Labour and SNP should have backed Syria strikes, opposition says

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Syrian opposition leaders in London for talks have said UK politicians should back “any means that lead to a political solution”, including military strikes against Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Dr Nasr al-Hariri, the president of the Syrian Negotiation Commission (SNC) involved in stalled talks to end the conflict, said military strikes to prevent further chemical attacks and force Assad to the negotiating table were justified.

He also welcomed US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of a treaty with Iran limiting Tehran’s nuclear programme, saying that Iran was a “rogue state” providing the mainstay of pro-regime forces in Syria.

Dr Hariri also made unverifiable claims that Iran had provided chemical weapons to the Syrian regime that were used against civilians.

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Talks are scheduled today between Dr Hariri and Labour shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry, who with the SNP opposed airstrikes on the Assad regime last month.

The SNC delegation also met with Commons Defence and Foreign Affairs Committees on Tuesday, as well as the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Syria, which all have SNP representation.

Asked about Labour and the SNP’s attitude towards military involvement in Syria, Dr Hariri said: “As a permanent member of the UN security council, the UK has responsibilities - legal, humanitarian, moral responsibility. They have to keep peace and security in all the states of the United Nations… when they see any threats, they have to do something.”

He added: “To protect civilians, to bring calm and peace and stability to Syria, to fight terrorism, to treat the issues of refugees - and we have a lot of refugees here in the UK… I think the UK has to work in a collective international way to solve the syrian problem

“I don’t know what arguments the opposition in the UK used to oppose any strikes in Syria… do they agree that a dictatorship used Sarin and weaponised chlorine many times to kill innocent civilians in their beds, while they are sleeping in Eastern Ghouta? It is not moral, it is not acceptable.”

However, the SNC President added that he didn’t want Syria to become a “battleground” between other states and criticised “piecemeal actions” following Israeli air strikes on Iranian military installations, which intensified last night.

Dr Hariri said talks organised by the United Nations in Geneva have failed to advance after nine rounds because of the Syrian regime’s refusal to engage.

He claimed the regime was unwilling to participate in the formation of constitutional committee because it could lead to the erosion of its power.

Adding to pressure on European states which have pledged to maintain the Iran nuclear deal, including the UK, Dr Hariri said a confrontation between the US and Iran over its role in Syria was looming.

“There is no solution to Iran that does not deal with Syria,” he said. “It is impossible to differentiate between the Syrian army and the Iranian militias. Syria is more important to Iran than Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen.

“Syria is the core and the heart of the Iranian project in the region. They have more than 100,000 fighters inside Syria, and control many of the decision-making institutions. In effect, there is no Syrian army in Syria since it takes its orders from Iran. When Iran is defeated in Syria, they will be defeated in Bahrain, Iran and Yemen.

“Iran regards Damascus as the heart of the land route between Tehran and the south of Lebanon.”

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