LONDON (Reuters) - U.S., British and French forces launched air strikes on Syria in response to a suspected poison gas attack that killed dozens of people, aiming to degrade its chemical weapons capabilities in the biggest intervention yet in the conflict by Western powers.
By launching strikes without prior approval from parliament, Prime Minister Theresa May dispensed with a non-binding constitutional convention dating back to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but said speed was essential and that military action was in the national interest.
For May’s full statement:
Here is reaction in Britain to the missile strikes:
Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn:
“Bombs won’t save lives or bring about peace. This legally questionable action risks escalating further, as U.S. Defence Secretary James Mattis has admitted, an already devastating conflict and therefore makes real accountability for war crimes and use of chemical weapons less, not more likely.
“Britain should be playing a leadership role to bring about a ceasefire in the conflict, not taking instructions from Washington and putting British military personnel in harm’s way.
“Theresa May should have sought parliamentary approval, not trailed after Donald Trump. The Government should do whatever possible to push Russia and the United States to agree to an independent UN-led investigation of last weekend’s horrific chemical weapons attack so that those responsible can be held to account.”
Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats:
“Riding the coattails of an erratic US President is no substitute for a mandate from the House of Commons.
“The Prime Minister could and should have recalled Parliament this week and sought the approval of MPs before proceeding.
“Liberal Democrats stood ready to assess the evidence and objectives for any action and, if it were properly planned and justified, to support a military response.
“At this moment our thoughts are with British and allied troops. But the government’s decision fatally undermines the integrity of this mission. It shows a weak Government putting short term political expediency before democracy and in so doing further diminishing the standing of Britain in the world.”
Nicola Sturgeon, the head of Scotland’s devolved government and leader of the Scottish National Party:
“Air strikes by US and UK forces have not resolved the situation in Syria in the past and I am not persuaded they will do so now.
“This action risks not just further escalating the civil war in Syria but also a dangerous escalation of international tensions. There must be urgent confirmation from the Prime Minister that there will be no further action and no change to the role of UK military in regards to Syria without a full parliamentary debate.
“An international strategy is urgently required to bring peace and stability to the region. UK foreign policy should be aimed at reaching an international consensus not simply complying with Presidential wishes.”
David Miliband, the chief executive of the International Rescue Committee and former Labour foreign minister:
“Now that the US, France and the UK have decided on their reaction to the use of chemical weapons last weekend, the need for a diplomatic offensive is more imperative than ever. Military action is only ever successful when it is part of a political strategy, for peace-making, humanitarian aid and regional security.
“Bombing cannot substitute for diplomacy, military reactions a substitute for a peace plan. Syrian civilians need urgent humanitarian aid to relieve poverty, Syria’s neighbours need support for the refugees they are housing.”
Stewart McDonald, a member of parliament for the Scottish National Party:
“What does this new bombing campaign do to help move Syria towards peace? Nothing. Instead, it has the potential to dangerously complicate the war, making matters on the ground worse for the people that the strikes are supposed to help. There is no peace strategy.
“The government has made no effort to explain to the public what it is that UK forces are really engaging in, beyond a statement of seven short sentences and this 4 minute video. No debate in Parliament about the action or its potential consequences. No accountability.”
Reporting By Andrew MacAskill and William James; editing by Guy Faulconbridge