Prime Minister David Cameron laid out his case Thursday for extending Britain’s airstrikes against the Islamic State terrorist organization from Iraq to Syria.
In his statement to the House of Commons, Cameron urged parliamentarians to back the airstrikes in Syria.
“If we won’t act now, when our friend and ally France has been struck in this way, then our friends and allies can be forgiven for asking: If not now, when?” he asked, referring to the November 13 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people and were claimed by Islamic State.
He said Britain could not afford to stand aside from the fight against Islamic State, and posted on Twitter earlier that it was wrong to “subcontract its security to other countries – expecting them to carry the risks of striking ISIL in Syria.”
In a response to the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee that cautioned against the move, Cameron wrote: “One thing is clear: The threats to our interests and to our people are such that we cannot afford to stand aside and not to act.”
The cross-party committee had warned Cameron not to try to extend airstrikes without “a coherent international strategy that has a realistic chance of defeating ISIL and of ending the civil war in Syria,” it said, using a common acronym for Islamic State, the Press Association reported.
“With a political solution to the Syria conflict finally a realistic prospect; with greater international consensus than ever before on the global threat posed by ISIL; with the terrible cost of ISIL’s brutality increasingly being seen on the streets of Paris, Beirut and elsewhere; and with the very real threat ISIL poses to UK citizens, I believe that we should extend our military campaign against ISIL into Syria,” Cameron wrote.
He told lawmakers that airstrikes alone would not be enough to defeat Islamic State and that partners on the ground would be needed.
“We need a comprehensive response which seeks to deal with the threat that ISIL poses to us directly, not just through the measures we are taking at home, but by dealing with ISIL on the ground in the territory that it controls,” he wrote.
“We should not expect this to happen quickly. It will require
patience and persistence. But it is achievable,” he wrote.
He rejected calls to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as “the lesser of two evils,” saying al-Assad’s brutality had swelled the ranks of Islamic State.
He revealed that seven terrorist plots against Britain had been foiled in the past year, and of the 800 British citizens that had gone to Syria, half had returned and posed a security risk to the country.
He said Britain should not wait to be attacked but “should act in
advance, recognizing that there are inherent risks in any course.”
Cameron published the 32-page memo ahead of his statement to the House of Commons.
Decisions to use force are not to be taken lightly, he wrote.
On Monday in France, he and French President Francois Hollande pledged to step up counterterrorism measures after the Paris attacks.
Cameron said then that he would seek parliamentary approval to begin British airstrikes in Syria, a proposal that has been rejected by lawmakers in the past. He also offered France the use of Britain’s air-force base in Cyprus and assistance with air-to-air refuelling.