Attacks on Syria: Theresa May defends launching missile strikes

Tuesday, 17 Apr, 2018

The UK leader has addressed MPs in the House of Commons over her decision to launch airstrikes in Syria without parliamentary approval.

The premier endured six and half hours of proceedings on Monday - including more than three hours answering 140 direct questions from members - as she sought to demonstrate her commitment to Parliament in the face of allegations that she had rushed to war without seeking proper approval. Russian president Vladimir Putin warned on Sunday that further western attacks on Syria would bring chaos to world affairs.

Britain joined its American and French allies on Saturday, 14 April as the Royal Air Force jets hit targets in Syria, in response to an alleged chemical attack in Douma.

In her speech, May said the targeted attacks were justified without first getting the go-ahead from parliament.

May said there wasn't time to consult lawmakers before Britain joined US and French airstrikes on Syrian military targets on Saturday and dismissed opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn's accusation that she was acting on "the whims of the USA president" as an insult to her government.

Taking aim at the Prime Minister, he added: "She could have recalled parliament last week - it is only the Prime Minister who can recall parliament - or she could have delayed until tomorrow when Parliament returns".

The prime minister called the attack on Douma, which killed up to 75 people, "haunting" and said reports of chemical weapons exposure, from aid workers, NGOs and intelligence, could not be falsified on such a scale.

"She authorised military action with no mandate", said one Conservative lawmaker on condition of anonymity.

Five percent of respondents said they thought there was probably no chemical weapons attack, while a further five percent said they thought "something else happened". "And we can not wait to alleviate further humanitarian suffering caused by chemical weapons attacks".

He added that the weekend attacks were legally questionable, telling May that she was accountable to the British parliament and not to the whims of U.S. President Donald Trump.

A Kremlin statement said Mr Putin and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, agreed during a telephone conversation that the air strikes had damaged the chances of achieving a political resolution of the conflict in Syria.

"Vladimir Putin, in particular, stressed that if such actions were committed in violation of the United Nations charter continue, then it will inevitably lead to chaos in worldwide relations", the statement said.

Legally, the British prime minister was not obliged to consult Parliament before ordering the military action, but the recent convention has been to do.

Mr. Clarke called for the creation of a cross-party commission to deliberate on the role of lawmakers in authorizing military action. "There is no more serious issue than the life and death matters of military action". May "at what point the president instructed her that military action should be taken".

Ian Blackford, the Scottish Nationalist Party leader at Westminster, also told May she should have recalled parliament before the attacks.

Vince Cable, leading the Liberal Democrats, said that the PM's failure to consult the parliament was a mistake.