Recall Parliament NOW': MPs say Cameron must go to the Commons to debate Syria crisis as Britain and US prepare to launch missile strikes ‘within days’. Launching missiles is a Declaration of War! ‘ Where are John Kerry and Samantha Powers in all this? Still on vacation? Where is Congress?
By Jason Groves
- David Cameron and Barack Obama discussed plan in 40-minute phone call
- They are now expected to finalise details within 48 hours
- Want to send warning to dictator Bashar Al-Assad over deaths of 1,300
Britain and the US are set to launch missile strikes against the Syrian regime in retaliation for its barbaric chemical attack on civilians.
David Cameron and Barack Obama discussed the plan in a 40-minute phone call at the weekend and will finalise the details within 48 hours.
The two leaders want to send a clear warning to dictator Bashar Al-Assad over the deaths of as many as 1,300 people, many of them children.
William Hague said ‘all the evidence’ suggested Assad’s henchmen carried out last week’s horrific nerve gas atrocity.
‘We cannot, in the 21st century, allow the idea that chemical weapons can be used with impunity – that people can be killed in this way and that there are no consequences for it,’ insisted the Foreign Secretary.
‘We believe it is very important there is a very strong response so that dictators, whether Assad or others who might slaughter their own people, know that using chemical weapons is to cross a line, and that the world will respond.’
Royal Navy commanders in the region are preparing to take part in the assault, which is likely to be unleashed within ten days.
Government sources indicated the cruise missile blitz is likely to be short and sharp and will not signal an intention to get involved in the bloody civil war in Syria.
But it will inevitably lead to fears that Britain could get sucked into another Iraq-style nightmare.
Military planners in Washington and London are addressing the ‘significant challenge’ of finalising a list of potential targets designed to cripple Assad’s chemical warfare capability.
The intervention is likely to involve missilestrikes rather than an airborne bombing campaign, in order to avoid the dangers posed by the sophisticated air defences supplied to Syria by Russia.
A British source said ‘naval assets in the region’ were likely to be involved, suggesting the possible use of submarine-borne Tomahawk cruise missiles.
In an ominous development Damascus last night warned US president Obama that any intervention would not be a ‘walk in the park’, adding: ‘It will bring chaos and the region will burn.’
Iran warned the West it would face ‘severe consequences’ if it intervened in Syria.
And Russia, which has blocked UN action against Syria, said unilateral action by the West would undermine efforts for peace and have a ‘devastating impact’ on the security situation in the Middle East.
The Syrian regime last night attempted to head off a military intervention by the West by announcing it would finally allow United Nations experts to visit the gas atrocity site in Damascus. Inspectors are expected to begin their work today.
Activists say that somewhere between 200 and 1,300 were killed in the chemical weapons attack on Wednesday near Damascus. Syria has one of the largest stockpiles of chemical weapons of any country
President Francois Hollande, who spoke to Mr Cameron yesterday, is also pushing for swift military retaliation and could authorise the use of French forces in the attack.
In a statement following the talks, Downing Street said the two men ‘agreed that a chemical weapons attack against the Syrian people on the scale that was emerging demanded a firm response from the international community. This crime must not be swept under the carpet.’
Mr Hollande’s office said: ‘France is determined that this act does not go unpunished.’
A Government source said the Prime Minister had not abandoned hope of achieving tougher UN action against Syria in the future.
But with Russia frustrating progress, the source said Mr Cameron believed any short-term military response would have to be taken outside the UN process.
‘This looks like one of the worst chemical weapons attacks of modern times,’ another Government source said.
‘If you are responding to an attack on this scale you have to do it quickly. If you let it go for two, three, four weeks there is a danger you send a message that it doesn’t matter.’
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has discussed the crisis several times with Mr Cameron in recent days and a senior Lib Dem source said there would be an agreed Coalition response. ‘The Government is working as one on this,’ the source said.
