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CONNECT THE WORLD
French National Assembly Debating Strikes in Syria; British Prime Minister Addressing Parliament on Syria Strikes; Nikki Haley Says U.S. to Announce Russia Sanctions as Early as Monday. Aired 11a-12n ET
Aired April 16, 2018 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:00] BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome. I'm Becky Anderson. Bringing you CONNECT THE WORLD this hour, live from CNN's Middle
East headquarters here in Abu Dhabi. It is 7:00 p.m. in the evening, 6:00 p.m. in Damascus, 11:00 in the morning in Washington.
Tonight, striking first, questions later. Right now, the leaders of France and Britain are readying themselves to defend bombing Syria days after they
already did. On the left angry British lawmakers, on the right angry French lawmakers. They want to know more about what leaders really knew
for sure before punishing Syria's regime for an apparent gas attack.
Also, take a look at these pictures taken from space. You're looking at some of the three targets those missiles struck before and after. We are
connecting everywhere that matters for you this hour. Atika Shubert in front of the Elysee Palace. Phil Black is outside the House of Commons.
And Nic Robertson is right in the middle of Moscow.
Let's get to you in Paris, Atika. Ahead of the Prime Minister -- sorry, Macron speaking. What has he said earlier today? He did give a press
conference, of course, with the Canadian Prime Minister.
ATIKA SHUBERT CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He actually had two press conferences today. And the first press conference with the New Zealand
Prime Minister, he had to back track a little bit on what he said last night in a live interview. Where he basically said that he had convinced
President Trump to keep troops in Syria and to hit only chemical weapons sites. Well today, he clarified a little bit saying that, in fact, of
course, that the troops, both French and American troops in Syria would only be there for as long as the war against ISIS was going on.
So, a little bit of spinning there. But ultimately, he said France wants to show that it is in the diplomatic lead. Especially, it participated in
the strikes but wants to see a political solution. Specifically saying that it must be inclusive, and that Bashar al-Assad must be brought to the
negotiating table one way or another. But, he still has to explain this to the public. And really what we're going to be seeing is now a debate in
French Parliament. He will not be addressing it, but there will be an ongoing debate. In this is the first one they've had. Because of course,
the French president does not have to request the permission here of lawmaker before conducting a strike like that. It's not quite like it is
in the U.K.
ANDERSON: We will get to that debate this hour. Phil, I was leafing through the front pages of the British papers earlier on. Each wanted
Theresa May's troubles on those front pages failing to go to Parliament before rolling the British military into action. She is scheduled to
address lawmakers shortly. How will she defend herself?
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We've got a sample of it, Becky, really over the last few days from Theresa May, government ministers, what they've
been talking about is the necessity for this action, the limited scope of this action. That is degrading the Syrian regime's chemical weapons
capabilities and deterring them from doing it again. Not getting involved in a messy way in the conflict itself. But trying to change the tide of
the war or change the regime for that matter.
So, they've argued that it was necessary on those grounds because diplomacy up until this point has absolutely failed in deterring the regime from
using chemical weapons. That it is a repeat offender and there's a humanitarian argument from stopping them right now not waiting any longer.
And I think a lot of the questions she's going to get once she gives her explanation to Parliament she will face fiery questions and a lot on why
this, why now, was this truly necessary? All of this is because of the convention that has come to exist in British politics where Prime Ministers
now traditionally go to Parliament first before launching political action.
She doesn't have to do it. She does have the power to act. But ever since the Iraq war of 2003, this is what Prime Ministers have done. And on top
of that, coincidentally, ever since the Iraq war of 2003, Parliaments, the British people, have tended to be very skeptical through experience of
those sorts of international military adventures. Not just because of the action itself but often because of what follows, the unintended
consequences, the chaos, the bloodshed, the conflicts that can take place when this sort of intervention, or after this sort of intervention is
embarked upon -- Becky.
[11:05:02] ANDERSON: Phil is outside the British Parliament there. Nic, as we await to hear from the British Prime Minister and all of the
diplomatic and military wreckage we are looking at let's not forget where this all started. Of course, they suspected chemical attack right here
near Syria's own capital. This a week before it happened right now. Britain accusing Russia and Syria of blocking a chemical weapons fact-
finding team from getting there. What's been the response to that where you are, Nic?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, it's a double layered accusation as well. We have also from the U.S. ambassador to the
OPCW, Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which is the organization on the ground there in Damascus waiting to get access to those
sites where the alleged chemical attack took place. He has said at the OPCW meeting that, you know, there are concerns that Russia is meddling
because it's had access to this alleged site already. That Russia is meddling there and the OPCW team made a complete and free and immediate and
safe access to this site in Douma.
