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Sat, 28 March 2020

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By Dods General Election Hub 2019

WATCH: Jeremy Corbyn suggests non-Assad groups may have carried out Douma attack

WATCH: Jeremy Corbyn suggests non-Assad groups may have carried out Douma attack
4 min read

Jeremy Corbyn has suggested that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad may not have been behind the chemical attack which killed dozens of civilians in the country a week ago.

The Labour leader said "other groups" may have been responsible for the atrocity in the rebel-held city of Douma in Eastern Ghouta, which killed up to 75 civilians.

He also said Theresa May's power to launch military action should be curbed in the wake of UK air strikes on Syria, and accused the Prime Minister of making "policy by Twitter".

British, American and French fighter jets launched strikes on the Assad regime's chemical weapons facilities in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Appearing on the Andrew Marr Show, Mr Corbyn - who has called the military action "legally questionable" - said inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons should be allowed to carry out their work to establish who was responsible for the Douma attack.

And he refused to accept the British intelligence assessment that Assad was definitely to blame.

Asked how he would respond if OPCW found that the Syrian leader was responsible, he said: "I would then say confront Assad withh that evidence, confront any other group that may be fingered, and then say we must now come in and destroy those weapons."

The Labour leader also said the time was right for new rules to rein in ministers.

"I think Parliament should have a say in this and the Prime Minister could quite easily have done that," he told the Andrew Marr Show.

He added: "There is precedent over previous interventions where Parliament has had a vote. And I think what we need in this country is something more robust, like a War Powers Act, so governments do get held to account for what they do in our name."

Downing Street last night published its legal position on the airstrikes, arguing that there was “no practicable alternative to the use of force”, and justifying the bombing on humanitarian grounds.

But the Labour Leader questioned that case and accused Ms May of taking orders from the US President, as he hit out at the lack of consultation.

"Humanitarian intervention is a legally debatable concept at the present time and I would have thought from the point of recalling Parliament or waiting two days things could have been different," he said.

"But it looked awfully to me as though the Prime Minister was more interested in following Donald Trump's lead than anything else. This is policy made up by Twitter."

Mr Corbyn said he wanted to see MPs given the chance to vote on the Government's next steps, and said the UK and its allies must now give the international chemical weapons watchdog "the chance to go in and fully investigate everything" and push for a fresh round of dialogue to end the Syria conflict.


The Labour leader also denied that he would never authorise the use of military force by the UK, saying: "No one would ever say never."

He added: "What I would say is there has to be a process where the objective is to bring about peace to bring about a resolution to conflict, to bring about a political solution. Listen, there's going to be no military winner in Syria. The war could go on and get worse."

Ms May will give a statement on the airstrikes to MPs tomorrow, and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told the same programme that it would provide "an opportunity for parliamentarians to hold the executive to account on this matter."

"I know that the Speaker tends to allow virtually everybody who wants to do make their point to ask a question to intervene in such matters, to have their say," Mr Johnson said. "There will be abundant time for people to put their views across."


​Meanwhile, Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon shared Mr Corbyn's scepticism about whether the Assad regime was definitely behind the Douma attack.

He told Sunday with Niall Paterson: "It's been found previously that Assad has used chemical weapons. It's also been found previously that Isil and related forces in the Syrian civil war have used chemical weapons."

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