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12 April 2018updated 09 Jun 2021 9:07am

Theresa May’s cabinet signals its support for military action against Syria

The Prime Minister has won the unanimous backing of her cabinet ministers for likely air strikes. 

By George Eaton

Theresa May’s “war cabinet” met for two hours this afternoon. But the No 10 readout that followed made no reference to military action against Syria. It did, however, state that “following a discussion in which every member present made a contribution, cabinet agreed it was vital that the use of chemical weapons did not go unchallenged.”

To translate: Theresa May has the unanimous backing of her cabinet ministers for potential military action against the Assad regime. Of note is that David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, who opposed intervention against Syria in 2013, is supporting May.

No 10 added: “Cabinet agreed on the need to take action to alleviate humanitarian distress and to deter the further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime.

“Cabinet agreed the Prime Minister should continue to work with allies in the United States and France to coordinate an international response.”

The precise nature and timing of any attack will be determined by the US; Donald Trump’s national security council met this evening and May is expected to speak to the US president over the next few hours.

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The Prime Minister evidently believes that the UK has a moral and strategic duty to intervene alongside America. A “global Britain”, the Conservatives believe, cannot afford to remain on the sidelines as the US and France take action. 

But as Stephen wrote this morning, May’s choice is a severe gamble. Public support for military action stands at just 22 per cent (even lower than in 2013) and the US is led by the most erratic and unpopular president in recent history.

Limited military intervention risks proving ineffective (as Trump’s 2017 strike was) but a deeper commitment increases the threat of blowback (see this week’s excellent cover story by John Bew and Shiraz Maher). And should British air strikes begin without a parliamentary vote, May will lack democratic cover. A year after she called an early election and squandered the Conservatives’ majority, the Prime Minister is once more entering uncertain territory.

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