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CONNECT THE WORLD
U.S., UK Debate Action Against Syria; Index Awards Preview; US Response to Syria; UK Response to Syria; Blueprint: Future Cooking; Public Opinion on Syria; Interview with Peter Goldsmith
Aired August 29, 2013 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: And tonight on Connect the World, Syria splits the UK parliament.
MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Politicians spar over the prospect of military action as officials on both sides of the Atlantic weigh up the evidence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Let's not pretend there is one smoking piece of intelligence that can solve the whole problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Inside Syria, UN weapons inspectors say they are leaving the country ahead of schedule. And in Washington, a State Department officials stands firm on accusations against Bashar al-Assad.
You're watching Connect the World with me, Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi.
FOSTER: And Max Foster in London.
Well, it's a night of Britain's great debate on Syria, what may be the first of many. Right now, the people who run the UK are gathered in the houses of parliament behind me ahead of a planned vote on the idea of military involvement in Syria over last week's alleged chemical attack.
But a separate vote on action can only take place once UN inspctors in Damascus have finished their investigation. They're expected to wrap up by Saturday. British prime minister David Cameron has set out the UK's legal case for action against Bashar al-ASsad's regime.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAMERON: The question before the house today is how to respond to one of the most abhorrent uses of chemical weapons in a century slaughtering innocent men, women and children in Syria. It is not about taking sides in the Syrian conflict. It is not about invading. It is not about regime change or even working more closely with the opposition. It is about the largescale use of chemical weapons and our response to a war crime, nothing else.
EDWARD MILIBAND, BRITISH LABOUR PARTY LEADER: The weapons inspectors are in the midst of their work and will be reporting in the coming days. That is why today could not have been the day when the house was asked to decide on military action.
But (inaudible) surely basic point -- evidence should proceed decision, not decision proceed evidence.
CAMERON: The fact the Syrian government has and has used chemical weapons is beyond doubt. The fact that the most recent attack took place is not seriously doubted. The Syrian government has said it took place. And the evidence that the Syrian regime has used these weapons in the early hours of the 21st of August is right in front of our eyes.
ELFYN LLWYD, BRITISH MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: If the decision, as some us believe, has already been made is Washington and agreed by the government here, then that's really why we're here, because Washington feels there should be some bombs falling this weekend.
MALCOLM RIFKIND, BRITISH MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: At this very moment, the Assad regime in Damascus are watching very carefully as to whether they will get away with what they have done.
If there is no international response of a significant kind, then we can be absolutely certain that the forces within Damascus will be successful in saying, well, we must continue to use these whenever there is a military rationale for doing so.
GEORGE GALLOWAY, BRITISH MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: The Syrian rebels have got plenty of access to sarin. It's not rocket science, Mr. Speaker. You don't have to be Einstein to have your hands on sarin gas or the means to distribute it. Russia and China say no to war. So do I and most people in this country.
CAMERON: From all the evidence we have, the fact that opposition don't have chemical weapons, the fact the regime do, the fact they've used it, the fact they were attacking the area at the time and that intelligence I've reported, that is enough to conclude that the regime is responsible and should be held accountable.
ALASDAIR MCDONNELL, BRITISH MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: It is no more pleasant to be killed by a cruise missile than it is to be killed by gas. You're still dead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: Well, the issue of legality looms large in any UK action. Former UK attorney general Peter Goldsmith advised the Blair government on the legality of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He currently heads up the European litigation unit of U.S. law firm Dbevoise and Plimpton. And former UK defense secretary Liam Fox was in the Cameron cabinet. They're both with me here in central London.
And Liam, the shadows of Iraq really have been hanging low in Parliament today.
LIAM FOX, FRM. UK DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, there's no doubt that there's a great deal of reticence amongst the public for any overseas military intervention. And that's understable. And I think in terms of the civil war in Syria, that would not be acceptable, because I don't think that we've answered the basic questions of what a good outcome would look like, what -- how we could engineer such an outcome, whether we should be part of it and how much we would want to own of the aftermath.
But that really isn't what we've been discussing today. Today should have been a separate debate about what is our response as part of the international community to the use of chemical weapons by the Assad government against the civilian population.
FOSTER: So a moral argument as much as anything else?
FOX: It is an argument about whether we're willing to fulfill our moral and legal obligations as part of the internaitonal community where an act of illegality has taken place in relation to the use of chemical weapons, which is in fact a war crime.
FOSTER: Peter, when we talk about legality, or everyone keep referring back to Iraq when there were other example you could use. The -- you know, Libya for example. In terms of legality, in terms of your experience of have international law worked with Iraq, is Cameron right? Can you have a legal intervention of some kind without involving the UN?
PETER GOLDSMITH, FRM. BRITISH ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well I think you can. It's a different debate from Iraq. Iraq was really about the preexisting UN security council rsolutions and how those operated. This is about a different basis -- same basis as was used in Kosovo, which is you can intervene in order to prevent a humanitarian crisis.
But the boundaries are uncertain. It's contentious. And there are some clear conditions which must be met. And I think the debate on that has got to be has the government at the moment demonstrated that those conditions have been met, critically you're doing it in order to prevent a further catastrophe. So how are you actually going to achieve that?
Secondly, it's your last resort.
Thirdly, that it's propotionate. Which means you're using force which is no more than is necessary in order to achieve that.
FOSTER: And that's what they're debating currently, of course.
Let's look at some of the detail, because in today's report the UK's join intelligence committee set out three key points on the reported use of chemical weapons in Syria. We have assessed previously the Syrian regime used lethal chemical weapons on 14 occasions from 2012. Ther'es no credible intelligence or other evidence to substantiate the claims or the possession of chemical weapons by the opposition. And the joint intelligence committee concluded that it is highly likely that the regime was responsible for the chemical weapon attacks on the 21st of August.
The problem, Liam, is it's not black and white and that's what people after Iraq really want.
FOX: Well, it's not going to be black and white. It's going to be a matter of judgment. And a lot of the debate today focused on what were the consequences be of military intervention?
I, and a number of others, raised the issue of what will happen if we don't intervene? What will cost of non-intervention be? What would the cost be to the Syrian people themselves? Would they be put in greater danger than they are now? In other words, would the regime see it as a green light ot carry out a similar sort of attack in the future.
What signal would it send to other despotic regimes around the world if they believe that the international community would not react if they used chemical weapons against their own population?
What impact does it have on the debate in relation to Iran which is looking to gauge the strength of the international community in relation to their nuclear program, for example?
And I think that not to act would weak the credible of the internaitonal community. What do our red lines mean if having set them we then abandon them?
FOSTER: In terms of what the government needs to clear itself legally, what else does it need to do? I mean, it doesn't actually have to go through the security council, but it does at least need to try to, right?
GOLDSMITH: It -- well, it said it needs to try to -- and I think that's the right thing to do. The question is what happens when it is turned down, because that's what will happen, because of the Chinese and Russian leaders at the very least.
FOSTER: But it does allow them to point the finger, then, to the Russians and the Chinese doesn't it?
GOLDSMITH: Well, but that's a political debate which takes place.
But I think what it then needs to do is to demonstrate is there convincing evidence that this was actually done in such a way that chemical attack took place as a result of particular actions sufficiently high up in the Assad regime that one can say if we now take this action it will stop it happening again?
And I noticed, for example, in the report we had from the joint ingelligence committee, it said the one thing they're not clear about is what the precise reason, what the precise motivation was. The worry I've got, the question I would ask if you don't know why they did it before, how do you know it by doing this you're going to stop it happening again?
FOSTER: What we're not going to get is firm evidence that Assad ordered this event. And that's going to be the gray area that's always going to exist over this, right?
FOX: Well, it's likely that that will be -- that that will happen. It's likely we will not get the smoking gun in that sense. But we know that a big military operation was taking place with the government trying to clear rebels in this area. And we know that chemical weapons were used. Now it makes a lot of sense that they were used by the regime, (inaudible) point.
The question is could we undertake some sort of military action that would send a very clear signal to both sides in this civil war that whatever else happens, the international community will not tolerate chemical weapons being used against the civilian population.
I dont think there's ever a guarantee, given the nature of the regime and what they've done in the past, there's never a guarantee that you can stop them ever doing this again. But what you can say is to the Syrian people that we are aware of your plight and we're doing what we can to try to minimize the risk of it happening again. And we're also showing that the internaitonal community is serious about its legal and moral obligations.
FOSTER: OK. Liam Fox and Peter Goldsmith, thank you both very much indeed for joining us. I'll be back a little later in the show with more on this -- a critical debate in London. We'll get the result on the vote on the motion as well, a watered down version, but it's still an important version as well.
For now, let's cross to Becky, though, who is in Abu Dhabi.
ANDERSON: Thank you, Max.
And we're going to have much more on Syria just ahead, including the latest from the White House on a high anticipated intelligence report that will make the case for military action.
You're watching Connect the World live from Abu Dhabi and London tonight. Stay with us.
ANDERSON: You're watching CNN. This is Connect the World with me Becky Anderson. Welcome back.
Now the permanent members of the UN security council are once again meeting behind closed doors to debate possible action against Syria. They failed to reach consensus yesterday on a draft resolution that would authorize, and I quote, all necessary measures.
Well, CNN has learned that Syrian ally Russia called today's meeting. Britiain's UN ambassador earlier said he hopes that means that Russia is now on board. But a diplomatic source tells us Russia wants to avoid a vote altogether.
Well, the United States has been promising for days to release the intelligence that it says it has that is proof that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons. It still hasn't, though, made that report public. But the Obama administration officials are expected to brief U.S. lawmakers in a conference call in less than two hours.
U.S. officials giving us an idea of what the report might contain. There reportedly is no smoking gun that leads to a slam dunk case. But officials say the evidence does prove that the Syrian regime carried out the chemical attack.