So, yes, pushback, absolutely coming from the Russian side. The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, has said, absolutely, Russia's not
meddling in this site. The Deputy Foreign Minister has said that the delays for the OPCW team to get out on the ground. Physically they've been
there and Damascus over two days now. Is a problem, a UN security problem as a result of the air strikes over the weekend. So, from the Russian
perspective pushing back very heavily from getting any blame for the slowdown of this organization's access. Which is incredible because in the
beginning of the weekend Russia and the Syrians were both sort of saying absolutely get here as quick as you can, immediate access to control that
area. It's safe for you to go. You can get out there and do the inspection. So, this is very much a sort of turnaround. We don't have all
the details yet of precisely what's going on.
The Syrians say for their part that they're in meetings with the OPCW, but it's that access on the ground. And of course, you know, the big question
here that Russia keeps putting forward is that this was a fake attack anyway. And that's what essentially the president, President Putin's
spokesman, spoke about a little earlier with journalists. Saying, you know, it's groundless to sort of get into this, you know, what's happening
to the OPCW because in the Russian opinion it was a fake hoax attack anyway.
ANDERSON: Let me come back to you because we are also looking at new sanctions against Russia from the U.S. I want to get back to Atika at this
point as we continue to await this statement from Theresa May. And I'll just keeping an eye on the feed coming in to CNN hear from the Houses of
Parliament. The American and French presidents, Atika, are known for sharing white knuckle handshakes as well as listening to his gut. Mr.
Trump does seem to listen to his French equivalent, too. Let's just have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): Ten days ago, President Trump said the U.S.'s will to disengage from Syria. We convinced
him it was necessary to stay. And I believe that on the diplomatic front beyond what went on these three strikes, which are one part, but, for me
not the most important in what is going on in Syria. Please be reassured we have convinced him that we had to stay on in the long term. The second
thing, is that we convinced him that we had to limit these strikes to chemical weapons. Even though there had been an uproar by way of tweets,
which you may have been aware of.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: How would you describe that relationship at present, Atika?
SHUBERT: Well, there's no doubt that President Macron and President Trump have a very close relationship. They call each other regularly. President
Macron is due to be visiting the White House, for the White House's first state dinner next week. And, of course, they've worked particularly
closely on these Syria strikes. Now whether or not President Macron influenced President Trump's decisions in such a way I think only those two
leaders will know. But it's useful to know that the White House pretty quickly put out a reply saying that President Trump hasn't changed his
policy since speaking with President Macron. But it's without a doubt that they work closely together. And President Macron clearly wants to show
that he is at the forefront not only of the military offensive this time but also diplomatically in finding a political solution.
ANDERSON: A debate to be had on the involvement of the French there in the building behind you. Nic, I'm going to come to you, but I may have to cut
you off. We are waiting for Theresa May to slip into the chamber at the House of Commons.
[11:10:00] Before that happens, very briefly as we just were discussing Britain and Russia arguing America though are done talking for now. It
could, we are told, issue new sanctions against Russia, sanctions that may me out a soon as today. And let me just play this for our viewers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UN: They will go directly to any sort of companies that are dealing with equipment related to aside and chemical
weapons use. And so, I think everyone is going to feel it at this point. I think everyone knows that we sent a strong message, and our hope is that
they listen to it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Quite frankly, Nic, it seems that there is nothing that Moscow doesn't shrug off these days. Would you suggest that any new sanctions
would just be par for the course, as it were, for them?
ROBERTSON: You know, I guess there's a limit for how long anyone or any country can continue shrugging things off. And certainly, Russia has
shown, you know, in the brief time since the last U.S. sanctions were applied, which is a little over a week ago, the Russian value of the
Russian ruble dropped a couple percentage points. That was a week ago now and it really hasn't recovered from that position.
Oleg Deripaska, one of the Russian oligarchs who was targeted in those sanctions as well, seven oligarchs, 14 companies, 17 Russian officials, has
seen the value of his commercial interests fall by several billion dollars. So, yes, it can have an impact. How long can the country keep shrugging it
off? The new sanctions we're being told that might come from the United States, are going to be more focused toward Syria it seems. Possibly
helicopter companies involved there and possibly banks. Banks could have, you know, in the nature of the sanctions on Russian banks, could have a
more serious impact on the way Russia could do business around the world.
Russia today, also considering its own sanctions on the United States looking at possibly the area of titanium. Boeing aircraft uses a large
percentage of its titanium. Aircraft parts come from Russian suppliers. Russia is looking at perhaps throttling back supplies of enriched uranium
that the United States uses in its electricity power generating plants. That could become an issue. About 5 percent of the U.S. national grid is
derived as a result of those enriched uranium products from Russia. So, there are areas where Russia can hit out.
