May Readies UK for Syria Strikes, Defies Strong Public Opposition

RAF Cyprus
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty

Theresa May is clearing the way to launch attacks on the Syrian regime, despite multiple polls showing only one in five Brits support missile attacks.

The Prime Minister has recalled her cabinet ministers from an Easter break in anticipation of action, and they will be asked to “consider the next steps” at a meeting this afternoon, a Downing Street source told The Times.

Mrs. May is reportedly prepared to take action without seeking parliamentary consent, as leaders have done before military action in recent times, and attack submarines, armed with cruise missiles, are understood to be moving into range.

However, a survey by the newspaper reveals that only a fifth of people supports missile strikes, with twice as many opposed. A YouGov poll put the proportion of supporters a fraction higher, at 22 per cent, and the same number opposed.

YouGov adds: “Across all parties voters are more likely to oppose than support missile strikes, although Conservative voters are the most evenly split with 34 per cent in opposition and 33 per cent in support.”

The poll of 1,600 British adults was conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.

Just Thursday, Mrs. May stuck a more cautious tone, implying it was not “confirmed” that President Bashar al-Assad was behind the alleged use of banned chemical weapons in a Damascus suburb over the weekend.

Later, however, intelligence officers briefed the Prime Minister on their case against the Assad regime. She changed her tone speaking to reporters Wednesday afternoon, insisting that “all the indications” were that the Assad regime was responsible for the “shocking, barbaric” attack.

So far, the UK has been launching air strikes in Syria from its military base in Cyprus, but only against targets linked to the Islamic State terrorist group.

Both Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, and Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, are demanding a vote on strikes. However, Mrs. May cannot be certain of winning one and will be cautious after her predecessor David Cameron famously lost a vote on bombing Syria in 2013.

Some Tories are also demanding a parliamentary vote, as well as echoing former UKIP leader Nigel Farage in claiming the removal of Assad could be dangerous and his involvement cannot be proven at this stage.

UKIP has taken a strong position against intervention, with interim leader Gerrard Batten saying of Syria: “Mrs May should not allow the UK to get sucked into a war in Syria.

“There is no proof that the Assad regime is responsible for the chemical attack on civilians.

“Whoever is responsible, our involvement in Middle Eastern conflicts has been disastrous for Britain and achieved nothing but further disorder in the region. By going to war with Syria, we would also be entering into a proxy war with Russia, which is not only dangerous for Britain but the entire world.

“While I realise that working for the ‘national interest’ is an alien concept to Mrs May and our political establishment, they nevertheless should not be dragged into a war on the say so of Donald Trump or anyone else.”

The U.S. military is also preparing strike options after President Donald J. Trump warned Russia to “get ready” because missiles “will be coming” on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Brexit minister David Davis said Britain has not yet decided on precisely how to respond to the chemical attack, claiming any move would be carefully considered by the government.

“No decision as yet, the Cabinet is meeting in full at 15.30 to discuss,” he said, speaking at a Wall Street Journal event in London Thursday morning. “The situation in Syria is horrific, the use of chemical weapons is something the world has to prevent,” he said.

Adding: “But also, it’s a very, very delicate circumstance and we’ve got to make this judgment on a very careful, very deliberate, very well thought-through basis.”

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