UK Syria vote leaves US asking 'what's so special?'

Protesters outside the White House against military intervention in Syria Americans have shown scant interest in intervention in Syria

The vote of British MPs against military intervention in Syria is likely to send shock waves through the Obama administration. Britain has tended to march in lockstep with the US and this rejection of President Barack Obama's argument will leave bruises.

Before the vote the administration was fairly sanguine about David Cameron's difficulties and the delay in the UK joining any action.

It may be a different story now that it is clear Britain, so often cast as America's poodle, won't take part at all.

A senior administration official has told the BBC that they will continue to consult with the UK government, whom they call "one of our closest allies and friends".

But the official adds: "President Obama's decision-making will be guided by what is in the best interests of the US. He believes that there are core interests at stake for the US and that countries who violate international norms regarding chemical weapons need to be held accountable."

In other words, America could go it alone.

But that is uncomfortable. There is no question that it has the military might, though that is hardly the point.

Mr Obama has always made a point of seeking the widest possible international support.

To be abandoned by such a close ally leaves him looking particularly exposed.

My guess is that there will be renewed emphasis on the role of the French, the Turks and perhaps others. It will strengthen the hand of those in Congress who argue they should have their own vote.

It undermines the effort of the president to sell action to his own people, who seem to be deeply unimpressed by his arguments so far (the last opinion poll I saw had just 9% backing intervention).

I imagine there will be a lot of apologetic British officials in Washington trying to reassure their American counterparts that this is a one-off and won't affect the special relationship.

But that relationship is only to an extent about culture and history and language - it is about the military and intelligence relationship above all.

If Britain can't deliver, it will leave some in the US asking "what's so special?"

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell Presenter, The World This Weekend

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1009.

    Countries that violate international norms ....... such as having no regard for international law..... need to be held accountable.
    Most international lawyers say that bombing Syria without UN approval would be against international law.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1008.

    Despite what Marcus Draftdodger and his ilk say, the US-UK relationship is still strong. You may well see a repeat of the Commons vote in Congress assuming Obama has the balls to call it. We would not be much of a friend if we did not have the spine to tell you when you are about to help your enemy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1007.

    Parliament has shown its teeth and said no. I suspect we will have another vote after the UN report issues if it shows that Assad was indeed using chemical weapons. And I am sure that it will be a "yes" if so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1006.

    I have and continue to hold the relationship between our two nations (USA & UK) in high regard but what has happened to the roar of the mighty British lion? Instead I hear this mewing from Parliament. Has the great British resolve been lost in the sands of Iraq or the mountains of Afghanistan? Perhaps this is why you were able to burn down the White House in 1814 but unable to move into it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1005.

    Lets hope that wise heads will win the day at the St Petersburg conference.Surely we have it within ourselves through modern communications between the G8 to put pressure on all sides to stop fighting in Syria and have a political solution.


Comments 5 of 1009



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