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Will the U.S. strike Syria without major ally Britain?

Published: Updated:

Analysts are divided over whether the United States will press ahead with a punitive strike against the Syrian government for purportedly using chemical weapons against civilians on Aug. 21, in light of British lawmakers voting not to take part.

British Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday said he accepted parliament’s vote after he lost his motion for a strike on Syria.

“The Americans don’t need the British in the military sense, but they need them politically,” Adel Darwish, political analyst and author of “The Edge of War,” told Al Arabiya.

While Cameron has a “royal prerogative” to launch a military strike without parliamentary approval, “the Iraq legacy” will stop him acting unilaterally, Darwish added.

Cameron’s predecessor Tony Blair “misled parliament. When it discussed Syria and Bashr al-Assad, [late Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein’s name was mentioned five times,” making Cameron less likely to override the vote, Darwish said.

“The UK vote is a terrible blow for the coalition of the volunteers against Assad,” said Christian Mallard, France 3 TV’s senior foreign political analyst. “How is it going to be feasible to have the coalition without the British?”

Without British military involvement, “the coalition will weaken,” said Mallard, highlighting its vital role in operations against Libya’s late leader Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, and helping the French military combat al-Qaeda in northern Mali in 2013.

However, despite Britain being an important U.N. Security Council member and a political heavyweight, “the United States is capable of striking Syria on its own militarily,” said Paris-based political analyst Kamal Tarabey.

The decision will most likely be made without U.N. consent, as permanent Security Council members Russia and China are expected to continue vetoing any resolution against the Assad regime, Tarabey added.

The United States has the political and military backing of France, the Arab Gulf countries, Turkey and Canada, he added.
Washington has bases in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to launch strikes against Syria.

While Iraq’s legacy pushed the British parliament to vote no regarding Syria, it has prompted the United States to plan for a “limited military” attack, the New York Times reported administration officials as saying on Thursday.

The United States does not want Syria to disintegrate like Iraq, said Tarabey, adding that Washington only wants to weaken the regime to create a balance of power between it and rebels.

“The strike could weaken the regime, and compel it to succumb to conditions at the Geneva II meeting,” he said.

Geneva talks

The Geneva conference was launched last year to resolve Syria’s conflict politically.

In mid-August, Russia said a proposed Geneva II conference was unlikely to take place before October due to a busy diplomatic schedule.

U.S. President Barack Obama has long mulled military options regarding Syria, but some analysts have criticized the planned strike as lacking in detail.

“This operation doesn’t have guaranteed results,” Tarabey said.

The Americans are “clueless,” and “don’t know what they’re doing,” said Darwish, adding that the United States “can’t win by air power alone.”

The U.S. Navy has moved a fifth destroyer into the eastern Mediterranean Sea in preparation for the strike, Pentagon officials said. Each ship contains dozens of Tomahawk cruise missiles.