UK Prime Minister Theresa May and US President Donald Trump are considering the possibility of military action against the Assad regime in response to the suspected use of chemical weapons in the town of Douma, Syria.
Trump called out Russia for supporting Syria and appeared to threaten the use of missiles, but official White House statements say that the US has yet to decide on a course of action.
“Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’ You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!” said President Trump in a tweet on Wednesday morning.
In the UK, Mrs. May has called an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss options. The PM is expected to back the US and its allies, but there is debate over whether a decision should be made without first seeking the approval of Parliament.
“All the indications are that the Syrian regime was responsible, and we will be working with our closest allies on how we can ensure that those who are responsible are held to account, and how we can prevent and deter the humanitarian catastrophe that comes from the use of chemical weapons in the future,” Mrs. May told BBC News.
“The continued use of chemical weapons cannot go unchallenged.”
MPs from across party lines are requesting that the issue be presented before Parliament and a plan agreed upon before any action is taken. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the SNP’s Ian Blackford and Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith all said that Parliament should have a say in the matter. However, Mrs. May only needs the approval of her cabinet for British forces to mount an operation against Assad regime forces.
“The cabinet is expected to back the prime minister,” said BBC diplomatic correspondent James Landale. “But she seems willing to act without the express support of MPs who don’t return to Westminster until next week.”
More than 40 people were killed on Saturday in the last rebel-held town in the Eastern Ghouta region. Members of the Syrian opposition as well as activists, medics and rescuers allege that the bombs dropped on the town by Syrian government forces contained toxic chemicals. The town was attacked as part of an ongoing assault on the Eastern Ghouta region by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.
It has yet to be determined if chemical weapons were used in Saturday’s attack on Douma. A number of reports claim that the dead showed symptoms consistent with exposure to a nerve agent known as Sarin, but the Syrian government called the accusations “fabricated” and denied the usage of chemical weapons. Russian military specialists who visited the site echoed that statement.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is currently investigating the situation to determine if chemical weapons were used. If it is proven that they were, a military response from the UK and the US appears likely.
Photo by Jordhan Madec on Unsplash