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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Pressure mounts on UK’s May to join military action in Syria

Former UK political heavyweights have warned against non-intervention

Busses carrying Jaish Al Islam fighters and their families from their former rebel bastion of Douma arrive at the Syrian government-held side of the Wafideen checkpoint on the outskirts of Damascus, after being evacuated from the last rebel-held pocket in Eastern Ghouta. AFP Photo
Busses carrying Jaish Al Islam fighters and their families from their former rebel bastion of Douma arrive at the Syrian government-held side of the Wafideen checkpoint on the outskirts of Damascus, after being evacuated from the last rebel-held pocket in Eastern Ghouta. AFP Photo

Senior figures in British politics have called for UK Prime Minister Theresa May to take military action against the Syrian regime following an alleged chemical weapons attack near Damascus.

The attack on Saturday against rebels in the city of Douma, which lies just outside the Syrian capital, killed 48 people and left hundreds injured.

Pressure is mounting on the British Prime Minister to support President Donald Trump, who on Monday promised “forceful action” would be taken by the US against the Assad regime.

Former prime minister Tony Blair, who led Britain into war in Iraq in 2003, warned on Tuesday of further chemical weapons attacks if the Syrian government’s actions were to go “unchecked”.

“If the US are taking action, we should be prepared to be alongside them,” Mr Blair told BBC radio.

He added: “It is important to realise if we allow it to go unchecked and unanswered then obviously the Assad regime and their outside backers in Russia and Iran will feel emboldened to do more. I think it is important that we react.”

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Read more:

Trump talks of imminent 'military options' in Syria

France says it will take action if 'red line' on chemical arms is crossed by Syria

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When asked whether Mrs May would have to seek parliamentary approval for air action in Syria, the former Labour leader said: “I don’t think strictly it’s necessary.”

Former Conservative foreign secretary William Hague argued in a comment piece in the Telegraph published on Tuesday that not intervening would carry a “terrible price”.

“The United States should take swift military action, more extensively than last year when similar crimes took place, against the military regimes of the Assad regime,” Mr Hague recommended. “The UK and France should join in if they can.”

Speaking during a visit to Sweden on Monday night, Mrs May condemned the “barbaric attack” and said those who were responsible should be held to account.

“We … are working urgently with our allies to assess what has happened,” she said. “But, we are also working with our allies on any action that is necessary.”

Mark Wallace, editor of Conservative Party-supporting blog Conservative Home, argued on Tuesday that the UK parliament’s decision not to take military action in 2013 had resulted in the latest chemical attack.

In a column for the i paper, Mr Wallace described the slaughter in Douma as “the latest grim fruit of appeasement”.