But at the same time for Russia, it also has to consider what's the knockback effect on it from any one of those particular sanctions, in
alcohol, pharmaceuticals or other areas that they're considering. So, yes, as you say, sort of shrugging it off, so to speak, at the moment but what
might other sanctions look like. What other countries might apply sanctions. Remember only less than two weeks ago, really, we saw -- two or
three weeks ago we saw that great, grand, if you will, united position by so many different countries, 28, 150 Russian diplomats expelled from all
those countries around the world. That was a very fast and united response. So, if the response mounts up economically from other countries
as well on Russia, then the shrugging off may become tougher to be pulled off within the Kremlin here.
ANDERSON: Nic Robertson is in Moscow. Phil is outside the British Parliament. We'll be back to Phil as and when we hear from Theresa May.
Atika Shubert in Paris. To all of you, thank you.
The air strikes have come and gone. The regime doesn't seem daunted. Remember, it's been winning battles for months now all using a simple
playbook. Take a city, lay siege, starve it, then watch it surrender. Now it could take that brutal strategy to the country's south in a worldwide
exclusive. CNN's Jomana Karadsheh, takes us to Daraa, the town where the uprising that became a civil war in Syria all began.
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After months of relative calm on the southern front, this. Air strikes and shelling reported in
Daraa province despite a U.S., Russian and Jordanian brokered ceasefire last summer. And with the regime backed by its allies on the ground and in
the sky capturing more territory from the opposition, some feel it's a matter of time before an offensive to reclaim the south the birthplace of
the Syrian revolution.
There seems to be a strange sense of normalcy on the streets of the city, but almost everyone interviewed fears what might be coming. "We expect an
attack on Daraa any minute we're worried about women and children from Russian air strikes,' this woman says.
[11:15:00] "We're afraid of the attack on us because the Russian strikes will spare no human nor stone and they'll use all weapons on us," this
Daraa resident says.
Before the truce, like other parts of Syria, Daraa was hard hit leaving much of the city and the province divided between the regime and the
opposition. Civilians like a car mechanic, Rifaat al-Nasser were displaced by the fighting. He says recent strikes were near his home leaving him no
choice but to flee once again. Now he's a squatter in a town close to the Jordanian border. But Rifaat says, nowhere is safe.
RIFAAT AL-NASSER, INTERNALLY DISPLACED SYRIAN (through translator): I am worried for myself, for my children. I am afraid that what happened in
Ghouta would happen here. This regime can do anything. They don't care. They use chemicals, cluster bombs and phosphorus.
KARADSHEH: The Syrian government has repeatedly denied the use of chemical weapons. Rebel commanders from the Free Syrian Army once receiving what
they described as insufficient support from the U.S. and other allies now say the international community has left them to face Russia and Iran
NASEEM ABU A'ARA, FREE SYRIAN ARMY COMMANDER (through translator): We have prepared ourselves for what is coming. The days ahead will have many
surprises, so we must be ready to overcome this phase. We have taken several measures, military, social, inspecting front lines, and meeting
with the people to reassure them everything is good, and we are ready to face the worst-case scenario.
KARADSHEH: Any attempts to change the status quo here bringing Iranian forces closer to a border shared with Jordan and Israel could mean the
start of yet another complicated chapter in the seemingly endless war. Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Daraa.
ANDERSON: Later in the show we'll get to the view from the region taking you live to Syria's neighbors, Turkey and Lebanon, as well as outside the
air force base in cypress that is at the forefront of British strikes on Syria.
We'll take a very short break. Back after this.
ANDERSON: Let's get you to the British Parliament, Theresa May, the British PRIME MINISTER, is addressing lawmakers. Let's listen in.
[11:20:00] THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: .protect British values, our freedoms, and to keep this country safe.
With permission Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the actions that we have taken, together with our American and French allies,
to degrade the Syrian Regime's chemical weapons capabilities, and to deter their future use.
On Saturday the 7th April, up to 75 people, including young children, were killed in a horrific attack in Douma, with as many as 500 further
casualties. All indications are that this was a chemical weapons attack.
U.K. medical and scientific experts have analyzed open-source reports, images and video footage from the incident and concluded that the victims
were exposed to a toxic chemical. This is corroborated by first-hand accounts from NGOs and aid workers. While the World Health Organization
received reports that hundreds of patients arrived at Syrian heath facilities on Saturday night with signs and symptoms consistent with
exposure to toxic chemicals.
And, based on our assessment, we do not think that these reports could be falsified on this scale.
Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, the Syrian Regime has reportedly been attempting to conceal the evidence by searching evacuees from Douma to ensure samples
are not being smuggled from this area. And a wider operation to conceal the facts of the attack is under way, supported by the Russians.
Mr. Speaker, the images of this suffering are utterly haunting.
Innocent families -- seeking shelter in underground bunkers -- found dead with foam in their mouths, burns to their eyes and their bodies surrounded
by a chlorine-like odor. Children gasping for life as chemicals choked their lungs.
