Skip to main content

Syria intervention debate: The world's media reacts

By Monica Sarkar, for CNN
August 30, 2013 -- Updated 1539 GMT (2339 HKT)
Front page of the New York Daily News on August 30, 2013.
Front page of the New York Daily News on August 30, 2013.
  • British members of parliament voted against military intervention in Syria
  • The decision goes against the government's motion and U.S. President Barack Obama's intentions

(CNN) -- "The British aren't coming! The British aren't coming!" screams the headline of New York's Daily News, describing Britain as "normally reliable" but now a surprising let-down for U.S. President Barack Obama.

Following a lengthy debate in the UK parliament Thursday, a majority voted against the government's motion to militarily intervene in Syria in response to an alleged chemical attack by the Assad regime.

The result of the emergency meeting has been described in the press as a humiliating defeat for both UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Obama.

The New York Times says Cameron's intentions were hasty and the result of the vote was a "blow" to the U.S. president.

"Like nearly all presidents since the Vietnam War, he has relied on Britain to be shoulder-to-shoulder with Washington in any serious military or security engagement," it said.

UK votes against action on Syria
UK's David Cameron defeated on Syria
Heated moments in the UK debate on Syria

Writing for Canada's National Post, author Kelly McParland criticizes U.S. President Barack Obama's approach as slow and indecisive. "Syria's government can only feel fortunate that so grievous a violation of international norms has provoked so uncertain and disjointed a response," she concludes.

Al Jazeera reports UK finance minister George Osborne's view that the result will diminish Britain's position in the world and fray the bond it has with the U.S.

Russia's weekly newspaper the Moscow News says the debate is "a stunning defeat" for Cameron. They also add that the White House has said Thursday's U.N. Security Council permanent member meeting, which failed to reach a conclusion, was another effort by Russia to not hold the Syrian regime accountable for the use of chemical weapons.

Russia's English-speaking daily, Moscow Times, says there are eight issues that must be considered before carrying out an attack on Syria. It says the main point is that Western leaders are not thinking about the bigger picture, such as whether military intervention will actually prevent further use of chemical weapons. The paper also suggests pushing for diplomatic instead of military resolutions.

The BBC's political editor Nick Robinson writes: "The prime minister has lost control of his own foreign and defence policy and as a result he will cut a diminished figure on the international stage." He adds that the prime minister's defeat will be mostly felt within his own party.

UK's daily newspaper The Independent said Cameron's military plans were "shot down in a dramatic Commons vote" and that "foreign policy is in disarray." It adds that the prime minister's "humiliating defeat" questions his leadership. The paper also claimed the loss was a win for opposition leader Ed Miliband, who supported military intervention but then spoke firmly against it.

According to the paper, some Tory ministers were quite confused. In the British political television program Newsnight, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond twice referred to the need to deter "Saddam Hussein" from chemical warfare.

British tabloid newspaper The Mirror also claims that UK politicians cannot pin Damascus on a map. "One person picked Texas - hopefully they were joking," quips the paper.

Britain's Daily Mail newspaper suggests Cameron has shot himself in the foot, describing him as the "Grand Old Duke of York" attempting to march his men to the top of the hill. "He now discovers that he has charged up his own hill while the majority of the British people and indeed a majority of their MPs remain stubbornly at the bottom."

Time Magazine reminds readers in its blog that the British government's desire to take action in Syria is nothing new, including numerous warnings to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to stop attacks on his own people.

French news outlet France 24 expresses shock at the result of the vote, claiming that the nation's President Francois Hollande will maintain his firm stance in support of military intervention. Unlike in the UK, the French leader does not need a vote in parliament to back his actions.

Hollande is also quoted as saying that Britain's agreement is not needed: "Each country is sovereign to participate or not in an operation. That is valid for Britain as it is for France."

The South China Morning Post in Hong Kong reflects on the Iraq War -- the memory of which clouded the debate in parliament and gave rise to concerns from politicians who remember the invasion only too vividly, it says.

However, unlike the uncertain grounds of that war, the paper points to the strong evidence of the use of chemical weapons. "Unlike Iraq in 2003, the triggering event in Syria a decade later is not a shaky argument that the government possesses weapons of mass destruction, but a rocket assault that left hundreds of victims convulsing and gasping for breath, glassy-eyed and foaming at the mouth -- all classic symptoms of a reaction to poison gas."

However, some feel excluded from the debate altogether. The online version of the Israeli Haaretz Newspaper claims that Israel should have been a part of the discussion: "During the lengthy debate in the British parliament over a possible military intervention in Syria on Thursday, Israel barely featured."

Part of complete coverage on
Syrian crisis
September 9, 2014 -- Updated 1448 GMT (2248 HKT)
As a 10-year-old, this boy first hit the headlines in 1982 when he saved his cat from a fire. This year, he was reported to be a suicide bomber.
September 5, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Aqsa Mahmood,19, would listen to Coldplay and read Harry Potter books. Then this Glasgow girl became an ISIS bride.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0823 GMT (1623 HKT)
The little boy looks barely old enough to walk, let alone understand the dark world he's now inhabiting.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0422 GMT (1222 HKT)
ISIS has released video of the aftermath of a mass execution. Another video shows alleged captured Peshmerga soldiers.
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 0933 GMT (1733 HKT)
The number of people who have fled Syria and registered as refugees amid the country's civil war will surpass 3 million Friday.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
Douglas McAuthur McCain, 33, grew up in the Minneapolis area, but died more than 6,000 miles away in Syria, fighting for ISIS.
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 2054 GMT (0454 HKT)
If the United States is serious about thoroughly defeating ISIS, it must, somehow, go through Syria.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 1243 GMT (2043 HKT)
Jihadists have kidnapped over 140 Kurdish boys to "brainwash" them. But a few boys made a daring escape.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 1248 GMT (2048 HKT)
Reports that Syrian warplanes carried out a cross-border attack on Iraqi towns is further evidence of the blurring of the two countries' borders.
June 24, 2014 -- Updated 2133 GMT (0533 HKT)
CNN's Atika Shubert speaks to a father whose teenage son joined the Jihad movement in Syria.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1141 GMT (1941 HKT)
At the start of Syria's civil unrest, Omar would rally against the government alongside his schoolmates, later taking to the streets in his hometown of Salqin.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 2117 GMT (0517 HKT)
Atika Shubert looks at the rise of European jihadists traveling to Syria and whether they soon could join ISIS in Iraq.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
The final stockpile of Syria's chemical weapons has been shipped out of the country, according to the OPCW, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
June 25, 2014 -- Updated 2025 GMT (0425 HKT)
The US isn't doing airstrikes in Iraq. Is there a vacuum for Syria and Iran to step in? CNN's Fareed Zakaria weighs in.
June 10, 2014 -- Updated 0804 GMT (1604 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports on Syrian rebels using underground explosions against the better-equipped regime.
June 9, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh returns to the besieged rebel areas of Aleppo, a pale skeleton of a city that has had the life bombed out of it.
June 2, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
Syria may be embroiled in a brutal three-year civil war, but that's not stopping the government from holding presidential elections.
June 3, 2014 -- Updated 1123 GMT (1923 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh meets an ISIS defector in hiding and gets a rare look into the group's recruitment process.
June 5, 2014 -- Updated 1610 GMT (0010 HKT)
Over a thousand Syrian refugees have turned an abandoned shopping mall in Lebanon into makeshift living quarters.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1616 GMT (0016 HKT)
More than 100,000 people reportedly have been killed in Syria since a popular uprising in 2011 spiraled into a civil war.