British Prime Minister Theresa May has won backing from her “war cabinet” to take action with the United States and France in Syria to “deter the further use of chemical weapons,” according to a Downing Street statement.
May and her senior ministers discussed for more than two hours in Downing Street on Thursday whether Britain should participate in the potential US-led military intervention in Syria.
At the end, they agreed it was “highly likely” the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the recent alleged chemical weapons attack in the Arab country.
The ministers, who were called from their Easter holiday for the meeting, agreed with May that the use of chemical weapons must not “go unchallenged,” a Downing Street spokeswoman said in the statement.
The US and its Western allies have been threatening Damascus with military action since Saturday, the day a suspected chemical attack on the Syrian town of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, reportedly killed 60 people and injured hundreds more.
The possibility of an attack grew larger on Wednesday, after US President Donald Trump warned Russia, one of Syria’s key supporter in the fight against foreign-backed militancy, to “get ready” to shoot down American missiles over Syria soon.
May told the ministers on Thursday that the chemical attack showed a “deeply concerning” erosion of international law barring the use of chemical arms, the Downing Street spokeswoman said.
“Cabinet agreed on the need to take action to alleviate humanitarian distress and to deter the further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime,” she added.
Analysts say May’s war cabinet meeting indicates that she does not plan to consult UK Parliament ahead of any possible action in Syria.
But the Downing Street statement does not provide any details of possible UK involvement in any military action in Syria.
Opposition Labour Party and other opposition parties have called on the prime minister to respect a recent convention that the UK House of Commons approves any military action abroad.
“That’s a case that I’ve made going back many, many years in Parliament,” Corbyn said on Wednesday. “Obviously the situation is very serious, obviously there has to be, now, a demand for a political process to end the war in Syria.
“We cannot risk an escalation even further than it’s gone already,” he added.
On Tuesday, Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who had backed the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq on the pretext of weapons of mass destruction, said Prime Minister May should be prepared to support potential US strikes against Syria because “non-intervention is also a policy with consequences.”
The idea of an intervention gained more momentum in the UK on Thursday, after Brexit Secretary David Davis hinted he had changed his mind since voting against Syrian intervention under similar pretexts in 2013.
Syria has firmly denied any links to the chemical attack. Syria, Russia and Iran say reports of the attack were fabricated by militants groups and rescue workers and have accused the United States of seeking to use it as a pretext to attack the government.
French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday that Paris has proof the Syrian government carried out the attack, without offering details of any evidence.
Moscow and Damascus have invited the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to send a fact-finding mission to Douma and investigate the alleged use of chemical weapons there.
Damascus has destroyed its entire chemical weapons stockpile under a UN-brokered program overseen by the OPCW.