And it wasn't just some, quote, rogue element. Here's what a White House spokesman said a few hours ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: We have discussed our commitment to producing for you and for the American public to review an unclassified version of an intelligence assessment about the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons in Syria.
It's my understanding that that -- that that report has not been finalized as of this moment, but that we are still on track to produce that report before the end of the week.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So not today? (inaudible)
EARNEST: I'm not ruling out today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: All right. Well, dozens of U.S. lawmakers are calling on the White House to seek congressional approval before launching any military strikes against Syria. Republican house member Scott Rigell is leading the charge.
He joins us now live from Washington.
Obama is the commander-in-chief. Do you not agree that he has the right to take action without congressional authoritization, sir?
REP. SCOTT RIGELL, (R) VIRGINIA: Certainly I don't agree with that, Becky. And thank you for allowing me to have this conversation with you here. It's an important one.
The United States Condititution makes clear that the commander-in-chief has the -- both the duty and the responsibility to protect the American people. If an attack has occurred, or is imminent, I would be the first to stand with President Obama and say thank you for taking that action.
But when an attack has not occurred or is not imminent, the constitution is also clear that it rests with the United States Congress, and Congress alone, to be able to authorize that kind of action. So in this case, the president really is required by our constitution to come before this body and make the case.
And the letter that we have, it's not simply dozens, well, it's 140 members, 21 of whom are Democrats. It's not a partisan effort.
ANDERSON: All right, sir.
Now, you are as eager as everybody else is to find out what this intelligence -- compelling intelligence that suggests this was the Assad regime responsible for this war crime. You are not, I believe, on this call with the president tonight the many other congressional members are -- are you disappointed about that?
RIGELL: Oh, not at all. I mean, there are 435 members of the House of Representatives, 100 U.S. Senators, and I fully understand that we work through a committee process. And though I am on House armed services, I'm not offended whatsoever that I'm not on this call.
And Becky we have a shared value, all of us do internationally, and certainly within this body and I support the president's desire and an intent to get to the bottom of this. And I really believe that the dots will be connected, that the Assad regime is responsible for these chemical attacks.
It's not a question of whether a crims has been committed, a heinous crime, the loss of life, particularly children is tragic. This -- the regime needs to be held accountable. You know, I'm not an isolationist or a pacifist...
ANDERSON: The question is how, isn't it? How and when, I guess.
RIGELL: Yes. We're calling for the president to slow down a bit and to follow the constitution. And it is not weakness on his part. I think it would be strength.
ANDERSON: You've seen what has happened in the UK parliament today. The British prime minister backpedaling on his seemingly decisive commitment to back any U.S. military action. He says now at least he concedes until the weapons inspectors report on any evidence that they collect.
Do you agree that that is a sensible decision?
RIGELL: Very much so. I was able to watch much of the debate. And I'm thinking the debate that was taking place there in Parliament, that spirited debate, this is good and healthy. And it needs to take place on the House floor and the Senate floor here in the United States congress, the buildings that I'm in today.
This is part of our American tradition. And it's also required under our constitution. And I'm hopeful along with these other members who signed the letter, again bipartisan, that the president will see the wisdom and the constitutional necessity of following that process.
ANDERSON: All right.
The White House has conceded tonight that there is no smoking gun, but says it does have evidence in this classified intelligence report that Assad was responsible for the attacks on the Suburb of Damascus just last week.
Are you satisfied that the U.S. has enough evidence that at this tage Syria has crossed a red line. As the president said, if Syria crosses this red line the U.S. must act in its and other people's national interests.
RIGELL: Well, Becky the open source information that is available, and some information that we've received here is -- I think it is going to be clear that the Assad regime is responsible for this. But what I'm not seeing from the president yet is the clear logical strategic flow of thought here, that is where do we go from here, what specific objective is he seeking to accomplish. And if the vote were given today, if it were taken today, I would vote no.
But at the same time, I need to say, make clear, that I would be very open- minded should the president call us into a joint session, which he has that right under our U.S. Constitution to do it any time, to call in to session this body, the House and the Senate. I would attend that session, of course, and listen carefully. I would be there to seek understanding. And at the -- if the case is compelling I'm open to authorizing U.S. force.
ANDERSON: You are just saying slow down.
All right for that.
RIGELL: Yes, thank you.
ANDERSON: Out of Washington for you this evening.
Well, this weekend we could finally hear the findings of UN weapons inspectors in Syria. Today, they spent a third day gathering evidence at the site of an alleged chemical attack near Damascus last Wednesday. This amateur video is said to show the inspectors wearing gas masks and collecting samples.
Now the UN says they will leave the country on Saturday morning and report back to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Well, CNN's Frederik Pleitgen was one of the only western TV correspondents reporting from the Syrian capital in recent days. He's just returned to Beirut and joins us now.
You spoke with the weapons inspectors while you were there. Were they prepared to share any information and what they found at that point?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, at that point they weren't. And we actually say them and spoke to them quite on a few occasions, but every time it came down to what exactly they found on the days that they were out, they wouldn't talk to us at all, because obviously they let their talking be done through the UN secretary-general.
But of course they did give some clues. They said after their first time that they went out that they found some very valuable information. They said that they took a lot of samples, soil samples, also they spoke to a lot of people. They spoke to doctors in the field hospitals. They spoke to people who were allegedly subjected to these alleged chemical attacks. And they said they got some very valuable information, especially from those people who were subjected to the chemical -- to the alleged chemical attacks, because they can ask them, of course, what happened at that time, because most likely these people would have known at one time all of this happened, what the first indications were, was there a smell or was there no smell, that's something that's of great interest to the weapons inspectors.
And then also, of course, what effects all of this had on their bodies.
We, of course, had some firsthand accounts ourselves where people were describing what all of this did, how they started choking, how they couldn't breath any more. And how many of them fainted, but later woke up.
One of the interesting thing that we found when we -- since I went to the district of Zamalka, Becky, was that people actually said that the people who survived were usually ones who fled to the tops of the houses, who were on the roof. And they felt that the gas maybe didn't get up that far. So there were some very interesting tales that we got.
But the weapons inspectors didn't share any detailed information, but they are saying that they are gathering some very valuable information. And that's important, of course, Becky, because they operative word here has been from the very beginning that the longer the investigation drags on, the longer it takes to get underway and to finish, the less likely they are of finding any conclusive evidence. But they say they have still found some very good evidence, Becky.
ANDERSON: All right. Fred, life is tough enough as it is for those Syrians still living in the country. And let's remember there are millions displaced within the country and 2 million outside. How are people reacting to this circus, and this diplomatic, these threats of military action against their country and its facilities from outside at this point?
PLEITGEN: Do you know what Becky, there's a lot of nervousness in Damascus as it is. We were, of course, in the govenrment controlled part of Damascus where people generally -- or many of them -- are still sympathetic to the government. And they've been trying to lead a fairly normal life. That's become more difficult anyway. The prices are rising unbelievable. There's a lot of unemployment now. There's a lot of uncertainty. There's a lot of carm bombs in places like Damascus and they obviously also see the shelling that's going on around them.
What's going on now is that people are either more nervous than they were before, because they just don't know what the scale is going to be of this U.S. and British intervention that is likely to happen. And they say we just have no idea.
Should we flee or should we not flee? Should we stock up on dried foods and canned foods or should we not do that. A lot of people are going to the supermarket. You see the bread lines are getting longer.
And when we were going out earlier today from Beirut to -- from Damascus to Beirut. The lines that we saw at the border were longer than they usually are. I wouldn't say that it was an exodus or anything, but I do think that there's a lot of people right now in Damascus who are saying we think for the time being it might be better for us to cross the border and get into Lebanon for a couple of days, wait and see what the situation brings, wait and see what this intervention will bring, whether or not it could tip the scale on the battlefield and then see from there.
So there's a lot of uncertainty, a lot of people speaking amongst each other. And I saw this firsthand, people telling you on the one hand we're not scared. We think that the government will sit this out, but at the same time talking a lot amongst each other and really, really uncertain of what all of this will bring.
Of course as this international talk goes on and the international community seems to be deciding what course of action is the best to take at this point, Becky.
ANDERSON: Yeah. All right. Lest we forget that there are millions of Syrians inside the country. Millions outside the country watching what is going on at the moment. These are men, women, and children whose lives are affected by what is being discussed at high levels in countries around the world.
All right, let's take a very short break. Back after this.
ANDERSON: You're watching Connect the World live from Abu Dhabi and London this evening. Max is in London. I'm here in Abu Dhabi. I'm Becky Anderson.
We'll do a lot more on Syria shortly.
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ANDERSON: The INDEX Awards. The latest world news headlines are just ahead, plus US president Obama says there is no doubt Syria used chemical weapons on its own people, but can he convince Congress? That's coming up after this.
ANDERSON: This is CONNECT THE WORLD, 33 minutes past midnight in Abu Dhabi, welcome back.
British lawmakers are debating whether they agree in principle with military action against Syria. This comes just hours after British prime minister David Cameron made his case for intervention to the House of Commons. A new UK intelligence report concludes that it's highly likely the Syrian regime carried out chemical weapons attacks near Damascus last week.
UN chemical weapons inspectors are due to leave Syria on Saturday morning and immediately report back to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Today, they spent a third day collecting evidence at the site of the alleged chemical attack.
Well, at least 37 people were killed in a bus crash west of Kenya's capital, Nairobi. The bus went off the highway, rolled over, and plunged down a hill. More than 30 other passengers suffered injuries and were taken to a local hospital.
