CAIRO – As the drums of war on Syria gets louder, Archbishop of Canterbury has warned MPs not to rush in their decision on whether to vote for military intervention in the Syria conflict, warning it could have unforeseeable consequences across the Muslim world.
"The things which MPs will have to bear in mind in what is going to be a very, very difficult debate is firstly: are we sure about the facts on the ground?" the Archbishop of Canterbury Rev Justin Welby told The Daily Telegraph.
"Secondly: is it possible to have a carefully calibrated response including armed force, if you are sure about the facts on the ground, that does not have unforeseeable ramifications across the whole Arab and Muslim world?”
Ahead of Thursday's early return to Parliament for an emergency vote on the issue, Rev Welby said he feared the possible consequences of intervention saying they were 'beyond description and horrible'.
Welby, who spent years promoting reconciliation in war zones in Africa and the Middle East, said there were "numerous intermediate steps" between doing nothing and full regime change in Syria.
"I have had a lot of conversations with people in the region,” he said.
“I think the overwhelming sense is of a really moving and terrible sense of fear about what might come out of, what might be happening in the next few weeks – not predicated on people doing one thing or people doing another, just a sense that this a terribly, terribly dangerous time."
Yet, he added that there was no good answer to the crisis in Syria and that a simple solution "just doesn't exist".
Welby’s comments comes as US Vice-President Joe Biden said on Tuesday there was "no doubt" that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons and that it must be held accountable.
He added that the US military is ready to launch strikes should President Barack Obama order an attack, and allies say they too are ready to act.
The US and UK have been beating war drums since last week's suspected chemical weapons attack near Damascus which killed more than 1300.
While UN weapons inspectors were set to return to the site of the attack on Wednesday, the Syrian government has strongly denied claims it used chemical weapons.
Keeping a low tone, the archbishop acknowledged that the government was better informed to make any decision.
"The government and the Americans are seeing intelligence nobody else sees – I just think we have to be very careful about rushing to judgment," Rev Welby said.
"I am extremely conscious of my own lack of knowledge having spent a lot of time in the area over the years very much in the reconciliation area … I am deeply, deeply aware of the enormous complexity and inter-linkedness of everything that happens there.
"[The government] know better than I do certainly that everything there is linked to everything else. You do something in one area and it has an impact far away in a most serious way and they know that … There are no generalizations you can make in the Middle East apart from the fact that there are no generalizations you can make."
Archbishop Welby, who visited the region in June, said the situation had deteriorated since his visit.
"Certainly when I was there in June, and I think it has got worse since then, I can scarcely remember a time of being in meetings where there was such a sense of apprehension,” he said.
“I mean it was tangible, this sense of 'what will happen? What will be the impact on us?' … the impact on people not directly involved in the fighting is beyond description and horrible.”
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday that US action would be "a disaster for the region".
Meanwhile, UN Security Council, international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said on Wednesday that any US military action taken in response to apparent chemical weapons attacks in Syria would need to be approved by the UN Security Council.
Russia, Assad's main arms supplier, has made clear it will not back any UN Security Council resolution of the kind which has given international legal cover to some previous wars - including the NATO bombing of Libya two years ago.
China, too, is wary of what it sees as Western interference in the affairs of others.
More than 100,000 people have been killed in two years of civil war between Assad’s security forces and opposition forces.
The fighting has forced more than one million Syrians to flee their home to neighboring countries in addition to the displacement of two millions others inside the country.
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