Chemical weapons prompted UK to act, says May
British Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday blamed Syria’s persistent pattern of chemical weapons attacks as she defended British participation in the weekend strikes, before putting the issue to a parliamentary vote.
Speaking to MPs, the prime minister was trying to face down a revolt led by the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, to assert the right of parliament to approve overseas military action.
Mrs May faced a mood significantly changed from that in 2013, when the House of Commons rebuffed David Cameron’s attempt to join Barack Obama’s proposed intervention against a poison gas attack in Syria.
The British vote dealt a killer blow to the initiative and Mr Obama abandoned his red lines against chemical weapons use in Syria.
“We are confident in our own assessment that the Syrian regime was highly likely responsible for this attack and that its persistent pattern of behaviour meant that it was highly likely to continue using chemical weapons,” Mrs May said.
“Furthermore, there were clearly attempts to block any proper investigation, as we saw with the Russian veto at the UN earlier in the week.”
The government said its decision was driven by fear of more attacks and relied on the doctrine of humanitarian intervention in response to a state attacking its own people.
“We cannot wait to alleviate further humanitarian suffering caused by chemical weapons attacks,” Mrs May said. “‘It is in our national interest to prevent the further use of
chemical weapons in Syria, and to uphold and defend the global consensus that these weapons should not be used.
“For we cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalised – either within Syria, on the streets of the UK or elsewhere.”
One of Mr Corbyn’s key legal advisers, Shami Chakrabarti, said Mrs May’s doctrine was not globally accepted.
“I don’t think that the government can demonstrate convincing evidence and a general acceptance by the international community that they had to act in the way they did a few days ago,” she said.
A significant number of Labour representatives consider Mr Corbyn to be dangerously close to Russia. John Woodcock, a prominent supporter of the Syria strikes, called on the leadership to address the brutality of the Syria regime.
“I wish my frontbench would spend even a fraction of the energy on Assad and Russia’s grotesque slaughter of civilians as they are on inventing new reasons to oppose targeted UK intervention to stop it,” Mr Woodcock said.
At a meeting of European foreign ministers, the British and French received the backing of the other countries in the bloc.
Foreign ministers in the group urged continued engagement with Russia and Iran to restrain Bashar Al Assad.
Boris Johnson, the British Foreign Secretary, said that there was no plan for more strikes at regime, much less action to depose the regime.
“I’m afraid the Syrian war will go on in its horrible, miserable way. But it was the world saying that we’ve had enough of the use of chemical weapons,” Mr Johnson said. Emmanuel Macron, the French President, has dismissed demands from the National Assembly to account for French participation.
“This mandate is given democratically to the president by the people in the presidential election,” Mr Macron said.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said the three countries were left with few alternatives to military action