to power must pay a dear price."

Commentary in Lebanon's Christian, anti-Assad newspaper Al-Nahar

"Time will show that Obama's delayed action on the Syrian crisis is more costly and bloodier than Clinton's hesitation and confusion before intervening in Kosovo. Victory may therefore not be achieved, unless at a very high cost."

Commentary in pro-reform Iranian daily E`temad

"The idea that such a [chemical] attack has happened is nothing more than a game and a joke. It is media propaganda that they started so that they can say that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against its own people, but so far no official source has confirmed this."

Editorial in conservative Iranian daily Jomhuri-ye Eslami

"For Westerners, the overthrow of the Syrian government would fulfil numerous and important objectives they have been pursuing for a long time, the major and most important of which is to crush the resistance and eliminate the anti-Zionist spirit in Arab countries, and thus secure the survival of the Zionist regime."

Image caption The UN chemical weapons experts continue to gather evidence in Damascus

Commentary in centrist, mass circulation Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot

"The die is cast. The American army is completing preparations for an attack on Syria... The big mystery is what the Syrians will do. Will the Syrian regime's reaction be rational? What is certain is that Israel should be on maximum alert in the run-up to the moment when the Americans send their regional allies the code: 'It is starting.'"

Commentary in left-of-centre, independent Israeli broadsheet Ha'aretz

"Any US action needs to be forceful enough and convincing enough to persuade Assad and any other potential chemical weapons users that the damage they will sustain after their crimes will far outweigh any advantage that they may have accrued from committing them."

Commentary in moderate, pro-Islamic Turkish daily Zaman

"I guess 'those who drink blood and oil' [reference to Western powers] are coming to the region once again. It is claimed that they will come and topple the Assad regime in Syria. Do you want them to come?"

Commentary in Turkish centrist newspaper Milliyet

"It is not yet clear if chemical weapons were used in Syria or who used them, but our government declared from the very first day that Damascus used chemical weapons... At the moment, the [Syrian] opposition has more reasons to use chemical weapons... Instead of pushing for a peace conference, Turkey is still encouraging civil war and bloodshed in Syria. This piracy turns Turkey into a target."

Commentary in Chinese Communist Party-affiliated daily Global Times

"If the UN can provide enough evidence to confirm that the Syrian government was behind last week's chemical weapons attack, even Russia, Syria's traditional ally, will adjust its policies over the conflict."

State-owned Russian daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta

"Having said that Damascus gave the green light for [UN] inspectors too late, the Americans and the British are practically openly preparing to blow up the Middle East. This is exactly what will happen, as most experts believe, if the USA together with Great Britain declare war on Syria."

Commentary in heavyweight Russian broadsheet Nezavisimaya Gazeta

"An invasion of Syria could be a disaster for the USA. If one can commit suicide twice, it will be the second and the last suicide for America. The first one was in 2003 when Americans invaded Iraq, turning the country into a constant source of instability for the entire region. The invasion of Syria will lead to a big regional war, and it is far from certain that the USA will win the war. That's why I think, by the way, that the probability of a US strike on Syria is fairly low."

Editorial in The Washington Post

"It remains in the United States' interest now as two years ago to see more moderate forces prevail. This can't be achieved with one or two volleys of cruise missiles. It will require patience and commitment. The United States can't dictate the outcome in Syria, and it would be foolish to send ground troops in an effort to do so. But by combining military measures with training, weapons supplies and diplomacy, it could exercise considerable influence."

Editorial in The New York Times

"Presidents should not make a habit of drawing red lines in public, but if they do, they had best follow through. Many countries (including Iran, which Mr Obama has often said won't be permitted to have a nuclear weapon) will be watching... Even so, if he decides to use military force, Mr Obama will have to show that he has exhausted diplomatic options and present a defensible legal justification, and that is not a simple matter."

Commentary in London-based The Telegraph

"A superpower's most valuable possession is credibility. If the world's pre-eminent nation makes a threat, offers a guarantee - or draws a 'red line' - it must be prepared to enforce its will. Otherwise, this priceless asset will be tarnished, perhaps indelibly."

Commentary in the UK's The Independent

What armed intervention by foreign powers in Syria will not do is bring an end to the present bloody stalemate in the two-and-a-half-year-old civil war... A ceasefire is the greatest need, in which power-sharing would be geographical with each side holding the territory it controls."

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. For more reports from BBC Monitoring, click here. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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