In the early hours of the morning of the 14th of April, the USA, France and UK carried out airstrikes in Syria in response to suspected chemical attacks on the town of Douma by the ruling Assad regime.
I would like to make it absolutely clear that I unequivocally oppose and condemn the use of chemical weapons, that I am not a pacifist and would be prepared to support military action in the defence of our country.
But what did the 105 cruise missiles launched by the Allied Forces that night actually achieve?
The missiles were launched in response to the 34th recorded use of chemical weapons in Syria (according to the UN). All but one of these chemical weapons attacks have gone unpunished and that one action to punish made little difference in the long run. Isolated air strikes have not halted Assad’s use of chemical weapons in the past. The Prime Minister has failed to present a coherent strategy on how these air strikes, undertaken without the approval of the UK Parliament, will make a difference this time round by halting the use of chemical weapons or by contributing to long-term peace in an area which has endured 8 years of turmoil.
The Chilcot report made clear that sound legal advice is vital when considering military involvement. By joining this action before proof of the legality of doing so could be established and without the support of the UN or parliament or indeed the majority of UK citizens, Theresa May leaves herself open to allegations of gesture bombing in response to a tweet. What a sorry state for UK’s foreign policy to be in.
Worse still her actions risk further escalation of the civil war in Syria where, to date 6.5 million people, 2.8 million of them children, have been displaced within Syria, the biggest internally displaced population in the world.
The situation in Syria is a complex one with unstable dynamics between Saudi Arabia and Iran, who’ve backed different sides in the internal conflict, as have Iran and Israel, all made worse when you throw Russia’s involvement into the mix. The Prime Minister seems to have stumbled blindly into military action without taking the time to consider the consequences.
It is imperative, in cases of proposed military action not in direct defence of our country, that democracy is respected. One single individual should not be in the position to take that decision on her own. By doing so Theresa May has turned herself into another Tony Blair. In terms of policing countries other than our own, it is a good idea for the UN to take this responsibility rather than individual countries.
So what can be done to stop the use of chemical weapons becoming normalised? Well, no country can do this on their own, an international strategy for peace must be pursued. We must disrupt the supply chains and transport and delivery means of the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Centre – the agency that develops Syrian chemical weapons - we must block their purchasing ability. Sadly, in areas of conflict, life is cheap and money talks so we should impose punitive sanctions on companies with financial involvement with the SSSRC. Sanctions have been shown to work, they take a bit more time but they are effective.
Assad has all but won this war and bombing will not change that basic fact but we can make a difference on chemical weapons if the international community has the will.