India has arrested one of the most wanted terror suspects. Yasin Bhaktal - - or Bhatkal, sorry -- is believed to be a co-founder of the Indian Mujahideen. He was apprehended on Wednesday in Gujarat state. India accuses him of masterminding a number of bombings in 2010 and 2011.
Well, the White House is set to brief members of Congress on a possible military strike on Syria. While the president could act without getting approval from Congress, he is required to consult with lawmakers. Let's bring in the US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf from Washington for you at this point.
Thank you very much, indeed, for joining us this evening. Let's start with what's happening in the UK, if we can, today. You'll have seen the British prime minister, David Cameron, backpedaling, backing off any British-backed military action for the time being, at least. Do you still feel you have a committed ally in the UK after that?
MARIE HARF, SPOKESWOMAN, US STATE DEPARTMENT: Well, absolutely. We have been in close consultation with our allies in the British government. Clearly we believe this is very important. We're obviously watching what's happening there right now, but we're going to continue working with our allies in London going forward.
ANDERSON: OK. David Cameron has said he is convinced himself that the Assad regime has committed a war crime. He can't say with 100 percent confidence, though, that this is the case. President Obama, it seems, can. How? Where's that intelligence from? And have you shared it with the UK?
HARF: President Obama made clear last night -- and we've all made clear -- that there's a preponderance of evidence, both publicly available and in our own intelligence as well, that shows that chemical weapons were used on a mass scale in Syria last week, and that, indeed, the Assad regime is responsible.
Throughout this process, we've shared information with the British government, and we'll absolutely continue to do so.
ANDERSON: This is the point, isn't it? Everybody's waiting for this intelligence, which the US has said it would declassify at the beginning of the week. So, when are you going to do that?
HARF: Well, we said that we'll do that at some point this week, but let's take a step back and look at the preponderance of publicly available information. It's clear that chemical weapons were used on a large scale here. It's also clear that there is only one party in Syria that has the ability to do that --
ANDERSON: With respect, because we've listened -- OK. You did make that point. And with respect, we've listened to a very lengthy debate in the UK parliament today, and as I said, David Cameron is himself convinced that the Assad regime was behind this chemical attack, but he can't say that with 100 percent confidence because the intelligence doesn't exist.
If you say you've shared the intelligence you have, well, Britain doesn't seem to have it because they can't say with 100 percent confidence that, indeed, it was the Assad regime. And that is important, isn't it? If they are to have crossed this red line.
HARF: Well, we've been clear that we believe the Assad regime should be held accountable here because they are the ones that perpetrated this horrible chemical weapons attack. I'm talking more about the --
ANDERSON: Listen to what I'm asking, where are the specifics? It's the specifics I'm asking about. Where did that intelligence come from? Just out of interest.
HARF: We'll be talking more about the intelligence in the coming days. We're not going to get into that specifically at this point. But there's also, I would point out -- and I think this is very important -- a large amount of public information showing that chemical weapons were used.
And we all know that the only party in Syria with the capability to do this is, in fact, the regime. So, we'll share more information and more intelligence in the days ahead. We absolutely will.
ANDERSON: OK. Josh -- and Josh Earnest said that that information could be available as early as today. Some of which, I know, will be shared with some of the congressional leaders that Obama will be speaking to in the hour or so ahead.
Will the weapons inspectors' report be immaterial to the president's decision now? And if not, why doesn't he just commit to waiting for that, as David Cameron has?
HARF: Well, I'd make a few points. First, the UN doesn't have a mandate to determine culpability here. So, they're only determining whether chemical weapons were used, a determination that we've already made. So clearly, the president will be reviewing a lot of information --
ANDERSON: So, it's immaterial?
HARF: -- intelligence and other information as he makes the decision. Again, he hasn't made a decision yet. It's not that it's immaterial, but clearly, we're making our own decisions on our own timelines based on our own information.
ANDERSON: With the help of your allies, of course.
HARF: Absolutely. We have been consulting closely --
ANDERSON: One assumes.
HARF: -- with our allies and partners. Secretary Kerry has been on the phone ever since this attack happened around the clock talking to our allies and partners all around the world, and that will certainly continue in the days ahead.
ANDERSON: And we thank you very much, indeed, for your time.
HARF: Thank you so much.
ANDERSON: The White House for you this evening. Thank you. We're going to move on and we'll continue with the story of Syria, and let's get you back to the UK where, as I say, there has been a lengthy debate today on what will happen and when, if at all, on military action in Britain. And some backpedaling, some breaks on the action. Max is with the story there.
MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, right now -- yes, members of parliament are still locked in debate over the UK's response to the suspected chemical attack in Syria. Many lawmakers remain deeply divided on whether Britain should use military intervention.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID CAMERON, PRIME MINISTER OF BRITAIN: The weapons inspectors are in the midst of their work and will be reporting in the coming days. That is why today could not have been the day when the House was asked to decide on military action.
(CROWD MURMERS AGREEMENT)
CAMERON: But for this House -- for this House -- for this House, it is surely a basic point: evidence should precede decision, not decision precede evidence.
It is that House that will decide what steps we next take. If you agree to the motion I've set down, no action can be taken until we have heard from the UN weapons inspectors, until there's been further action at the United Nations, and another vote in this House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: So, the Labour Party in many ways leading this debate today and changing the agenda that David Cameron, perhaps, wanted. Ben Bradshaw is a former Labour cabinet member. Thanks for joining us. In terms of what Ed Miliband wants, what exactly is it? Is he trying to scupper the process, or does he want something else?
BEN BRADSHAW, BRITISH MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: No, I think he didn't want the British people and our parliament to be bounced into a precipitive decision, which was in danger of happening today, with the original government intention.
Not least because the weapons inspectors are doing their work in Damascus, and they're reporting in the next couple of days. And I think there's widespread consensus here -- and Cameron, the prime minister, had now accepted that -- that they should be allowed to make those reports, then there should be a United Nations vote, and then we will take a decision.
There's no real huge division here on the principle of abhorrence of the use of chemical weapons and the need for the international community to do something, but there are questions about what and what the consequences of that and the objectives of any action should be.
FOSTER: Does Miliband approve of intervention? Could he potentially go towards intervention if he's convinced?
BRADSHAW: He's made quite clear that the Labour Party in Britain will support intervention if the case is made, if the evidence is presented, which is compelling, if there's a legal justification, and if the objectives are limited and clear.
The Labour Party -- it was Tony Blair who took us into the intervention in Kosovo to stop Milosevic's ethnic cleansing with no United Nations approval. So, there's no problem that the Labour Party has with that.
We just feel that there's been an unseemly rush in the last 48 hours to a precipitive decision today, which has now -- we've been given a few more days to consider, and I think that's widely appreciated in Britain and across the world.
FOSTER: When we get this report, it will say whether or not chemical weapons were used. It won't apportion blame, though, and it's -- there was a moment in the debate today where David Cameron suggested that Ed Miliband perhaps didn't believe that Assad was responsible. Does he need convincing on that as well?
BRADSHAW: I don't think it's that he needs convincing, but I think we need more evidence than has hitherto been produced. The statement that the British government published today on so-called intelligence wasn't actually intelligence. It was an assertion rather than intelligence.
I don't see any reason as a former minister responsible for the intelligence services why more detail of the intelligence and the knowledge that our governments have that make them so convinced that Assad was responsible is put in the public domain.
After Iraq, the public do need convincing. They do need to see the evidence. They need the arguments and the facts put out there. I think in the end, they will support limited action in response to this outrageous use of chemical weapons, but we need that to be properly sequences with proper arguments put, not rushed into on an artificial political timescale.
FOSTER: Ben Bradshaw, thank you very much, indeed. And debates continue in the building behind me. We could have a vote within the next hour. We will, of course, bring it to you as soon as we have it. We'll be back in just a moment.
ANDERSON: We doing the news show tonight and Syria, but I'm going to move away just for a couple of minutes for something slightly different tonight. In many factories across the globe, robots work seamlessly through the production process.
But what about in the kitchen? On this week's episode of Blueprint, students at the Poznan School of Form in Poland are cooking up a batch of the future. Have a look at this.
DOROTA KABALA, INDUSTRIAL DESIGNER: My name is Dorota Kabala, I'm an industrial designer, and I was working with students at School of Form in Poznan and Poland on a project Let's Cook the Future with cooking robots.
BARBARA DZAMAN, DESIGN STUDENT: We tried to cook with robots. We had a robot that initially was made just to be in factories and cars, and we tried to treat it as a human and put it in the kitchen.
KABALA: The problem we are addressing in this project is need for personalization of production. So, if you imagine a supermarket as little, and they are so easy to use that you can just go there and say I want this or this, and it's produced, that thing you need.
We involve not only industrial robots, but also 3D printers. So, you can see robots and 3D printers cooperating and producing cookies that's in any shape you can imagine.
JUSTYNA STROCIAK, DESIGN STUDENT: Marek Cecula is coming to our school to visit us and to see what we've done. He's a famous Polish designer known for his ceramics and his interest in food.
MAREK CECULA, ARTIST AND DESIGNER: All right, let's start it.
CECULA: Show me what this machine can do.
Wow, I'm amazed. I'm amazed to see a machine doing such a delicate movement, such a precise, touchable part of motions, and actually creating things we are not used to seeing made by machine, food.
We can expect it 30 minutes to run, we're going to see instead of chef, we're going to see machine.
STROCIAK: Yes, that is the question.
CECULA: But the programming is a complicated process?
STROCIAK: Maybe it's not that complicated, but you have to think about different aspects. You have to think about the -- the kinds of movements, if it's straight, circles.
CECULA: You have to adapt it to -- so the thinking can be translated to each movement.
STROCIAK: So, we were wondering if you see some future use in joining the technique robots and the kitchen?
CECULA: It will take time to adapt it to change the really human form, human touch into that machine. But I think we see it in the automobile industry, where the precise screws are put in. So we know that this machine can really do precise things.
STROCIAK: Yes --
CECULA: We're just thinking about time to adapting that to the -- all different conditions, and then we can expect it in every industry, we'll have a robot instead of people. It's a new reality, a new world we're living, but food is really very special and very personal and very intimate. And I wonder how this will be accepted by the public.
STROCIAK: I think he was really interested about what we'd really done, because he said that before technique went in this direction and humans were in a different direction, and now he said that technique and humans really want to join together.
CECULA: I think that we have to really looking that robots will cook for us and how much sauce to add in or how much sugar to add into the food that it will be tasty. I'm looking forward to that, and it's a new brave world in front of us.
ANDERSON: And we're going to return to the UK debate over Syria after this short break on CONNECT THE WORLD. We are expecting a vote on the response to the Syrian situation within the next hour. That is, of course, not final, but just in the nature of the response.
Also coming up, the appetite for intervention. Do the British and American public have the stomach for yet another Middle Eastern conflict. An analysis upcoming, stay with us.
FOSTER: Now, as lawmakers debated what to do about Syria inside the British House of Commons, a small group of anti-war protesters rallied outside parliament. Demonstrations against people -- against possible UK military intervention in Syria have been relatively quiet so far, but organizers expect larger crowds to turn up for protests planned for this weekend.
Welcome back to you, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD live from London and Abu Dhabi. I'm here in London. Opinions on what needs to be done about Syria are mixed, both on the streets of the United Kingdom and the United States. The latest installment of CNN's Open Mic series begins in New York.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think there's any American who wants to get involved in another war, but I also don't think there's any American who can look at those pictures and say we can't just ignore, we have to do something.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chemical weapons were a red line for the Obama administration, so I think that the Obama administration doesn't want to go at war right now, but they have to.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think a military act would cause outside -- other countries to look at us as we're trying to police the world with action instead of a more diplomatic, peaceful resolution. I think flexing a muscle is different than using the hand to slap the face.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe that America needs to stay out of other countries' business.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who else is going to do it? So, yes. I say go ahead, Obama. Push our troops to go ahead and do it, if they have nobody to defend them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the Syrian government used chemical weapons on its own people, I think that shows a lack of respect for just basic human life. I think we would be justified in some kind of intervention.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It should be a global effort, not just the United States, but other countries in the UN need to stand up and do a global effort to eliminate what's going on in Syria.
FOSTER: OK. Now, two polls out this week seem to suggest more people in the US and the UK want their government to avoid intervening inside Syria. Marketing research firm YouGov found that only 15 percent of Americans surveyed said the US should help the Syrian rebels whilst 59 percent urged the country to stay out of the conflict.
Meanwhile, in the UK, YouGov found one fourth of people surveyed support the use of British missiles against military sites inside Syria while half oppose such an action. Joining me now to help break down those numbers is Joe Twyman, YouGov's director of political polling. Thanks for joining us.
JOE TWYMAN, DIRECTOR OF POLITICAL POLLING, YOUGOV: Hi.
FOSTER: In terms of the difference between the UK and other parts of the world, is there something different in terms of public opinion?
TWYMAN: No, not really. In the UK, in the US, and in many other countries in the world, most people oppose intervention in Syria when it comes to military intervention. Humanitarian, that's fine. Relief aid, that's all OK. But actual military action is opposed.
FOSTER: So, when Cameron talks about intervening on humanitarian grounds, will that be a sell to the British people?
TWYMAN: Well, we'll have to see. But it's really important that they do frame it in the correct way. No politician wants to be labeled as the people that let innocent children be slaughtered. But at the same time, they don't want to be labeled as war-mongering hawks.
So, they have to position themselves correctly, or as best they can, to really sell the idea to the British people. So far, that doesn't seem to have happened, not even with the most recent revelations on chemical weapons. Yes, opposition has gently relaxed, but it's still there.
FOSTER: When we talk about opposition, how strongly do people feel, though? If it sort of went ahead, would they turn a blind eye to it, or will the strongly condemn it and we'll see more demonstrations, for example?
TWYMAN: Well, it's difficult to tell exactly. Before Iraq, around about the same proportion of people opposed action, and yet, when it came to the actual day, a majority supported the action and went on to continue to support it. It was only went things went badly in the longer term that support dropped off.
I don't think that's going go to happen in this instance because, of course, the shadow of Iraq is cast over all these operations.
FOSTER: And the bar of skepticism, as a former minister said, has risen so much since Iraq.
TWYMAN: That's absolutely right. It used to be that you just needed to present evidence to parliament. But of course, that happened last time, and it was proved to be wrong.
FOSTER: Is that because they don't trust politicians?
TWYMAN: Well, they don't trust politicians and they don't trust, specifically, the kind of evidence they've seen before. They've been let down on weapons of mass destruction, and so why believe evidence on chemical weapons, particularly when it's not even going to apportion blame?
FOSTER: Cameron used a moral argument today to talk about the national interest. So he said, chemical weapons shouldn't be allowed in the national interest. Is that something that will resonate with people? Because a lot of people will think, actually, it's a country a long way away, nothing to do with us, we don't have any interest there, why bother?
TWYMAN: It's unlikely to be a winning strategy, but it may help a little bit. Really, at the moment, there's not much that can be said that can convince people. It'll happen slowly over the next few days, perhaps even the next few weeks.
FOSTER: OK, Joe Twyman from YouGov. Thank you very much for joining us.
Well, coming up after this short break on CONNECT THE WORLD, as we await that crucial vote, we'll be getting the very latest feel, really, around the world of sensitivities, politically -- potentially -- or particularly potential political problems around this whole debate.
There you have the debate taking place, it's a debate that's happening in Western capitals across the world, Becky.
ANDERSON: Also, key members of the UN Security Council hold a second day of urgent meetings on Syria. That and much more on this special edition of CONNECT THE WORLD. Do stay with us. We're about a minute and a half away.
ANDERSON: You're watching an extended edition of CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi.
FOSTER: And I'm Max Foster in London where behind me in the House of Commons, UK politicians are at loggerheads over the principle of an attack on Syria.
(BIG BEN TOLLS)
FOSTER: Now, the world is watching Britain's parliament this hour. Lawmakers are expected to vote shortly on whether they agree in principle with military action against Syria.
Now earlier, the prime minister, David Cameron, held an emergency session at the House of Commons. He said the debate was not about regime change but how to respond to last week's suspected chemical attack. Mr. Cameron says his government would not act until it hears from UN weapons inspectors, a sentiment shared by the opposition.
EDWARD MILIBAND, BRITISH LABOUR PARTY LEADER: So the weapons inspectors are in the midst of their work and will be reporting in the next couple of days. That is why today could not have been the day when the House was asked to decide on military action.
So for this -- for this House -- for -- for this House, it is surely a basic point, evidence should precede decision, not decision precede evidence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: Let's bring in the former U.K. attorney general, Peter Goldsmith.
Labour posted an amendment today. And they are currently voting on that in the building behind us.
What does that amendment effectively say?
PETER GOLDSMITH, FORMER BRITISH ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think what that is doing is setting out what Ed Miliband, the leader of the Labour Party, describes as a clear road map toward a second vote, if it has to take place, which would then determine whether or not military action is actually something which the U.K. engages in.
FOSTER: It's complicated, U.K. policies, isn't it, that...
FOSTER: -- what are they actually doing here?
GOLDSMITH: Well, they're -- what they're really doing is they're really saying, look, we don't even want to vote in principle today...
GOLDSMITH: -- on whether there should be military action. We're saying you've got to go to the U.N.
GOLDSMITH: You've got to get the U.N. inspectors finished and we also need a clear understanding of what actually the action is going to be.
FOSTER: And we're watching the members of parliament file out to vote.
So how long would you say, roughly, it's going to take to get the amendment, at least?
GOLDSMITH: I think we should know that in the next six, seven, eight minutes. So they've got to go to to the lobbies. They've got to be counted, maybe -- maybe 10 (INAUDIBLE) --
GOLDSMITH: -- plus 10.
FOSTER: And if they vote in favor of it, then that's a pretty critical hit to David Cameron, right?
GOLDSMITH: Yes, it is. It is. And then he's -- he's also going to be looking at what majority he can get on the...
GOLDSMITH: -- his resolution. That's going to be critical to him, how many Tory MPs rebel on it.
GOLDSMITH: How many Liberal Democrats don't vote for it.
FOSTER: And so essentially what's happened today is that over the last 24 hours, we had David Cameron saying, right, we're going to vote on intervention in Syria. Then you had...
FOSTER: -- the opposition come in, watering it down, effectively...
FOSTER: -- to, in principle, an intervention. And now, actually, they're coming back from that, because they're going back to square one, saying we're not doing anything until we get the evidence.
GOLDSMITH: I think what happened yesterday was, there was this major decision by Cameron about 10 past 5:00, half past 5:00 yesterday, saying, actually, we're not going to ask for a vote on this until the U.N. inspectors have finished their job. And that automatically pushed it back to next week, the weekend. I mean people are talking about the weekend. That depends upon what the U.S. does.
So it's a major change. And Cameron's true -- drawn back. He obviously knew he wasn't going to get the support from his own party, actually, to push a vote for a military action today through.
FOSTER: OK. Well, do stay with us, because there's lots of complicated international law here and we need your help with it.
But earlier, I spoke to the British Defense secretary, Philip Hammond, of course, crucially involved in this.
I asked him how the government plans to bypass the United Nations, which is effectively what it's talking about today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PHILIP HAMMOND, BRITISH DEFENCE SECRETARY: We will allow time for the inspectors to complete their work, go back to the Security Council, have a real attempt at getting a Security Council resolution before we come back to parliament.
But we're also realistic. Russia has blocked every attempt so far to condemn the Syrian regime through the Security Council and there are other routes under international law that would allow action in the case of a -- a war crime, a crime against humanity of this nature.
FOSTER: You've been sending assets to Cyprus.
So when is the earliest you'll be ready to intervene in Syria?
HAMMOND: Well, the assets that have -- the fighters that have gone to Cyprus today have gone in a defensive role. They're air defense fighters. They're not ground attack aircraft.
FOSTER: But could you...
HAMMOND: They are...
FOSTER: -- intervene according to plans...
HAMMOND: -- they -- those...
FOSTER: -- (INAUDIBLE)?
HAMMOND: -- those aircraft are going there to be able to defend our sovereign military bases in Cyprus against any attack.
The U.K. has a variety of military capabilities, which you wouldn't expect me to discuss. And if parliament decides that the U.K. should take part in some kind of military action in the future, we will have the ability to do so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: The British Defence minister speaking to me a little earlier on.
We are, of course, monitoring the votes. They're taking place at the moment, Becky.
Peter Goldsmith, thank you very much, indeed, for now.
ANDERSON: Good. All right Max.
Well, we'll get back to you when we get that vote.
This weekend, we could finally hear the findings of U.N. weapons inspectors in Syria. Today, they spent a third day gathering evidence at the site of an alleged chemical attack near Damascus.
This amateur video said to show the inspectors wearing gas masks and collecting samples.
Now, the U.N. says they'll leave the country Saturday morning and report back to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Well, we don't know is what.
The U.N. secretary -- the Security Council's permanent members are still trying to reach consensus on how to respond to this alleged chemical attack last Wednesday. Russia called another closed door meeting today.
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has an update from the United Nations.
David Cameron blinking today, back-pedaling, saying he's agreed to a second vote on military action only after weapons inspectors report to the U.N. and only after a U.N. resolution is voted on or is clearly not an option.
So what will it be at this point?
It is an option going forward?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It looks highly unlikely there will be a vote at this point. The permanent five meeting here -- Russia, China, France, U.S., U.K. -- that has ended and a Western diplomat confirming what another diplomatic source said to me, that really there's no agreement, there's no avenue forwards here. The Western diplomats saying they simply don't see eye-to-eye on this.
The other source explaining to me that the Russians didn't really want to see a vote happen. It may be embarrassing for them. The Chinese didn't want to be forced to veto any resolution.
So at this point, a Western diplomat saying there doesn't appear to be any more permanent five meetings scheduled for the coming days. People are waiting to hear what the inspectors have to say. They're out on Saturday, will brief Ban Ki-moon that same day.
Ban Ki-moon could then, by the end of the weekend, pass that information on to the U.N. Security Council. But it's just preliminary. And the question is, is that enough for the U.K. government?
I can't get a clear reading on that.
We're going to have to wait and see, too, because the U.N. spokesman says that some of the information they've gathered, the samples they've taken from the sites where they did the testing, they're going to have to go to several sites in Europe for laboratory tests before they can complete their more elaborate reports.
So real issues on timing here -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Yes, issues on timing, and also, we've got to remember and remind our viewers, that the weapons inspectors didn't have a mandate to apportion blame. They're out there gathering evidence as to whether there was a chemical attack last Wednesday, 21st, and on days before that.
So without that mandate, effectively, you're talking about timing here. And we know it's going go take some time, even if they arrive back in -- and talk to Ban Ki-moon on Saturday.
But so far as apportioning blame is concerned, we're never going to get that from them anyway, are we?
PATON WALSH: Well, that's right. I mean if you look at Labour, the opposition party in the UK's point of view, they're not going to get what they wanted, the compelling evidence the regime was responsible from the U.N. inspectors. The government -- the U.K. government would get the U.N. inspectors' point of view and the results of their particular work, potentially, which would satisfy their demands before another U.K. vote, potentially, on military action.
But we're really at a point how where the results of this are pretty much known. We're going to probably hear from U.N. inspectors they found some evidence of chemical weapons. That's likely given the preponderance of evidence that appears to have been on the ground there.
And then we know that any resolution here is going to be vetoed by Russia and China. So there's very much a procedure, I think, for procedure's sake here, people trying to show they've gone through the motions and exhausted all options here at the U.N.
But there's also a clock ticking, really, and you can tell, perhaps, U.S. impatience mounting -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Yes, the shadow of the Iraq proceedings, of course, over all of this.
There are many threads here, aren't there, Nick, the politics not least, the evidence, or lack of it. And then there's the diplomatic fallout, the diplomacy and possible diplomatic fallout, the implications for the Anglo- American relationship going forward, if, indeed, we see this sort of schism here.
I put it to the state house spokeswoman tonight, whether she felt that the U.S. had lost a committed ally in the U.K., given the back-pedaling from the British prime minister on military action today and the need for this - - this second vote.
She wasn't prepared to accept that they'd lose an ally in all of this.
But when you consider where we are today compared to where we are last, what, Thursday, Friday after this alleged attack and the talk of the red lines again and the sort of determined commitment to military action going forward on these sites, to get rid of these chemicals of weap -- of mass destruction -- or chemical weapons, we've moved a long way, haven't we, away from that in, what, five days?
PATON WALSH: It's extraordinary that this particular moment could have arrived, in many ways, given the length of time in which this has been potentially something the U.S. considered they may have had to have done. It is remarkable that the U.S. wasn't able to establish with the U.K. whether this parliamentary vote would be successful or even necessary before they started talking about the need for a tougher response.
It is remarkable that the U.S. were open that they needed international allies in order to do this.
So a real lack of communication between what should be often considered, you know, the special relationship's main components here. And it is, I think, incredible that Ed Miliband, who many in the U.K. considered to be an opposition leader who hasn't really made his mark on his own party, is, effectively, holding up the Trans-Atlantic partnership here by his -- what he refers to as his sequential road map for what would be necessary before you actually got to the point where Labour would be willing to support military action, if his amendment goes through.
But it is remarkable to see the U.K. House of Commons, at this point, it seems, dictating U.S. policy, although the U.S. is keen to point out it will follow its own time line -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Nick Paton Walsh is at the United Nations for you this evening.
Still to come here on CONNECT THE WORLD, many lawmakers in the U.S. and the U.K. remaining divided on whether to get involved in the Syrian conflict. We will take a look at the possible consequences of a military strike up next.
ANDERSON: You're watching CNN.
This is CONNECT THE WORLD.
I'm Becky Anderson and this special extended edition for you this evening, as the U.S. and Britain debate possible military action in Syria.
I want to take you now for a closer look at the logistics of carrying out any such strike.
First, let's take a look at some of the key military bases in the region. There are two U.S. Air Force bases in Turkey. And you can see them marked up here, Incirlik Air Base and Izmir Air Station, as well as Sigonella Naval Air Station in Sicily and a major NATO air base in Aviano in Italy, while Britain's Royal Air Force uses a base in Cyprus. All of these within striking distance of Syria.
But any kind of military strike could have far-reaching consequences for Syria as a country, for the region and, of course, for the rest of the world.
Tom Foreman and CNN military analyst, General James "Spider" Marks, now walking us through some of the possible scenarios.
Have a look at this.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Obama administration has been talking a lot about a limited or specific attack where ships would come up here, they would launch missiles and the message would be sent. But there are many, many unknowns in terms of what might come next, including the immediate reaction.
MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Syria will respond militarily and diplomatically immediately and very aggressively. But I think what's most important is, is the response that we will see from Russia, China and Iran, allies of Syria.
They have been providing support to Syria and there is no reason to believe that they will cut off that support after these strikes. And, in fact, Assad may be stronger because of this support, after the strikes than before.
FOREMAN: What about all of the insurgents?
There are many different groups at play here and we also don't know what they're going to do if, in fact, an attack comes and Bashar Al-Assad is weakened.
MARKS: The insurgents, among many elements, are comprised of Hezbollah and al Qaeda affiliates. Clearly, as a result of the coalition strikes, they'll gain momentum, strength and confidence and may, in fact, be victorious in Syria and the United States and its coalition partners will have contributed to their success.
FOREMAN: And what about all the other unknowns out here?
A big operation like this, you can have intelligence mistakes. You can have technical mistakes. A lot can go wrong.
MARKS: A lot can go wrong. And as an intelligence professional my entire life, the intelligence can be bad. The coalition forces may conduct a strike against a target. And inside that target, there may be women and children that were not intended to be there at all. And then the coalition is now accused, legitimately, of contributing to this humanitarian disaster.
FOREMAN: And the narrative of what's happening in Syria would Congress very dramatically.
Just some of the considerations that the White House and the international community, of course, are considering at this hour.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
Let's get back to London.
Max has got the result of the Labour amendment on this debate on Syria -- Max?
FOSTER: Yes, it's been defeated. So good for the prime minister, who really wants to get involved in intervention in Syria.
What this amendment was really saying was that the -- the prime minister's suggesting that intervention or the principle of intervention is actually too far at this point. But, actually, British parliamentarians are saying perhaps they're closer to the government's position.
So we've got another vote coming up, which is for the government's idea, which is a principle of intervention. So we're going to see then, on the second vote, really, how much support there is for David Cameron.
Certainly, David Cameron has had an up and down day. Initially, he was talking about intervention and then it was the principle of intervention. But at least he's had a bit of a boost here, because they've voted against the opposition's amendment here.
So we're getting more details through, Becky.
We'll be back with the main vote, though, in the next 10 or 15 minutes, probably.
ANDERSON: All right. Yes.
Thank you, Max.
This was supposed to be the night the U.K. lawmakers got the chance to vote on British-backed intervention in Syria within days. It certainly isn't that now. There's been some push back on that. We're getting a second vote for this evening.
But much of this academic view is, I've got to say, we're waiting on the weapons inspectors' report in the U.K. before the government here, parliament here, vote on any action in the days ahead.
Well, coming up, could it have been a high-ranking member of the Assad regime or a frustrated general going rogue?
Leaked U.S. intelligence provides new insight into who may have given the go ahead for last week's suspected chemical attack. More on that after this.
ANDERSON: You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD live from London, a special extended edition for you this evening.
We're getting new U.S. intelligence into who may have been behind last week's suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria. This is in (INAUDIBLE), all that red lines, isn't it, and possible military action.
Well, a senior U.S. official tells CNN's world affairs reporter, Elise Labott, that it was, quote, "not a rogue element" of Bashar Al-Assad's regime, which carried out that deadly strike on August the 21st. That official declined to say how high up the chain of command the attack was allegedly ordered, but says that, quote, "Without a doubt, the Assad regime was responsible."
Well, Elise Labott joins me now live from the U.S. State Department in Washington with more of her reporting.
And I spoke to a White House spokesperson tonight and tried to get them to confirm to me, at least, where this information was coming to them from. They wouldn't -- have you -- have you been able to pin them down?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, we're all waiting for this intelligence assessment that the administration said it's going to provide, which as -- as officials are saying, shows, without a doubt, "undeniably" was the -- was the word they've been using -- that the regime was responsible for these chemical weapons.
We understand that in addition to discussions between Syrian officials before and after the chemical weapons attack, about the attack itself, were also believed that the intelligence assessment shows tissues -- that there are tissue samples, satellite imagery of officials at the site.
And so they say that there's a very damning case. And we're just waiting to see where this all leads.
ANDERSON: What do -- why do you think it's taking so long to declassify this intelligence, when it's been promised for so many days?
Why promise to declassify this information if you don't -- you're not prepared to do it?
LABOTT: Well, that's a case that we find a lot of times, right, with these foreign policy issues. There is this very big conclusion that's made and then we kind of wait for a few days for it to shake out. It's not unreasonable that this attack happened last week and it does take time to classify -- declassify intelligence, brief members of Congress and then brief the public.
But there has been a lot of talk about why is there so much rhetoric?
Some believe -- and we heard in the British parliament today that was having its debate -- that some believe this is an effort by the administration to kind of re-right the wrongs of the last attack, where President Obama said a red line had been crossed by President Assad, warned him not to do it again and there wasn't like a robust policy decision at the time.
So, you know, we're expecting some kind of policy decision. Everyone is wondering about what the timetable is for some type of response. But so far, we've heard a lot more rhetoric than we've seen action.
LABOTT: It's not unreasonable that they would take some time. But they sure are talking a lot about it, that's for sure.
ANDERSON: David Cameron, the British prime minister, you'll have heard today and seen that debate today at length. He's blinked. He's back- pedaled and he's agreed to a second vote on military action only after the weapons inspectors report to the secretary-general of the U.N. and only after a U.N. resolution is voted on or is clearly not going to -- not going to be an option.
I put it to the White House tonight, the White House spokesperson that they -- did they feel that they've lost a committed ally in the U.K. as the U.K. sort of stepped back from this British base military action?
And they weren't prepared to concede that.
But do you see a strain on U.S.-UK relations, the special relationship, given the moving of these plates by David Cameron over the past 24 hours?
LABOTT: Well, I think that, you know, there's a difference between the relationship between the two governments and the relationship between any U.S. government and the parliament of another country. I mean David Cameron is clearly a close ally. President Obama has developed a tight partnership with him since taking office and since the prime minister came to office.
And what I -- my understanding is that they obviously were not happy with the conditions that the British parliament put on this. They were happy that Cameron wouldn't have to capitulate to his parliament. They knew that he had some kind of domestic considerations. They were willing to, obviously, wait for this debate to play out in the British parliament today.
I don't think they thought that he would have to, you know, give so many concessions, that he would have to say, OK, we'll wait for the parliament. Officials telling me the U.S. is -- wants to go on its own timetable. It doesn't want to wait. It can't be hamstrung by a long drawn out process at the United Nations. And it doesn't want to wait.
But, you know, if the U.S., A, if the U.S. wants to maintain its relationship with the British, and, B, if it wants to try and co -- put together a kind of robust coalition with strong international support, this is tying their hands a little bit, that's for sure.
ANDERSON: Yes, fascinating.
All right, well, lots of questions that remain to be answered at present. But certainly some distance being put from military action by the British, at least, until these weapons inspectors get back from Syria, expected Saturday.
Max is outside the Houses of Parliament, where there is a second vote ongoing.
Have we got a result on that yet?
FOSTER: Yes, it's the main event of the night, really, Becky, the principle of intervention in Syria. And parliamentarians are currently voting on that. We should have that in the next few minutes or so.
There's been hours of debate here, Becky, all day. All the different arguments have been very much aired in the building behind me.
Let's hear a few of the highlights from those hours of debate today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAMERON: The question before the House today is how to respond to one of the most abhorrent uses of chemical weapons in a century, slaughtering innocent men, women and children in Syria. It is not about taking sides in the Syrian conflict. It is not about invading. It is not about regime change or even working more closely with the opposition.
It is about the large scale use of chemical weapons and our response to a war crime, nothing else.
EDWARD MILIBAND, BRITISH LABOUR PARTY LEADER: The weapons inspectors are in the midst of their work and will be reporting in the coming days. That is why today could not have been the day when the House was asked to decide on military action. For this House, it is surely a basic point -- evidence should precede decision, not decision precede evidence.
The fact that the Syrian government has and has used chemical weapons is beyond doubt. The fact that the most recent attack took place is not seriously doubted. The Syrian government has said it took place and the evidence that the Syrian regime has used these weapons in the early hours of the 21st of August is right in front of our eyes.
ELFYN LLWYD, BRITISH MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: If the decision, as some of us believe, has already been made in Washington and agreed by the government here, then that's really why we're here, because Washington feels there should be some bombs falling this weekend.
MALCOLM RIFKIND, BRITISH MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: At this very moment, the Assad regime in Damascus are watching very carefully...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
RIFKIND: -- as to whether they will get away with what they have done. If there is no international response of a significant kind, then we can be absolutely certain that the forces within Damascus won't be successful in saying, well, we must continue to use these whenever there is a military rationale for doing so.
GEORGE GALLOWAY, BRITISH MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: The Syrian rebels have got plenty of access to sarin. It's not rocket science, Mr. Speaker. You don't have to be Einstein to have your hands on sarin gas or the means to distribute it. Russia and China say no to war. So do I and most people in this country.
CAMERON: From all the evidence we have, the fact that opposition don't have chemical weapons, the fact that the regime do, the fact that they've used it, the fact that there they attacking the area at the time and that intelligence I've reported, that is enough to conclude that the regime is responsible and should be held accountable.
George Galloway, British member of parliament:
ALASDAIR MCDONNELL, BRITISH MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: It is no more pleasant to be killed by a cruise missile than it is to be killed by gas. You're still dead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: Well, a lot of debate today was around the legalities of this sort of intervention, war, whatever you want to call it. and someone that knows all about that is Paddy Ashdown, who was an advocate for international intervention during the Bosnia-Herzegovina conflict.
I asked him whether the U.K. government's legal justification for war in Syria on humanitarian grounds is legit.
PADDY ASHDOWN, FORMER HIGH REPRESENTATIVE FOR BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA: When we went in Kosovo, we tried to get a U.N. Security Council resolution. I remember I worked very Joe -- closely with Joe Biden. We failed.
We went in on the basis of the Geneva Convention, which predates the founding of the U.N. Indeed, when I went to see Milosevic, when I'd just been shelled in the little Kosovo village (INAUDIBLE), I told him that the crime he had committed was against the Geneva Convention. I carried in a copy of the Geneva Convention to get into the American Embassy beforehand.
I told him I would meet him in the International Criminal Court in the Hague for that day's work and I did. And that was the basis we acted. It was still legal.
Let's be clear, if we can do this with a U.N. Security Council resolution, that is, by far, far, far preferable. But there are instruments of international law, not one of -- not the least of which, the international convention against the use of gas and chemical weapons, which has been in existence since 1923. It's not even the Nazis (INAUDIBLE). That is preexisting international law that can be used (INAUDIBLE).
ANDERSON: So it does not have to go through the Security Council to be legal?
ASHDOWN: But I would much prefer it to go through it.
ASHDOWN: I would much prefer it to go through there. We should bend over backward to try and bring the Russians and the Chinese on board.
But here's the question -- if there is a gross and flagrant breach of a clear tenet of international law in existence for nearly 100 years, can we allow action to stop that happening to be vetoed by the Russians and the Chinese because it happens to involve...
FOSTER: But it has to...
ASHDOWN: -- something they're in favor of?
FOSTER: -- it has to be specifically about this chemical weapons issue.
ASHDOWN: Of course.
FOSTER: You can't...
FOSTER: -- then get involved in a...
ASHDOWN: No, no.
FOSTER: -- protective...
ASHDOWN: Absolutely. That is -- that is right. You know, there is a mood going in Britain to say, oh, well, what the Americans want to do is plunge is into a widening war. I would say that one of the baleful constances of the international community is it nearly always runs the next war on the basis of the last. When I used to argue for intervention in Kosovo, I was told you couldn't because of Vietnam.
Now, the dark shadow of Iraq hangs over this event. This is not Iraq. We don't have boots on the ground. We're not trying to occupy the country. We're not trying to depose their government. And above all, it's not George Bush, it's Barack Obama. (END VIDEO TAPE)
FOSTER: Well, let's take you into the Houses of Parliament, live pictures for you. this is what we've been waiting for all day.
