France’s foreign minister is threatening further missile strikes against Syria if the Syrian government uses chemical weapons again.
France joined the United States and Britain in a joint operation that has destroyed what Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian says is a “good part” of the Syrian government’s chemical weapons arsenal.
He says France has “no doubt” that the Syrian government was behind a suspected chemical attacks last weekend. Syria denies responsibility.
Le Drian tells BFM television that the goal for the allied mission “was attained” but that if France’s “red line is crossed again” there could be another attack.
British Prime Minister Theresa May says the need to act quickly and protect what she calls “operational security” led her to decide to join the allied strikes in Syria without a prior vote in Parliament.
She says she’ll make a statement in Parliament on Monday explaining her actions. A spirited debate is expected.
The United States, France and Britain have launched military strikes in Syria to punish President Bashar Assad (bah-SHAR’ AH’-sahd) for an apparent chemical attack against civilians last week and to deter him from doing it again.
May has come under criticism from some British lawmakers for not bringing back Parliament into session before taking action against Syria,
April 14 – U.S., British and French forces struck Syria with more than 100 missiles on Saturday in the first coordinated Western strikes against the Damascus government, targeting what they called chemical weapons sites in retaliation for a poison gas attack.
Chief Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said Saturday that “there has been a 2,000 percent increase in Russian trolls in the past 24 hours.”
The U.S., Britain and France said they launched Saturday’s strike to punish Syrian President Bashar Assad for a suspected chemical attack against civilians in the town of Douma outside Damascus. Opposition leaders and rescuers say more than 40 people, including many women and children, died in the suspected chemical attack.
Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon, says: “None of our aircraft or missiles involved in this operation were successfully engaged by Syrian air defenses.” He says there also is no indication that Russian air defense systems were employed early Saturday in Syria.
The Russian military had previously said Syria’s Soviet-made air defense systems downed 71 out of 103 cruise missiles launched by the United States and its allies.
McKenzie says 105 weapons were launched against three targets in Syria.
Prime ministers don’t choose the decisions that face them. But they have to judge which way to jump.
In 2013, Theresa May’s predecessor tried and failed to get approval for military action against President Assad. There was international alarm, then as now, about his suspected use of chemical weapons.
But MPs rejected David Cameron’s plan and he didn’t try again to persuade Parliament it was necessary.
This time, she has avoided that particular obstacle by taking action alongside the US and France while MPs are away.
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Time and again at a press conference at Downing Street this morning the prime minister spelled out the strikes that took place overnight were limited, targeted and a response to the suspected use of chemical weapons in Douma.
With no clear indication of public support or consent, she time and again was at pains to say that she had authorised action for a specific reason – to punish President Assad for gassing his own people, as the government believes he has.
She will face an almighty row in the coming days over going ahead without consulting Parliament.
Her defence is that “security and operational reasons” meant the attack had to go ahead overnight.
That won’t wash with her political critics, and Labour is also pushing for more clarity on the legal justification.
To try to close down a giant fight, the government is publishing a summary of the legal advice later today.
But while the strikes themselves were limited, Theresa May’s mission is a broader one – to force a return to respect for the international rules that are meant to prevent the use of chemical weapons.
It was notable this morning that she mentioned the attack in Salisbury alongside the use of chemical weapons in Syria – events many thousands of miles and weeks apart, but both using banned substances.
And notable, too, that the prime minister on several occasions did not rule out more strikes. When asked if Assad repeated the suspected attack she said “no one should doubt our resolve”. The government’s hoped-for outcome is that the RAF, alongside French and US planes, has made it impossible for President Assad to carry out any other chemical attacks.
But if the bombing has not wiped out his capability, and he was to repeat the suspected horror at Douma, the prime minister seems willing to act again.
No 10 sees the actions of the last 24 hours as a direct response to Douma and an effort to stop the slide to a situation where the use of chemical weapons becomes the norm.
As for any British resident of No 10, Theresa May’s first decision to take military action is a huge political moment. But clearly it may also not be her last.