Emily Thornberry: Parliament Must Investigate, Vote To Approve Syria Attack

Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry made an important statement against the frenzy for a Western attack on Syria yesterday.

She spoke in the course of a debate on an Urgent Question put down in Parliament, and demanded that, in the case of any charge against Syria for using chemical weapons, there must be a full and proper independent investigation; and there must a vote in Parliament on any British participation in an attack on Syria.

The following is a transcription of Thornberry’s remarks in full in the House of Commons:

“Thank you Mr. Speaker, for granting this Urgent Question. And let me congratulate my Hon. Friend, the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth, for securing it.

“I can only echo what he has already said regarding the terrible bloodshed and humanitarian crisis that is looming in Idlib, and the urgency of all sides working to find some form of peaceful, political solution to avert it.

“In the short time I have, Mr. Speaker, I want to press the government specifically on how it intends to respond, if there are any reports over the coming weeks—accompanied by horrifying Douma-style images suggesting the use of chemical weapons. Particularly because of how the government responded after Douma, without seeking the approval of this House. And without waiting for independent verification of those reports from the OPCW. And particularly because if this scenario does arise it may do so over the next month, when the House is in recess.

“We know from Bob Woodward’s book that what Trump wants to do in the event of a further reported chemical attack, is commit to a strategy of regime change in Syria and indeed had to be prevented from doing so after Douma. [sic—President Trump’s policy against regime change is well known—ed.]

“That would be a gravely serious step for the U.K. to take part in, with vast and very dangerous implications, not just for the future of Syria but for wider geo-political stability. And, in light of that, I hope the Minister of State will give us two assurances today.

“Firstly, that if there are any reports of chemical weapons attacks, particularly in areas of Idlib controlled by HTS [Hayat Tharir al-Sham, aka Jabhat al Nusra], that the government will not take part in any military action in response, until the OPCW have visited those sites under the protection of the Turkish government, independently verified those reports, and attributed responsibility for any chemical weapons used.

“Relying on so-called open source intelligence provided by proscribed terrorist groups is not an acceptable alternative.

“And second, Mr. Speaker, if the government does intend to take such action—escalating Britain’s military involvement in Syria and risking clashes with Russian and Iranian forces—will the Minister of State guarantee this House that we will be given a vote to approve such action before it takes place, even if that means recalling Parliament?”

In response, Alastair Burt, the U.K. Foreign Office Minister of State for the Middle East, rejected Thornberry's demands outright.