LONDON — Invoking the specter of the Iraq war, British lawmakers on Thursday rejected military action in Syria, dealing a stunning blow to Prime Minister David Cameron and effectively ruling Washington’s staunchest military ally out of any U.S.-led strike.
After a marathon eight-hour debate, Cameron lost a vote that was initially seen as a symbolic motion setting up a final vote in the days ahead authorizing force against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime for allegedly using chemical weapons. But the surprise loss of even the weaker piece of legislation — by a vote of 285 to 272, including a group of rebels from Cameron’s Conservative Party in opposition — appeared to cost the United States its centerpiece ally in a still-forming coalition. The rejection additionally signaled what analysts called the biggest rupture in the U.S.-British “special relationship” since the 1982 Falklands war.
Technically, Cameron could still authorize military strikes over the objection of Parliament, but top government officials — including the prime minister himself — indicated that was not an option following Thursday’s defeat.