Syria: should MPs support UK military intervention?
Editorials warn David Cameron to tread carefully ten years after Parliament voted for Iraq war
THE House of Commons will meet tomorrow to debate how Britain should respond to the alleged chemical weapons attack outside Damascus. David Cameron has warned that the world cannot "stand idly by" following the alleged attack by President Bashar al-Assad's regime, while the US has said it is "ready to go" with four warships now stationed in the region. But should MPs support the Prime Minister's call for action? Here's what the editorials are saying:
The Times: The world has been far too reluctant to face up to the desperate reality of what has been happening in Syria, says The Times. The international community has sat and watched more than 100,000 people be killed and more than a million become refugees. International restraint has convinced the protagonists and the victims that we do not care enough to hazard anything in defence of a suffering people. The newspaper points to Thomas Aquinas's three criteria for a just war: a good and just purpose; waged by a legitimate authority; and a central motive for peace. "Those conditions are surely met," says The Times. "Parliament should now speak."
The Daily Telegraph: Nothing about this situation is simple or easy, says the Daily Telegraph. Public polls show substantial resistance to yet another military adventure in the Middle East. The Prime Minister insisted yesterday that any action will be about preventing and punishing the use of chemical weapons, not bringing about regime change. However, the experience of Iraq has so poisoned the well of public opinion that voters are instinctively suspicious. Cameron must ensure any military action in Syria is based on evidence. "Once it begins, he may not be able to control what happens next."
The Guardian: Iraq overshadows this week's developments at every turn, says The Guardian. Tomorrow's vote comes ten years after MPs voted for war in Iraq, assured that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. These were never found. Tony Blair's legacy to Cameron is "that his successor can expect no benefit of the doubt". British politics was dreadfully damaged by the Iraq war, says the newspaper. By venturing back on to this territory, Cameron is taking an immense risk, not just with his own standing but "with the reputation of politics more generally".
The Independent: "We would like to believe that Mr Cameron has learnt the lessons of Iraq, and acts accordingly," says The Independent. This would mean waiting to hear the findings of the UN inspectors, working hard for an international consensus, taking any regional fallout into consideration, and heeding the concerns of the armed forces' top brass and public mood. "For all the horrendous pictures of the suffering in Syria, there is no popular appetite to become embroiled once again in someone else's war. This is the message that MPs, mindful of their complicity in the Iraq debacle, must send when they debate Syria this week."
The Financial Times: Memories of the mistakes over Iraq make this all the more contentious a decision, agrees the Financial Times. As well as the need for hard evidence and broad international consensus, the legal basis for intervention – especially in the absence of Security Council approval – also has to be clarified. Russia and the US need to keep pushing the rebels and the regime to negotiate a political solution. "Military action bears risks," says the FT. "There are no good options to resolve the threat that Mr Assad poses to his own people and the wider world. But to do nothing would be the worst one of all." ·