PM’s Syria airstrikes defended by unionist politicians

A Syrian soldier films the damage of the Syrian Scientific Research Center which was attacked by U.S., British and French military strikes to punish President Bashar Assad for suspected chemical attack against civilians, in Barzeh, near Damascus, Syria, Saturday, April 14, 2018. The Pentagon says none of the missiles filed by the U.S. and its allies was deflected by Syrian air defenses, rebutting claims by the Russian and Syrian governments. Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, also says there also is no indication that Russian air defense systems were employed early Saturday in Syria. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
A Syrian soldier films the damage of the Syrian Scientific Research Center which was attacked by U.S., British and French military strikes to punish President Bashar Assad for suspected chemical attack against civilians, in Barzeh, near Damascus, Syria, Saturday, April 14, 2018. The Pentagon says none of the missiles filed by the U.S. and its allies was deflected by Syrian air defenses, rebutting claims by the Russian and Syrian governments. Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, also says there also is no indication that Russian air defense systems were employed early Saturday in Syria. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

The DUP has defended Prime Minister Theresa May for authorising Syrian airstrikes over the weekend.

MP Nigel Dodds rejected any suggestion the PM was not entitled to given the green light to this type of military action.

He said: “We are reassured that the military action is strictly targeted and limited in its purpose. Also that it is not about a wider intervention in the Syrian civil war which would, in our view, be counter productive.

He added: “Given the context of the recent international response to the use of a nerve agent in the UK, the clear targeted purpose of the strikes, and the repeated blocking by Russia of diplomatic solutions through the UN, we believe the Prime Minister was justified in standing with our American and French allies in this concerted action.”

The UUP agreed that the airstrikes were the right thing to do but said Parliament should have been recalled to discuss the potential implications of wider conflict.

Steve Aiken, Ulster Unionist MLA and former nuclear submarine Commander, said: “The airstrikes on Syria were the right thing to do and the Prime Minister was right to order them. I am relieved that all British military personnel involved in the airstrikes returned safely to base and have once again demonstrated that when their country calls upon them, they will not be found wanting. Our thoughts are with them and their families.

“However Parliament should have been recalled before the airstrikes were ordered. This is not about following procedure. We should be considering what happens next in the wider context of the region. This isn`t just about Syria.

“Syria is a conflagration of all sorts of sectional, regional and global interests with one of the world`s superpowers, Russia, now firmly embedded ‘in-country’. We need to be debating the wider context of Russian involvement. We`ve now had months of reports of the Russian bear agitating in all sorts of ways – cyber-attacks, the use of chemical weapons and attempts to destabilise the electoral system in the west.

“This has the potential to escalate into a wider conflict and we should be debating all those scenarios.”

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood MLA said that what is required is international co-operation to deliver a strategy for peace in Syria, not ill thought out airstrikes.

“Airstrikes and military intervention have not and will not help to solve the ongoing issues in Syria.

“Any military intervention threatens to escalate the conflict even further. International co-operation is required to help end Assad’s brutal regime and deliver a strategy for peace in Syria.”