Cameron lays out case for UK airstrikes in Syria | News | DW | 26.11.2015
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Cameron lays out case for UK airstrikes in Syria

Cameron is seeking parliamentary support to conduct airstrikes in Syria against "Islamic State" in the wake of terror attacks in Paris. He needs to persuade the opposition Labour Party and his own Conservatives.

British Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday laid out the case for the UK to expand airstrikes against the "Islamic State" in Syria, telling MPs that targeting the group in Syria is part of a comprehensive strategy to defeat terrorism and usher in a political solution to the crisis in Syria.

In a 36-page letter to MPs ahead of an address to the Commons, Cameron said the UK must "tackle ISIL (Islamic State) in Syria, as we are doing in neighbouring Iraq, in order to deal with the threat that ISIL poses to the region and to our security here at home."

The UK is already bombing IS in Iraq as part of the US-led coalition, but, since the terror attacks in Paris claimed by the militant jihadist group, has come under pressure to conduct airstrikes to Syria.

Cameron told MPs at a session of parliament that the UK must support France as it works to build a more robust response to IS and expands airstrikes against the group.

"If we won't act now, when our friend and ally France has been struck this way, then our friends and allies can be forgiven for asking: If not now, when?' Cameron asked parliament.

"It is wrong for the UK to sub-contract its security to other countries, and to expect the aircrews of other nations to carry the burdens and risks of striking ISIL in Syria to stop terrorism here in Britain," Cameron said.

Cameron's government lost a parliamentary vote in 2013, seeking approval to bomb Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces. Two years on, with a different target, he is trying to persuade some MPs from his Conservative Party and the opposition Labour Party to back expanded military action. A vote is expected before a parliamentary recess in mid-December.

The letter came in a response to a critical Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee report earlier this month saying that airstrikes in Syria would have a "marginal effect" and should only be approved if the government had a "coherent international strategy" supported by a UN mandate.

The strategy must include not only defeating IS with support of local ground forces, the committee said, but also reaching a political solution to end the civil war in Syria.

Echoing the concerns of the committee, opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn questioned on Thursday whether UK participation in a US-led air campaign that has acheived limited results would have any impact without ground forces.

He warned of "unintended consequences" and "mission creep," while also questioning how bombing IS would contribute to a political solution in Syria.

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Hollande, Cameron step up fight against IS

Cameron countered the committee and Corbyn by outlining a seven-point plan for Syria, including military, diplomatic and humanitarian efforts.

Cameron said the UK must pursue military and diplomatic tracks in parallel and that the country does not have "the luxury of being able to wait until the Syrian conflict is resolved before tackling ISIL."

His case may get a boost after a UN Security Council resolution last week authorized countries to "take all necessary measures" against IS, while international powers are forging a potential political solution to the Syria crisis in Vienna.

Despite the stance of anti-war activist Corbyn, the Labour Party has suggested it may not force MPs to vote as a party. Some members support bombing in Syria, and question the swing to the left the Labour Party has taken since Corbyn was elected to the leadership.

Cameron, who had been hesitant to put forward another vote on Syrian airstrikes over concern a "no" vote would embarrass the UK, now appears to believe he may be able to muster enough support from Labour PMs to pass the measure.

He said he would take the measure to a vote only if "there is a clear majority for action, because we will not hand a publicity coup" to IS.

cw/kms (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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