Cabinet gives green light on Syria ‘action’
● Downing Street statement condemns Assad chemical attack ● No details on timing of any military action against regime
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