27 Aug 2013

Parliament likely to back limited military strikes on Syria

Looks like parliament will be recalled this Thursday. That suggests that the US-led military action against Syria is scheduled to happen before the beginning of next week, when parliament was due to be back anyway.

I suspect there will be a substantive vote on whether Britain should be involved in military action.

David Cameron has committed in the past to parliament having “the final say” on military conflict and knows he can’t renege on that.

Tory whips before the recess told No.10 that there was a sizable number of Tory MPs opposed to military intervention in Syria when arming the rebels was top of the agenda.

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But No.10 is trying to draw a distinction between “puntive” action against the regime for alleged use of chemical weapons and regime change intervention of any kind.

Problem is, as two Tory MPs were just telling me, one can quickly blur into another, and destabilising the Assad regime right now would be doing it at a time when jihadists have gathered greater strength.

Read more: Syria: the military options

There are still plenty of Tory MPs nervous about any action over Syria but the expectation is that limited military strikes will win a vote.

This would be a very different kind of intervention from the one in Libya when the UK and French led the cause.

The US are completely in the driving seat on any Syrian intervention and that is already making for a bit of discomfort in Whitehall.

Parliament is being recalled to consider the case for military intervention before evidence has been published and at a time when the government is saying no decisions have been made.

Read more: western capitals poised to intervene on Syria – but how?

It is also happening before UN inspectors’ reports have been seen.

On a footnote, the recess began with discussions between the Speaker’s Office and No.10 on recalling parliament.

Speaker John Bercow wanted contingency plans made for parliament to be recalled in the event of Nelson Mandela’s death. No.10 was reluctant to set a new precedent for recalls.

Read more: British Army draws up ‘contingency plans’ for Syria action

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