British MPs reject plans for military action in Syria

UN offers assurance that safety of Irish peacekeepers is paramount

Members of Parliament are seen attending a session of Parliament in the House of Commons, called to discuss the Syria crisis. Reuters

Members of Parliament are seen attending a session of Parliament in the House of Commons, called to discuss the Syria crisis. Reuters



The British government’s pledge to intervene militarily in Syria lay in ruins last night after a motion to intervene in principle in Syria was rejected in the House of Commons. The motion was defeated by 285 votes to 272.

“The British Parliament doesn’t wish to see British military action,” British prime minister David Cameron said directly following the vote, adding that the government would “act accordingly.”

Speaking on BBC Newsnight last night Britain’s defence secretary Philip Hammond said: “We are now clear that we are not going to be part of any military action.”

The vote took place after a highly charged debate during which the British government set out its case for military intervention, arguing that it had the legal justification for military strikes without UN backing.

However, the prime minister conceded that there was “no 100 per cent certainty” about who was responsible for the chemical attack. A report by Britain’s Joint Intelligence Committee released yesterday concluded it was “highly likely” that the August 21st chemical attack in Damascus was carried out by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Iraq war comparisons
In a debate peppered with references to the Iraq war, MPs from both sides of the House outlined deep misgivings about engaging in military action in the Middle East. Labour said that it needed a “clear road map” for action.

Mr Cameron’s failure to gain parliamentary support for military intervention came after the government had already conceded that a further vote would be necessary to sanction direct military involvement in Syria. The Government had hoped to gain parliamentary support for immediate military action, when Mr Cameron recalled Parliament on Tuesday.

A few hours before the Commons vote, the US state department refused to say whether the British parliamentary delay on military action against Syria would affect the US but added the Obama administration controlled its own actions. “We make our own decisions and our own timeline,” said a state department spokeswoman.

President Obama spoke to his main political opponent, Republican House Speaker John Boehner, about Syria as pressure builds on his administration to prove its case to Congress for military action.

Irish troops
Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs said it has been assured by the United Nations that the safety of Irish peacekeepers is paramount on their upcoming mission to the Golan Heights.

Some 114 men and women from the 43rd Infantry group are to be deployed to the Syrian border. Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore held talks with UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon to discuss troop safety.

The department reiterated its condemnation of the chemical attacks, adding that the UN Security Council was the “appropriate forum” for determining the response of the international community.

A meeting of the security council’s permanent members yesterday ended quickly with no sign of progress on an agreement.

The US is facing intense scrutiny on its intelligence information given that flawed evidence purporting to show the existence of weapons of mass destruction was used to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The Obama administration briefed political leaders on Capitol Hill last night on intelligence it claims shows that the Assad regime was behind last week’s chemical weapons attack.


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