Tuesday 23 May 2017

UK to bomb Isil after divisive House of Commons vote

Protesters put up anti-war banners next to the Houses of Parliament as a debate is held over airstrikes in Syria on December 2, 2015 in London, England. The debate is expected to last all day with a vote on possible British airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Syria taking place.
Protesters put up anti-war banners next to the Houses of Parliament as a debate is held over airstrikes in Syria on December 2, 2015 in London, England. The debate is expected to last all day with a vote on possible British airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Syria taking place.
British Prime Minister David Cameron

Dean Gray in London

Britain will go to war against the Isil terror group in Syria, as David Cameron won the support of the House of Commons for air strikes.

UK lawmakers voted 397-223 to launch airstrikes against the jihadi group in Syria.

In the prolonged debate before the vote, Mr Cameron's made a stark case for military action against the "woman-raping, Muslim-murdering, medieval monsters" of Isil, whom he warned were "plotting to kill us and to radicalise our children right now."

He said MPs faced a choice between backing RAF action against the group in its Syrian stronghold or sitting back and waiting for a terrorist attack on Britain's streets.

Delay would simply give Isil time to grow stronger.

However, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who is opposed to extending the bombing campaign, warned against an "ill thought-out rush to war".

Mr Cameron's arguments for military action "simply do not stack up", said the Labour leader, who was forced to offer his MPs a free vote amid deep divisions within the shadow cabinet. In a highly unusual move, shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn wrapped up the debate for Labour with a speech in support of air strikes.

After ten-and-a-half hours of debate, 67 Labour MPs voted with the government. This gave Mr Cameron a comfortable majority which will give the green light for bombing to begin within days. Three former Labour ministers - Alan Johnson, Dame Margaret Beckett and Yvette Cooper - were among MPs making early speeches in favour of extending military action.

The Democratic Unionists and the Liberal Democrats - with eight MPs each - also backed airstrikes, together outweighing the voices of around a dozen Conservatives prepared to defy the party line to oppose action.

At least 110 MPs from six different parties signed up to an amendment seeking to block air strikes, spearheaded by Tory John Baron and the Scottish National Party's (SNP) Westminster leader Angus Robertson.

Mr Cameron said the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) and MI5 both assessed that the UK was among Isil's "top tier" targets, while the Paris atrocities revealed the extent to which attacks in Europe were now being planned by "the head of the snake" in the terror group's HQ in Raqqa, Syria.

Spelling out the choice facing MPs, Mr Cameron said: "We face a fundamental threat to our security. Isil have brutally murdered British hostages, they have inspired the worst terrorist attack against British people since 7/7 on the beaches of Tunisia, and they have plotted atrocity after atrocity on the streets here at home.

"Since November last year, our security services have foiled no less than seven different plots against our people. So this threat is very real and the question is this: do we work with our allies to degrade and destroy this threat and do we go after these terrorists in their heartlands from where they are plotting to kill British people, or do we sit back and wait for them to attack us?"

He faced repeated demands for an apology after urging Tory MPs not to side with "terrorist sympathisers" in opposing air strikes.

Critics

Mr Cameron declined to apologise, but insisted that he had "respect" for those who would vote no, saying that a vote on either side was "honourable".

Critics of air strikes - including the 54-strong SNP - were emboldened by criticism of Mr Cameron's case from the influential Commons Foreign Affairs Committee and controversy over his claims of 70,000 moderate Syrian forces on the ground.

The Conservative chairman of the Commons Defence Committee, Julian Lewis, said that in place of the "dodgy dossiers" used by Tony Blair's Labour administration to justify war in Iraq in 2003, "we now have bogus battalions of moderate fighters".

Mr Cameron acknowledged that the fighters in a disparate array of rebel groups were not "ideal partners" in the fight against Isil - which he announced he would in future refer to by the Arabic acronym Daesh, which its leaders are said to dislike.

However, he defended the figure as the estimate of the JIC - the UK's senior intelligence body - and said the majority were members of the Free Syrian Army, while there were a further 20,000 Kurdish fighters with whom Britain could also work.

Irish Independent

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