Scotland

SNP MP says Assad 'beyond the pale' as US launches Syria airstrikes

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Media captionThe Pentagon has released video of missiles being launched from US Navy ships, targeted at a Syrian airfield.

The SNP's MP on the foreign affairs select committee has called the Assad regime "beyond the pale" but fallen short of backing US airstrikes.

Stephen Gethins, who sits on the Westminster committee, said a long-term solution was needed in the Syrian conflict.

The US shot 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles against a Syrian airbase in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack.

The UK government has called the action "an appropriate response".

A Downing Street spokesman said: "Overnight, the US has taken military action against the Syrian regime, targeting the airfield in Shayrat which was used to launch the chemical weapons attack earlier this week.

"The UK government fully supports the US action, which we believe was an appropriate response to the barbaric chemical weapons attack launched by the Syrian regime, and is intended to deter further attacks."

Image caption Stephen Gethins sits on Westminster's Foreign Affairs Committee

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme, Mr Gethins said: "The Assad regime is beyond the pale.

"Chemical attacks on their own people becomes utterly beyond the pale but I think what you need to do, more than anything else, is bring an end to this conflict."

The SNP has voted against the UK taking military action against Syria.

'Detailed examination'

However, Mr Gethins added: "If any military action depreciates his ability to conduct chemical actions then, of course, it's a good thing if that can be stopped, but we don't know that yet.

"We've got a situation in Syria where 11.5 million people have been displaced. You've got Turkish troops on the ground, Russian troops on the ground, even some US troops on the ground.

"It's a multi-polar civil war and we badly need a long-term solution, but anything that undermines Assad's ability to conduct chemical warfare of course would be welcomed but we don't know if these military strikes have done that."

The party's spokesman on foreign affairs, Alex Salmond, added that the airstrikes were "no substitute for policy".

He said: "Such strikes should take place only after detailed examination and assessment of the storage facility and the delivery mechanism.

"They should also be part of a collective effort to place the use of chemical weapons and nerve agents beyond the pale of conflict and crucially they should also be part of a considered strategy to bring this ruinous multi-layered Syrian civil war to an end."

The airstrikes mark the first direct US military action against forces commanded by Syria's president.

Labour's only MP in Scotland, Ian Murray, who also sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee, said some action to degrade chemical weapon attacks was "appropriate".

'Dreadful situation'

He said: "The capability of launching such a chemical attack on the Syrian people, as we've seen this week, can only have come from the Syrian regime.

"This is fundamentally against international law. The UN is paralysed by the self-interest of Russia so some focused action to degrade the Assad regime's ability to launch chemical weapons attacks against innocent civilians, including many children, is appropriate.

"However, the events of the last few days show, more than ever, that a lasting, credible and independent peace process must be properly established with clear goals and staging points. Otherwise, this dreadful situation for the Syrian people will never end."

The Kremlin, which backs Bashar al-Assad, has condemned the strike.

The attack, at 04:40 Syrian time (01:40 GMT), comes just days after dozens of civilians, including many children, died in the suspected nerve gas attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province.

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Media captionRescue workers said many children were among those killed or injured in the attack

President Trump branded Assad a "dictator" who had "launched a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians".

The US president said he had acted in America's "vital national security interest" to prevent the use of chemical weapons.

"Tonight I call on all civilised nations to join us in seeking to end this slaughter and bloodshed in Syria and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types," he said.

President Trump's statement in full

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Media captionTrump: "Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children"

The Pentagon said the Russian military, which supports Syrian government forces, had been informed ahead of the US action.

In a statement it said missiles fired from Navy destroyers USS Porter and USS Ross had targeted aircraft, aircraft shelters, storage areas, ammunition supply bunkers, air defence systems, and radars at Shayrat airfield in western Homs province.

The Pentagon added that the strike was intended "to deter the regime from using chemical weapons again".

A statement on Syrian state TV said "American aggression" had targeted a Syrian military base with "a number of missiles".

The UN Security Council will hold further talks on Friday as it tries to agree a resolution calling for an investigation into the deaths in Khan Sheikhoun.