Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Newspaper column 18 April 2018 - The strike on Syria

Last week I was shocked to see, as I am sure were you, photographs of dead children who had been gassed in a chemical weapons attack by the forces of Syrian President Assad, in an attack on his own people in Douma.

Subsequently on Friday evening, a combined UK, French and US missile strike took out Assad’s three chemical weapons facilities. No casualties have been reported as a result of these strikes.
Not everyone has agreed with the Prime Minister’s decision to join the strike. I do support this action for a number of reasons.

Firstly this strike was solely about degrading Assad’s ability to manufacture and use chemical weapons. There is no follow-up on the ground and no sustained campaign of more general air strikes, and no broader objectives such as getting involved in the Syrian Civil War or trying to force a regime change. As such I believe the action taken was entirely proportionate and designed to solve a particular issue, which has now been dealt with.

Secondly there are international treaties prohibiting the use of chemical weapons. Assad has a track record of using these weapons on his own people. It is morally wrong to allow him to operate like this with impunity. As an international power, it is our responsibility to show people who would take these actions that they are not tolerated, and that their use will be met with strong and swift retaliation.

People have raised that they are not satisfied that Assad is behind these attacks. France, whose President Macron has been particularly robust in pushing for a strike, said:

“On the intelligence collected by our services, and in the absence to date of chemical samples analyzed by our own laboratories, France considers, beyond possible doubt, a chemical attack was carried out against civilians at Douma ... and that there is no plausible scenario other than that of an attack by Syrian armed forces,”.

In committing our own military the Prime Minister will have had access to our own highly classified data and I trust that she would have been absolutely certain of the validity of this data and of Assad’s culpability for the attack before making the decision to proceed with the strike. We elect our Prime Minister to make executive decisions on our behalf, tough decisions, and this is one of them.
Finally, there are those people who say this chemical weapons attack requires a diplomatic solution, particularly one backed by the UN. Assad’s past history, going back over seven years, of using chemical weapons, despite all sorts of diplomatic solutions being used to try to stop him, show that this does not work. Moreover Russia has used in the past and will continue to use, its veto on the UN Security Council to block any UN backed actions.
For these reasons I believe that the strike action that we took with our allies last Friday was the right thing to do. These decisions are never easy, but as a country we need to stand up to bullies like Assad wherever we can and ensure that they cannot use these horrific weapons again.