The Liberty Hound — April 9, 2018
Senior Tories call on Theresa May to back Donald Trump’s airstrikes in Syria
Harriet Alexander, Josie Ensor, Louis Emanual and Verity Ryan — Telegraph.co.uk April 10, 2018
Theresa May is facing mounting pressure from senior Conservative MPs to support US-led airstrikes against the Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.
Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the foreign affairs committee, and Nick Boles, a former minister, have both urged Mrs May to back the strikes without seeking parliamentary approval.
President Donald Trump promised on Monday that a “major decision” would be taken on Syria within the next two days, as a US navy destroyer appeared to be getting in position to attack.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who spoke with Mr Trump on Sunday, has indicated France’s support for the US. Mrs May is due to speak with Mr Trump on Tuesday.
The senior Conservative MP and former soldier Tom Tugendhat has called for action to “degrade” Syria’s chemical weapon resources, after the Syrian town of Douma were attacked with suspected chlorine gas on Saturday.
He said: “Striking Syria’s stockpiles of chemical weapons would degrade their ability to commit further war crimes and could be done together with allies. It would not require a vote in Parliament.”
Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general, has also thrown his weight behind an attack. He told the Evening Standard on Tuesday: “In view of the enormity of what has been done if there is a way of preventing its recurrence by the limited use of force that is one thing and I would be supportive.”
Former minister Nick Boles said the Prime Minister had his “strong support” is she decides to join the US and France in taking action against President Assad.
Theresa May is due to chair a national security council meeting on Tuesday afternoon or on Wednesday.
“Nothing is off the table,” said Mr Trump, when asked whether he was considering military action.
“We are making a decision with respect to what to do with the horrible attack on Syria,” he said.
“It will be met, and it will be met forcefully. I won’t say when, as I don’t like talking about timing.
“We’re going to make a decision tonight, or very shortly after, and you’ll be hearing the decision.
“We can’t let atrocities happen. In our world, we can’t let that happen, because of the power of the United States, the power of our country, when we can stop it.”
Mr Trump’s comments were followed by a warning from France early on Tuesday morning that it will retaliate against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad if evidence emerges that it was behind the suspected chlorine gas attack.
After President Emmanuel Macron and Mr Trump spoke again last night, spokesperson Benjamin Griveaux told Europe 1 radio: “If the red line has been crossed, there will be a response,” adding that intelligence “in theory confirms the use of chemical weapons.”
Mr Trump said on Monday night he was consulting with his military and national security advisers, but that he personally had little doubt that the attack was carried out by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, with the possible support of his allies.
“To me there’s not much a doubt, but the generals will figure it out,” he said.
“So we’ll be looking at that barbaric act and studying what’s going on. We’re trying to get people in there. As you know, it’s been surrounded.
“So it’s very hard to get people in because not only has it been hit, it’s been surrounded. And if they’re innocent, why aren’t they allowing people to go in and prove? Because as you know, they’re claiming they didn’t make the attack.
“So if it’s Russia, if it’s Syria, if it’s Iran, if it’s all of them together, we’ll figure it out and we’ll know the answers quite soon. So we’re looking at that very, very strongly and very seriously.”
Amid the tough talk in the White House, the US military appeared to be in position to carry out any attack order. A navy destroyer, the USS Donald Cook, was underway in the eastern Mediterranean on Monday after completing a port call at Larnaca, Cyprus.
A defiant Moscow said on Monday that it had examined patients affected and it did not find traces of chemicals. The UN-backed Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is carrying out its own investigation but is likely to take some time to report the findings.
Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, lashed out at Britain, the US and France, accusing them of “slander, insults, hawkish rhetoric, and blackmail”.
“The tone of what is being done has gone beyond the threshold of what even happened in the Cold War,” he said, repeating Kremlin accusations that the Eastern Ghouta attack was “fake news” being used in a bid to discredit Russia and to distract from the Skripal poisoning case.
He said the OPCW was welcome to visit, under Syrian and Russian protection.
The chemical attack, which doctors on the ground told the Telegraph they suspected to have been chlorine mixed with a nerve agent, left more than 40 dead. The images of children and babies left frothing at the mouth has led to international outrage, but so far no direct response.
Mr Trump described the gas attack as “a barbarity” and said it was a crisis for humanity.
And Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said that Mr Trump “is confident” that the Assad regime and its allies were to blame.
“He’s been briefed by his national security team and being kept up to date constantly and regularly on the intelligence around that,” she said.
She insisted that his wish for American troops to pull out of Syria did not affect his resolve to respond to the Eastern Ghouta attack.
“The president wants to bring our troops home after we complete the mission to eradicate ISIS in Syria. At the same time he wants to make sure Assad is deterred from chemical weapons attacks on innocent civilians,” she said.
“Signalling we want to remove our troops in no way degrades our ability to hold parties responsible.”
She said Mr Trump hoped to coordinate the response with Britain and France.
“We certainly have a great relationship with both countries, and are continuing conversations with both the UK as well as France, and hope to work with all of our allies and partners in a response,” she said.
John Bolton, his new national security adviser, was on Monday, in his first day in the job, holding a “principals” meeting to prepare options for the president in dealing with Syria.
Mr Bolton and Mike Pompeo, his nominee for secretary of state, are both critical of Iranian influence in the region, which foreign policy experts believe may have a significant impact on US action in Syria.
Ilan Berman, a former consultant to the CIA and Department of Defense, said: “It seems that the new foreign policy advisers are pushing for more involvement in terms of military presence on the ground.
“Certainly both Mr Bolton and Mr Pompeo are much more concerned with rolling back Iranian influence and the most visible example of Iranian influence today is their involvement in Syria.
“It’s another action entirely to make a military strike against the Syrians when the Russians and Iranians are so closely involved – anything that Mr Trump does has the potential for fairly significant escalation depending on the targets hit.
“The thing that is least complicated is repeating something they did before – submarine strikes that don’t come into Russian airspace or hit Russian troops.”
The attack, which came days after an announcement that US troops would soon be withdrawing, will muddle Mr Trump’s exit plan and threaten to draw America into a direct confrontation with Russia.
Relations between Moscow and Washington are the worst they have been under Mr Trump, who has in the last few months expanded sanctions and expelled scores of Russian diplomats over the poisoning of a former spy in Salisbury.
On Monday the United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting on Syria.
Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the UN, said the US was prepared to respond unilaterally.
“We are beyond appeals to conscience,” she said.
“We have reached the moment when the world must see justice done. History will record this as the moment when the Security Council either discharged its duty or demonstrated its utter and complete failure to protect the people of Syria.
“Either way, the United States will respond.”