Military action against Syria moved a step closer last night after Britain and the United States warned President Bashar al-Assad that there would be a “serious response” to last week's chemical weapons attack in Syria. As fresh footage emerged of children killed in the strike against a Damascus suburb last Wednesday, David Cameron and Barack Obama agreed in a 40-minute phone call yesterday that the Syrian government was responsible for the atrocity and that all military options are on the table.
The two leaders agreed that "a significant use of chemical weapons would merit a serious response" and a "new stage" in the two-and-a-half-year civil war. In a sign of how the military build-up is escalating, Washington despatched a fourth naval warship to the Mediterranean capable of launching missile attacks on targets on the Syrian mainland. Mr Cameron and the US President are "looking for a response that makes clear our abhorrence about the use of chemical weapons", a British source said. "Both shared the view that there is little doubt that this was a significant use by the Assad regime of chemical weapons against his own people," a No 10 source said.Is there anything that can be done to make things better? Would a few missile strikes end what amounts to a civil war? Would a no-fly zone seriously clip the wings of Assad's forces? How can the west stop the Syrians killing each other (and their children)? It might be possible to assassinate Assad, but would he not be replaced by another strongman? Or do we just sit on the sidelines and let the tragedy play itself out?
No easy answers.