′This is why we have a parliament′ | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 30.08.2013
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'This is why we have a parliament'

The British parliament's rejection of military intervention in Syria means the UK will not participate in any US-led strike. DW talked to one of the MPs who voted against UK involvement about this surprise move.

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John Baron is a Conservative politician and Member of the British parliament. He is one of 39 MPs to have voted against Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron's motion to intervene militarily in Syria.

DW: Why did you vote against military intervention in Syria?

britischer Politiker John Baron

John Baron is a Conservative member of the British parliament

John Baron: There are a lot of questions that remain unanswered, particularly with regard to evidence and legitimacy, with regard to taking action without a UN resolution, but also questions to do with military objectives. By intervening militarily, we could escalate the violence, and therefore the suffering of this vicious civil war, beyond Syria's borders.

Let's break it down one by one: What evidence would you have needed?

The West made great play of getting weapons inspectors into Syria. At the very least, we should give them time to report back. We were being asked originally to take a decision without hearing back from the UN, and we shouldn't forget that atrocities have been committed by both sides in this civil war, including claims and counterclaims with regard to the use of chemical weapons, and nothing yet has been verified.

What clarity were you looking for with regard to the prime minister's military objectives?

Well, what are the safeguards against mission creep? What happens if chemical weapons - in varying quantities - were used by both sides after the strike? What happens if British military personnel - and there was indeed a remote possibility of this - was to get involved? So there was a series of military questions that we felt we didn't have enough detail about.

But there was another reason why I - and some of us at least - voted against, and that was the issue of legitimacy. Can we undertake a military strike without at least having presented the UN evidence, to the Security Council? Because at the moment we'd be proceeding without a UN resolution. We all know international law is very subjective. There are no hard and fast rules. But the UN is the best we've got at the moment. We cannot keep riding roughshod over the UN; it lessens our authority when perhaps in the future we may have to condemn similar actions by countries less friendly to the West.

Syrien UN-Kontrolleure überprüfen Vorwürfe zu Giftgasangriff

Baron thinks it would be wrong to proceed before hearing back from the UN weapons inspectors

Did Britain's approval of the non-sanctioned 2003 invasion of Iraq - and of course what ensued - factor into your decision on whether to support military intervention in Syria?

I certainly think Iraq has cast a long shadow. The threshold for military action has certainly been raised. Quite a bit. And I think that [Downing Street] No. 10 miscalculated the extent to which that threshold has been raised. Many people now accept that we went to war in Iraq on a false premise, and, yes, there are differences between Iraq and Syria. But, on the key issues of evidence, on the key issues of progressing without a UN resolution, there were indeed similarities.

What signal does this 'miscalculation' send with regard to Cameron's political handling of events? After all this is the first time in recent history that parliament has blocked a UK military mission.

Now, you have to understand that this is a key foreign policy issue. And don't forget, parliament said 'no' to involvement in Vietnam. Parliament said 'no' to involvement in Syria. This is why we have a parliament. Sometimes the executive has to listen to its legislative. Many of us felt that key questions remain unanswered. And I'm pleased that parliament spoke, and that the prime minister listened.

So Cameron hasn't lost your trust - or the trust of his MPs?

No. No. This is not an issue of party leadership.

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