Former UK’s foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind
Former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind (Reuters)

Former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind has claimed that Labour Leader Ed Miliband will face damaging consequences on an international level as a result of his veto of British military action in Syria.

Rifkind, who made an impassioned speech supporting prime minister David Cameron on his stance on Syria at the House of Commons debate, said that Miliband "didn't think he was going to win" and was under pressure from radical wings of his party to oppose the government.

"The consequences of the vote damaged the government but also Miliband himself, if he wants to be prime minister in the future," Rifkind said.

He also rejected claims by Ukip treasurer Stuart Wheeler that Syrian rebels were responsible for the Ghouta chemical attack, according to some evidence, as "absurd and hypothetical".

"It was Assad," he said.

The Conservative elder statesman said there was "overwhelming evidence" that Assad used chemical weapons in the Ghouta region on 21 August. The parliamentary vote against punishing Assad for the gas attack raised serious concerns about UK foreign policy, he claimed.

He criticised Miliband who did not rule out Labour support for British intervention but then voted against the government motion. Rifkind admitted that the shadow of the 2003 Iraq intervention casted a shadow over the vote.

"I was against the war in Iraq but Syria does not bear the slightest resemblance to it," he said.

"The military response is not only to punish Assad, but also to deter him from doing it again and again and again.

"The military rationale was there - to recapture an opposition area of Damascus. If Assad concludes he can get away with chemical weapons use, it could be repeated.

"How to judge whether a [Western] military action will be a success? If Assad doesn't do it again."


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