Britain’s Rejection of Syrian Response Reflects Fear of Rushing to Act

   < < Go Back
from The New York Times,

The stunning parliamentary defeat Thursday for Prime Minister David Cameron that led him to rule out British military participation in any strike on Syria reflected British fears of rushing to act against Damascus without certain evidence.

By just 13 votes, British lawmakers rejected a motion urging an international response to a chemical weapons strike for which the United States has blamed the forces of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.

The vote, and Mr. Cameron’s pledge to honor it, is a blow to President Obama. Like nearly all presidents since the Vietnam War, he has relied on Britain to be shoulder-to-shoulder with Washington in any serious military or security engagement.

But Mr. Obama’s efforts to marshal a unified international front for a short, punitive strike raised concerns about the evidence, reawakening British resentment over false assurances from the American and British governments that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

Even on Thursday, a British summary of intelligence could say only that it was “highly likely” Mr. Assad’s forces were responsible for the use of chemical weapons.

The defeat, a sign of Mr. Cameron’s weakness, was also a tactical victory for the often-criticized Labour leader, Ed Miliband. But in larger terms, it is also a measure of Britain’s increasing isolation from its allies — both inside the European Union and now with Washington.

there is deep skepticism of Washington’s foreign policy, especially after the long, costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

More From The New York Times: