What a difference a Parliamentary debate can make!. When many of us Conservatives made clear we would not vote for a cruise missile attack on Syria, we were granted a debate and a vote before action. Labour late in the day joined our opposition to a military attack. The government agreed to offer a second specific vote before any military action, followed by acceptance it could not win a majority for such a vote so would not hold one.
Mr Obama then decided he had to consult his Congress before embarking on the military strike which the US, UK and France had been planning. He cited the UK precedent as part of his reason for asking Congress. It soon became clear to him that winning the vote in Congress was going to be difficult. Meanwhile Mr Putin offered a diplomatic opportunity to the west.
The west was at first reluctant. However, we now have progress with an agreed UN line which Russia and China as well as the US, UK and France can accept. The Syrian dictator has agreed to reveal and then destroy his chemical weapons. The Inspectors start their work this week.
Even more remarkable, Iran has now decided she wishes to negotiate a new relationship with the west, saying she has no wish to develop nuclear weapons. Iran wants to end the sanctions against her, and start to benefit from some of the technology, advice, goods and contacts the west can bring.
Of course when dealing with people like Assad, the Iranian leadership and Mr Putin the west needs to be careful and seek sensible guarantees. There could well be bumps on the way to more peaceful relations. However, it is good news that diplomacy is now possible. It is better news that there are some signs that some dangerous weapons can be removed from the Middle East and some friendlier relationship can be established with Iran.
The UK Parliament played its part well on the world stage. We showed the world that a democracy can challenge its leaders and advise them to adopt a new course. That new course will be very popular if successful. So far it has proved much better than letting off missiles from a distance without having the intent or unleashing sufficient power to change the regime. As some of us argued at the time, the problem with regime change if you escalated to achieve that , is how do you then create a peace loving and settled democracy out of the ruins of a toppled dictatorship and on the foundations of the lethal hatreds of a civil war? Now it appears we are getting some welcome changes in the Middle East through alliance building and persuasion rather than through bombing.