‘No alternative’: Theresa May orders Britain to join air strikes on Syria
RAF confirms UK forces joined a precision strike on Syrian installations involved in the regimes use of chemical weapons
British armed forces will conduct co-ordinated and targeted strikes on the Syrian regimes chemical weapons capability, Theresa May has announced.
In the early hours of the morning, after a finalphone call with French president Emmanuel Macron, the prime minister said the UK would act with American and French allies to deter the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
This is the first time as prime minister that I have had to take the decision to commit our armed forces in combat and it is not a decision I have taken lightly, she said.
I have done so because I judge this action to be in Britains national interest. We cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalised within Syria, on the streets of the UK, or anywhere else in our world. We would have preferred an alternative path. But on this occasion there is none.
Her statement came minutes after Donald Trump spoke to reporters in Washington, who called the chemical attack crimes of a monster and said US strikes would hit precision strikes on targets associated with chemical weapons capabilities.
Later the Ministry of Defence said British forces had joined a precision strike on Syrian installations involved in the regimes use of chemical weapons against its own people at 2am on Saturday morning.
Four Royal Airforce tornados launched Storm Shadow missiles at a former missile base 15 miles west of Homs, where the MoD said it had assessed that the Syrian regime was keeping chemical weapon precursors stockpiled.
In a statement, the MoD said it had undertaken a careful scientific analysis to minimise the risk of contamination to the surrounding area and said the target was well away from any civilian population.
Earlier in her statement May said the regime of President Bashar Assad had a history of using chemical weapons against its own people in the most cruel and abhorrent way. British action would be limited to deterring the use of those weapons, she said.
Her announcement came after days of diplomacy with the US and France, following the attack in Douma, outside Damascus, last Saturday where a chemical weapons attack killed up to 75 people. May said people had died, including young children, in circumstances of pure horror but said the attack should not have come as a surprise.
A significant body of information including intelligence indicates the Syrian Regime is responsible for this latest attack, she said. This persistent pattern of behaviour must be stopped not just to protect innocent people in Syria from the horrific deaths and casualties caused by chemical weapons but also because we cannot allow the erosion of the international norm that prevents the use of these weapons.
Mays argument in her statement announcing that action had commenced mirrors the one she made in her opening address to her cabinet on Thursday, saying she had been convinced that the normalisation of chemical weapons could not be allowed to stand.
We have sought to use every possible diplomatic channel to achieve this, she said in the early hours of Saturday morning. But our efforts have been repeatedly thwarted. Even this week the Russians vetoed a resolution at the UN Security Council which would have established an independent investigation into the Douma attack. So there is no practicable alternative to the use of force to degrade and deter the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Regime.
May said the UKs involvement in military action would be limited to deterring the use of chemical warfare. This is not about intervening in a civil war. It is not about regime change, she said. It is about a limited and targeted strike that does not further escalate tensions in the region and that does everything possible to prevent civilian casualties.
Though UK action would be limited to deterring the Syrian regime, May said action would also send a signal to other regional actors.
At this time, my thoughts are with our brave British servicemen and women and our French and American partners who are carrying out their duty with the greatest professionalism, she said. The speed with which we are acting is essential in co-operating with our partners to alleviate further humanitarian suffering and to maintain the vital security of our operations.
The prime minister is likely to face severe criticism from opposition MPs and members of her own party that MPs have not been given a vote in parliament on extending UK military action in Syria, but appears to be prepared to face down any condemnation.
It will be argued that under royal prerogative May is not required to seek the permission of MPs, and under the convention that emerged after the Iraq war, she may also act alone in some circumstances, including to preserve the operational security but also to prevent humanitarian catastrophe.
Earlier on Friday, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said May should not act without parliaments approval and not before a UN investigation. I want to know who did it. If there is proof the regime did it, they must be held responsible. If theres a proof anybody else did it, they must be held responsible, he said in an interview with Sky News.
Corbyn denied that it was pointless, given Russias record, to continue to call for UN investigations. Anything that brings a cessation of the use of chemical weapons moves us nearer, if not totally, to a ceasefire and a reopening of the Geneva talks which has got to be the right way forward.