British Prime Minister David Cameron has lost a vote endorsing military action against Syria by 13 votes, a stunning defeat for a government which had seemed days away from joining the U.S. in possible attacks to punish Bashar Assad's regime over an alleged chemical weapons attack.
Thursday evening's vote was nonbinding, but in practice the rejection of military strikes means Cameron's hands are tied. In a terse statement to Parliament, Cameron said it was clear to him that the British people did not want to see military action.
The House of Commons rejected a motion put forward by Cameron seeking endorsement in principle for military strikes by 285 votes to 272 after more than seven hours of debate in London tonight.
Rebel members of Cameron’s Conservative Party joined the Labour opposition in seeking greater proof that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons before any military action.
“The British Parliament doesn’t wish to see British military action,” Cameron told lawmakers after the vote. “I get that and the government will act accordingly.”
Cameron had attempted to ward off the prospect of defeat by pledging that Parliament would have a second vote before the government ordered any military strikes against Syrian targets, and that there’d be no action before United Nations inspectors have reported back on the alleged chemical attacks near Damascus last week, which Syrian opposition groups say killed 1,300 people
The government published an assessment by Attorney General Dominic Grieve today that limited military intervention in Syria would be “legally justifiable,” even without the backing of the U.N. Security Council.
Lawmakers opposing Cameron expressed wariness about renewed military involvement in the Middle East, 10 years after Britain went to war in Iraq.
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