David Cameron today launched an impassioned plea to MPs to back his stance against Syria’s use of chemical weapons as he insisted ‘this is not like Iraq’.

The Prime Minister told a packed an emergency sitting of the Commons that his desire to act was different to the Iraq war a decade ago which had created ‘deep public cynicism’ about the prospect of any new military intervention by UK forces.

He told MPs he had a set out a ‘very careful path’ including a second Commons vote before sanctioning a military strike, as government intelligence said it is ‘highly likely’ that the Assad regime was responsible for a chemical attack in Damascus last week.

Warning: Prime Minister David Cameron insisted he wanted to see action to prevent a repeat of the use of chemical weapons in Syria, not an invasion as seen in Iraq a decade ago

Warning: Prime Minister David Cameron insisted he wanted to see action to prevent a repeat of the use of chemical weapons in Syria, not an invasion as seen in Iraq a decade ago

Labour has confirmed it will vote against the principle of military intervention in Syria tonight, demanding ‘compelling evidence’ before committing its support for the Government’s approach.

But kick-starting an eight-hour debate, Mr Cameron conceded there is ‘no 100 per cent certainty about who is responsible’ for last week’s chemical attack in which 350 people died.

But the Prime Minister told MPs ‘you have to make a judgement’, adding: ‘The question before us today is how we respond to one of the most abhorrent uses of chemical weapons in a century, slaughtering innocent men, women and children.

‘It’s not about taking sides, it’s not about invading, it’s not about regime change or indeed working more closely with the Opposition.

‘It’s about the large-scale use of chemical weapons and our response to a war crime – nothing else.’

The Prime Minister’s voice cracked as he recalled seeing videos showing ‘children’s bodies stored in ice, young men and women gasping for air and suffering the most agonising deaths’.

He said failures by Tony Blair’s government in the run-up to the Iraq war in 2003 had damaged public confidence in intelligence and the need to act in foreign lands.

Voters were left dismayed by the so-called dodgy dossier of evidence produced by New Labour to claim Saddam Hussein had large stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.

‘The well of public opinion was well and truly poisoned by the Iraq episode,’ the PM said.

‘This is not like Iraq. We are not invading a country. We are not searching for chemical or biological weapons’

Prime Minister David Cameron


But in a blunt message to critics on all sides, Mr Cameron insisted: ‘This is not like Iraq, what we are seeing in Syria is fundamentally different.

‘We are not invading a country. We are not searching for chemical or biological weapons. The case for ultimately – and I say ultimately because there would have to be another vote in this House – the case for ultimately supporting action is not based on a specific piece or pieces of intelligence.’

He said the fact that the most recent attack took place is not seriously doubted.

‘The Syrian government has said it took place, even the Iranian president has said it took place and the evidence that the Syrian regime has used these weapons in the early hours of 21 August is right in front of our eyes.’

He said there were multiple eyewitness accounts of chemical-filled rockets being used against opposition controlled areas and urged MPs and the public view the horrific videos showing the suffering of victims of the attack.’

Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during a debate on Syria
Labour party leader Ed Miliband said he did not rule out supporting military action against Syria

Under pressure: Mr Cameron faced repeated questions and challenges from MPs on all sides while Labour leader Ed Miliband (right) insisted he did not rule out supporting military intervention in Syria



Recall: Mr Cameron told a packed House of Commons that Britain had to decide how to respond to 'one of the most abhorrent uses of chemical weapons in a century'

Recall: Mr Cameron told a packed House of Commons that Britain had to decide how to respo



Tony Blair delivers a statement on war in Iraq on March 18, 2003

David Cameron today revealed his own sense of betrayal at the way Tony Blair lead Britain into the Iraq war a decade ago.

The Prime Minister told how he had sat on the Opposition benches hours after the birth of his son in 2003 to hear Tony Blair make the case for the Iraq invasion.

Mr Cameron told the Commons: ‘I was determined to listen. I wanted to listen to (Tony Blair) and believe everything he told me.

‘One thing is indisputable. The well of public opinion was well and truly poisoned by the Iraq episode and we need to understand the public scepticism.’

Despite Mr Cameron’s insistence that Syria was ‘fundamentally different’ to Iraq, there were striking examples of him using similar language to Mr Blair.

On March 18 2003, Mr Blair (pictured) told MPs that action was needed against Saddam Hussein for refusing to give up his stockpile of weapons of mass destruction to deter other tyrannical regimes.

Mr Blair said: ‘Iraq is not the only regime with WMD. But back away now from this confrontation and future conflicts will be infinitely worse and more devastating.’