A government source said it was ‘possible’ that Parliament could be recalled early from its summer recess this week to discuss the crisis. But the source stressed that Mr Cameron had always reserved the ‘flexibility’ to order a military strike in response to fast-moving events without recourse to Parliament.
Former Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown yesterday warned against rushing to military action on Syria. But Lord Ashdown, who remains close to Mr Clegg, acknowledged that the UN would be ‘greatly diminished’ if the world failed to respond to Assad’s ‘terrible breach’ of international law.
Bob Corker, the ranking Republican on the US Senate foreign affairs committee, said he had spoken to the Obama administration about its plans for Syria and believed the president would seek authorisation from Congress.
‘I think we will respond in a surgical way and I hope the president as soon as we get back to Washington will ask for authorisation from Congress to do something in a very surgical and proportional way,’ he told Fox News.
A Downing Street spokesman said: ‘No decisions have been taken on military action and the timetable for a serious response from the international community is not yet clear.
‘We are very conscious of when MPs are due to return and haven’t ruled out recalling them earlier.’
Cameron must go to the Commons to justify strike against Syria, say Labour and Tory backbenchers
David Cameron was under pressure to recall Parliament last night to debate the Syrian crisis before Britain launches any missile strikes.
Labour politicians, backed by Tory counterparts, said it was essential that MPs had their say on such a potentially momentous move.
Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander said: ‘In light of ongoing international developments, it is right that the UK works with the international community to try to find an agreed way forward in Syria. If, in reality, the Prime Minister is now considering military options involving UK personnel then of course I would expect him to seek a recall of Parliament and to come to the House of Commons and make his case in advance of a decision being made.’
Bob Stewart, a Tory MP and former military commander, said: ‘Parliament may well have to be recalled before we take any military action, because then that gives us justification.
‘We’re not going to get a Security Council resolution because the Russians aren’t up for it, and the Chinese certainly aren’t.’ He said that if it was confirmed that the Syrian regime was responsible for the chemical weapons attacks then Britain would have to act.
‘We shouldn’t just talk,’ he added. ‘We would have to actually act, and by acting we probably mean some kind of punitive warning action using missiles. That means military action – that means a recall of Parliament.’
Fellow Tory MP Sarah Wollaston indicated she would oppose any military intervention in Syria that did not have the full backing of the United Nations.
Dr Wollaston, one of many in her party who is sceptical about the benefits of any intervention, said: ‘Parliament must be recalled before, not after, any decision on military involvement or action in Syria.
‘I don’t believe unilateral Western intervention in Syria can achieve anything other than escalation into a global conflict.’
MPs are away from Westminster for another week on Parliament’s long summer recess.
David Cameron indicated before the recess that he would recall Parliament before taking any step toward war, such as arming the Syrian rebels.
A Downing Street source said it was possible Parliament would be recalled this week to discuss the crisis. But the source said the Prime Minister had always stressed that the Government needed the ‘flexibility’ to respond to major events without recourse to Parliament.
Speaking in the Commons before the summer, Mr Cameron said: ‘We make a big commitment to come to this House and explain, vote and all the rest of it but governments have to reserve the ability to take action swiftly on this or other issues.’
Technically the Prime Minister has the power to authorise military action without the approval of Parliament.
But in practice, all major military interventions in recent times, including the wars in Iraq and Libya have gone ahead only after a Commons vote.
However, government sources last night suggested the missile attacks being planned against Syria were simply a response to last week’s chemical weapons atrocity.
A source said any strikes should not be seen as a sign that further action, such as bombing raids, no-fly zones or arming Syria’s rebels, will follow.
The Prime Minister has the power to declare war as a result of the wide-ranging royal prerogative – powers held by the Queen and exercised by the government of the day.
In 2006, Mr Cameron questioned whether a prime minister should continue to be able to use the royal prerogative to declare war or sign international treaties without first consulting MPs.Follow VeronicaCoffin