The shocking events in Paris elicited an out pouring of support and sympathy from Westminster politicians, but the overall response has been cautiously vague in terms of direct military intervention. This changed on Tuesday as the focus shifted to how the government should respond to the attacks, and a myriad of senior politicians gave far more robust and deliberate responses in relation to the problem of ISIS power projection.
David Cameron used his time in the commons to re-affirm his belief that extensive military action should be taken against Islamic State in Syria. Ultimately, he signalled that he will seek the approval of MPs to allow the launching of air-strikes by Christmas. The Prime Minister said that the attacks in Paris had shown a “growing and direct threat to the UK” and justifies a “full spectrum” approach to deal with the poisonous ideology through the use of “military power” and “counter terrorism expertise.”
He argued that ISIS has expanded passed the current theatre of operations that the UK military is involved in, and it is “absurd” that the UK has not followed the terrorist organisation across the border. To adequately combat the terror group, the PM said, the UK would need to expand its operations from Iraq to Syria. He stated that the “head of the snake” was in Syrian city Raqqa, the de-facto capital of ISIS and it is from Raqqa terror attacks are “planned and orchestrated.”
The Common foreign affairs select committee was not completely convinced by the PMs proposals, stating that the government have failed to make a clear case for military intervention. In a rare move, David Cameron stated that he will respond personally the committee about expanding the role of the RAF, and he will address their concerns by the end of the month with a formal report.
The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was wary of the PM’s approach, indicative of his traditional anti-war position. He stated that any extension of RAF operations should be approved by the UN Security Council as part of a comprehensive settlement involving all of the permanent Security Council members. He also made reference to UK’s involvement in the Iraq war, wishing that a repeat of murky legality issues not be repeated. On the prospect of airstrikes being performed in Syria, the Labour leader said it would cause, “more conflict, more mayhem, and more loss.”
However, a number of Labour MPs have become impatient with the Labour leaders position on issues of defence. He had criticised French President, Francois Hollande for responding to the Paris atrocity with air strike in Raqqa, and most recently he has shown disapproval of the “shoot-to-kill” policy announcement for dealing with terrorists in the UK: “I’m not happy with the shoot-to-kill policy in general. I think that is quite dangerous and I think can often be counter-productive.” he said.
David Cameron will push for the vote soon, but he will not do so unless he believes that he can win. It was only two years ago when Labour blocked a vote to bomb Syria, so David Cameron will be wary of another defeat. However, with the recent attacks in Paris and the bombing of a Russian airliner, the threat posed by ISIS seems to be turning Labour MPs Conservative backbenchers towards intervention. That said, the overwhelming anti-action stance of Labour still makes the vote a forgone conclusion, their main concerns lie with the lack of clear development strategies after the proposed military campaign has ended. To have any hopes of the vote passing, the PM will have to address these issues in his response to the Foreign Affairs Committee.