BRITISH personnel have already conducted air strikes in Syria, despite the government’s assurance that there would be a vote in Parliament before any such action took place, human rights organisation Reprieve revealed yesterday.
Labour said it will ask the Ministry of Defence to make a statement in the House of Commons on Monday. New Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said the involvement of RAF pilots in air strikes without the approval of Parliament was ‘a breach of trust with the British people’. He added: ‘For us to be involved in this at this stage, without the sanction of the British people through Parliament, seems very wrong.’
A Freedom of Information request submitted by Reprieve to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) found that UK personnel embedded with US and other forces were ‘operating in Syrian airspace’, ‘include pilots flying … strike missions’. In 2013, MPs voted against UK military intervention in Syria.
Jennifer Gibson, staff attorney at Reprieve, said: ‘Documents obtained by Reprieve indicate that UK personnel have already been involved in bombing missions over Syria for some time – making the current debate over whether Britain should carry out such strikes somewhat obsolete. It is alarming that Parliament and the public have been kept in the dark about this for so long.
‘Yet more worrying is the fact that the UK seems to have turned over its personnel to the US wholesale, without the slightest idea as to what they are actually doing, and whether it is legal. We need an open and honest debate about UK involvement in Iraq and Syria. We can’t have that, though, until the UK comes clean about what actions its personnel are already undertaking.’
Stop the War Coalition said: ‘Revelations that British fighter pilots have been secretly bombing Syria under US command reveal both the government’s contempt for democracy and its subservience to Washington foreign policy. The news makes a mockery of (Defence Secretary) Michael Fallon’s promise of a full debate and vote in parliament on the issue.
‘Since the start of the “war on terror”, Jihadi organisation has spread from small pockets of Central Asia across whole swathes of the globe. Western bombing in Syria will do nothing to halt ISIS. On the contrary it will add fuel to the flames of war engulfing the whole region, and it will lead to an increase in terrorist attacks.
‘Stop the War demands the government publicly commits to an immediate end to British bombing of Syria. More widely we call for an end to military and diplomatic support for Saudi Arabia in its war on Yemen and for a stop to the bombing campaign in Iraq.’
Tory MP John Baron said the UK personnel should be withdrawn as Parliament ‘said no to military intervention’. He told the Today programme: ‘What this does show is at the very minimum an insensitivity to parliament’s will.’ Baron stressed: ‘Those troops or individuals should be withdrawn from the embedded programme.’