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Plans for Syria assault derailed

Aftermath of Syrian fighting.

Aftermath of Syrian fighting.

LONDON — Prime Minister David Cameron’s plans for an imminent military strike on Syria were in disarray today after a revolt by lawmakers warning him to heed the “lessons of Iraq”.

After imploring the world not to stand idly by over Syria’s suspected use of chemical weapons, Cameron was forced into an awkward climbdown yesterday when the opposition Labour party and lawmakers in his own party said they wanted more evidence before voting for military action.

The government was due to publish an opinion from one of its top advisers on today about the legality of such a strike, as well as an intelligence dossier expected to back up its assertions that the Syrian government was to blame for an apparent poison gas attack that killed hundreds last week.

Dogging Cameron’s steps is the memory of events a decade ago, when Britain helped the United States to invade Iraq after asserting — wrongly, as it later turned out — that dictator Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

Britain, already embroiled in Afghanistan, was sucked into a second quagmire and lost 179 troops in eight years of war after Iraq descended into savage sectarian conflict.

It was the defining moment of Tony Blair’s 1997-2007 premiership, provoking huge protests, divisions within his Labour Party and accusations that his government misled the public by manufacturing the case for war.

“We have got to learn the lessons of Iraq because people remember the mistakes that were made in Iraq and I am not willing to make those mistakes again,” said Labour’s current leader Ed Miliband.

It was unclear how Cameron’s failure to master domestic British politics could affect US and French plans for a swift cruise missile strike against Syria, which denies using chemical weapons against its citizens, or what the impact would be on Cameron’s standing in Washington. (Reuters)

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