As U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon awaits a report from weapons inspectors about last week's alleged chemical attack on civilians in Damascus, the U.S. is playing down expectations for a "smoking gun" connecting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to the attack—and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron is facing fierce opposition to intervention in parliament.
The inspection team will leave Syria on Saturday, a day earlier than planned (sound familiar?), and report directly to Ban. But its unclear what they'll find: The Obama administration is already attempting to head off any expectations of a "smoking gun" (or "slam dunk"—pick your cliché of choice) directly linking Assad to the attack, in which hundreds died.
So what does this mean for our big exciting war in Syria? Maybe nothing. Even absent its "smoking gun," it holds Assad ultimately responsible for the chemical attack. It also has some evidence of chemical-weapons use itself, as does the British government, which claims to have intelligence showing that Assad used chemical weapons as many as 14 times.
But the U.K. is facing its own trouble getting into the war: Labour Party leader Ed Milliband led a small revolt last night, when he demanded a second vote on intervention after the U.N. report. Cameron, who doesn't have universal support in his own coalition, was forced to acquiesce, and Labour—previously thought to be on board with intervention—has pledged to vote "no."