The New Labour leader told MPs: ‘Iraq continues to deny it has any WMD, though no serious intelligence service anywhere in the world believes them.’

But WMD were never found.

However Mr Cameron made similar arguments for the need to act against Syrian President Assad for using chemical weapons. 

He said: ‘If there are no consequences for it there is nothing to stop Assad and other dictators from using these weapons again and again.

‘Doing nothing is a choice. It’s a choice with consequences. And these consequences in my view would not just be about president Assad and his future use of chemical weapons.’


Mr Cameron cut short his holiday in Cornwall on Monday to take charge of the government’s response to the crisis.

He promised President Barack Obama that Britain would stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States in the event of military action. Parliament was recalled for an emergency vote on launching an imminent attack.

But Labour’s Mr Miliband withdrew his support, and will order his MPs to vote against even the government’s watered down motion.

It means a second vote will have to be held before any British involvement in military action against Syria.

Mr Cameron today stressed that no final decision has been made on taking military action to prevent a repeat of the chemical atrocity.

He insisted advice from the Joint Intelligence Committee showed there are ‘no plausible alternative scenarios to regime responsibility’ for last week’s large-scale attack.

There have been 14 uses of chemical weapons to date, and without action from the international community President Assad will use them ‘again and again’, Mr Cameron said.

He added: ’14 uses and no response. He wants to know whether the world will respond to the use of these weapons which i suspect tragically and repulsively are proving quite effective on the battlefield.’

Mr Cameron urged MPs to back his motion which sets out a ‘very careful path of steps that must be taken before Britain can participate’ in any military intervention.

It includes awaiting a report from United Nations weapons inspectors, perusing further action at the UN and a second vote in the House of Commons to back specific military action.

But Labour leader Mr Miliband has refused to write the government a ‘black cheque’.

The stand-off between Labour and the government means that today’s Commons recall will only debate the idea of military action in principle and not give the green light to any specific action in Syria.

Amid growing confusion about what Labour’s position is, Mr Miliband insisted he is not ruling out military intervention in Syria but the potential consequences of such action needs to be clear.

Moving his amendment to the government motion, Mr Miliband expressed ‘revulsion’ at the killing of hundreds of innocent civilians in an apparent chemical weapons attack.

But he said MPs need to consider how it is possible to make the lives of the Syrian people better while upholding international law and legitimacy.

Mr Miliband added: ‘I don’t think anybody in this House or anybody in the country should be under any illusions about the effect of our relationship to the conflict in Syria if we were to militarily intervene.

‘That does not for me rule out intervention, but I think we need to be clear-eyed about the impact that this would have.

‘Let me also say that this is one of the most solemn duties that this House possesses and in our minds should be this simple question, which is upholding international law and legitimacy, how can we make the lives of the Syrian people better?’

Mr Miliband added: ‘I am very clear about the fact that we have to learn the lessons of Iraq.

‘Of course we have got to learn those lessons and one of the most important lessons was indeed about respect for the United Nations and that is part of our amendment today.’






David Cameron urged MPs to watch the videos showing the 'human suffering' from the chemical atrocity

A clearly emotional David Cameron said he would never forget the images of children suffering in the aftermath of the devastating chemical weapons attack in Damascus.

He urged everyone to ‘force themselves’ to watch video footage of the victims of the atrocity.

The PM’s voice cracked as he told MPs: ‘The video footage illustrates some of the most sickening human suffering imaginable and expert video analysis can find no way this wide array of footage could have been fabricated, particularly with the behaviour of small children in those shocking videos.

‘Anyone in this chamber who has not seen those videos, I believe, should force themselves to watch them.

‘You can never forget the sight of children’s bodies stored in ice, young men and women gasping for air and suffering the most agonising deaths, and all inflicted by weapons that have been outlawed for nearly a century.’

The Labour leader added: ‘I do not rule out supporting the Prime Minister but I believe he has to make a better case than he did today.’

Mr Miliband said continued turmoil in the Middle East demonstrated the need to ensure the fate of innocent civilians and national security were upheld.

And concluding his speech, he said: ‘Whatever our disagreements today, we stand ready to play our part in supporting measures to improve the prospect for peace in Syria and the Middle East.

‘But this is a very grave decision and it should be treated as such by this House and it will be treated as such by the country.’

During debates in the Commons and the Lords, former Cabinet ministers backed the decision to wait for a report from UN weapons inspectors before taking action against Syria.

Tory Liam Fox said it was ‘reasonable’ to wait but insisted the international community must ‘make a response’ to the chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of Damascus.

Former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind said it was important to make the distinction between compelling and conclusive evidence.

But he warned MPs that failure to act would send President Bashar Assad the wrong message.

