Jeremy Corbyn condemns US airstrikes on Assad regime
Jeremy Corbyn has criticised the US for launching missile strikes against the Assad regime in Syria.
The Labour leader said the military action – which was in response to the Syrian government’s suspected use of chemical weapons – risked “escalating the war” and was “without legal authorisation”.
He called instead for an independent investigation by the United Nations into the chemical attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun, where scores of civilians died, and a renewed international push for peace.
Downing Street has said it “fully supports” President Trump’s decision and confirmed that the UK Government was informed of the airstrikes in advance.
But Mr Corbyn, who used to be chairman of the controversial Stop The War Coalition, released a statement criticising the action and calling on Theresa May to “urge restraint” on the US.
“The US missile attack on a Syrian government air base risks escalating the war in Syria still further,” he said.
“Tuesday’s horrific chemical attack was a war crime which requires urgent independent UN investigation and those responsible must be held to account.
“But unilateral military action without legal authorisation or independent verification risks intensifying a multi-sided conflict that has already killed hundreds of thousands of people.
“What is needed instead is to urgently reconvene the Geneva peace talks and unrelenting international pressure for a negotiated settlement of the conflict.
“The terrible suffering of the Syrian people must be brought to an end as soon as possible and every intervention must be judged on what contribution it makes to that outcome.
“The British government should urge restraint on the Trump administration and throw its weight behind peace negotiations and a comprehensive political settlement.”
'DIRECT AND PROPORTIONATE RESPONSE'
His comments put him at odds with a number of senior figures in the party, including his deputy leader Tom Watson.
Under Ed Miliband’s leadership, Labour voted against military action on the Assad regime when it used chemical weapons against its own people in 2013, but many Labour MPs have spoken in support of last night’s airstrikes.
Mr Watson said the deployment of 59 Tomahawk missiles “appear to be a direct and proportionate response to a clear violation of international law by the Syrian regime”.
PoliticsHome understands Nia Griffith, the Shadow Defence Secretary, attempted to persuade Mr Corbyn to issue a statement supporting the military action, but failed.
Meanwhile, Michael Dugher, who used to sit in Mr Corbyn's Shadow Cabinet, gave a scathing verdict.
Labour MP Angela Eagle said the US strikes, which are believed to have killed a handful of Syrian military personnel, were “morally justifiable in response to a crime against humanity”.
And former shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn added:
Mr Corbyn's response followed a morning of confusion in which his office initially said Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry would be speaking for the party on the US bombing.
Many Labour MPs were also angry that his deputy communications director, Steve Howell, was tweeting his objections to the mission hours before the party had made an official comment.