They've actually voted, many of them, on whether the principle of intervention is something that they support. It's something that David Cameron has been pushing. It is a watered down version of what he's been pushing. He did want intervention per se on this vote.
Let's have a look at the sound. We can hear it going through now. Here's the (INAUDIBLE).
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The ayes to the right, 272. The nos to the left, 285.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go now!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, there, Mr. Mertiny (ph), oh, you're like an exploded volcano. You've erupted. Calm yourself, man. The ayes to the right, 272. The nays to the left, 285. So the nos have it. The nos have it. Unlock.
Point of order, Mr. Ed Miliband.
MILIBAND: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, there having been no motion passed by this House tonight, can the prime minister confirm to the House that he was not use the Royal prerogative to order the U.K. to be part of military...
MILIBAND: -- of military action -- of military action, given the will of the House that has been expressed tonight, before there's been another vote in this House of Commons?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Order. It is, of course, not matter for the chair, but the prime minister has heard it and he's welcome to respond.
CAMERON: On that point of order, I can give that assurance. Let me say, the House has not voted for either motion tonight. I strongly believe in the need for a tough response to the use of chemical weapons. But I also believe in respecting the will of this House of Commons.
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 parliament, does not want to see British military action. I get that and the government will act accordingly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm grateful to the prime minister for that response.
Point of order, Mr. Robert Flello.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I thought we should obtain the House on a separate matter from what we've discussed this afternoon. For while the eyes of the world are understandably being focused on the appalling atrocities in Syria, I'm saddened to say the government of Colombia has taken the opportunity to escalate and oppress, and, indeed, murder their own citizens.
(INAUDIBLE), a prominent leader, has been imprisoned on trumped up charges...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- Juan Camilo Acosta has been shot...
FOSTER: OK, so there you have it. David Cameron has effectively been defeated in parliament because the vote on the principle of intervention in Syria has been defeated, not by a huge amount, but it is significant for David Cameron and the British government, who did want to have intervention sooner rather than later.
And you have to think, also, that this is a watered down version of what David Cameron wanted in the first place.
So there you have it -- Becky. Not good news for David Cameron. I don't think intervention is off the agenda per se, because Ed Miliband did say he negates it in principle. But certainly, it's been put on hold for now, at least until we get our evidence from the U.N. inspectors.
ANDERSON: Yes. All right. And when we get that, we will get another vote.
"I strongly believe in a tough response to the use of chemical weapons," is what the British prime minister said. "But I also understand the U.K. public doesn't want to see British military action."
So we await to see what the inspectors bring back from Syria. They are expected to be leaving the country on Saturday.
Opinions on what needs to be done about Syria are mixed, both on the streets of the United Kingdom and elsewhere.
Let's -- let's have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Syrian government was responsible for what was done in Syria. You know, I do think the West should -- should go in and stop the genocide. It's not right. It shouldn't happen.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The regime is using the weapons that they're being accused. And, yes, I think the United States and Britain should step in at this point. We -- I hate to see another war coming, but I think at some point, we have to do it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So Britain, U.K., whatever, intervene in Syria, they should have. The U.K. is the U.K., Syria is Syria. They've got their own problems and (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The government has used chemical weapons on innocent people. And I do believe that our government should intervene, definitely.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The whole world is forgetting the real issue that's happening in Syria, and that would be the victims. There are about two million refugees on the borders of Syria.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think, you know, Syria needs to be dealt with. It's good that the English government has been recalled and there is going to be debate on it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why we should intervene?
Well, I have a different question. If you had asked the question a year ago, then I would have been very much yes. But now it's been through the Free Syria Opposition and the slow growth of the jihadi elements in that (INAUDIBLE). I think it's best not to. I think otherwise, you could get involved in a very difficult battle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Well, it is just over a week since we first heard reports of a possible chemical attack on the outskirts of Damascus.
Andrew Carey now has a look at the diplomatic developments and international wrangling that has followed.
ANDREW CAREY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): First reports began to emergency on Wednesday last week. This, said Syria's opposition, was a massive chemical attack in the outskirts of Damascus.
Britain's foreign secretary was among the first to speak out.
WILLIAM HAGUE, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: If verified, this would be a shocking escalation. We are determined the people responsible will one day be held to account.
CAREY: No mention at this stage of who Britain held responsible.
More video emerged. Analysts said the evidence of a toxic agent was compelling. Syria's opposition spoke of hundreds, perhaps over on 1,000, killed. Thoughts turned to a year ago, when President Obama said this.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus.
CAREY: But on Friday, two days after news of the attack, he wasn't saying definitively that those red lines had been crossed.
OBAMA: There are rules of international law. And, you know, if the U.S. goes in and attacks another country without a U.N. mandate and without clear evidence that can be presented, then there are questions in terms of whether international law supports it.
CAREY: But Britain was starting to turn up the pressure.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not something that a humane or civilized world can ignore. It seems the Assad regime has something to hide.
CAREY: And so was France.
LAURENT FABIUS, FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER: If it is proven, then there must be a reaction, a reaction which could take the form of the use of force.
CAREY: The alleged chemical attack had taken place just a few miles from the spot where a U.N. weapons inspection team was staying. Their presence in the country had taken months to organize. Their mandate was to investigate three earlier reports of chemical weapons use.
As the Assad regime strenuously denied responsibility for the latest attack, tighten focused on Russia, its chief international ally. Moscow urged Damascus to let the U.N. team investigate the latest claims, but maintained its position there was no case for outside military intervention.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Hysteria is growing and confrontation is incited based on the claims that the government of Syria has applied chemical weapons on the 21st of August. Washington, London and Paris officially stated that they have cogent evidence, cogent proof that the Syrian regime is guilty, but they can't present the evidence.
CAREY: The start of a new week and it seemed like military action was drawing closer. Britain said contingency plans were underway. U.S. leaders turned up the rhetoric.
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Anyone who can claim that an attack of this staggering scale could be contrived or fabricated needs to check their conscience and their own moral compass.
CHUCK HAGEL, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: There is no doubt who is responsible for this heinous use of chemical weapons in Syria -- the Syrian regime.
CAREY: Even so, as the calls to act in the face of an atrocity continued, Western leaders continued to feel the pressure -- renewed concerns about the legality of a strike without support from the U.N. and questions over the basis for their certainty the attack was the work of President Assad.
Andrew Carey, CNN, London.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ANDERSON: Well, the U.K. prime minister, David Cameron, has lost the preliminary vote on military intervention in Syria. It's a -- it was a very, very tight thing in the House of Commons just earlier on, just moments ago. But he's lost the preliminary vote.
He'll get another vote in parliament next week, after the weapons inspectors or at some point after the weapons inspectors have returned from Syria.
He said -- and I quote -- "I strongly believe in a tough response to the use of chemical weapons."
But he said, "I also understand that this House and the British people don't want to see military action." He said, "I get it."
Well, a little earlier, we looked at the military options in relation to Syria. If the U.S., Britain or other countries do, indeed, eventually decide to take military action, it will require a lot of preparation and planning.
For more on that, let's bring in our Nic Robertson from Cyprus, an island which is some 200 miles or so from Syria, with a big British base, of course, which is the reason that you are there.
Some sense tonight from the U.K. of -- of back-pedaling, of step taking the sort of foot off the pedal, as it were, by the British prime minister. He's been defeated on a preliminary vote in parliament.
That doesn't mean there won't be military action.
What are you hearing there?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, when I spoke to the Cypriot earlier today, I mean he told me, at that time, when we had heard what the Labour Party had -- had to say in advance of this debate, he could see that sort of slowing down and backpedaling happening.
And he said, look, he does expect, in the context of everything that's happening, and Cyprus does condemn the use of chemical weapons. And he does feel the need that there should be some international reaction to this event.
But he also said that he thought that if it didn't -- if a response or a reaction, in military terms, didn't happen over this weekend, then by Monday, it would be unlikely to happen, or Monday would be the last day, if you will, because we get to close to the St. Petersburg G-20, where both President Putin and President Obama will be attending.
And it would be -- diplomatically, very sensitive for the United States to be doing something so clearly against what Russia has stated its position is, its interests and its views on what should happen here over the chemical -- over the alleged chemical weapon attack and even who was responsible.
So I think there's going to be a sense in the region -- and having been in Jordan recently and spoken with regional diplomats there -- the expectation, again, was there and the expectation that said that there was a need for some sort of action, as well. People are going to be pausing, but I think they're going to realize that -- that this may only be a temporary pause, until we hear more from the U.N., that it is going to give out pause for thought and perhaps the sense of the region will be perhaps Bashar al-Assad is going to squeak through on this one -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Yes, whether you like it or not, a good day of parliamentary democracy, whatever you think of the result.
Certainly, David Cameron promising to transfer questions of peace and war to MPs. And he has, in fact, kept his word on that, even if the British want to get involved in any military action, if that were to happening going forward.
It comes with intelligence, of course. I mean there are other things that can be done aside from sort of Tomahawk missiles.
ROBERTSON: Intelligence sources in this region who I talked to this past week believe that they have had fairly firm evidence and indication that -- that Bashar Al-Assad and his regime are -- were responsible for these alleged attacks. The United States, perhaps we can see it already positioning itself, potentially, to go it alone, go it alone in terms of it is bringing in another Tomahawk missile carrying ship into the Mediterranean, into the military theater.
But if you look at the sort of mood music earlier this morning, we were talking about those Typhoon interceptor jets that were British -- sent by the British RAF to the base here behind me and that they would, perhaps, be acting in support, not taking part in strikes, but acting as a -- perhaps a deterrent or interceptor aircraft, if you will, for the Syrian Air Force to launch fighters to try to target those ships firing cruise missiles into Syria.
