Updated: Friday, 23rd August 2019 @ 11:02am

Syrian chemical weapon attacks prompt parliament recall – Greater Manchester MPs split over solution

Syrian chemical weapon attacks prompt parliament recall – Greater Manchester MPs split over solution

By Dan Windham

Chemical weapons attacks on civilians in Syria have prompted a recall of MPs to parliament – yet Greater Manchester's politicians are split on how the UK should react.

David Cameron has urged the UK to intervene after declaring the country would not stand ‘idly by’ amidst the ‘massive use’ of banned weapons.

MP’s have now been recalled four days early from their summer recess to vote on a course of action after David Cameron cut his own holiday short to deal with the crisis.

Labour MP Paul Goggins told MM: “The use of weapons on ordinary members is reprehensible so it’s only right we’re being called back to consider our options.

“People can’t be free to use chemical weapons against others in this way.”

The Syrian government has denied using any chemical weapons while blaming opposition fighters for the alleged attack.

The denial leaves the UK’s MPs in the unenviable position of deciding whether military intervention would be an appropriate and legal response.  

MPs will be wary of advising Cameron on military action if the evidence presented to them today does not conclusively prove the legal requirements have been met and it follows precise, achievable objectives.

Graham Stringer, Labour MP, was particularly cautious about armed intervention.

He told MM: “Military intervention would be counterproductive.

“We should be compassionate and help refugees caught in this dreadful conflagration, but nothing else.”

Cameron and President Obama have now spoken twice since the alleged chemical attack with reports suggesting both leaders have no doubts the Assad regime was to blame.

America already look intent on responding with military action against Syria after the US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel declaring the country were ‘ready to go’ if given the order by President Obama.

With contingency plans already being drawn up and the US Navy re-positioning several vessels, it seems MPs will have to make a quickly considered judgement about the benefits of following the US into military action.

“If the Americans are going to involve themselves in the chaos of the Middle East, they can do it without us,” Mr. Stringer added.

While no MP would argue against finding a solution to the Syrian crisis, many would believe the idea of military intervention extremely dangerous considering Russia and China’s Syrian sympathies.  

Any decision to follow America’s call for military intervention would provoke strong opposition from Russia and China who have previously vetoed resolutions critical of Syria.

If the MPs advise Cameron to take military action, they must also prepare him for retaliation from either of these countries or Iran, another supporting country of Syria.

John Leech, Lib Dem MP, reaffirmed the hesitation for military intervention.

“Nobody wants military intervention on that sort of scale,” he said.

“Obviously we need to wait and see what the UN is doing but I am opposed to any British boots hitting Syrian soil.”

The Syrian regime itself would also no doubt retaliate against, what they may consider, an unlawful attack.

A safer option available for MPs is the possibility of a political resolution in an already war-ravaged country, especially considering the legacy of military intervention in Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011.

“Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, whatever the original intentions of the Prime Minister at the time of their original interventions have, in their own way, been disasters,” said Mr. Stringer.

Mr Goggins added: “There is no doubt that I question all out military engagement, there will be a strong majority against that.

“We’ll just have to see what Mr. Cameron thinks of course.”

Picture courtesy of Allyson Neville Morgan, with thanks.

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