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

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid