British PM David Cameron is expected to seek Parliament's approval to launch attacks on the "Islamic State" in Syria. President Bashar al-Assad, meanwhile, has credited Russia for his army's advances against rebels.
UK forces have already been participating in attacks on the jihadist group in Iraq, but Prime Minister David Cameron is now expected to seek approval to join the war against terrorists in Syria.
The decision came shortly after last week's string of attacks in Paris by "Islamic State" (IS) militants, which left 130 people dead and more than 350 wounded. France has since intensified its airstrikes against the terror group in Syria.
"The prime minister will seek support across Parliament for strikes against that terrorist organization in Syria," Treasury chief George Osborne told British media, adding that Britain would never "stand on the sidelines" and rely on other countries for its defense.
Osborne said Cameron would make a case in front of the House of Commons this week to see where he stood with his proposals. However, the government would be careful, because a defeat in Parliament would mean a "publicity coup" for IS and would send "a terrible message about Britain's role in the world," he added.
Labour could support Cameron's proposal
The government's carefully planned moves suggest Cameron wants to avoid a repeat of a 2013 vote in which Parliament decided against strikes in Syria. Many leaders from Cameron's Conservative party are against the airstrikes, and the prime minister may have to seek support from his Labour colleagues. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has said his party would consider the proposals put forward by the government.
The British public has been reluctant to back UK participation in wars abroad after former Prime Minister Tony Blair decided to join the US-led war in Iraq in 2003. By the time the fighting was over, 179 British soldiers had been killed in action.
However, Osborne said the Paris attacks may have changed people's opinion about Britain's participation. Earlier this week, the United Nations Security Council resolved to redouble action against the "Islamic State" in Syria, where embattled President Bashar al-Assad is using help from Russia to stave off the jihadists.
Assad blames Saudis, Turkey for crisis
Speaking to Phoenix TV Hong Kong on Sunday, Assad said the situation in Syria "had improved in a very good way" since Russia began its airstrikes nearly two months ago. "Now I can say that the army is making advancement in nearly every front…in many different directions and areas on the Syrian ground," he told the broadcaster.
Assad criticized the "American alliance" in Syria, saying that since their strikes against IS began over a year ago, "the result is that terrorists have gained more ground and more recruits from around the world." He also said that the Russians were cooperating with Damascus' ground troops while US troops had refused to coordinate with Syrian soldiers.
However, Russia has also been accused by Western countries of bombing rebel strongholds in addition to the "Islamic State," in a possible attempt to help Assad's forces gain dominance in the war-torn country.
Assad also claimed the IS and the Nusra Front had taken up the "Wahhabi-Saudi ideology" and were being supported by the Saudi family. "Logically, all kinds of support to ISIS, whether it's human resources, money and selling their oil, and so on, passes through Turkey, in cooperation with the Saudis and the Qataris, and of course with American and Western [countries] overlooking what's going on," he added.
Western countries have been opposing Assad since 2011, when Syrians staged mass protests in an attempt to remove the long-time leader. The crisis sparked a civil war between Assad's forces and rebels and has since spread to include "Islamic State" militants, who have taken over vast swathes of the country since 2014.
mg/cmk (AFP, Reuters)