Britain must crush the “head of the snake” by bombing IS in Syria, David Cameron declared today as he vowed to personally make the case for airstrikes within days.
In a Commons plea to MPs that raised the prospect of an RAF campaign by Christmas, the PM said it was his “firm conviction” that Britain now extend its bombing campaign beyond Iraq.
He said the Paris Massacre showed there was a “compelling case” for action – and that it was wrong for Britain to expect others to carry the burden, and risks, of defeating IS.
A direct challenge to Jeremy Corbyn
And in a direct challenge to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the PM said Britain would not protect its citizens by “sitting back and wishing things were different”.
Yesterday’s stunning move came just 24 hours after US President Obama issued a thinly veiled dig at Britain by attacking Western countries for not doing enough in the fight against ISIS.
At the G20 in Turkey on Monday, the PM seemed to admit any action was off the agenda by saying “a few extra bombs and missiles won’t transform the situation”.
But today, Mr Cameron revealed he will write to the powerful Foreign Affairs Select Committee laying out his case for airstrikes in Syria by the end of the month.
Government sources said they hope the letter will be the spark that convinces enough MPs to come forward and promise to back military action if the Government brings it to a vote in Westminster.
David Cameron is still haunted by his humiliating defeat at the hands of Labour in 2013, when Parliament blocked airstrikes against the Assad regime in Syria.
A possible military alliance over Syria
One senior source said yesterday: “A second Commons defeat would threaten Britain’s standing internationally. We have to have the numbers.”
The move came as France and Russia took the first steps towards a possible military alliance over Syria – with the Kremlin ordering the Russian Navy to work with a French naval force heading to the Eastern Mediterranean.
Speaking to MPs today Mr Cameron said it was his “firm conviction” that Britain needed to step up and act against ISIL in Syria – after months of airstrikes on the Iraqi side of the border.
He said: “We must ask ourselves whether we are really doing all we can be doing – all we should be doing – to deal with the threat that ISIL poses to us directly.
“It is in Syria, in Raqqa, that ISIL has its headquarters, and it is from Raqqa that some of the main threats against this country are planned and orchestrated.
“Raqqa is, if you like, the head of the snake.”
‘The head of the snake’
He added: “I have always said there is a strong case for our doing this; our allies are asking us to do it, and the case for doing it has only grown stronger after the Paris attacks.
“We cannot and should not expect others to carry the burdens, and the risks, of protecting our country.”
Mr Corbyn – a day after suggesting police shouldn’t ‘shoot to kill’ terrorists – welcomed the prospect of a detailed plan but said it had to have support of the international community.
Yet Labour MPs lined up to openly defy their leader. Backbencher Mike Gapes praised David Cameron saying he “spoke not just for the government but for the country”.
And outspoken backbencher Ian Austin mocked Jeremy Corbyn’s view that “Britain’s foreign policy has increased the risks to national security”.
Defence secretary Michael Fallon – who earlier this month claimed it was “morally indefensible” not to bomb IS in Syria – will meet MPs from both sides of the House at the start of December in a bid to convince them of the need for action.
Labour MPs ‘ready to defy their peacenik leader’
And Tory backbencher Gerald Howarth told the Sun yesterday that he believed many Labour MPs were ready to defy their peacenik leader Jeremy Corbyn and vote for action.
He said: “What happened in Paris has given the PM impetus that he needs to act and it was interesting to see the number of Labour MPs nodding when he said that it was now time to do so.”
One Shadow Minister told the Sun: “The Government has still got a job to do to convince people there is a long-term strategy. But if anything Jeremy’s words and actions are pushing people towards the Government. Hilary Benn [Shadow Foreign Secretary] will be key to this.”
John Woodcock, the Labour MP and chair of the party’s defence committee, said: “I think the majority of Labour MPs will want to look at this with a genuinely open mind.”
The cross-party Foreign Affairs Committee two weeks ago said there should be no airstrikes against IS in Syria without a coherent international strategy to defeat the terrorists – and also end the Syrian civil war.
At the time, Committee chair, the Tory MP, Crispin Blunt, said the Government shouldn’t launch airstrikes just to make themselves “feel better”.