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Red Line

April 12th 2017

I appreciate that there will be many who do not share my view but I believe that in dispatching fifty nine Tomahawk missiles over a period of nine minutes targeted at a Syrian Government airforce base in direct response to Assad's sarin nerve- gas attack on citizens of his own Country the President of the United States took the right action albeit probably for the wrong reasons.

No half-sentient being could have seen the pictures of children dying in agony following Assad's chemical strike on the town of Khan Sheikhoun without feeling both a sense of utter revulsion and a burning desire to strike back.

That said, it remains to be seen whether Mr. Trump's reaction and the military action that it precipitated was part of a thought- through long- term strategy to bring an end to the civil war in Syria and the terrorist moment that it has spawned or whether it was a knee- jerk reaction to demonstrate that he was prepared to act where Barack Obama was not.

We need to remember that in 2013, when Obama's 'red line' was crossed and Assad used chemical weapons for the first time Mr. Trump was opposed to military intervention. Additionally, to the victim, there is probably not much difference between dying of a sarin gas attack and drying of a barrel bomb attack save for the fact that the latter is mercifully swifter than the former.

Contrary to the widely- peddled view the House of Commons did not, in 2013, vote against military action in Syria because that was not what was on the Order Paper. The House voted to deny Mr. Cameron the freedom to continue with discussions with President Obama about the options available and that, in my opinion, was a grave and pivotal error.

It is more than high time, certainly, for a clear message to be sent to both Mr. Putin and to his puppet in Damascus, Assad, that the free world will not tolerate genocide or the use of chemical weapons and that message has now been transmitted graphically. What matters now is what happens next and whether or not there is, in fact, a NATO strategy in place.

In the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe I have had eyeball- to - eyeball experience of the attitude taken towards geopolitics by Russia. Putin and his team understand only strength and they will exploit any sign of weakness immediately and with devastating effect . They have done so in Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and, of course, most dangerously in Syria. That is why I have been so concerned about the interference by Russia in the American Presidential election and the apparent ' bromance' between Trump and Putin.

At the very least Mr. Trump's naive and Ill-judged admiration of Putin appears to have stalked and there is some hope that wiser and more politically and militarily experienced counsel will prevail. As an ally we are right to give the United States our full support in seeking a resolution to a situation that has for far too long been allowed to develop with impunity. What is needed now is not any further impetuous if understandable gesture- politics but clear heads, a sense of direction and purpose grand the determination to see that purpose through.

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