As I turned over in my bed at 8:30am this morning, the sound of the BBC News alert began to ring in my ear. My eyes winced as I checked the notification on my phone, slowly adjusting to the brightness of my room. There it was, Breaking News: ‘’Air Strikes on Syria were a “highly successful mission” says UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson’’.
I do not know if it was because I had just woken up, but the notification left me confused and annoyed. One word was running through my head: Why? Was this in retaliation to the Salisbury attack? Was this a message being sent to Russia, but using Syria as a warning? Emphasising our strong views on the consequences of misusing chemical weapons.
Upon looking through more news reports, it seemed apparent that we were attacking Syria as a response to a suspected chemical attack on the town of Douma last week, which killed dozens. The attack last night in which the US, UK and France all partook in, bombed three government sites in Syria and targeted chemical weapons facilities.
However, it seems like de-ja-vu, as not so long ago we found ourselves in a similar situation with Tony Blair, who made the decision to bomb Iraq over chemical weapons. Yet, there was little evidence to show that there were chemical weapons in Iraq.
Blair was, in fact, talking about the weapons that America had sold to Iraq but could not locate as they had been resold. It perplexes me that, when Cameron was PM he licensed UK companies to sell weapon parts to Syria. If Syria has assembled these parts together, it begs the question: are we partially to blame?
Those against air strikes in Syria have also stressed that no matter how accurate the missiles, hundreds of Syrian civilians may lose their lives in the bombings.
At a time of severe cuts within the public sector and a rise in poverty, it confounds me that the decision on spending over half a million pounds on one air strike alone can be so easily made, and without a parliamentary vote.
A useful graphic courtesy of ILM Feed, produced using statistics cited by Sky News, also shows what the cost of the strikes in Syria would be to Britain and the taxpayer, and the useful things that the cash could potentially pay for instead.
While it has been a steady rise in tension between the West and Russia, this new and significant action could be the start of something much larger.
Russia’s ambassador to the US warned that there would be consequences for the attacks: “A pre-designed scenario is being implemented,” Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov said on Twitter: “Again, we are being threatened. We warned that such actions would not be left without consequences.”
Syria has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons. The international Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) dispatched a fact-finding team to the site of the alleged attack in Douma and was set to start work on Saturday. The mission will still go ahead, said the OPCW after the strikes.
Last year, some 59 missiles were fired. This year, however, the total has more than doubled. Although the strikes are over for now, a clear warning has been made, that if the Assad regime resorts to chemical weapons again, the further strikes might well follow.