U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron failed to gain parliamentary approval for a military response to what he says is clear evidence of the use of chemical weapons by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
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 UN Security Council. Lawmakers opposing Cameron expressed wariness about renewed military involvement in the Middle East, 10 years after Britain went to war in Iraq.