‘At this very moment, the Assad regime in Damascus are watching very carefully as to whether they will get away with what they have done,’ he said.

Keith Vaz, Labour chair of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, said he was concerned about the potential overspill into neighbouring countries.

‘One of the consequences of intervening will be the effect that it will have on other countries in the region, and my particular concern, as he knows, is Yemen, which is the most unstable country in the area.’

He asked Mr Cameron: ‘Have you looked at the consequences of what might happen with intervention and the effects that it will have on a country like Yemen?’

Richard Ottaway, the Tory MP who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee, described the chemical weapon attack as a ‘straw that breaks the camel’s back’.

He added: ‘Syria is a signatory to the Geneva protocol of 1925…it was a protocol drawn up in the aftermath of the First World War when the world said “never again”.

‘Do we just say “well, never mind”, sit on our hands while atrocities continue taking place?

With everything in life there is a red line, there is a straw that breaks the camel’s back and this is it.



Labour leader Ed Milliband has been condemned by the government for his shifting position on Syria

Labour leader Ed Miliband has been branded a ‘f****** c***’ by government insiders after suddenly withdrawing support for a military airstrike against Syria.

A day after Mr Miliband said he would consider backing a ‘limited’ use of force, the party changed its position by saying they would not agree until they saw ‘compelling evidence’ chemical weapons were used by Assad’s forces.

It forced David Cameron to abandon plans to push for imminent action and table a motion endorsing only the principle of military action.

Mr Miliband said: ‘Parliament must agree criteria for action, not write a blank cheque.’

But his refusal to support the Coalition sparked a furious response from the heart of government.

‘Number 10 and the Foreign Office think Miliband is a f****** c**** and a copper-bottomed s***,’ a government source told The Times.

‘The French hate him now and he’s got no chance of building an alliance with the US Democratic Party,’ the source added.

The official Conservative press office Twitter feed said: ‘Ed-Miliband is playing politics when he should be thinking about the national interest and global security.’

Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi tweeted: ‘It’s weak leadership to seek political advantage while every effort is being made to achieve consensus in the national interest Ed-Miliband.’

Ahead of the vote, the Syrian government and rebel forces both issued direct appeals to British MPs.

The Assad regime urged MPs ‘not to bomb us but to work with us’ and drew parallels with Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Speaker of the Syrian Parliament wrote the open letter to Commons Speaker John Bercow, Sky News reported.

It said: ‘Before you rush over the cliffs of war, would it not be wise to pause? Remember the thousands of British soldiers killed and maimed in Afghanistan and Iraq.’

An international strike would be ‘an aggressive and unprovoked act of war’, the letter added.

However, the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces has written a rival letter calling on the UK to act to prevent future use of chemical weapons.

Secretary General Bader Jamous said: ‘We call upon you to send a message to the regime that it cannot gas sleeping children with impunity.’

Six RAF Typhoon jets have been deployed to Cyprus to protect UK interests and sovereign bases, the Ministry of Defence said.

It came as a dossier of evidence gathered by the intelligence services in Syria was published by the government today to step up pressure on opponents to British involvement in military action against the Assad regime.

The Prime Minister yesterday battled desperately to get a consensus for a missile attack, but was forced by Mr Miliband and Tory rebels to allow UN inspectors time to report on last week’s chemical weapons atrocity.

But a three page dossier from the Joint Intelligence Committee made clear that the Assad regime was responsible for the chemical weapons attack last week.

The JIC found there are ‘no plausible alternative scenarios to Assad’s regime being behind the attack and has given the Prime Minister full access to ‘highly sensitive’ intelligence.

It could not, however, come up with a ‘precise motivation’ for the attack.

It concludes: ‘It is not possible for the opposition to have carried out a chemical weapons attack on this scale.

‘The regime has used chemical weapons on a smaller scale on at least 14 occasions in the past.

‘There is some intelligence to suggest regime culpability in this attack. These factors make it highly likely that the Syrian regime was responsible.’

However, Labour is demanding clearer evidence that the Assad regime was responsible for the attack.

Downing Street also released the official legal position suggesting Britain would not breach international law if it launched ‘military intervention to strike specific targets with the aim of deterring and disrupting’ further use of chemical weapons.

It argues that if Russia and China continue to block action through the UN Security Council there would be ‘no practicable alternative’ to the use of force to ‘deter and degrade the capacity for the further use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime’.

It adds: ‘In these circumstances, and as an exceptional measure on grounds of overwhelming humanitarian necessity, military intervention to strike specific targets with the aim of deterring and disrupting further such attacks would be necessary and proportionate and therefore legally justifiable.’

