Rather than further military intervention, what is urgently needed is a coordinated international drive to achieve a ceasefire, de-escalation and a negotiated political settlement under UN auspices. The humanitarian priority must be to halt the killing on all sides. The need to restart genuine negotiations for peace and a political settlement of the conflict in Syria, including the withdrawal of all foreign forces and the right of the Syrian people to determine their own future, could not be more urgent….Dr Kailash Chand OBE
The reports from Douma, East of Damascus, last weekend point to an attack having been carried out with chemical weapons, in full contravention of international humanitarian law. The evidence of the deaths and suffering inflicted by the attack, including on young children, is horrific and those responsible must be held to account. Only a monster targets civilians and then ensures that there are no ambulances to transfer the wounded. No hospitals to save their lives.
Both the Assad regime and ISIS have been held responsible for the use of chemical weapons in the past since the start of the Syrian conflict, a war crime which I utterly condemn. And, welcome the investigation being carried out in Douma by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and call for their inspectors to have full access to the site.
All rational people supports the call by the UN Secretary General António Guterres for a wider and full independent investigation of the use of chemical weapons in Syria by any party to the conflict, which demands urgent Security Council agreement.
However, I am deeply concerned at the threat by US President Donald Trump to launch further military action in Syria in response to the suspected Douma attack, even before any independent report by either the OPCW or any renewed UN investigation.
President Trump put Syria and Russia on notice in a Twitter post, promising that missiles fired at Syria “will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’” and telling the Kremlin that it should not partner with a “Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!” After the threat, the president said in a separate tweet that relations between the United States and Russia are worse than ever.
Any proposal by the British government to support such a US military intervention by the British government and expand its military campaign in Syria should be brought to parliament and its strategy held to account.
Last year’s US cruise missile attack on Syria, in response to the use of chemical weapons in Khan Shaykhun, failed to prevent what appears to have been another attack last weekend.
A new US-led military attack on Syrian government forces and their allies would represent a dangerous escalation and risk spreading the conflict and increasing the suffering of the Syrian people, including to the point of direct conflict between US and Russian forces.
Up to a dozen regional and international powers, including Britain, are now involved supporting different sides in the Syrian war.
Rather than further military intervention, what is urgently needed is a coordinated international drive to achieve a ceasefire, de-escalation and a negotiated political settlement under UN auspices. The humanitarian priority must be to halt the killing on all sides.
The need to restart genuine negotiations for peace and a political settlement of the conflict in Syria, including the withdrawal of all foreign forces and the right of the Syrian people to determine their own future, could not be more urgent. Mr. Trump needs to work with the other major powers on a broad plan that could force Mr. Assad, Russia and Iran to end the carnage and be held accountable. The United Nations Security Council needs to recommit to the Chemical Weapons Convention’s ban on such weapons, authorize experts to verify who was responsible in Douma and create an independent investigation that could lead to prosecution in a tribunal like the International Criminal Court.
(Dr Kailash Chand OBE is Honorary Vice President British Medical Association (BMA) and Chair of Healthwatch Tameside)