Last week's missile attacks on Syria by the United States, Britain and France represented a coordinated response to the ruling regime's alleged use of chemical weapons in Douma. For various reasons, it had nothing of the element of surprise necessary for the best results in combat. President Donald Trump tweeted a warning well in advance to Russia and he did it in his characteristic manner: the missiles "will be coming, nice and new and 'smart'. You shouldn't be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it". The trio then proceeded to rain fire on military installations inside Syria, with Mr Trump using the urgency of the situation to avoid asking the US Congress to initiate the action.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said on Wednesday that United Nations security officials had briefly entered Douma to survey the area to probe the chemical weapons attack allegedly carried out by Mr Bashar al-Assad's government forces. Western diplomats say the Syrian government and its Russian ally coordinated to block the team. If true, finding incriminating evidence would be that much harder. Regardless of the findings, this would not be the first chemical attack the Assad government has been implicated in. Exactly a year ago, more than 80 died in Khan Sheikhoun, an enclave south of the rebel stronghold of Idlib, after Syrian planes bombed it with chemicals.