THE United States is set to go ahead with a military strike against Syria despite the surprise House of Commons vote against British involvement in an attack.
A fifth US destroyer armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles has now moved into the eastern Mediterranean and the speculation is that a strike on Syria could be ordered soon after United Nations weapons inspectors are due to leave the country tomorrow.
Last night’s Commons vote, rejecting British military intervention following last week’s alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime, was a humiliating defeat for Prime Minister David Cameron.
Thirty Tory MPs and nine Liberal Democrats voted against the Government to produce the 285-272 defeat.
Immediately after the vote, Mr Cameron told MPs: “I strongly believe in the need for a tough response to the use of chemical weapons.
“But I also believe in respecting the will of this House of Commons.
“It is clear to me that the British Parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action. I get that and the Government will act accordingly.”
US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said America would continue to seek out an “international coalition” willing to act together on the Syrian crisis.
A statement issued by the White House said the US would continue to consult with the UK Government – “one of our closest allies and friends” – but President Obama’s decision-making would be guided by what was in the best interests of the United States.
The statement added: “He believes that there are core interests at stake for the United States and that countries who violate international norms regarding chemical weapons need to be held accountable.”
US administration officials indicated President Obama was edging closer to a decision to launch a limited cruise-missile strike on Syrian military targets. But there is also unease within America to such a move.
Nearly 200 members of the House of Representatives, both Democrats and Republicans, have signed letters calling on the President to seek formal congressional approval for military action.
During yesterday’s Commons debate, Mr Cameron conceded there could be no “100 per cent certainty” about who committed the chemical attack, but said the evidence convinced him “beyond doubt” President Bashar al-Assad’s regime was responsible.
And he argued the biggest danger was for the world to “stand back and do nothing”, encouraging more attacks.
But Labour leader Ed Miliband accused Mr Cameron of “cavalier and reckless leadership”. Labour’s amendment calling for action to await more “compelling” evidence was also rejected.
As nerves frayed following the Government’s defeat, Education Secretary Michael Gove was reported to have shouted, “disgrace, you’re a disgrace” at Conservative and Liberal Democrat rebels.