EXCL Labour frontbencher says Assad 'should be removed' if he was behind chemical attack
Syrian president Bashar al-Assad must be removed from office if he is found to be behind the suspected chemical weapons attack which killed dozens of civilians last week, a Shadow Cabinet minister has said.
In a major split with Jeremy Corbyn, Shadow International Development Secretary Kate Osamor said "intervention must take place" if the UN concludes the Syrian government was behind the alleged atrocity.
She said: "If a leader is killing their own they need to be removed. We don’t keep them there. They need to go. He needs to be removed."
However, she insisted that the United Nations must be allowed to carry out an investigation to determine exactly who authorised the attack on the rebel-held city of Douma in Eastern Ghouta.
Theresa May held an emergency meeting of her Cabinet today as Britain prepares to join America and France in bombing Assad.
But Mr Corbyn warned that “more bombing, more killing, more war will not save life, it will take lives and spawn the war elsewhere”.
In an exclusive interview with The House magazine Ms Osamor took a noticeably harder line than the Labour leader.
"Intervention must take place if evidence comes back that the PM or the president or whoever the leader is, is gassing his own people. Get them out,” she said.
"If a leader is killing their own they need to be removed. We don’t keep them there. They need to go. He needs to be removed."
However, she added: “But I suppose what we've seen is it's not as easy as that. And I think that's where Jeremy's position comes from. It’s not as easy as just removing someone…
“How do you remove someone? I’m saying this almost as a layman, but I know politically you can’t just remove somebody who is elected.”
Ms Osamor noted that some brutal leaders “seem to abscond” from their countries and added: “This world is messed up. It’s not easy."
And she said she did not know if the “devastation” that has followed botched interventions in the past “outweighs” taking military action in the future.
A spokesperson for Ms Osamor later added: “Kate was expressing her horror at the chemical attack in Douma and the terrible suffering of the Syrian people in the conflict.
“She recognised that there is no simple solution to bringing about lasting peace in Syria, which is why there must be an urgent coordinated international drive via the UN to achieve a ceasefire, a negotiated political settlement and the right of the Syrian people to determine their own future.”
UN CHEMICAL WEAPONS VERDICTS
Meanwhile, Ms Osamor questioned why the UN had not “come to a conclusion” about whether the Assad regime was behind past chemical weapons attacks in Syria - despite it having done so on two occasions.
A UN/OPCW conclusion in 2016 said official forces used chlorine in three cases, while another in 2017 found Sarin was used by Government forces in Khan Sheikhoun.
But Ms Osamor said: “I genuinely want to know why is there all these investigations and when we get to the end we still can’t say it is X, Y and Z?”
She added that the UN should be “transparent” about its investigative processes after the latest attack and to ensure no other country can launch a “counter-claim”.
JEREMY CORBYN 'SHOULD NOT COMMENT ON FOREIGN POLICY'
Elsewhere, she said Mr Corbyn would be “better off” leaving statements on foreign policy to the relevant Labour spokespeople to prevent sparking further rows.
The Labour leader has been criticised for refusing to blame Assad for the Douma attack, even though Theresa May has also stopped short of definitively pointing the finger at the Syrian leader.
He also angered his own backbenchers by not blaming Russia for the Salisbury nerve agent attack which landed three people in hospital.
Ms Osamor said the Labour leader did not “need to speak” about foreign policy issues and would always be criticised no matter what he says because of the “relationship he’s had with those countries”.
“He should just let his spokesperson speak because it seems that whatever he says is not good enough - it’s too strong or it’s not strong enough,” she explained.
“It takes the Government off the hook because the media then talk about Jeremy’s response when he is the Leader of the Opposition.
“And even if he was unequivocal he actually is not the prime minister or he’s not the foreign secretary or whatever.
“So I think what I take from this is that he should allow the spokesperson to speak.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Ms Osamor - who has landed in hot water in the past over her support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israeli goods - hinted that it could become official Labour policy.
She said people should be "educated" about the conflict between Israel and Palestine, so they can make up their own minds about the situation.
"A lot of people are not really educated on illegal settlements, people don’t understand what’s really going on, and it’s gone over their head. ‘It’s BDS, who cares, what’s that got to do with anything?’," she said.
"But I think we need to get to a place where we start educating everybody and make a decision based on that and then say, ‘this could be an alternative, this could be an option’."