May 'plans vote on bombing Syria' if she wins election

William Watkinson

Prime Minister Theresa May is planning to call a Commons vote that may back bombing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime should she win the upcoming General Election, say reports.

The Daily Mirror says that May wants ministers to approve bombing missions aimed at the Syrian government after the suspected Sarin gas attack on Khan Sheikhoun, in Idlib, that took place on 4 April.

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Despite al-Assad's claims he had nothing to do with the attack, US, French and British intelligence believe the attack was an attempt to suppress rebels in the area.

The Mirror's report says that two Syrian generals are prime suspects for the attack, in northwest Syria, which left an estimated 80 people dead and dozens more injured.

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It was reported that May wants to follow the lead of US President Donald Trump by bombing the Russian-backed Syrian regime.

Just days after the Khan Sheikhoun attack, 59 US Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired from a US warship at the Syrian air base that the chemical attack was launched from.

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The missiles destroyed an estimated 20% of Assad's air force and the revenge strike by Trump was condemned by Russia and Syria.

A senior Whitehall source told the newspaper: "If you want to stop the use of chemical weapons, you have to take out the aircraft."

Theresa May

The report follows comments by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who suggested that May would find it "very difficult" not to join Trump and bomb the Syrian regime, if asked.

"I think it would be very difficult if the US has a proposal to have some sort of action in response to a chemical weapons attack," Johnson said during a radio interview with the BBC on 27 April, even suggesting the strikes could take place without Parliamentary approval.

Critics will be concerned about plans to follow in Trump's footsteps after campaigns in neighbouring Iraq and Afghanistan that left 635 military personnel dead.

However, May has been keen to foster the "special relationship" with the new US administration and may need new allies after accusing EU "bureaucrats" of attempting to meddle with the UK's General Election on 8 June.

Syria chemical weapon attack

The Syrian generals accused of taking part in the Khan Sheikhoun arrived at an airbase before Syrian Air Force Sukhoi Su-22 flew over the town, the report affirms.

The Commons Syria vote would ask MPs to approve attacking the Syrian regime forces, which could be used if there is evidence of a new chemical attack.

In the wake of previous accusations of Syrian state chemical attacks, May's predecessor, David Cameron, failed to get Parliamentary approval to bomb the regime in 2013.

However, the UK has been conducting an air campaign against Isis in Syria since December 2015 after Parliament gave the go ahead for military action exclusively against the terror organisation by 397 votes to 223.

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