May mulls Syria action despite cautious mood in UK

The British government has signaled that it was ready to back United States military action against Syria, saying it was "highly likely" the Assad regime used chemical weapons on its own people and that such action could not go unchallenged.

Some MPs have backed Britain acting against Syria, warning that the use of chemical weapons was in breach of worldwide law and could not be allowed to go unpunished.

He also said the proof shows it was carried out by the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

President Donald Trump has emerged from a meeting with his national security team without a "final decision" on how to respond to a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria.

Japan has also refrained from joining the United States and other countries in alleging Russia was responsible for the nerve agent poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain last month. A military operation would be a big deal for Macron, his first military action as president, at a time of heightened domestic tensions over labor law changes. And he insisted it remains US policy not to be involved directly in Syria's civil war.

A top leader of Jaish al-Islam, a group which controlled Douma for years, told AFP it was Saturday's attack that forced them to accept a Russian-brokered deal and evacuate. Inspectors with the global chemical weapons watchdog, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, are due to investigate the incident.

Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, a veteran anti-war campaigner, said Britain should press for a UN-led investigation rather than follow the lead of the United States.

Anti-conflict coalition Stop the War called on Britons to lobby their lawmakers to prevent an "escalation of the war" and planned a Friday protest outside Downing Street.

According to the statement, May described the chemical attack on Douma in Eastern Ghouta as a "shocking and barbaric act which killed up to 75 people, including children, in the most appalling and inhumane way".

The council has already failed to agree on a response to the attack in three votes and has been deadlocked throughout the Syrian civil war.

May is not obliged to win parliament's approval, but a non-binding constitutional convention to do so has been established since a 2003 vote on joining the US -led invasion of Iraq.

France already has some 1,100 troops involved in its Operation Chammal, created in 2014 to fight Islamic State extremists in Iraq and extended in 2015 to Syria, as part of the US -led coalition.

Twenty-one percent of the respondents said they did not know if it was necessary to hold a parliamentary vote on whether London should engage in the military actions against Syria. "Not to react is to prove to the rest of the world that what we say does not matter".

A YouGov poll in The Times conducted this week found that 43 percent of voters oppose strikes in Syria, with 34 percent unsure and only 22 percent supportive.

The Times reports that "the largest USA air and naval strike force since the 2003 Iraq war" is now heading towards Syria, and that US-led strikes are expected to begin "within the next three days".

Parliament voted down British military action against Assad's government in 2013, in an embarrassment for May's predecessor, David Cameron. That then deterred the United States administration of Barack Obama from similar action.

  • Rogelio Becker