Cab­i­net gives green light on Syria ‘ac­tion’

● Down­ing Street state­ment con­demns As­sad chem­i­cal at­tack ● No de­tails on tim­ing of any mil­i­tary ac­tion against regime

The Scotsman - - Front Page - By AN­GUS HOWARTH

UK Cab­i­net min­is­ters last night gave Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May the green light to join the US in pos­si­ble mil­i­tary strikes in re­sponse to a sus­pected chem­i­cal weapons at­tack in Syria.

But a state­ment is­sued by No 10 has left the door open to other op­tions, with no com­mit­ment given on the method or tim­ing of any po­ten­tial mil­i­tary ac­tion.

It said the use of chem­i­cal weapons by the As­sad regime must not go “un­chal­lenged”. Last Satur­day’s al­leged chlo­rine gas at­tack that left more than 40 peo­ple dead was la­belled “bar­baric”.

Bri­tain last night stopped short of com­mit­ting to an im­mi­nent mil­i­tary at­tack against pres­i­dent Bashar al-as­sad’s regime in Syria as Theresa May’s “war Cab­i­net” agreed an “in­ter­na­tional re­sponse” was needed.

The Prime Min­is­ter sum­moned her top team, in­clud­ing De­fence Sec­re­tary Gavin Wil­liamson, to No 10 yes­ter­day for a two-hour emer­gency Cab­i­net meet­ing amid signs she was pre­par­ing to join Usled air strikes against Syr­ian tar­gets. How­ever, a state­ment from Down­ing Street last night did not con­firm any de­tails around the like­li­hood of im­me­di­ate mil­i­tary ac­tion.

It said the Cab­i­net agreed the use of chem­i­cal weapons in Syria must not go “un­chal­lenged”, but gave no im­me­di­ate de­tails of UK in­volve­ment in any mil­i­tary ac­tion against the As­sad regime.

The state­ment said min­is­ters had agreed Mr As­sad had a “track record” of us­ing chem­i­cal weapons and that it was “highly likely” he was re­spon­si­ble for the at­tack on the rebel-held town of Douma on Satur­day in which more than 40 peo­ple were killed.

The state­ment said: “The Prime Min­is­ter said it was a shock­ing and bar­baric act, which killed up to 75 peo­ple, in­clud­ing chil­dren, in the most ap­palling and in­hu­mane way. Cab­i­net agreed that the As­sad regime has a track record of the use of chem­i­cal weapons and it is highly likely that the regime is re­spon­si­ble for Satur­day’s at­tack.

“The Prime Min­is­ter said it was a fur­ther ex­am­ple of the ero­sion of in­ter­na­tional law in re­la­tion to the use of chem­i­cal weapons, which was deeply con­cern­ing to us all.

“Fol­low­ing a dis­cus­sion in which ev­ery mem­ber present made a con­tri­bu­tion, Cab­i­net agreed it was vi­tal that the use of chem­i­cal weapons did not go un­chal­lenged.”

The state­ment added: “Cab­i­net agreed on the need to take ac­tion to al­le­vi­ate hu­man­i­tar­ian dis­tress and to de­ter the fur­ther use of chem­i­cal weapons by the As­sad regime.

“Cab­i­net agreed the Prime Min­is­ter should con­tinue to work with al­lies in the United States and France to co­or­di­nate an in­ter­na­tional re­sponse.”

No in­di­ca­tion of the tim­ing or scale of any ac­tion was given.

The Syr­ian gov­ern­ment has de­nied al­le­ga­tions of car­ry­ing out the al­leged gas at­tack.

French pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron ear­lier voiced his op­po­si­tion to the ass ad regime as he de­clared that his coun­try had proof the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment had launched chlo­rine gas at­tacks.

He said France would not tol­er­ate “regimes that think every­thing is per­mit­ted”.

Mr Macron said he has been talk­ing reg­u­larly this week with US pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump about the most ef­fec­tive re­sponse and that any French ac­tion would tar­get Syria’s chem­i­cal weapons abilities.

Mr Trump pro­vided a fresh twist on the es­ca­lat­ing in­ter­na­tional cri­sis yes­ter­day, tweet­ing: “Never said when an at­tack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all!”

His lat­est in­ter­ven­tion came af­ter he pre­vi­ously tweeted that mis­siles “will be com­ing”.

White House press sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee San­ders in­sisted yes­ter­day that no fi­nal decisions had been taken and that “all op­tions are on the ta­ble”.

Rus­sia’s United Na­tions am­bas­sador last night called for an emer­gency meet­ing of the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil. Vass­ily Neben­zia wants to hear from Sec­re­tary-gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res on the threat to in­ter­na­tional peace and se­cu­rity from pos­si­ble mil­i­tary ac­tion against Syria by the US and its al­lies.

UK op­po­si­tion lead­ers have de­manded a par­lia­men­tary vote be­fore any new mil­i­tary ac­tion in Syria is taken.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn raised the spec­tre of the Iraq War as he in­sisted MPS should have their say.

He said: “Par­lia­ment must be con­sulted on this. Surely the lessons of Iraq, the lessons that came there from the Chilcott Re­port, are that there’s got to be, there has to be, a proper process of con­sul­ta­tion.

“We elect Par­lia­ment, we elect mem­bers of Par­lia­ment.

“They should have a voice in this. Cab­i­net on its own should not be mak­ing this de­ci­sion.

“The dangers of bomb­ing now, which could es­ca­late the con­flict be­yond be­lief – just imag­ine the sce­nario if an Amer­i­can mis­sile shoots down a Rus­sian plane or vice versa. Where do we go from there?”

SNP leader at West­min­ster Ian Black­ford said: “There is no man­date for the gov­ern­ment to take this ac­tion.

“And, I would sim­ply say to the Prime Min­is­ter: be very care­ful, be­cause you do not have a ma­jor­ity in Par­lia­ment.

“You are a mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment and you need to seek the con­sent of Par­lia­ment be­fore you com­mit the United King­dom to any ac­tion.”

Lib­eral Demo­crat leader Sir Vince Ca­ble told the BBC: “Par­lia­ment can and should be re­called im­me­di­ately and a vote held on this is­sue.

“The po­si­tion is a very dan­ger­ous one be­cause of Rus­sian in­volve­ment, also be­cause we have an er­ratic pres­i­dent of the United States.”

Brexit Sec­re­tary David Davis said: “It is a very, very del­i­cate cir­cum­stance and we’ve got to make this judgment on a very care­ful, very de­lib­er­ate, very well thought-through ba­sis, know­ing ex­actly … how strong the ev­i­dence is.”

The Min­istry of De­fence re­fused to com­ment yes­ter­day on a re­port that Royal Navy sub­marines had been or­dered into range to po­ten­tially launch Tom­a­hawk cruise mis­sile strikes as early as last night.

“We don’t com­ment on sub­ma­rine move­ments,” a spokesman said.

Rus­sian me­dia re­ported yes­ter­day that Syr­ian gov­ern­ment forces had seized con­trol of the city at the cen­tre of the es­ca­lat­ing ten­sions, Douma, where the at­tack is said to have taken place. Krem­lin-backed news agency Tass re­ported a Moscow of­fi­cial say­ing that Rus­sian mil­i­tary po­lice would be de­ployed to the city to main­tain law and or­der.

“Cab­i­net agreed on the need to take ac­tion to al­le­vi­ate hu­man­i­tar­ian dis­tress and to de­ter the fur­ther use of chem­i­cal weapons by the As­sad regime” DOWN­ING STREET

0 De­fence Sec­re­tary Gavin Wil­liamson was among those sum­moned to

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