The UK government last night agreed to back the US and France and “keep working closely together on the international response” to last weekend’s deadly chemical attack in the Syrian town of Douma.
Late last night Prime Minister Theresa May spoke to US President Donald Trump after her senior ministers gave her their backing to take unspecified action alongside the two UK allies to tackle the use of chemical weapons by Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.
“They agreed it was vital that the use of chemical weapons did not go unchallenged, and on the need to deter the further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime,” May’s office said in a statement after the two leaders spoke.
After a two-hour-long emergency Cabinet meeting yesterday, the government agreed it was “highly likely that the [Assad] regime is responsible for Saturday’s attack”.
However, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn warned against another western intervention in the Middle East, saying: “More bombing, more killing, more war will not save lives. It will just take more lives and spawn the war elsewhere.”
Although no specific mention of military action was made, both the US and France have indicated that they see it as the most likely outcome.
Trump met his defence secretary and the chairman of his joint chiefs of staff as the US considered possible strike targets in Syria. James Mattis and general Joseph Dunford discussed with Trump eight possible targets, including two Syrian airfields, a research centre and a chemical weapons facility, according to CNBC. Trump said a decision will be made “fairly soon.”
“We’re looking very seriously, very closely at that whole situation and we’ll see what happens folks,” he said.
The US President added: “We’re having a number of meetings today, we’ll see what happens. Now we have to make some further decisions.”
The US said it had blood and urine samples that had tested positive for an unnamed nerve agent. The officials said they were “confident” in the intelligence, according to reports.
French President Emmanuel Macron said France had proof the Syrian government carried out the attack, said to have killed dozens of people, and will decide whether to strike back when all the necessary information has been gathered.
“We have proof that last week ... chemical weapons were used, at least with chlorine, and that they were used by the regime of (President) Bashar al-Assad,” Macron said.
Earlier in the day, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons backed the UK over Salisbury, confirming that the samples it has tested met “the identity of the toxic chemical” named as Novichok by the government.