UK parliament votes down war motion for first time since American independence

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
August 30, 2013

British prime minister Cameron suffers major embarrassment over Syria vote, Rwanda accuses Congo of shelling, and angry farmers converge on Colombia’s capital. Today is Friday, August 30, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron leaves Number 10 Downing Street to attend Parliament in London, August 29, 2013. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

Cameron’s Syria shame. UK Prime Minister David Cameron suffered a humiliating defeat when the British Parliament voted down a motion to take military action against Syria, the first time a British Prime Minister lost a vote on war in centuries:

Commentators said it was the first time a British prime minister had lost a vote on war since 1782, when parliament effectively conceded American independence by voting against further fighting to crush the colony’s rebellion. Speaking immediately after the vote, Cameron told parliamentarians he would not seek to go against parliament’s will. “It is very clear tonight that while the House has not passed a motion, it is clear to me that the British parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action – I get that and the government will act accordingly,” he said.

France said it would back a strike against Syria despite the UK’s decision, and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Washington will continue efforts to put together a global coalition. Any military action is expected to be delayed until after the U.N.’s chemical weapons inspectors leave Syria on Saturday. Meanwhile, Obama’s National Security Advisor Susan Rice has led efforts to convince Congress that the U.S. must act:

Her views on the Syrian conflict have basically mirrored the president’s cautious approach of avoiding getting the United States bogged down in another costly war. Obama has withdrawn U.S. troops from Iraq and is winding down the combat mission in Afghanistan… Rice has been active in U.S. efforts to assemble something resembling a coalition of like-minded nations to respond to what U.S. officials say is undeniable proof that the Syrian government of Assad used chemical weapons to kill hundreds in a Damascus suburb on August 21. That effort suffered a big setback on Thursday as close ally Britain said it would not participate in any military action.

Most global leaders, with the notable exceptions of Russia and Iran, believe Assad is responsible for the apparent chemical attack. Reports of another awful incident have emerged after footage showed the aftermath of what appeared to be a Napalm-like attack. Roughly 100,000 Syrians have been killed since the country’s civil war started two-and-a-half years ago.

A Congolese armed forces (FARDC) tank fires a shot as soldiers battle M23 rebels in Kibati, outside Goma, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, August 30, 2013. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

Break from border violence. Democratic Republic of Congo’s M23 rebels withdrew from the frontline on Friday and agreed to a ceasefire in order to allow an investigation of alleged shelling in neighboring Rwanda:

Rwanda accused Congo on Thursday of shelling its territory and said such “provocation” would not be tolerated, raising fears of an escalation in the conflict in eastern Congo where army troops and U.N. peacekeepers have been battling the rebels. The United Nations has thrown its weight behind Congo’s government, saying its peacekeepers witnessed the M23 rebels firing shells into Rwanda.

Congo’s M23 rebels say the government has not integrated their forces into the army, as per a 2009 peace deal that halted four years of rebellion in eastern Congo.

A student demonstrator holds a sign that reads, “Support the strike because I am the grandson of a farmer” during a protest against the government of President Juan Manuel Santos in Bogota, August 29, 2013. REUTERS/Jose Miguel Gomez

 Farmer fracas. Colombian President Manuel Santos called for military reinforcements on Friday to rein in violent protests in Bogota that have left two dead. Thousands of Colombian farmers have come to the capital to demand changes to policies they say have forced them into poverty:

Protesters wearing typical farmer attire of woolen ponchos, brimmed hats and rubber boots to show their solidarity, marched in 15 columns toward the Plaza Bolivar, where the presidential palace and Congress are located. There were also protests in Medellin, Cali and elsewhere across the nation… The already grueling life of farming families has become harder in recent years since income from harvests has failed to cover costs of fertilizers and transportation. Potato, corn and milk producers complain that free trade agreements with Europe and the United States have made it almost impossible to compete with cheaper imports. Droughts followed by unusually heavy rains have also made farming conditions difficult over the past several years.

Santos has said he will lift import taxes on several products to help lower crop production costs, and that he is working on more permanent solutions to ease the financial burden on farmers.

Nota Bene: One road serves as both a lifeline and bottleneck in landlocked South Sudan.

Standouts:

A litany of errors - Reuters columnist Hugo Dixon discusses the damage done by Britain’s anti-war vote. (Reuters)

V-Rox - Russians rock out during a first of its kind, SXSW-like music festival. (The New York Times)

Putin portraitist out - The artist behind a painting of a scantily-clad Putin flees to Paris. (The Atlantic)

Charges flushed - A Zimbabwean man skirts charges of intending to use an image of Mugabe as toilet paper. (BBC)

Pseudoscience - An Indonesian education chief wants to impose mandatory virginity tests on girls entering high school. (Time)

From the File:

  • Afghanistan suicide attack kills district governor, civilians.
  • Nobel Prize-winning Irish poet Seamus Heaney dies.
  • Al Qaeda claims responsibility for Iraq bombings.
  • Japan seeks biggest defense budget rise in 22 years.
  • U.S. envoy sent on mission to free American in North Korea.
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