As UN inspectors are en route to investigate sites of an alleged chemical weapons strike in Syria, European editorial writers ponder the international community’s options for action - and agree the US faces a dilemma.
"How should the international community react to this crime?" Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wondered - a question many editorial writers pondered on Monday.
Should the relevant military powers come to the conclusion that military action is necessary, the paper continued, it would be evident that they can't count on a UN mandate. "The misgivings that have so far kept Obama from a military entanglement are justified," the Frankfurt daily wrote. But it warned that Obama faces the question of "what his word is worth if he threatens consequences but does not act. The President's credibility and the role of the United States as a global political regulatory force are at stake."
Obama faces difficult decisions, Holland's de Volkskrant agrees. "If Assad gets away with this, anyone can, and US threats of reprisal are empty - with all manner of consequences for the proliferation weapons of mass destruction," the paper said. It concluded: "The logic of deterrent forces Obama to act."
"All eyes are now on US President Barack Obama," Spain's El País noted. The paper added that the West waited too long on intervention, hoping the regime would collapse. "A military intervention is risky, as it could set the entire region ablaze. But to do nothing at all would also send the wrong signal," the Spanish daily concluded.
The Corriere della Sera from Italy also sees the problem of a widening conflict. "It is clear to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that Barack Obama and the Europeans fear the blaze in his country could spread," the Milan paper wrote, adding that is why Italy is so reluctant to intervene. "But by waiting, the fire practically spread by itself, fueled by the many political, ethnic and religious feuds."
Vienna's Der Standard also agreed that Obama must find a way to put the Assad regime in its place and "confirm US credibility without leading the country into a conflict where neither a victory nor peace are possible." However, the Austrian paper says, "no one knows the magic formula."
"Basically, no one wants a military intervention," France's La Presse de la Manche from Cherbourg commented on developments in Syria: "But, step-by-step, this is where we may be heading. What can we do to stop the massacre of Syrians today, without arming fanatic groups that want our defeat for tomorrow? That is the real question."
"Who is lying, what is true?"- The Neue Zürcher Zeitung from Switzerland pointed out regarding Obama's dilemma. "The US knows from bitter experience that fighting a war for moral reasons does not make it a better war. The President rightly shies away from following up on his pithy remarks with military action." But the Swiss paper concluded that doing nothing at all carries a rising price, in particular for "Syria's civilian population that is helpless in the face of the terrors of war."
"Special prudence is called for in the case of Syria, where religious confrontation superimposes the fight against the dictatorship," Hungary's Magyar Nemzet wrote. "The country has become a setting for a regional and global conflict of interests."