It’s looking less and less likely that Obama can stay out of Syria.
“The UN Security Council has called for immediate access for UN investigators on the ground in Damascus,” Downing Street said in a statement.
“The fact that President Assad has failed to co-operate with the UN suggests that the regime has something to hide.”
It said Mr Cameron and Mr Obama had “reiterated that significant use of chemical weapons would merit a serious response from the international community and both have tasked officials to examine all the options”.
The statement said the two men had agreed it was “vital that the world upholds the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons and deters further outrages”.
After days of delay, the Syrian government finally offered yesterday to allow a team of UN inspectors access to the area. However, Mr Hague suggested that this offer of access four days after the attack had come too late.
“We cannot in the 21st century allow the idea that chemical weapons can be used with impunity, that people can be killed in this way and that there are no consequences for it,” he said.
The Foreign Secretary said all the evidence “points in one direction”, to the use of illegal chemical agents by Assad regime forces.
A Government source added that even if UN inspectors visited the site of the attack, “we would need convincing by the UN team that this was not the regime’s attack because we believe everything points to the fact that it was”.
It’s still not clear whether Obama leans toward a moralistic spasm—dropping a few bombs to demonstrate to the world how righteous we are—or an intervention that would help grease the skids for Assad’s exit.
Unfortunately, the policy of delay has made all the options worse without, it now appears, succeeding in keeping the US out of war. Instead of the choice we had at one time between American intervention and a humanitarian disaster, we now have American intervention AND a humanitarian nightmare, with a revival of a serious Al Qaeda presence in the heart of the Middle East thrown in for good measure.
Intervention is dangerous and, as George W. Bush can tell us, it can go badly wrong. But nonintervention also has risks, and there are times when staying out costs even more than getting in.
[Obama photo courtesy Getty Images.]