Colonel Bob Stewart MP, a member of British Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party, expressed "total shock" to The Jerusalem Post on Friday at a House of Commons vote that rejected a motion holding Syrian President Bashar Assad accountable for the mass use of chemical weapons on August 21 in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta.
"This was not a motion to take us to war. This was a motion to condemn the Assad regime, and we've rejected it," Stewart said. "What signal does that send to the world?"
Reading the language of the bill, Stewart acknowledged that a paragraph in the motion said that Assad's use of chemicals "may" lead to military action, but only after the UK government had made a genuine effort at forging unanimity on Syria in the Security Council of the United Nations, and after then holding a second Parliament vote on the use of force, the bill read.
"That, to me, was quite a long-winded bag of measures, but the House of Commons rejected it," Stewart said.
Stewart, a former Royal Army officer trained on chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, asserted that widely available evidence pointed to an attack in Ghouta perpetrated by organized armed forces, which the Syrian rebels are not. He said his training gave him "98 percent" certainty, even without access to classified intelligence material.Crisis in Syria - full JPost.com coverage
But the specter of Iraq
"loomed large" over MPs, Stewart admitted, many still scarred from voting in the affirmative to invade that country in 2003 based on false intelligence.
"Fundamentally, the Conservative Party are very sad today, and this is a blow to David Cameron. But more importantly, this is a blow to Britain's international prestige," Stewart said.
"The idea that the United States may take action, and the French are a part and the Germans are in support, begs the question of where we stand."
After the vote, opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband on Friday called Cameron's push to war "cavalier and reckless," and commended MPs for voting against the motion. He accused Cameron of attempting to "bypass the United Nations" as its team of inspectors completed work on the ground near Damascus, gathering evidence on the alleged chemical attack that killed over a thousand civilians.