The fact that such an atrocity can take place in our world today is a stain on our humanity. And we are clear about who is responsible. A significant
body of information -- including intelligence -- indicates the Syrian Regime is responsible for this latest attack. Open source accounts state
that barrel bombs were used to deliver the chemicals.
Barrel bombs are usually delivered by helicopters. Multiple open source reports and intelligence indicates that Regime helicopters operated over
Douma on the evening of the 7th April, shortly before reports emerged in social media of a chemical attack. And the Syrian military officials
coordinated what appears to be the use of chlorine weapons.
Mr. Speaker, no other group could have carried out this attack.
The Opposition does not operate helicopters or use barrel bombs. Daesh does not even have a presence in Douma. And the reports of this attack are
consistent with previous Regime attacks.
These include the attack on 21st of August 2013 where over 800 people were killed and thousands more injured in a chemical attack also in Ghouta. 14
further smaller scale chemical attacks reported prior to that Summer. 3 further chlorine attacks in 2014 and 2015 which the independent UNSC
mandated investigation attributed to the Regime. And the attack at Khan Shaykhun on 4th April last year, where the Syrian Regime used sarin against
its people killing around 100 with a further 500 casualties.
Based on the Regime's persistent pattern of behavior and the cumulative analysis of specific incidents we judged it highly likely that the Syrian
regime had continued to use chemical weapons on at least four occasions since the attack in Khan Shaykhun. And we judged that they would have
continued to do so.
So, we needed to intervene rapidly to alleviate further indiscriminate humanitarian suffering.
Mr. Speaker, we've explored every possible diplomatic channel to do so, but our efforts have been repeatedly thwarted.
Following the sarin attack in Eastern Damascus back in August 2013, the Syrian Regime committed to dismantle its chemical weapon program. And
Russia promised to ensure that Syria did this, overseen by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
At the weekend, the Leader of the Opposition cited this diplomatic agreement as a precedent that this process can work. But this process did
not work. It did not eradiate the chemical weapons capability of the Syrian Regime, with only last month the OPCW finding that Syria's
declaration of its former Chemical Weapons program is incomplete.
And, as I have already set out, it did not stop the Syrian Regime from carrying out the most abhorrent atrocities using these weapons.
Furthermore, on each occasion when we have seen every sign of chemical weapons being used, Russia has blocked any attempt to hold the perpetrators
to account at the UN Security Council, with six such vetoes since the start of 2017.
[11:25:00] And just last week, Russia blocked a UN Resolution that would have established an independent investigation able to determine
responsibility for this latest attack.
So regrettably, we had no choice but to conclude that diplomatic action on its own is not going to work.
The Leader of the Opposition has said that he can only countenance involvement in Syria if there is UN authority behind it. The House should
be clear that would mean a Russian veto on our foreign policy.
When the Cabinet met on Thursday we considered the advice of the Attorney General. Based on this advice we agreed that it was not just morally right
but also legally right to take military action, together with our closest allies, to alleviate further humanitarian suffering. This was not about
intervening in a civil war. And it was not about regime change.
It was about a limited, targeted and effective strike that sought to alleviate the humanitarian suffering of the Syrian people by degrading the
Syrian Regime's chemical weapons capability and deterring their use. And we have published the legal basis for this action.
It required three conditions to be met. First, there must be convincing evidence, generally accepted by the international community as a whole, of
extreme humanitarian distress on a large scale, requiring immediate and urgent relief.
Second, it must be objectively clear that there is no practicable alternative to the use of force if lives are to be saved.
And third, the proposed use of force must be necessary and proportionate to the aim of relief of humanitarian suffering and must be strictly limited in
time and in scope to this aim. These are the same three criteria used as the legal justification for the U.K.'s role in the NATO intervention in
Our intervention in 1991 with the U.S. and France, and in 1992 with the U.S., to create safe havens and enforce the no-fly zones in Iraq following
the Gulf War were also justified on the basis of humanitarian intervention.
So, governments of all colors have long considered that military action, on an exceptional basis, where necessary and proportionate, and as a last
resort, to avert an overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe is permissible under international law.
Mr. Speaker, I have set out why we are convinced by the evidence and why there was no practicable alternative. Let me set out how this military
response was also proportionate.
This was a limited, targeted and effective strike that would significantly degrade Syrian chemical weapons capabilities and deter their future use.
And with clear boundaries that expressly sought to avoid escalation and did everything possible to prevent civilian casualties.
As a result, the coordinated actions of the U.S., U.K. and France were successfully and specifically targeted at three sites. Contrary to what
the Leader of the Opposition said at the weekend, these were not empty buildings.
The first was the Barzeh branch of the Scientific Studies and Research Center in Northern Damascus. This was a center for the research and
development of Syria's chemical and biological program. It was hit by 57 American T-LAMs and 19 American JASSMs.
