Like many of you, I have been horrified by the pictures which came out of Douma on Friday 6th April, showing a suspected chemical attack on civilians, including young children.
The Syrian conflict which has been raging on for 7 years has led to hundreds of thousands of innocent civilian deaths and many more millions forced to flee their homes. It has been a truly harrowing humanitarian disaster and it is vital that those responsible for war crimes must be held to account.
However, and as Jeremy Corbyn said in a statement over the weekend, ‘bombs won’t save lives or bring about peace’.
I was, therefore, deeply disappointed by the Prime Ministers decision to launch a military intervention in Syria over the weekend of 14th April. This direct action risked escalating tensions within Syria and the region at large.
Instead of pandering to Donald Trump’s tweets, Theresa May should have sought parliamentary approval for her decision.
Recent parliamentary protocol dictates that the Prime Minister consult and seek parliamentary approval for military action, unless sufficient evidence exists that such action is in response to a direct and immediate threat to the UK’s national security.
I am not satisfied that the decision to strike Syria over the weekend meets the criteria to launch a strike without prior parliamentary consultation and approval.
Firstly, the chemical weapons attack, whilst utterly abhorrent, did not cause a direct and immediate threat to UK national security.
Secondly, the Prime Minister should have waited for the independent investigation by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to take place in Douma before making any decision to launch an attack. However, as we now know, the strikes began on the same day as OPCW inspectors entered Syria.
Thirdly, following an independent investigation, it was vital that the Government presented the evidence and strategy on the purpose and end result of strikes in Syria.
Finally, it is clear that not all non-military means were exhausted before the decision to strike. The Labour Party are clear that the Prime Minister should have waited for evidence from the OPCW after which, the UK should have led an international diplomatic effort to bring about a ceasefire and proper accountability through the UN.
Rather than military intervention, we urgently need a coordinated international drive to achieve a ceasefire, de-escalation and a negotiated political settlement under UN auspices with our priority being the safety and security of Syrian victims of this tragic war.