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BRITAIN

British ‘no’ to air strikes hits Obama’s plans for coalition against Syria

Chuck Hagel says US still seeking 'international coalition' to take action against Syria

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 8:52pm
UPDATED : Friday, 30 August, 2013, 9:10pm
 

British lawmakers have rejected their government’s call for military strikes against the Syrian regime, leaving the US to look elsewhere for international partners while reserving the right to  act alone against Damascus.

The British House of Commons voted on Thursday to defy Prime Minister David Cameron’s bid to win support for military intervention over the Syrian regime’s  suspected use of chemical weapons against its own people.

Speaking in Manila on Friday, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel insisted  Washington is still seeking an “international coalition” to take action against  the Syrian regime.

“Our approach is to continue to find an international coalition that will  act together,” Hagel told a news conference.

Hagel said Washington respected the British parliament’s stance rejecting  participation in any punitive strikes against Syria’s regime.

“We are continuing to consult with the British as with all of our allies. That consultation includes ways forward together on a response to this chemical  weapons attack in Syria,” he added.

The British parliament’s decision also came after the failure of an  improbable eleventh-hour effort by British diplomats to win UN backing for action against Bashar al-Assad’s regime at a meeting of the permanent members  of the Security Council.

“It is clear to me that the British parliament, reflecting the views of the  British people, does not want to see British military action. I get that and  the government will act accordingly,” Cameron said.

His government was defeated by just 13 votes in the House of Commons in its  bid for a “strong humanitarian response” to the alleged use of chemical weapons  by the Syrian regime.

That, combined with deadlock at the United Nations, appeared to effectively  sound the death knell for the idea of a broad-based Western military coalition,  although other American allies might still participate.

Caitlin Hayden, a National Security Council spokeswoman said that President  Barack Obama’s decision-making “will be guided by what is in the best interests  of the United States.

“He believes that there are core interests at stake for the United States  and that countries who violate international norms regarding chemical weapons need to be held accountable.”

Earlier in the week reports had suggested that a Western strike was  imminent, but questions have been raised about the quality of the intelligence linking Assad to the attack

Earlier, envoys from the permanent five members of the UN Security Council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - had met at UN  headquarters in New York. 

The 45-minute meeting was the second since Britain proposed a draft  resolution to permit “all necessary measures” to protect Syrian civilians after a suspected chemical weapons attack last week. But none of the envoys commented as they left.

Earlier in the week reports had suggested that a Western strike was  imminent, but questions have been raised about the quality of the intelligence linking Assad to the attack.

The White House reached out to US lawmakers, with the president’s top aides  briefing congressional leaders in a 90 minute conference call.

Some members of Congress voiced support for limited, surgical strikes, while urging the administration to continue consulting closely with the  Congress.

Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader in the House, said she agreed with House  Speaker John Boehner that “there needs to be more consultation with all members  of Congress and additional transparency into the decision making process and  timing, and that the case needs to be made to the American people.

 

Some members of Congress voiced support for limited, surgical strikes, while urging the administration to continue consulting closely with the Congress.

 “It is clear that the American people are weary of war. However, Assad gassing his own people is an issue of our national security, regional stability  and global security. We must be clear that the United States rejects the use of  chemical weapons by Assad or any other regime,” she said.

US warships armed with scores of cruise missiles are converging on the  eastern Mediterranean, and US military officials have said they are ready to  launch a powerful barrage against regime targets in Syria.

Assad’s ally Russia has blocked all attempts to toughen international  sanctions against Damascus or authorise outside force to punish or unseat the regime.

Syria, meanwhile, is in the 29th month of a vicious civil war in which more  than 100,000 people are credibly reported to have died.

As the stand-off continues, a team of UN inspectors are investigating  reports that last week’s gas attack outside Damascus killed more than 350  people, including women and children.

A UN spokesman said on Thursday that the team had collected “considerable”  evidence and will brief UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon soon after they leave  Syria on Saturday.

Starting tomorrow he will try to reach out to member states and take  discussions forward on the question of what is happening in Syria,” the  spokesman said.

Ban has appealed for the inspectors to be allowed to complete their work  before the major powers decide any follow-up action.

Assad remained defiant in the face of the Western threats.

“Syria will defend itself in the face of any aggression,” state television  cited him as telling a visiting delegation of Yemeni politicians.

He vowed that any attack would result in “victory” for the Syrian people.

His regime has denied using chemical weapons and blamed “terrorist” rebels.

The mood among Damascus residents was fearful, while security forces  prepared for possible air attacks by pulling

back soldiers from potential targets and introducing tougher controls at roadblocks and hospitals.  

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This article is now closed to comments

honger
The Assad regime fully knows chemical weapons equals the nail in the coffin for them - why would they launch one? They had just started to make progress against the rebels, anyway.
The US and that racist Cameron have absolutely no proof of who was behind the chemical attacks. Remember Bush's "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq ten years ago?
And, what if the rebels launched them? How would the US and their allies react then?
pseudotriton
I sure hope more western countries have learned their lessons about sticking their fingers all over the world. But if history is any indication, I'm not optimistic. My guess is that this "delay" is only temporary, and Cameron will get his way eventually. The UK parliament and US congress are almost always just rubber stamps on these matters anyway. And to think some don't believe that history often repeats itself.
dunndavid
U.S. Senator McCain has called for limited bombing of Syria. The focus would be high value targets like the military airports the regime uses against the opposition. This seems like a smart approach. This would show Assad that using chemical weapons are counter productive. Air power is one of the strength of the regime side in the conflict.
It's well documented that chemical weapons have been used by the Assad regime, particularly in the most recent incident.
req
Lesson? They've had centuries to quit bothering friendly natives all over the world. The only western nations that do good in the world are the ones that shoot the pygmy blasters... That has enabled so many countries to detach themselves from their colonial masters.
aplucky1
i disagree, this is an important event
there might be some "token" bombing that will have zero impact on anything but the masses have made it clear there is zero stomach for yet another useless prolonged intervention
the real problem is the military industrial complex, they need to sell weapons and have heavy influence

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