So you can see that when -- as Britain steps back, that there's not just the holes in who's going to fire the missiles and how many ships are available to fire missiles, but what are the backup mechanisms and what are the bases in the region that can play in and support the United States?
And there are great sensitivities in this region. Cyprus, as you were saying, close to Syria. I mean just to give you some context, a few years ago, a Syrian swimmer swam the 100 -- just over 100 kilometers from Syria to Cyprus in less than 48 hours. And that gives you an indication of how close it is.
Jordan very close. One diplomat I spoke to there said that this is -- this is the most sensitive time for Jordan in its history, despite many problems that it's faced in the past. Lebanon also very sensitive to what the implications could be for strikes in Syria.
So I don't think it's -- no one is going to breathe a sigh of relief in the region that this was -- this moment of tension has passed, by any stretch. But it will give a pause to reevaluate, but again, on the military front. And perhaps that's where the greatest pause is going to come, potentially. The United States now really having to reevaluate the assets that it can use right now -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Sure. Yes. OK, I'm just watching my Twitter feed here and seeing a lot of comments about whether the U.S. will just now go it alone. Was the White House messaging preemptive in anticipation of the U.K. vote failure?
All interesting stuff, questions that are being asked across social media as we speak.
All right, Nic, for the time being, Nic Robertson, thank you for that.
The U.N. Security Council's permanent members still trying to reach consensus on how to respond to last Wednesday's alleged chemical attack.
Russia called another closed door meeting. You'll have heard me talking about this earlier on today.
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh joining us live once again from the United Nations.
And there is no doubt that those meetings, representing P-5 behind closed doors, will have had one eye on what was going on in the British parliament tonight.
PATON WALSH: Certainly. I mean what we have just seen in London is absolutely remarkable. It's hugely damaging for British Prime Minister David Cameron and for the Trans-Atlantic relationship. And, frankly, I think Washington must, at this point, be wondering how quickly can they go it alone?
They probably can't wait for Cameron to try and find another text again that he might try and push through.
So, yes, that will, of course, have a huge impact on the permanent five here. But we did get the impression this afternoon, seeing a lot of pretty unhappy faces coming out of this permanent five meeting -- Russia, China, France, the U.S. and the U.K. -- that they weren't really getting anywhere.
One source saying this was pretty much them getting back together to talk about what their respective councils and governments have told them and also Russia saying it didn't want to see a vote come forward in case that embarrassed it. And the Chinese making it clear they didn't want to have to use their veto.
Effectively, a meeting that pretty much put the last nail in the coffin in that U.K. bid for a resolution.
Now, of course, the U.K. government itself divided. That resolution had even less weight than it did before. Many even interpreting it as simply going through the motions, expecting a Russian veto.
The question is, where do we go ahead now?
A Western diplomat telling me there are no expected permanent five meetings for the days ahead. The next move is when do the U.N. inspectors report to the U.N. secretary general, Ban Ki-moon?
That could be as early as Saturday, later in the day. And then he may report in that same weekend those findings -- preliminary findings -- to the U.N. Security Council.
That would have been enough, potentially, to get the U.K. on board with military intervention had...
PATON WALSH: -- had this motion passed in the British parliament. But now that it hasn't, actually, eyes are perhaps less on the inspectors, because that hasn't been a major part of the US' road map here, so to speak -- Becky.
Nick Paton Walsh is at the U.N.
Let's get to the White House for reaction to what has gone on tonight in London.
Jim Acosta joining us from there.
The U.K. prime minister, David Cameron, loses what was the preliminary vote on military intervention in Syria, no longer, necessarily, at least, the decisive, determined ally that the U.S. seemed to have only, what, days ago.
How is that going to be -- how is that going to go down at the White House?
JIM ACOSTA, HOST: Well, Becky, I have to tell you, I asked the White House that very you know today during a press briefing with the deputy secretary, press secretary, that was taking questions from reporters earlier this afternoon, you know, what about what is happening over in the parliament right now?
And that deputy press secretary, Josh Earnest, said, well, he has enough problems just dealing with the internal deliberations of Congress, never mind what happens in British parliament.
And then I asked whether or not the United States would be willing to go it alone in this mission. And it was -- it was a curious response, Becky, I have to tell you, because he did not directly answer that question, did not deny that there are these doubts now as to whether or not the United States can assemble an international coalition that includes Britain.
And, of course, Britain is perhaps the most important ally when it comes to these sorts of military matters. They were a key ally, of course, when it came to dealing with Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
And so this is, potentially, a major blow to the president in terms of putting together that coalition. He said in an interview with CNN just last week, that he thought that international law kind of required -- sort of required having that kind of international partnership.
But if he does have one, it might be without the British -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Jim Acosta is at -- or outside the White House in Washington for you.
Thank you, Jim.
Let me remind you what we got from the British prime minister just moments ago. He said, "I strongly believe in a tough response to the use of chemical weapons," but he said, "I also understand that this House" -- that being the House of Commons -- "doesn't want to see British military action." And he said, "And I also understand that the British people don't want to see it, either."
That was a preliminary -- that was a preliminary vote tonight. The government lost by quite a narrow margin. There will be another vote next week, after weapons inspectors report back from Syria.
Now, we are expecting weapons inspectors to leave Syria on Saturday. I can't tell you for sure when they will report back. At some point after that, lots of threads still on this Syria story. Wherever you are watching in the world, do stay with us.
We've got more after this.
FOSTER: OK, well, a remarkable moment here in British politics as the British government got defeated on its intention for intervention in Syria. It was quite an extraordinary moment. And one of the conservative members of parliament in there at the time was Rob Halfon.
A shock, then, presumably?
ROBERT HALFON, BRITISH MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: Yes, it was very surprising. I thought the government made every effort to unite the House of Commons in saying that any intervention would have to be legal, would be passed through the United Nations and would be proportionate.
But unfortunately, the Labour Party were playing politics and the motion wasn't carried.
FOSTER: You can blame the Labour Party, but, you know, more than half the people voting in there voted against it. It's not just the Labour Party.
HALFON: No, but of course we have -- we don't have a majorities government, that's why we're in coalition.
HALFON: And the Labour Party voted against the motion.
And one thing is important to remember, that the House didn't vote for the Labour Party motion or the government motion.
HALFON: They rejected both. So in essence, no motion got passed.
HALFON: However, David Cameron has said now that there won't be any military intervention.
FOSTER: Yes, so the big picture here is that it's all over, right?
There will not be British military intervention in Syria.
HALFON: Well, things will probably be clarified in the morning, but you're probably right, given what David Cameron, the prime minister, just said in the House of Commons.
FOSTER: Is that how you interpreted his comments?
HALFON: Yes. But I hope very much that President Obama will continue what he has said he's going to do. He said there's no red lines, because I still believe that there is a real chemical threat -- weapons threat in Syria. And I believe that the free world, whether it's the United States, NATO, the United Nations need to intervene to stop more people being murdered.
FOSTER: Can we be pretty conclusive about the fact that any intervention in Syria will no longer include British forces?
HALFON: Well, as I said, I -- we'll get clarification, no doubt, in the morning. But the prime minister seemed to say that he would respect the will of parliament.
FOSTER: Is there any sort of political way out for him here, do you think?
HALFON: Well, I think we are a parliamentary democracy, unlike the United States, which is a presidential democracy. So...
FOSTER: But Cameron doesn't need...
FOSTER: -- support, does he, of parliament?
HALFON: No, but I mean given that there's been a major motion...
HALFON: -- in the House of Commons that has been rejected and given what the prime minister said, that he gets the will of parliament, it looks very unlikely that the British will be involved in military intervention.
FOSTER: In terms of the moment when the vote came through, it looked positive for a moment, if Labour amendment had been knocked down, as well. And Cameron looked in a pretty good position. but are you able to in any way sort of describe the sense of feeling in there?
Is it quite black and white or was there a huge amount of debate about this?
HALFON: Well, there's a huge amount of debate. I was in the chamber for the whole of the debate. It started half past two. It finished at -- just after 10:00. Tonight, it was very passionate. There was feeling on both sides. I intervened, talking about intervention, as did others.
But at the end of the day, we are a parliamentary democracy. Parliament is sovereign. So the prime minister said that he will accept the will of parliament.
FOSTER: OK. Well, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.
This is an extraordinary moment, Becky, in the debate. I mean it was a quite slow debate over the day, wasn't it?
And then it all came through at the last minute and it went in the way that David Cameron just was not expecting.
ANDERSON: Yes, absolutely. I mean if you buy parliamentary democracy, this is a good day, of course, because the -- you know, everybody got their say. A motion -- and he didn't have to go to parliament. He did. He put forward a motion and it was defeated. And it was properly debated and it was defeated.
But I mean if you are -- if you buy the idea that the Syrians need help against their regime at the moment, then you're going to be looking decidedly off tonight. You know, it's an interesting situation, as your members of parliament there that you were talking to has just described. It will -- things will be clearer in the morning.
P.J. Crowley used to be a spokesman for the Bush administration, of course, Max, tonight saying that the -- Tweeting that, "The British vote against action in Syria doesn't bind Obama per se," but he says it will affect the perceived legitimacy of whatever is done."
And many people pointing out in the past few minutes after this motion in the British House was defeated, pointing out that even if the U.K. doesn't send troops, doesn't get involved in military action, it could actually offer its bases up, as well.
So lots of threads here as we move forward, which need cleaning up. But a remarkable -- a remarkable evening for British politics and for politics around the world.
Max, thank you for that.
That's all we've got time for on CONNECT THE WORLD this Thursday.
I'm Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi.
And Max was in London, where a government motion on the principle, at least, of a military response to alleged Syrian chemical weapons use has just been defeated, 285-272.
Stay with CNN for more on this.
Good-bye for now.