By Oren Dorell and Kim Hjelmgaard, USA TODAY
LONDON - The British Parliament on Thursday narrowly voted against
military action int Syria, forcing the United States to perhaps go it
alone if it chooses to strike Syria over a recent chemical attack that
killed hundreds of people.
David Cameron said it was clear the Parliament does not want action and "I will act accordingly," according to the BBC.
an interview on the BBC, British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said
the 285-272 vote ruled out any military intervention by the United
The votes came on a day that the Obama administration
postponed disclosure of the intelligence that led it to conclude the
regime of Bashar Assad was to blame for the Aug. 21 chemical attack that
killed hundreds of people in a region north of Damascus. The British
government released its intelligence findings Thursday.
president would be willing to retaliate against Syria on his own,
without an international coalition, a spokesman said following the vote
"The president of the United States is elected with the
duty to protect the national security interests in the United States of
America," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
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White House stepped up efforts Thursday to consult with Congress in
advance of any U.S. military intervention in Syria, including private
communications between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner,
R-Ohio, and a conference call for congressional leaders with senior
More than one quarter of the 435-member
House has signed a letter calling on Obama to seek congressional
authorization for action in Syria. Boehner has stopped short of calling
for a vote.
President Obama has said he has concluded the Syrian regime is behind the attack, as did a document
released by Cameron that sets out the government's legal position,
stating that "military intervention to strike specific targets" would be
A meeting of the U.N. Security Council's
permanent members ended quickly Thursday with no sign of progress on an
agreement over Syria's crisis. The meeting started breaking up after
less than an hour, with the ambassadors of China, France, Britain,
Russia and the United States walking out. It was the second time in two
days that the five Security Council powers met.
comes as Russia insisted no action could take place without U.N.
approval, and it dispatched two warships to the Mediterranean where at
least three U.S. warships have been positioned for days in case of an
order to attack. Iran also announced it would coordinate its efforts
with Russia to stop any attack.
Britain's government said earlier
that the legal conditions have been clearly met for taking action
against Syria for allegedly launching a chemical attack against its
Defense Secretary Philip Hammond had said that the leader of the Labor party was giving "succour" to Assad.
that stops us from giving a clear united view of the British Parliament
tonight will give some succour to the regime," he told Channel 4 News.
opposition Labor Party had said it wants to see "compelling evidence"
of the Syrian regime's guilt before siding with Cameron's governing
coalition in a parliamentary vote. Labor Party leader Ed Miliband said
he was "determined we learn the lessons of the past, including (on)
Iraq," where much ballyhooed evidence of weapons of mass destruction was
subsequently deemed to be false.
The potential roadblock to war
comes as Britain's Joint Intelligence Committee concluded that it is
"highly likely" that Assad's regime was responsible for the alleged
chemical attack. A document released by the JLC forms the British
government's first published evidence indicating culpability for the attack.
independent Doctors Without Borders group says at least 355 people died
in the attack. Syria's regime has denied using chemical weapons.
Meanwhile, Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin by telephone and was quoted by Iranian state TV
as saying that "military action will bring great costs for the region"
and "it is necessary to apply all efforts to prevent it."
to state TV, Rouhani said both Iran and Russia would work in "extensive
cooperation" to prevent any military action against Syria. The Iranian
president also called such military action an "open violation" of
Britain can go to war without the
express consent or backing of Parliament but in the wake of the Iraq War
in 2003 there have been calls for the government to always seek the
approval of Parliament.
On Wednesday, Cameron reversed an earlier
to decision to hold a single formal parliamentary vote that would
specifically seek authorization for British action. He bowed to
opposition demands that a second vote by Parliament be required, but
only after U.N. investigators conclude their findings. That is supposed
to happen Saturday, according to the U.N.
Meanwhile, the Syrian government had sent a letter to the British government asking for talks.
implore you to communicate through civilized dialogue rather than a
monologue of blood and fire," the letter said, according to the BBC,
which obtained a copy. The open letter was sent by the Syrian parliament
speaker who also invited British MPs to send a delegation to the
A yet-to-be-released report by the Office of the
Director for National Intelligence outlining evidence against Syria
includes a few key caveats - including acknowledging that the U.S.
intelligence community no longer has the certainty it did six months ago
of where the regime's chemical weapons are stored, nor does it have
proof Assad ordered chemical weapons use, according to two intelligence
officials and two more U.S. officials, the Associated Press reported
The officials, who spoke to the AP on condition of
anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the intelligence
report publicly, said intelligence linking Assad or his inner circle to
the alleged chemical weapons attack is no "slam dunk."