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Parliament’s vote on Syria calls into question what’s so “special” about US-UK relationship

In the wake of Parliament’s vote against military intervention in Syria, talk has turned to Britain’s seemingly less-special relationship with the United States. Britain’s decision marks President Barack Obama’s most recent foreign policy problem – America’s closest ally is unwilling to come to its aid.

On Thursday evening, Britain’s House of Commons rejected Prime Minister David Cameron’s motion to sanction military action in Syria by an opposition majority of 13, or 272 votes to 285. The vote could potentially hinder Obama’s efforts to take Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime to task for its suspected use of chemical weapons.

In what has been seen as a damaging blow to his authority, Cameron has been forced to rule out joining any American military action in Syria despite having pledged to support President Obama.

“It is very clear tonight that, while the House has not passed a motion, 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 said Thursday. “I get that and the government will act accordingly.”

After recalling Parliament to seek approval of the motion that missile strikes were necessary in preventing further chemical weapons attacks, Cameron failed to convince lawmakers in his own party to endorse Britain’s involvement. Members of Parliament, who voted against the measure, cited the long war in Iraq as the major deterrent from entering into a conflict with Syria.

Cameron has thus unwittingly become the first British prime minister in decades not to provide troops to a joint military operation with the US, breaking step with years of tradition. While Britain’s support is not indispensable to US military action, the disagreement has exposed a potential rift in Anglo-American relations. Continue reading