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Jeremy Corbyn calls Syria airstrikes legally questionable

PM should have sought parliamentary approval before taking military action, says Labour leader

Jeremy Corbyn has described airstrikes on Syria as legally questionable and accused Theresa May of trailing after Donald Trump in an attack that could escalate the conflict.

The Labour leader was responding to the news that the US, UK and France launched airstrikes in Syria early on Saturday morning. Corbyn, who has called for an independent UN-led investigation of last weeks chemical weapons attack, said the prime minister should have sought parliamentary approval before launching the action.

Bombs wont save lives or bring about peace, Corbyn said. This legally questionable action risks escalating further, as US defence secretary James Mattis has admitted, an already devastating conflict and therefore makes real accountability for war crimes and use of chemical weapons less, not more likely.

In a press conference on Saturday morning, May said the attacks were right and legal and gave a very clear message to the regime.

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Theresa May: Syria strikes ‘right and legal’ option video

Labour has opposed a military strike on Syria since the chemical weapons attack on Douma. On Thursday, Corbyn urged May to remember the lessons of intelligence failures in the buildup to the Iraq war and said: There has to be a proper process of consultation. Cabinet on its own should not be making this decision.

On Saturday afternoon, the UK government released a summary of its legal advice authorising airstrikes against Syria over its alleged use of chemical weapons, which is certain to be at the centre of controversy in the coming days, not least as parliament returns from its Easter recess.

The advice argues that there were three key legal considerations that had been satisfied: convincing evidence, generally accepted by the international community as a whole, of extreme humanitarian distress on a large scale, requiring immediate and urgent relief; no practicable alternative to the use of force if lives are to be saved; and that the proposed use of force must be necessary and proportionate to the aim of relief.

Arguments are most likely to focus in the coming days on the first two conditions.

Syrias allies, including Russia and Iran, as well as other opponents of the military action will dispute that the evidence – in particular the assessment presented by France is generally accepted by the international community, with Russia continuing to stick to its version up until the last moment that the attack was staged.

Critics are also likely to home in on the fact that the strikes took place before two teams of chemical weapons inspectors, who had stated their intention of visiting Douma the site of last weekends attack were able to do their work and present their reporting, which would also inform the issue of practicable alternative[s] to the use of force.

The counter argument to these criticisms will be made that Russia, through use of its veto, has made it almost impossible to secure agreement on evidence of culpability or alternatives.

Other British politicians also responded to news of the attack, which involved four RAF Tornado jets alongside French and American forces. The Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, was among the most outspoken critics of the military action, saying the move risks dangerous escalation.

Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon)

Air strikes have not resolved situation in Syria so far – nothing Ive heard persuades me they will do so now. An international strategy for peace must be pursued – not a course that risks dangerous escalation. UK foreign policy should be set by Parliament, not US President.

April 14, 2018

The SNPs leader in Westminster, Ian Blackford, echoed Sturgeons views, saying: We need a plan for peace,, adding: A bombing, allegedly a one-off affair, does not aid this.

Ian Blackford (@IanBlackfordMP)

We need a plan for peace in Syria. A bombing, allegedly a one off affair does not aid this. The UK Parliament now needs an urgent debate on Syria not just a Prime Ministerial statement, something that should have happened before any action.

April 14, 2018

Blackford called for the recall of parliament on Saturday for an emergency debate, saying: It is not acceptable that the prime minister has ploughed ahead without any debate or parliamentary discussion.

Labour MPs echoed Corbyns view. The shadow education minister, Angela Rayner, complained that MPs had been frozen out of the decision and questioned the effectiveness of military action.

Angela Rayner (@AngelaRayner)

The OPCW was to begin its investigation today. As an elected representative of the people of Ashton Under Lyne I was frozen out of the decision our PM has made to bomb Syria. I am still concerned as to how our action will stop the use of chemical weapons&bring peace #SyriaStrikes

April 14, 2018

The MP Alison McGovern said the action had to be part of a comprehensive strategy to save civilian life and urged that the aid budget be deployed to the fullest extent.

Alison McGovern (@Alison_McGovern)

This *must* be part of a comprehensive strategy to save civilian life, help the victims of the chemical attacks, and assist those that Assad has besieged. We have arguably the best aid capacity in the world. Time to use it.

And finally meet our duty to Syrian refugees. #Syria https://t.co/AgTwMsnXEs

April 14, 2018

The Labour backbencher John Woodcock said while May should have consulted MPs, it was right that the UK joined our allies in action to degrade Assads chemical weapon capability.

John Woodcock (@JWoodcockMP)

It was right that the UK joined our allies in action to degrade Assads chemical weapon capability in Syria – we must act together to remove the threat of these dreadful weapons that indiscriminately slaughter civilians.

April 14, 2018

Members of other parties questioned the action, with Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable saying: Riding the coattails of an erratic US president is no substitute for a mandate from the House of Commons. The Prime Minister could and should have recalled Parliament this week.

The Green peer Jenny Jones asking what would be left of Syria after the bombardment.

Jenny Jones (@GreenJennyJones)

Cannot imagine the horror of being in Syria. Years of suffering under the cruelty of Assad, suffering under various lawless groups and now more foreign bombing. What will be left of Syria? #NotInMyNameTheresaMay https://t.co/Det76uNYOV

April 14, 2018

Not everyone was critical. Paddy Ashdown, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, came out in support of the prime minister.

Paddy Ashdown (@paddyashdown)

Air strikes: Given this has been in the wind for so long the PM could and should have sought preliminary Parliamentary approval. But this is the right action, provided it’s limited to ensuring that the law on the prohibition of chemical weapons cannot be broken with impunity.

April 14, 2018

Conservative MPs mostly backed the prime minister. The backbencher Nick Boles said the prime minister did not need parliamentary authorisation to protect the national interest.

Nick Boles MP (@NickBoles)

The PM does not require specific parliamentary authorisation to fulfill her primary responsibility to protect our national interest. Parliament will rightly probe her explanation of the reasons for her decision but there is no need for a vote.

April 14, 2018

Other Tory MPs echoed his thoughts.

Richard Benyon (@RichardBenyonMP)

The Assad regime used chemical weapons on its own people. Again. Russia vetoed UN investigation. Again. We should hold those images of children coughing up their lungs in our minds. Something so dreadful has to have a consequence

April 14, 2018

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/apr/14/jeremy-corbyn-calls-syria-airstrikes-legally-questionable

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