The second site was the Him Shinsar chemical weapons bunkers, 15 miles west of the city of Homs, which contained both a chemical weapons equipment and
storage facility and an important command post. These were successfully hit by 7 French SCALP cruise missiles.
And the third site was the Him Shinsar chemical weapons storage site and former missile base which is now a military facility. This was assessed to
be a location of Syrian Sarin and precursor production equipment whose destruction would degrade Syria's ability to deliver Sarin in the future.
This was hit by 9 U.S. TLAMs, 5 naval and 2 SCALP cruise missiles from France -- and 8 storm shadow missiles launched by our four RAF Tornado
Very careful scientific analysis was used to determine where best to target these missiles to maximize the destruction of stockpiled chemicals and to
minimize any risks to the surrounding area. And the facility that we targeted is located some distance from any known population centers,
reducing yet further any such risk of civilian casualties.
Mr. Speaker, while targeted and limited, these strikes by the U.S., U.K. and France were significantly larger than the U.S. action a year ago after
the attack at Khan Shaykhun. And specifically designed to have a greater impact on the regime's capability and willingness to use chemical weapons.
We also minimized the chances of wider escalation through our carefully targeted approach and the House will note that Russia has not reported any
losses of personnel or equipment as a result of the strikes.
And I am sure the whole House will want to join me in paying tribute to all the British service men and women -- and their American and French allies -
- who successfully carried out this mission with such courage and professionalism.
[11:30:00] Mr. Speaker, let me deal specifically with three important questions.
First, why did we not wait for the investigation from the OPCW?
UNSC mandated inspectors have investigated previous attacks and on four occasions decided that the regime was indeed responsible.
We are confident in our own assessment that the Syrian Regime was highly likely responsible for this attack and that its persistent pattern of
behavior meant that it was highly likely to continue using chemical weapons. Furthermore, there were clearly attempts to block any proper
investigation, as we saw with the Russian veto at the UN earlier in the week.
And let me set this out in detail. We support strongly the work of the OPCW fact-finding mission that is currently in Damascus. But that mission
is only able to make an assessment of whether chemical weapons were used. Even if the OPCW team is able to visit Douma to gather information to make
that assessment -- and they are currently being prevented from doing so by the Regime and the Russians -- it cannot attribute responsibility.
This is because Russia vetoed in November 2017 an extension of the Joint Investigatory Mechanism set up to do this. And last week, in the wake of
the Douma attack, it again vetoed a new UNSC resolution to re-establish such a mechanism. And even if we had OPCW's findings, and a mechanism to
attribute, for as long as Russia continues to veto, the UN Security Council still would not be able to act.
So, Mr. Speaker, we cannot wait to alleviate further humanitarian suffering caused by chemical weapons attacks.
Second, were we not just following orders from America? Let me be absolutely clear, we have acted because it is in our national interest to
do so. It is in our national interest to prevent the further use of chemical weapons in Syria and to uphold and defend the global consensus
that these weapons should not be used. For we cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalized, either within Syria, on the streets
of the U.K. or elsewhere. So, we have not done this because President Trump asked us to do so.
We have done it because we believed it was the right thing to do. And we are not alone. There is broad based international support for the action
we have taken. NATO has issued a statement setting out its support, as have the Gulf Co-operation Council and a number of countries in the region.
And over the weekend I have spoken to a range of world leaders, including Chancellor Merkel, Prime Minister Gentiloni, Prime Minister Trudeau, Prime
Minister Turnbull and European Union Council President, Donald Tusk. All have expressed their support for the actions that Britain, France and
America have taken.
Third, why did we not recall Parliament?
Mr. Speaker, the speed with which we acted was essential in co-operating with our partners to alleviate further humanitarian suffering and to
maintain the vital security of our operations. This was a limited, targeted strike on a legal basis that has been used before. And it was a
decision which required the evaluation of intelligence and information much of which was of a nature that could not be shared with Parliament.
We have always been clear that the government has the right to act quickly in the national interest. I am absolutely clear, Mr. Speaker, 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 Minster to make these decisions. And I will make them.
Mr. Speaker, as I have been clear this military action was not about intervening in the civil war in Syria -- or about regime change. But we
are determined to do our utmost to help resolve the conflict in Syria. That means concluding the fight against Daesh, which still holds pockets of
territory in Syria.
It means working to enable humanitarian access and continuing our efforts at the forefront of global response, where the U.K. has already committed
almost 2.5 billion pounds, our largest ever response to a single humanitarian crisis.
And next week, we will attend the second Brussels Conference on supporting the Future of Syria and the region which will focus on humanitarian
support, bolstering the UN-led political process in Geneva, and ensuring continued international support to refugees and host countries -- driving
forward the legacy of our own London Conference held in 2016. And it means supporting international efforts to reinvigorate the process to deliver a
political solution. For this is the best long-term hope for the Syrian people.
