Boris Johnson: Britain could join US airstrikes against Assad
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (Photo: GETTY)
Date: 2017-04-18 21:17
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said UK could join US air strikes against the “monster” Assad, despite a previous vote against intervention.
The Foreign Secretary said the UK had been informed in advance of US President Donald Trump’s order to bomb the air base used as a launch pad for a chemical attack, but was not involved.
He added: “It is my belief, though I stress no such decision has yet been taken, that were such a request to be made in future, were it to be a reasonable request in pursuit of similar objectives, then I think it would be very difficult for the United Kingdom to say no.”
Shayrat air base, in central Homs countryside, was hit by 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles fired by US warships in the early hours of 7 April, destroying regime planes and infrastructure.
Theresa May welcomed the airstrikes, as did European allies including Germany and France, but the Conservative Party is reportedly divided over the extent of British involvement in any future operations against Assad, The independent reported.
The former foreign minister, Alistair Burt, had pressed Johnson on what his response would be to a similar request in the future and asked whether the Government felt “bound” by a previous vote in 2013.
David Cameron called for military action against Assad regime in the wake of a sarin attack on August 2013 that left hundreds of civilians dead on the outskirts of Damascus, but narrowly lost a Commons vote by 285 to 272.
Parliament later approved a limited British air campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, but concerns are mounting that operations could become more dangerous following Russia’s suspension of an accord aiming to avoid mid-air conflict.
The Government has shown no sign of putting anti-Assad intervention to MPs for a second time, despite international condemnation of another sarin attack in the opposition-held civilian-populated town of Khan Sheikhoun earlier this month in Idlib countryside.
“We know beyond doubt that two Sukhoi-22 aircraft took off from Shayrat airfield where we know that chemical weapons are store,” Johnson told MPs on Tuesday.
“We know that they were overhead at 6.39am when according to all eye witness accounts the attack took place.
“We know from shell fragments in the crater that not only had sarin been used, but sarin carrying the specific chemical signature of sarin used by the Assad regime.”
The Foreign Secretary said there was “only one conclusion, that the Assad regime almost certainly gassed its own people in breach of international law and the rules of war”, showing disregard for an agreement to destroy its stockpiles in 2013.
Johnson called on Russia, which acted as a guarantor for that accord on chemical disarmament, to end its “blind support” for Assad and help work towards a political solution to the six-year Syrian civil war.
Supporting Trump’s air strikes, he claimed they “create an opportunity to break the deadlock“ and pave the way for a political settlement and a truce, following a succession of failed ceasefires.
Emily Thornberry, Labour’s shadow Foreign Secretary, criticised Johnson for cancelling a scheduled visit to Moscow when diplomacy was most needed, but he insisted he was still in touch with his counterparts.
Johnson confirmed that there was “no future” for the Syrian dictator given his war crimes.
“The essential thing will be to have a political process that preserves the institutions of the Syrian state while decapitating the monster,” he added.
Johnson said that both the Assad and North Korean regimes “threaten the law-based international order,” just hours after Assad listed Kim Jong-un among the world leaders congratulating Assad on independence day.