Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May faced criticism from opposition parliamentarians led by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn after the UK launched punitive air strikes against chemical weapons facilities belonging to the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad on April 14 without the parliament’s prior approval.
May rebuffed the accusations and refused to give parliament a retroactive vote regarding the strikes.
Speaking in the House of Commons on April 16, May defended her decision to order a coordinated surgical strike with the US and France against Syrian compounds that housed or developed chemical weapons, saying the UK’s involvement in the attacks on was in the national interests.
“I am absolutely clear that it is parliament’s responsibility to hold me accountable for this type of decision – and parliament will do so. We have done what we did because we think that it was right thing to do, and we are not alone,” said May.
Members of May’s own Conservative party have questioned her decision to take part in the air strikes without parliamentary approval. Corbyn, however, went even further by saying the strikes were “legally questionable” and that May is “accountable to the parliament – not to the whims of the US President.”
Corbyn also called for a renewed diplomatic effort by the UK government and its allies to bring peace to the region.
May dismissed any suggestion that her government was trying to stay in-step with the impulses of US President Donald J. Trump and insisted she had ordered the Royal Air Force to launch the strikes because it the UK’s duty to take action in the face of a blatant moral violation of international law.
The US, UK and France launched a coordinated missile strikes against three chemical weapons facilities, including a research and development centre, in Damascus. The attack was carried out in retaliation for a suspected poison gas attack that killed more than 40 people in the rebel-held city of Douma on April 7.
Douma is the main urban area currently surrounded by forces allied to the Assad regime – including troops from Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah – who are taking part in the Siege of Eastern Ghouta.
The April 7 attack is the fourth time that Assad’s forces have allegedly used chemical weapons, which are banned by the Geneva Conventions, since July 2017.