News / Europe

Opposition Blocks British Plan for Syria Attack

Britain's opposition Labor leader Ed Miliband is seen addressing the House of Commons in this still image taken from video in London August 29, 2013.
Britain's opposition Labor leader Ed Miliband is seen addressing the House of Commons in this still image taken from video in London August 29, 2013.
Al Pessin
— Concern over whether chemical weapons were actually used in Syria, and by whom, has moved the British opposition Labor Party to lead a rare successful move to block a foreign policy initiative by the prime minister.  Parliament refused to back military action against Syria - and that could make things more difficult for U.S. President Barack Obama.

British Prime Minister David Cameron had called Parliament back from its summer recess to seek authorization for military action aimed at “deterring and preventing” the Syrian government from using its chemical weapons arsenal.
 
But after the opposition and some members of his coalition raised concerns that he was moving too fast - before United Nations weapons inspectors report their findings and before the Security Council can act - he was forced to change his resolution to allow time for that, and to promise a second Parliament vote before any British forces might act.  However, even that was not enough to gain support from lawmakers.
 
Cameron couched his change in terms of past mistakes, when the opposition party was in power and Britain went along with another U.S.-led military move in the Middle East.
 
“I am deeply mindful of the lessons of previous conflicts, and in particular the deep concerns in the country caused by what went wrong with the Iraq conflict in 2003.  But at the same time, we must not let the specter of previous mistakes paralyze our ability to stand up for what is right,” said the British prime minister.
 
But Cameron said what is contemplated in Syria, air strikes on specific military targets related to chemical weapons, is nothing like the Iraq war, which aimed to overthrow the government and involved a long-term commitment of land forces.  He said the international community has a responsibility to protect the Syrian people from chemical weapons, to deter their further use, and to uphold the nearly 90-year-old global ban on them.
 
Opposition Labor Party leader Ed Miliband, who played a pivotal role in blocking Cameron’s desire for immediate authorization to use force, supports much of the government’s revised plan. But he expressed concern that voting for it would be seen as at least preliminary authorization to use force.
 
“Today could not have been the day when the House was asked to decide on military action.  For this House it is surely a basic point - evidence should precede decision, not decision precede evidence,” said the Labor Party leader.
 
Going slow
 
Still, Miliband agreed that Britain could join military action even without United Nations authorization, under the principle called “duty to protect,” and if there were substantial international support. 
 
And Cameron acknowledged that even with the evidence already in hand, and the additional information from the inspectors, there will still be a judgment to be made about whether military action is justified. He also warned of the danger of not acting, which he said the Syrian government would take as clearance for more use of chemical weapons. 
 
U.S. policy expert James Boys at London’s King’s College, says the British adoption of a ‘go-slow’ approach causes problems for President Barack Obama, who is convinced of the Syrian government’s guilt and has indicated he is ready to act.
 
“If he can’t get British support, he’s got a serious political calculation to make.  Does he go it alone and be seen to be, in the eyes of many, a simple replacement for George W. Bush, acting without U.N. support and without even the support of America’s closest ally, the United Kingdom," Boys said. "Or does he backtrack and perhaps wait for some sort of international support, be that through the U.N. or through other bilateral-lateral actors.”
 
Boys added any Western nation that decides to take military action in Syria has to be prepared for consequences, including military retaliation by Syria and perhaps its allies, political retaliation by its main supporters, especially Russia, and the potential that Western forces could be drawn into exactly the kind of long-term war officials are determined to avoid.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid