The path to a US attack opened a little further yesterday after US Secretary of State John Kerry said tests had shown sarin nerve gas was fired on rebel-held areas near Damascus, and expressed confidence that Congress would do "what is right" in responding to last month's attack.
Syria wasted little time in what it hailed as an "historic American retreat", mockingly accusing President Barack Obama of hesitation and confusion after he delayed a military strike to consult US lawmakers.
That is likely to lead to a delay of at least a week before congress reconvenes. The United Nations said his announcement could be seen as part of an effort to forge a global consensus on responding to the use of chemical arms anywhere.
But despite the public backing from French President François Hollande, and British Prime Minister David Cameron public support for another strike by the West in the Middle East appears in short supply as Britain’s parliament blocked Cameron’s motion to support military action while French parliament sought to put the matter to a vote.