Iran must smile as UK fails on WMD in Syria

Perhaps the British leadership didn't make the case well enough on Syria. But which bit of no-to-WMD did Brits miss? Tehran laughing all the way to nuclear weapons

by Yorker on 31 August 2013 13:26

As the dust refuses to settle after Thursday's historic vote in the British parliament not to support military action against Syria, there are four key issues that will haunt British politics for years:

First, no serious political player in Britain was arguing for boots on the ground (or even in the air) over Syria anyway. So, most of the arguments against action over Assad's use of chemical weapons were straw men. For serious people, Iraq had nothing to do with it since the UK government was not advocating a repeat performance. Neither were we or should we have been about turning the tide of the civil war. Correct: it's not our business; let the Turks or the Saudis do that.

Second, it was never about whether this was in Britain's or America's narrow day-to-day interests (or whether the UK follows America's lead), it was about whether the use of chemical weapons should be allowed to take place with impunity, and whether a global precedent for inaction should be set or not.

Third, it was about whether Britain joins so many other countries in what we once quaintly called the West in simply shrugging our shoulders and getting the Americans to do the dirty work for us. They are in fact going to do that, and we will look like a bunch of quintessential numpties the day it happens.

Fourth, all you really ever had to grasp was that chemical and other weapons of mass destruction are so horrendously dangerous to the future of humanity that we needed to be part of a group of countries that made sure there was a price to pay for any regime that used them. This article sets it all out with complete clarity.

That's it. US Secretary of State John Kerry understood that and explained it well in his speech on Friday. Those are the issues you needed to get hold of. Britain didn't manage it. And in the long term that will matter to Britons and many others too.

As a codicil, and a rejoinder to those who disagree. Do you not realise that the great beneficiary in all this is Iran? If the second great pillar of the West, which the UK has been for decades, won't rise to the challenge after Syria has actually used WMD, how likely do you really think it is that the West will take action to stop Iran's nuclear programme?

Or to reformulate that, how likely do you think it is that Tehran will expect anything of the sort from the West now? I despise the Islamist opposition to Assad at least as much as I despise Assad.

But Iran and the related but wider question of the use of WMD was always the big one. And Britain failed to get that point.

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