The U.K. will do all of these things. But as I have also been clear, that is not what these military strikes were about.
Mr. Speaker, as I have set out, the military action that we have taken this weekend was specifically focused on degrading the Syrian Regime's chemical
weapons capability and deterring their future use.
[11:35:00] In order to achieve this there must also be a wider diplomatic effort -- including the full range of political and economic levers -- to
strengthen the global norms prohibiting the use of chemical weapons, which have stood for nearly a century.
So, we will continue to work with our international partners on tough economic action against those involved with the production or dissemination
of chemical weapons. And I welcome the conclusions of today's European Foreign Affairs Council, attended by my Rt. Hon Friend the Foreign
Secretary, that confirmed the Council is willing to consider further restrictive measures on those involved in the development and use of
chemical weapons in Syria.
We will continue to push for the re-establishment of an international investigative mechanism which can attribute responsibility for chemical
weapon use in Syria. We will advance with our French allies the new International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons,
which will meet in the coming weeks. And we will continue to strengthen the international coalition we have built since the attack on Salisbury.
Mr. Speaker, last Thursday's report from the OPCW has confirmed our findings that it was indeed a Novichok in Salisbury -- and I've placed a
copy of that report's Executive Summary in the Library of the House. While of a much lower order of magnitude, the use of a nerve agent on the streets
of Salisbury is part of a pattern of disregard for the global norms that prohibit the use of chemical weapons.
So, while the action was taken to alleviate humanitarian suffering in Syria by degrading the Regime's chemical weapons capability and deterring its use
of these weapons, it will also send a clear message to anyone who believes they can use chemical weapons with impunity.
We cannot go back to a world where the use of chemical weapons becomes normalized.
Mr. Speaker, I am deeply conscious of the gravity of these decisions. They affect all members of this House - and me personally. And I understand the
questions that -- rightly -- will be asked about British military action particularly in such a complex region. But I am clear that the way we
protect our national interest is to stand up for the global rules and standards that keep us safe. That is what we have done -- and what we will
continue to do.
And I commend this statement to the House.
MR. SPEAKER: Jeremy Corbyn.
JEREMY CORBYN, BRITISH LABOUR PARTY LEADER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I want to start by thanking the Prime Minister for our phone conversation in
advance to the bombing raids on Friday night. And for advanced copy of her statement today.
I also join her in paying tribute to Sergeant Matt Monro, the SES sniper from Manchester who was killed on the 28th of March with U.S. forces in
northern Syria and Master Sergeant Jonathan Dunbar from Texas, who killed in the same attack.
I welcome the fact that all British military personnel involved have returned home safely from this mission. The attack in Douma was horrific
attack on civilians using chemical weapons part of a civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people.
Mr. Speaker, this statement serves as a reminder the Prime Minister is accountable to this Parliament not to the whims of the U.S. president.
We clearly need -- we clearly need a war powers act in this country to transform a now broken convention into a legal obligation. Her predecessor
came to this House to seek authority for military action in Libya and in Syria in 2015. And the House had a vote over Iraq in 2003.
There is no more serious issue than the life and death matters of military action. It is right that Parliament has the power to support or stop the
government from taking planned military action.
And, Mr. Speaker, the BBC reports that the Prime Minister argued for the bombing to be brought forward to avoid parliamentary scrutiny. Will she
today confirm or deny those reports?
I believe, Mr. Speaker, the action was legally questionable. And on Saturday --
MR. SPEAKER: I just urge members to calm down because in my experience some of the members who shout from a sedentary position then also entertain
the fanciful idea that they might be called to ask a question. And I wish to disabuse them of that idea. The Prime Minister was heard in an
atmosphere of respectful quiet and order. And that will happen for the Leader of the Opposition as well. No ifs, no buts, no sneers, no
exceptions. That is the position. Jeremy Corbyn.
[11:40:00] CORBYN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I believe that the action was legally questionable. And on Saturday the United Nations Secretary-
General, Antonio Guterres, said as much. Reiterating that all countries must act in line with the United Nations charter. Which states action must
be in self-defense or be authorized by the United Nations Security Council.
The Prime Minister has assured us that the Attorney General had given clear legal advice approving the action. I hope the Prime Minister will now
publish this advice in full today. The summary note references the disputed humanitarian intervention doctrine, but even against this the
government fails its own tests.
The overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe due to the civil war in Syria is absolutely indisputable. But the Foreign Secretary said yesterday these
strikes would have no bearing on the civil war. And the Prime Minister has reiterated that today by saying this is not what these military strikes
Mr. Speaker, does, for example, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen entitle other countries to arrogate themselves the right to bomb Saudi airfields or
their positions in Yemen especially given their use of banned cluster bombs and white phosphorous?
Mr. Speaker, three United Nations agencies said in January that Yemen was the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. So, will the Prime Minister
today commit to ending support to the Saudi bombing campaign and armed sales to Saudi Arabia?
