In the early hours of 14 April 2018, British, American and French forces launched targeted strikes against chemical weapons facilities in Syria. The action took place following a suspected chemical weapons attack on the then rebel-held town of Douma in Eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus, on 7 April. The attack killed up to 75 people. The Syrian regime denies any involvement, and Russia has claimed that it was staged. Syrian regime and Russian forces took control of Douma in the days following the attack. The UK element of the 14 April operation involved four RAF Tornados launching eight Storm Shadow missiles at a military facility 15 miles west of Homs believed to have been used to store chemical weapons.
The attack in Douma on 7 April resulting in the deaths and suffering of innocent civilians, including children, was horrific and those responsible must be held to account. We know that the Assad regime and others have used chemical weapons throughout the conflict in Syria, and these actions cannot go unchallenged.
I do not believe that UK military action is the right response though, and I fear it ultimately risks escalating an already devastating conflict even further. I am also strongly of the view that before authorising UK military action, the Prime Minister should have consulted Parliament first.
Although Parliament was in recess, I believe there was time for the Prime Minister to do this. Indeed, while President Trump indicated on 11 April that the US would likely take military action, the strikes did not actually take place until the early hours of 14 April. Parliament was given a say on UK military action in Syria in 2013 and 2015 by convention, and I believe this convention must now be enshrined in law.
I welcome the investigation being carried out by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) into the attack in Douma. It must be allowed to do this work unhindered.
In my view, rather than further military intervention, the humanitarian priority must be to halt the killing on all sides. The Government's urgent focus should therefore be on a coordinated international drive to achieve a ceasefire, de-escalation and a negotiated political settlement under UN auspices to finally bring the suffering of the Syrian people to an end.