PRIME Minister Cameron yesterday claimed it is ‘in our national interest’ for the UK to launch air strikes on Syria.
He made a statement to MPs in the House of Commons in response to the Foreign Affairs Committee report on extending British military operations to Syria. Cameron said: ‘The reason for acting is the very direct threat that ISIL poses to our country and to our way of life. ISIL has attacked Ankara, Beirut and, of course, Paris, as well as likely blowing up a Russian plane with 224 people on board. I am in no doubt that it is in our national interest for action to be taken to stop it – and stopping it means taking action in Syria, because Raqqa is its headquarters.’
He claimed that ‘the RAF can carry out what is called “dynamic targeting”, whereby our pilots can strike the most difficult targets at rapid pace and with extraordinary precision, and provide vital battle-winning close air support to local forces on the ground.’
‘Why now?’ he asked, saying, ‘there are additional reasons why action now is so important. Just look at what has changed – not just the attack in Paris, but the fact that the world has come together and agreed a UN Security Council resolution.’
He continued: ‘There is a real political process under way. This could lead to a new government in Syria, with whom we can work to defeat ISIL for good. But as I explained to the House yesterday, we cannot wait for that to be complete before we begin acting to degrade ISIL and reducing its capability to attack us.’
He said: ‘We cannot wait for a political transition. We have to hit these terrorists in their heartlands right now: and we must not shirk our responsibility for security, or hand it to others.’
Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab): ‘The question must now be whether extending the UK bombing from Iraq to Syria is likely to reduce or increase that threat, and whether it will counter or spread the terror campaign ISIL is waging in the Middle East.’
Angus Robertson (SNP) doubted Cameron’s claim of 70,000 Free Syrian Army troops. He added: ‘Two years ago, the Prime Minister urged us to bomb Daesh’s opponents in Syria, which would probably have strengthened this terrorist organisation. Today, he wants us to launch a bombing campaign without effective ground support or a fully costed reconstruction and stability plan.
‘He has asked us to consider his plan, and we have listened closely, but key questions posed by the FAC remain unanswered, and unless he answers them satisfactorily, the SNP will not vote for airstrikes in Syria.’
David Winnick (Labour) asked ‘would military action help to defeat ISIS? I happen to believe that the answer is no.’ Tory MP Dr Julian Lewis also poured scorn on ‘the suggestion that there are 70,000 non-Islamist, moderate, credible ground forces’ adding: ‘Adequate ground forces, in my view, depend on the participation of the Syrian army.’
Tory Peter Lilley called on Cameron ‘to convince me that what he refers to as the Free Syrian Army actually exists and is not a label that we apply to a rag-bag group of clans and tribal forces with no coherent force’.
Labour MP Diana Johnson pointed out: ‘There is a view that UN resolution 2249 does not provide for military action and there is a need to invoke Chapter 7 of the UN Charter.’ Cameron said 2249 ‘does contain Chapter 7 language’ but admitted: ‘It is not Chapter 7.’