London : There are no plans as yet to repeat missile strikes on Syria, but Britain will consider further action if President Bashar al-Assad again uses chemical weapons against his people, foreign minister Boris Johnson said yesterday.
In a show of support for Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to join the United States and France in attacking chemical weapons facilities in Syria on Saturday, her one-time political rival Johnson said it was the right thing to do.
But the prime minister may not find such backing when she faces parliament on Monday, where some lawmakers are angry that May took military action without their approval - a process that has increasingly become a tradition in Britain.
Speaking to the BBC, Johnson said what he described as the successful strikes on three sites in Syria were a message from the world that enough was enough, but acknowledged he could not say whether Assad still had chemical weapons.
“There is no proposal on the table at the moment for further attacks because so far, thank heavens, the Assad regime have not been so foolish as to launch another chemical weapons attack,” he told the Andrew Marr show.
May, whose leadership has been questioned after scandals, divisions over Brexit and an ill-judged election that lost her party its majority in parliament, has found support from other international leaders for backing action against Syria.
But her move to add British Tornado jets to U.S. and French forces that launched around 105 missiles in the early hours of Saturday might be met with retaliatory measures by Syrian ally Russia and breaks with a convention to obtain parliamentary approval for military action dating back to the 2003 Iraq war.
The missile attacks were launched in retaliation for a suspected poison gas attack a week ago, a response Syria and its allies Russia and Iran have said violates international law. Moscow has denied any gas attack happened in Douma, instead accusing Britain of staging it to whip up anti-Russian hysteria.
Johnson said May and her cabinet of top ministers had to move quickly on Syria, so could not risk recalling parliament from its holiday break, and added that there were plenty of examples of when a prime minister did not get its approval.
May will make a statement on the action to the House of Commons on Monday, but opposition lawmakers have lined up to call for a more meaningful debate and a possible retrospective vote on the action, which would severely test her position.
Asked whether he would back a vote at the end of Monday’s debate, opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told the BBC: “Yes I would, because I think parliament should have a say in this and the prime minister could quite easily have done that.”