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United Nations ‘frozen in place’ by Russia’s veto power on Syria response

“Horrific”, “appalling”, and “reprehensible”. If responsible for what looks like a chemical attack in Douma, the Assad regime “must be held to account”.

As Theresa May’s words echo across the airwaves, weary diplomats haul themselves to the United Nations Security Council chamber.

They all know that the paralysed organisation, frozen in place by Russia’s veto power, will again fail to protect the most vulnerable in their most desperate hours.

:: Chemical attacks in Syria: A deadly history

Rival resolution texts on chemical weapons have been circulating the corridors of the UN for weeks.

No-one can agree on a final wording.

A new condemnation of weapons intended to indiscriminately kill in violation of international norms is apparently beyond the one group whose sole purpose is to preserve global peace and security.

:: ‘Hell on earth’: What’s happening in Syria?

So today you can expect impassioned speeches, high emotion, possibly the use of photos of dead and dying children, brandished as props.

Russia and Syria will sit stony-faced.

There will be denial, irritation, injured expressions.

If it even gets to a vote, unless there is some seismic change of attitude in Moscow, Russia will veto.

It will argue that there is no evidence of a chemical attack in the first place, let alone who did it.

Wait for an independent investigation, its diplomats will say, knowing that Russia has often obstructed that very thing.

Western diplomats will leave the chamber knowing that the best hope of protecting Syrians from being gassed in their basements will be unilateral or multilateral agreements between willing countries to use military force.

What would that look like? Who would be involved? What would be achieved?

Who has the stomach for escalating a conflict involving Iran, Russia, Syria and the West?

It appears that Israel has already struck an airbase, killing 14.

America has not yet used its air power in retaliation, as it did last year.

But Defence Secretary James Mattis says he has not ruled out military action.

All of this is complicated by Donald Trump, who declared there will be a “big price” to pay for the use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians.

But just a few days ago the leader of the free world said he wanted out of Syria altogether.

Nowhere is this lack of international consensus more evident than at the UN.

Today, it will be on display again.