Since the chemical attacks in Syria on 7th April two topics of conversation have dominated the international stage – the use of chemical weapons and what response the international community should take to their use.
Then last week the Prime Minister ordered the UK military to participate in a co-ordinated series of strikes against the Syrian Government’s chemical weapons facilities. This has proven a contentious issue, both at home and abroad. I think for many of us the recent interventions in the Middle East still overshadow our thoughts and prey on our minds.
Even before Mrs May gave the order for military action I had come to the conclusion that something needed to be done. Let me be clear, these strikes were not about ‘regime change’, President Assad of Syria (along with his Russian Allies) is winning his civil war. Bar putting boots on the ground (which I do not support) this is not going to change. These strikes were about warning both him, and also other groups, that the use of chemical weapons is never acceptable. These strikes were a tightly focused warning. There will no doubt be those who say we should just stay out of it, but I do not believe that sitting on the side-lines and watching the widespread use of chemical weapons is morally right. There are others who say that we should only intervene with the support of the UN. This is simply never going to happen. Russia has used its veto 12 times in relation to actions targeting the Syrian Government. To argue for this is to hide your desire to do nothing behind a bureaucracy that will achieve exactly that – nothing.
I suspect the largest group of people opposed to these strikes do so on the basis of a ‘lack of evidence’ as to whether the weapons were used at all and who in fact used them. They may have doubts, but I believe our Government. Depending on the chemical weapon used, the evidence can quickly dissipate so finding physical traces can be very hard indeed. However the World Health Orginisation has already said that it has treated 500 people with conditions attributable to a chemical weapons attack at its facilities. The testimonies of these victims are now being widely circulated in the media. We also know that the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, set up by the United Nations Human Rights Council, has investigated and catalogued 34 separate uses of chemical weapons in Syria. Of these 28 are directly attributable to the Syrian Government, and in the other 6 they are unsure. This certainly supports the Prime Minister’s arguments of a ‘pattern of behaviour’ in relation to President Assad’s forces. I believe that the PM is justified “under international law, on an exceptional basis, to take measures in order to alleviate overwhelming humanitarian suffering,” and that this can include the use of force.
We need to act swiftly and decisively in order to strike the stockpile of chemical weapons. Had we waited then these would have been moved and the opportunity lost. The PM was right to act when she did, in the manner she did and her actions have my full support
Ashley Fox MEP
|MEP report April 2018||1.63 MB|