…As Theresa May set to tell MPs: Syria airstrikes were in UK’s interest***
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned of global “chaos” on Sunday in a phone conversation with Iran’s president as the two men discussed the U.S.-led strike on Syria.
According to a statement, Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani discussed the missile attack that targeted a science lab and two chemical weapons depots and agreed “that this illegitimate action has seriously damaged the prospects for a political settlement in Syria,” the statement from the Kremlin said.
President Donald Trump ordered the military strike early Saturday in coordination with France and Britain. The White House intended the strike to deter Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from using chemical weapons after a suspected attack using sarin and chlorine gas killed dozens of people last week in the rebel stronghold of Douma, east of Damascus.
Putin and Iran have maintained their support for Assad despite his continued use of chemical weapons, which Russia said it would stop in 2013. On Saturday, the Russian government went so far as to introduce a U.N. resolution that condemned coalition forces for launching the joint airstrike.
That resolution was voted down, earning “yes” votes only from Russia, China and Bolivia. But that didn’t appear to affect Putin’s opinion.
Meanwhile, Theresa May will hit back at critics of military action in Syria by insisting the decision to launch airstrikes was aimed at preventing human suffering, and was in Britain’s national interest, as she is questioned by MPs about the attacks for the first time.
With the government braced for highly charged exchanges in the Commons as MPs return from their Easter recess, the prime minister will emphasise the international support for the bombing raids.
May will tell MPs: “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.”
She is expected to add: “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,”pointing out that she has secured the support of a string of world leaders.
May will give a statement to MPs on Monday afternoon, after refusing to recall parliament last week to seek MPs’ approval before action was taken.
Her remarks will come after Jeremy Corbyn described the attack on Syria as “both wrong and misconceived”.
In an article for the Guardian, the Labour leader said the attack by the west was “either purely symbolic – a demolition of empty buildings, already shown to be entirely ineffective as a deterrent. Or it was the precursor to wider military action. That would risk a reckless escalation of the war and death toll, and the danger of direct confrontation between the US and Russia. Neither possibility offers an end to the war and suffering, or any prospect of saving lives – rather the opposite.”
He also took aim at the foreign secretary, saying: “Boris Johnson’s blithe acceptance that the conflict will now continue on its current course and that peace negotiations would be an ‘extra’ is an unconscionable abdication of responsibility and morality.”
In further remarks that could prove controversial after the Salisbury poisoning, Corbyn also called for “a shift from the rhetoric of endless confrontation with Russia”, which he said could “help lower the temperature, and make a UN consensus for multilateral action to end Syria’s agony more likely”.
The government has also announced that it will urge the Speaker, John Bercow, to grant an emergency debate afterwards, to allow more time to be set aside for MPs to express their views.
The debate would be aimed at preempting attempts by Labour and the Scottish National party to force a vote on the decision to trigger action – though Conservative MPs have been issued a three-line whip on Tuesday in case opposition parties succeed.
Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat leader, accused the prime minister of failing to consult parliament because she feared losing a vote. “Theresa May had a chance to try and persuade parliament but bottled out of it through weakness,” he said.
NBC with additional report from Guardian UK