On the mission itself, what assessment has the government made of the impact of bombing related military facilities where the Regime is assessed
to store chemical weapons? What impact on the local people of chemical being released into the local environment? News footage shows both
journalists and local people in the rubble without any protective clothing. Why does the Prime Minister believe these missile strikes will deter future
As the Prime Minister will be aware there were U.S. strikes in 2017 in the wake of the use of chemical weapons in Khan Shaykhun, for which the U.N.
OPCW team held the Assad regime to be responsible.
In relation to the air strikes against Barzeh and Him Shinsar facilities, the Prime Minister will be aware that the OPCW carried out inspections on
both those facilities in 2017.
And concluded, I quote, that the inspection team did not observe any activities inconsistent with obligations under the chemical weapons
Can the Prime Minister advise the House, does she believe the OPCW were wrong in that assessment or does she have separate intelligence that the
nature of those activities has changed within the last five months?
And in the light of the Chilcot Inquiry, does she agree with a key recommendation about the importance of strengthening the checks and
assessment on intelligence information when it is used to make the case for government policies? Given that neither the U.N. nor the OPCW has yet
investigated the Douma attack, it is clear that diplomatic and nonmilitary means have not been fully exhausted.
While much suspicion rightly points to the Assad government, chemical weapons have been used by other groups in the conflict. For example, Jaysh
al-Islam which was reported to have used gas in Aleppo in 2016 amongst other groups.
It is now vitally important that the OPCW inspectors who arrived in Damascus on Saturday are allowed to do their work and publish their report
into their findings and report to the United Nations Security Council. They must be allowed to complete their inspections without hinderance. And
I hope the U.K. will put all diplomatic pressure on Russia and Syria and other influential states to ensure they're able to access the site in
The bigger question must be that during the Syrian conflict over 400,000 Syrians are estimated to have died in the conflict.
[11:45:00] And the vast majority by conventional weapons -- as the Prime Minister indicated. The U.N. estimates that 13.5 million Syrians are in
need of humanitarian assistance and there are over 5 million refugees. It's more important than ever that we take concrete steps to halt and
finally end the suffering.
Acting through the U.N. the Prime Minister should now take a diplomatic lead to negotiate a pause in this abhorrent conflict. This means engaging
with all parties that are involved in the conflict including Iran, Israel, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the U.S. to ensure there is an immediate
We have, Mr. Speaker, the grotesque spectacle of a wider geopolitical battle being waged by proxy with the Syrian people used as pawns by all
sides. Our first priority must be the safety and security of the Syrian people. Which is best served by de-escalating this conflict. So that aid
can get in.
So, will the Prime Minister now embark, as I hope she will, on a renewed diplomatic effort to try to bring an end to this conflict as she indicated
in the latter part of her statement.
The Prime Minister states that diplomatic processes did not work. This is not exactly true. The initiative negotiated by John Kerry and Sergey
Lavrov led to the destruction of 600 tons of chemical weapons overseen by the OPCW. No one,
Mr. Speaker, disputes that such diplomatic processes are difficult and imperfect, but that should not stop us from continuing diplomatic efforts.
The refugee crisis places a responsibility on all countries. Hundreds of unaccompanied children remain in Europe. And the U.K. has yet to take in
even the small numbers it was committed to through Dubs Amendment.
I hope that today the government will now increase its commitment to take additional Syrian refugees. Will the Prime Minister make that commitment
MR. SPEAKER: Prime minister?
MAY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
If I can start off by responding to the comments that the Leader of the Opposition has made on the Syrian conflict more generally. Because
everybody in this House recognizes the nature of the conflict and the impacts it has had on the Syrian people. The millions of people who have
been displaced either within Syria or to countries in the surrounding region.
We have as the United Kingdom, as I said in my statement, we are now the second biggest bilateral donor for Syrian refugees in the region at almost
2.5 billion pounds. We've been very clear that we want -- we believe we can help more people by giving that aid in the region, and we have been
able to support hundreds of thousands of children in the region by the aid we have given to them.
We will continue to do that and continue to support and continue to be grateful for all that is being done particularly by Turkey, Lebanon and
Jordan to support refugees in the region. This is a significant task for those countries and we are supporting them in the effort.
The gentleman also asked me to launch a new diplomatic effort. As I said in my statement, we will indeed be continuing the work in relation to this
wider issue of the conflict in Syria. That means -- as I said -- continuing the fight against Daesh and concluding the fight against Daesh.
It means our humanitarian work, as I have said, and continuing to press for humanitarian access and it also means supporting the international efforts
to reinvigorate the process to deliver a long-term political solution in Syria. But it is necessary for all parties to be willing to come together
to ensure and to discuss and develop a long-term solution for Syria.
