For the best view over Damascus, you catch a cab outside the Old Town, near the stunning Umayyad Mosque, and ask the driver to go up Mount Qasioun, just outside the city. There, at a roadside cafe, he will leave you in the care of one of his cousins, who, while separating you from your remaining Syrian pounds in exchange for a cup of tea and plate of baklava, will point out the highlights: see, the President’s Palace (he points to a concrete monstrosity below). There will perhaps be nowhere closer to see Barack’s fire-and-light show, when it arrives, although the cabbie may not stick around for the tip.
For David Cameron, the grandstanding is over. If the Assad regime used chemical weapons on civilians, then the Prime Minister has been right to seek a “robust” response. But his failure was one of basic politics, of consensus building; he did not make his case and bring people with him. The critical moment was his acknowledgement he could not be “100 per cent” sure the Assad government was culpable – no basis to expect Parliament to endorse air strikes. By contrast, the US Secretary of State offered more specifics: a precise number of deaths (certain to change, but sounds authoritative) and a narrative about the attack (the regime was preparing it three days beforehand, he claimed).
Mr Cameron wrote a cheque he could not cash, making himself look daft abroad and at home. But this is not the end for him or Assad.
I’m off on holiday for the next fortnight; Rhodri will oversee a dramatic surge in quality. It’s one last chance to mention a job opening for students: the closing date for i’s student brand ambassadors is this weekend. Second-year undergraduates interested in the media or marketing can find more details at independent.co.uk/istudents.