Protests Near UK Parliament as May Faces Backlash Over Rapid Strikes on Syria
AFP 2018 / Tolga AKMENEurope14:50 17.04.2018(updated 15:07 17.04.2018) Get short URL2
MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Hundreds of people gathered Monday evening outside the UK parliament building in London as debates were in progress inside to protest the United Kingdom’s role in the strikes on Syria.
Early on Saturday, the United Kingdom along with the United States and France launched missile strikes on a number of targets in Syria in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons in the Damascus’ suburb of Duma. The Western states have blamed the Syrian government forces for the incident, but Damascus has refuted the allegations.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May has come under fire for failing to consult with parliament on the use of military force as well as refusing to wait for the results of the probe by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) before ordering the air strikes.
People Angered by UK Government’s Actions
Lindsey German, convener of the Stop the War Coalition (STWC) told Sputnik during the protest outside parliament that UK citizens were “angered” by the strikes on Syria because these actions were similar to previous attacks on Middle Eastern states that resulted in the further escalation of the crises there.
“I think people are very, very angry at this attack … People have seen the experiences of previous wars, not just in Iraq but also Libya, as well as previous interventions in Syria, and they know now the world is a more dangerous place,” German said.
READ MORE: UK PM May: We Acted in Syria Over National Interest, Not Just Following Trump
Moreover, UK citizens fear that the military actions in Syria could spark a confrontation with Russia, the activist underlined.
“People are very frightened about a broader war, one possibly spreading across the Middle East but also a future confrontation with Russia, which most of us don’t want … British public opinion shows clearly that a majority of people are not happy [with the attacks] and don’t like what’s taking place, and they are certainly worried about a confrontation with Russia,” German noted.
Although the prime minister continues to stress that the rapid decision on strikes was vital to the UK interests, others have been quick to recall the last time the UK parliament was given a vote on military action against Syria, believing this could be the reason behind May’s failure to consult with lawmakers.
Back in 2013, then UK Prime Minister David Cameron lost the vote on the authorization of an attack on Syria, “a terrible setback” for the cabinet, according to the STWC convener.
“I think she [May] was very frightened of that happening again, so I guess her calculation was to do it without a vote and hope to get away with that. Of course, she has to follow [US President] Trump’s lead — she’s frightened of France taking the initiative and acting as Trump’s sort of special go-between in Europe, especially with London leaving the European Union,” German underlined.
Heated Parliamentary Debates Over May’s Actions
On Monday, a seven-hour debate on the UK actions in Syria took place in the lower house of parliament, during which the cabinet’s actions faced criticism from the opposition. The UK prime minister earlier rejected claims from opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn that she had joined the assault on Syria primarily on Trump’s orders.
Stating that the attacks were “legally questionable,” Corbyn argued that May “is accountable to this Parliament, not to the whims of the US President.”
The Labour leader also called for the drafting of a special “war powers” act that would give members of parliament more influence on the commencement of military actions.
However, the UK prime minister has remained entrenched in her position, stating that her government had a responsibility to act in a timely manner.
“We have always been clear that the government has the right to act quickly in the national interest. I am absolutely clear that it is Parliament’s responsibility to hold me to account for such decisions, and Parliament will do so. But it is my responsibility as Prime Minister to make these decisions. And I will make them,” May said during the Monday debates.
READ MORE: Assad: US-Led Attack Comes as West Realizes It’s Lost Control of Syrian Conflict
The decision of London and its allies have already been criticized by a number of countries, including Russia, Iran, Belarus, and Cuba, among others. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Saturday that the strikes came just as Syria had gotten a chance to achieve peace.