Now let me come on to the specific strikes that took place at the weekend and the issue of chemical weapons. As the honorable gentleman asked about
the legal basis, we have published the legal basis for our action. And I've been very clear, I went through the arguments in my statement. This
is about the alleviation of humanitarian suffering. That is a legal basis that has been used by governments of all colors. It was used, as I said,
in 1991 and 1992. It was also used by the Labour Government to justify intervention in Kosovo as part of the NATO intervention.
[11:50:00] He refers to other areas of conflict in the world. Can I just say to him? What sets this apart particularly is the use of chemical
weapons. This is about alleviating the suffering that would come from the use of chemical weapons. But I believe it is also important and in this
country's interests and the interests of other countries around the world that we do re-establish the international norm that the use of chemical
weapons is prohibited.
We cannot allow a situation to develop where countries and people think that the use of chemical weapons has been allowed to become normalized.
And that is important for us all. He talks about the OPCW and about the intervention of their investigation in Douma. As I said in my statement,
the problem is they are being stopped from their investigation in Douma.
The Regime and the Russians are preventing them from doing that. And, moreover, again, the Regime has reportedly been attempting to conceal the
evidence by searching evacuees from Douma to ensure that they are not taking out of the region samples that could be tested elsewhere. And a
wider operation to conceal the facts of the attack is under way supported by the Russians.
He talks about other groups that have the possibility of chemical weapons being used by other groups. As I pointed out in my statement, it is
understood that these chemical weapons were delivered by barrel bombs. Barrel bombs are normally dropped from helicopters. There is the evidence
that I cited in relation to Regime helicopter activity in Douma on the date in question. And it is not the case that the groups that he has referred
to have access to the helicopters and barrel bombs that would be able to ensure to deliver such a chemical weapons attack.
I think it is clear, and it was on that basis, that the government decided to act together with the United States and France. And I think it is
important that this was a joint international effort that took place in relation to these strikes. These strikes were carefully targeted. Proper
analysis was done to be sure they were targeted, sites that were relevant to the chemical weapons capability of the regime.
We did this to alleviate further human suffering. We targeted it on chemical weapons capability of the regime to degrade and deter the
willingness of the Regime to use chemical weapons in future. I continue to believe it was the right thing to do.
MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Kenneth Clark.
KENNETH CLARK, CONSERVATIVE MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: Mr. Speaker, I fully support the proportionate, targeted action that we have taken against these
sites and I think the government would consider similar action again in future if anyone is so foolish as to repeat chemical weapons attacks. We
can all debate these matters, but it takes a real Prime Minister to actually face up to responsibility.
But on the question of the Parliamentary role, I think the Prime Minister was not relying on the archaic narrow interpretation of the royal
prerogative, which no government has invoked in this country for over 50 years. They've always come to Parliament for debate and votes if possible,
on any military action. And she says there was a problem of time, but, surely, once President Trump had announced to the world what he was
proposing, a widespread debate was taking place everywhere including many MPs in the media, but no debate in Parliament.
So, would she consider setting up -- once the immediate issues are over -- a cross party commission of some kind to set out precisely what the role of
Parliament is in modern times in the use of military power against another state. And what exceptions, if any, there can be to the usual rule that
the government needs parliamentary approval for taking grave actions of this kind?
MAY: Can I, first of all, thank my right honorable and learned friend for the comments that he's made about the action that was taken in Syria by the
U.S., the U.K., and France.
He refers to the parliamentary position. The decision to act was taken on the basis that, first of all, obviously, an effort was made in the United
Nations Security Council to find -- put forward a resolution and to get that passed that would have allowed investigation into accountability for
these chemical weapons attacks to be determined. That was vetoed by the Russians, so it was not possible to follow that diplomatic route.
[11:55:00] And the timing was such that enabled proper planning to take place, so that this was a targeted and effective set of strikes. That it
was done in a timely fashion, and also that it maintained the operational security of our armed forces. And any Prime Minister who commits any of
our armed forces into action of this sort must have a care for their safety and their security in doing so.
Can I refer, my right honorable and learned friend, to the Britain Ministerial Statement in 2016 on the war powers convention.
Which said at the end of it the following. After careful consideration the government has decided that it will not be codifying the convention in law
or by resolution of the House in order to retain the ability of this and future governments and the Armed Forces to protect the security and
interests of the U.K. in circumstances that we cannot predict and to avoid such decisions being subject to legal action.
ANDERSON: Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, defending her decision to involve the U.K. military in these strikes -- on the three sites in
Syria over the weekend. She said this was not about intervening in a civil war and it was not about regime change. In response the Leader of the
Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, said there is no more serious issue than the life-and-death matters of U.K. military personnel. He said I believe the
action was legally questionable. We will carry on monitoring what is going on in the House of Commons with lawmakers there. Though we'll take a very
short break. That's it for me. CNN continues after this break.