Page one of the legal advice released by the government


Page two of the legal advice released by the government

Justifiable: The two-page legal position insists Britain could carry out a targeted military strike against Syria without securing a UN resolution


Cabinet ministers were briefed on the latest intelligence this morning, ahead of the Commons debate.

A Downing Street spokesman said: ‘The judgment of the Joint Intelligence Committee is that a chemical weapons attack did occur in Damascus last week; that it is highly likely that the Syrian regime was responsible; that there is some intelligence to suggest regime culpability; and that no opposition group has the capability to conduct a chemical weapons attack on this scale.

‘Ministers agreed that it is fundamentally in our national interest to uphold the longstanding convention on chemical weapons and to make clear that they cannot be used with impunity.

‘Any response should be legal, proportionate and specifically in response to this attack and everyone around the Cabinet table agreed that it is not about taking sides in the Syrian conflict nor about trying to determine the outcome.’


David Cameron has tabled a watered down motion for the Commons vote

David Cameron has tabled a watered down motion for the Commons vote

The 370-word motion agrees that military action may be necessary and would be legally sound. But it’s awash with conditions, caveats and turgid language.


‘This House:

‘Deplores the use of chemical weapons in Syria on 21 August 2013 by the Assad regime, which caused hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries of Syrian civilians;

‘Recalls the importance of upholding the worldwide prohibition on the use of chemical weapons under international law;

‘Agrees that a strong humanitarian response is required from the international community and that this may, if necessary, require military action that is legal, proportionate and focused on saving lives by preventing and deterring further use of Syria’s chemical weapons;

‘Notes the failure of the United Nations Security Council over the last two years to take united action in response to the Syrian crisis;

‘Notes that the use of chemical weapons is a war crime under customary law and a crime against humanity – and that the principle of humanitarian intervention provides a sound legal basis for taking action;

‘Notes the wide international support for such a response, including the statement from the Arab League on 27 August which calls on the international community, represented in the United Nations Security Council, to “overcome internal disagreements and take action against those who committed this crime, for which the Syrian regime is responsible”;

‘Believes, in spite of the difficulties at the United Nations, that a United Nations process must be followed as far as possible to ensure the maximum legitimacy for any such action;

‘Therefore welcomes the work of  the United Nations investigating  team currently in Damascus.

‘Whilst noting that the team’s mandate is to confirm whether chemical  weapons were used and not to apportion blame, agrees that the  United Nations Secretary General  should ensure a briefing to the United Nations Security Council immediately upon the completion of the team’s initial mission;

‘Believes that the United Nations Security Council must have the opportunity immediately to consider that briefing and that every effort should be made to secure a Security Council Resolution backing military action before any such action is taken. Before any direct British involvement in such action a further vote of the House of Commons will take place.

‘Notes that this motion relates solely to efforts to alleviate humanitarian suffering by deterring use of chemical weapons and does not sanction any action in Syria with wider objectives.’




Labour leader Ed Miliband has set seven tests before he would back UK military action

Labour leader Ed Miliband has set seven tests before he would back UK military action

Labour’s 328-word amendment sets seven tests which would have to be made before Ed Miliband’s party will back UK military action:

‘This House expresses its revulsion at the killing of hundreds of civilians in Ghutah, Syria on 21 August 2013; believes that this was a moral outrage;

recalls the importance of upholding the worldwide prohibition on the use of chemical weapons;

makes clear that the use of chemical weapons is a grave breach of international law;

agrees with the UN Secretary General that the UN weapons inspectors must be able to report to the UN Security Council and that the Security Council must live up to its responsibilities to protect civilians;

supports steps to provide humanitarian protection to the people of Syria but will only support military action involving UK forces if and when the following conditions have been met:

– The UN weapons inspectors, upon the conclusion of their mission in the Eastern Ghutah, being given the necessary opportunity to make a report to the Security Council on the evidence and their findings, and confirmation by them that chemical weapons have been used in Syria.

– The production of compelling evidence that the Syrian regime was responsible for the use of these weapons;

– The UN Security Council having considered and voted on this matter in the light of the reports of the weapons inspectors and the evidence submitted;

– There being a clear legal basis in international law for taking collective military action to protect the Syrian people on humanitarian grounds;

– That such action must have regard to the potential consequences in the region, and must therefore be legal, proportionate, time-limited and have precise and achievable objectives designed to deter the future use of prohibited chemical weapons in Syria; and

– That the Prime Minister reports further to the House on the achievement of these conditions so that the House can vote on UK participation in such action.

– This House further notes that such action relates solely to efforts to deter the use of chemical weapons and does not sanction any wider action in Syria.’