DAVID Cameron yesterday branded the Syrian government’s apparent use of chemical weapons “morally indefensible” and recalled parliament as Britain prepares for military strikes against the Middle Eastern country.
The Prime Minister will today hold a meeting of the national security council to plan for a co-ordinated attack with France and the US.
News that strikes could begin by the end of this week spooked the financial markets but Cameron said the world could not “stand idly by” after the regime of Bashar al-Assad used banned weapons against its own people.
He insisted that the UK would not look to become involved in the wider Syrian civil war, which is now into its third year.
Cameron and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg have already indicated their support for tactical attacks on regime targets within the country, most likely using cruise missile attacks from naval vessels.
The crisis caused investors to push the price of Brent Crude oil to a six month high, amid fears that further instability in the Middle East could affect key energy supply routes. Global stock markets followed suit, with European shares closing down and the Dow Jones shedding 1.14 per cent. Meanwhile, the benchmark Dubai index – which mainly includes companies based in the Gulf – slumped seven per cent.
MPs have cut short their summer holidays and are returning to Westminster for tomorrow afternoon’s debate on the UK’s response to the attacks, which will be followed by a non-binding vote.
Last week graphic footage was released of hundreds of people dying in Damascus suburbs in what appeared to be the world’s worst chemical attack since Saddam Hussein gassed Kurds in 1988.
The US has promised to release further intelligence linking the Assad regime to the attack and said it already had the “assets in place” for a tactical strike.
But there is little chance of achieving United Nations mandate for any attack on Syria, with Russia’s Vladimir Putin – who controls a seat on the UN security council – claiming there is no evidence of the chemical weapons attack.
Cameron was keen to avoid parallels with international disagreements over the Iraq war: “Any action we take, or others take, would have to be legal, would have to be proportionate. It would have to be specifically to deter the future use of chemical weapons.”
Labour leader Ed Miliband has indicated his party will support limited strike action that is legal and has “clear and achievable military goals”.