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Stories Stories Politics Boris Johnson defends 'standing up for civilized values' by striking Syria without Parliament's backing but admits 'it will not end the barbarism' as Russia warns of 'consequences' amid fears of cyber attacks

Boris Johnson defends 'standing up for civilized values' by striking Syria without Parliament's backing but admits 'it will not end the barbarism' as Russia warns of 'consequences' amid fears of cyber attacks
Written by jonathan     April 15, 2018    
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Boris Johnson has defended the government's decision to join America and France in attacking Syria, despite dismay in some corners that Parliament was not consulted first. 

The Foreign Secretary said the strikes were aboout 'standing up for principle and for civilized values'. 

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, he added: 'We may not end the barabarism - but we are telling the world that there is one type of barbarism that is banned and that deserves to be banned.'

He also insisted 'A significant body of information including intelligence, suggests the Assad regime was behind the chemical attack at Douma that killed about 75 people. Multiple accounts located a regime Mi-8 in the vicinity at the time. The opposition does not have helicopters and no other actor in the Syrian theatre is though capable of launching a chemical strike of that scale.'  

Theresa May is facing low levels of public support for bombingSyria without Parliament's backing despite claiming she had no alternative but to launch airstrikes to stop chemical attacks.

Cyber aggression

But fears have arisen over a Russian cyber backlash that could see vital services including water supplies, gas networks, banks, hospitals and air traffic control affected in retaliation for the strikes.

GCHQ is thought to be monitoring the web to pick up any signs of cyber aggression from the Kremlin, following the missile strikes on Syrian chemical basis in Damascus. 

Counter-terrorism and defence expert Professor Michael Clarke, the former director of defence and security think tank RUSI, said yesterday: 'I suspect Russia will choose not to respond in military terms.

A statement by the Russian ambassador to the US last night said: 'Again, we are being threatened. We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences.

All responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris. 

'But cyber warfare is highly likely. A Russian attack in the next two to three weeks is a high threat. And it will be an attack on national infrastructure, not just upsetting city firms, but getting inside the transport system, or the health system, or air traffic control. It could affect everyone. One of the biggest concerns is an air crash,' according to the Mirror.

Such cyber attacks could see electricity cuts, while Russian hackers could also disable water supplies, as well as energy grid and financial services being crippled suddenly. 

The concerns come as the first poll carried out after yesterday's raids showed that the public believe Mrs May's action was wrong by a majority of almost two to one.

And six out of ten say there must be no more missile strikes unless she wins the backing of MPs – with only one in five in favour of her going it alone again.

Public opposition to the raids in the Survation poll was mirrored by signs of political unrest over the strikes – and diplomatic fears Russia might retaliate, escalating the situation towards a global conflict.

Awkward silence

The Mail on Sunday has been told that during Thursday's Cabinet war summit, Chancellor Philip Hammond, a former Defence Secretary, reportedly 'caused raised eyebrows' by questioning the RAF's ability to carry out successful strikes.

One source said: 'The Chancellor said that he wasn't sure the RAF would hit their targets because of the Russian-backed Syrian defence systems. There was an awkward silence.' 

Fellow Cabinet Ministers David Davis, Esther McVey and Sajid Javid voiced concern at snubbing Parliament. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called the UK's air strikes 'legally questionable', forcing the Government to publish detailed legal advice justifying the bombings. It claimed 'the UK is permitted under international law, on an exceptional basis, to take measures in order to alleviate overwhelming humanitarian suffering'.

Mrs May faces a Commons showdown with MPs tomorrow, with even some leading Conservatives warning she has risked worsening the situation in Syria.

However, despite the criticism, the poll shows Mrs May remains far more popular than Labour.

She is the most trusted Prime Minister to lead the nation into war since Margaret Thatcher, beating David Cameron and Tony Blair. Ordering military action for the first time since entering No 10, a sombre Mrs May used a 9am Downing Street press conference to insist the bombing was the 'right thing to do' to stop the use of banned chemical weapons. She denied Britain was interfering in Syria's long and bloody civil war.

In a letter to MPs, the Prime Minister was defiant, saying: 'This action is absolutely in Britain's national interest. The lesson of history is that when the global rules and standards that keep us safe come under threat, we must take a stand and defend them.'

Chemical weapons attack 

President Trump's triumphant 'mission accomplished' declaration followed the US-led coalition's launch of 105 cruise missiles at three chemical weapons factories and storage depots across Syria. The comments echoed George W. Bush's premature declaration of victory over Iraq in 2003.

The Pentagon said all of its targets had been hit, despite Syria and its key ally Russia claiming that most of the missiles had been shot down by air defences, while the rest only hit disused or empty sites. The air strikes were launched a week to the day after an estimated 75 people were killed and a further 500 injured, including young children, in the suspected chemical weapons attack on Douma, a suburb of the capital Damascus.

Western intelligence agencies gathered evidence that convinced political leaders that the Assad regime was to blame, including observations of an army helicopter over the city, while aid workers told how chlorine could be smelled in the air and victims were found with foam in their mouth and with burning eyes.

The White House said last night that in addition to chlorine, the nerve agent sarin was also used in Douma. It said doctors and aid organisations on the ground reported the 'strong smell of chlorine and described symptoms consistent with exposure to sarin'.

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