The new allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria demand to be treated with the utmost gravity. Any subsequent action must be based on information that is incontestably true and unquestionably reliable.
The charge that the Syrian government used chemical weapons and caused serious casualties is a grave one. A number of western powers have exploited the charge as a means of winning public support for military intervention in Syria.
The use of chemical weapons is a clear and serious offence against international conventions. Those involved in the conflict in Syria need to provide active cooperation with the UN investigation team. There must be no obstruction of any investigation, and there must be an end to incidents like the 26 August sniper attack on a UN convoy. But the situation in Syria is complex; there is no simple path to the truth. All parties should therefore be patient, and wait for the results of the investigation.
Some Western powers have rushed to judgment on the issue before the facts are fully clear. The American secretary of state John Kerry has already condemned the Syrian government, claiming that the United States has further information about the chemical weapons attacks. French foreign minister Laurent Fabius has said that evidence exists that proves the Syrian government must have been responsible for the chemical attack.
Ten years ago, Washington launched a full-scale war based on claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Subsequent facts demonstrated that the claims were no more than a pretext used to justify a war intended to enable the United States to topple Saddam's regime.