LEETER: Debate on Syria poorly informed

I believe this government is dangerously wrong on a great many things, but I wanted to thank both Gillian Keegan and Nick Herbert for supporting action to try to re-establish a deterrence against the use of chemical weapons in Syria (and by precedent, elsewhere).

I want to thank them also for using their columns to explain their thinking on what is a very complex issue.

I have lived in Syria and have done a lot of work with Syrian refugee organisations over the eight years of the pro-democracy revolution and subsequent war.

In general debate in this country has been poorly informed, with Syrian voices rarely being given a platform. Corbyn and his allies actively promote Russian conspiracy theories about the war (as well as the poisoning in Salisbury) and have deliberately excluded Syrians from debates and rallies and misrepresent their views in Parliament. To call for more evidence but to always ignore it is ideologically-motivated diversion, not principle.

Although there have been multiple chemical weapon attacks carried out in Syria this year, the last major atrocity before the Douma one was the Sarin attack on Khan Sheikhoun on 4th April 2017.

The UN’s independent Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Joint Investigative Mechanism found Assad guilty for that attack last October.

Russia’s response was to reject its findings and veto extending the OPCW’s mandate to investigate chemical weapons attacks in Syria. When OPCW experts arrived in Syria this month, they did so stripped of their mandate to name the culprit of the Douma attack and to investigate a crime scene that has been under Russian control for days.

While I have some sympathy with the view that governments sometimes need to make decisions on military matters with utmost urgency, the Prime Minister was however wrong to say that there was no time to recall Parliament on this occasion. These atrocities have been playing out over and over again for many years now.

Jonathan Brown, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Chichester (2017), Stein Road, Southbourne