President Obama appeared to carry the charge of defending his “red line” against Syrian chemical weapon use alone Friday after a stunning defeat for British Prime Minister David Cameron Thursday evening, in which a preliminary measure clearing the way for use of force in Syria was defeated.
“It is clear to me that the British Parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action,” Cameron remarked after the measure failed in the House of Commons by a narrow margin. “I get that, and the government will act accordingly.”
The defeat underscores worldwide reticence over another military engagement in the Middle East.
There’s skepticism over the value of the limited strikes advocated by Obama, along with the hefty price tag on an already-strained economy.
Cameron acknowledged Thursday that the recent memory of a failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq colored lawmakers’ decision-making, saying that “the well of public opinion was truly poisoned by the Iraq episode and we need to understand the public skepticism.”
French President Francois Hollande, however, voiced his support for military intervention on Friday, saying that “all options are on the table” and that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s apparent use of chemical weapons against his own people on Aug. 21 “must not go unpunished.”
A number of U.S. lawmakers pushed back against the Obama administration’s apparent efforts to move forward with a military strike in Syria, with 140 House members signing a letter saying that any attempt by President Obama to engage militarily with Syria without congressional approval would violate the Constitution. Others maintain that under the War Powers Act, the president can lawfully proceed without a congressional vote.
A team of United Nations weapons inspectors remains in Syria examining the site of the recent attack, which left more than one thousand people dead and many more wounded including women and children. They are scheduled to brief the U.N. Security Council on Saturday, as the five member nations continue debating a resolution authorizing “all necessary force” in Syria. Russia and China are near-certain to vote in line with the interests of the Assad regime.