Corbyn's Popular Anti-War Stance Compounds Risk for May on Syria

(Bloomberg) -- U.K. opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn stepped up his anti-war rhetoric as Prime Minister Theresa May prepared to launch her first foreign military intervention in Syria.

The Labour Party leader is a lifelong anti-war campaigner who made his name opposing Tony Blair’s support for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Then, protesters viewed Blair as a submissive partner in the international coalition, and dubbed him “Bush’s poodle” in a conflict that still scars British politics 15 years later.

On Friday, Corbyn revived the theme. “The government appears to be waiting for instructions from President Donald Trump on how to proceed,” he said. “Further U.K. military intervention in Syria’s appalling multi-sided war risks escalating an already devastating conflict.”

Corbyn wants the United Nations to investigate the suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria before any military action is taken -- another echo of 2003. And he wants Parliament to have a say before May gives the order.

The worry for the prime minister is that Corbyn’s opposition to foreign wars is popular. He won votes in last year’s election after claiming the legacy of British involvement in Iraq fueled terrorist attacks on U.K. soil, days after a suicide bomber killed children at a pop concert in Manchester.

A YouGov poll for The Times this week suggested only 22 percent of Britons would back air strikes in Syria now. Twice as many are opposed.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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