On the other side of this page the daily diary of past events shows that exactly one year ago today President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron agreed that the use of chemical weapons in Syria by Assad's government forces could lead to military intervention. Obama's threat was of enormous consequences and he later spoke about a red line on the use of chemical weapons that Syria should not cross.
Harrowing TV coverage of men, women and children suffering from what seemed like the effects of chemical weapons in a district of Damascus occupied by Assad's opponents, and of rooms full of wrapped corpses, have led to an assumption that Assad has crossed the red line and that some form of military response from the United States and its close allies is inevitable. But the UN Security Council is again baulked by Russia and China which want full investigations and reports on what actually happened and who was responsible.
A UN chemical warfare inspection team is in Damascus and could visit the affected area within an hour but needs UN instructions to do so.
It is, of course, essential that military action should only follow certainty about the offence. There are some features in the TV coverage that lead experts to worry about its authenticity, making it all the more necessary that the UN should have early access to the scene and its victims.