British Lawmakers Back Strikes Against Islamists

David Cameron wins support for military action — and splits the opposition Labour Party.

View of the Houses of Parliament in London, England, December 21, 2011
View of the Houses of Parliament in London, England, December 21, 2011 (Ben Sutherland)

British lawmakers voted to bomb Islamic State positions in Syria on Wednesday after a ten-hour debate that split the opposition Labour Party.

Prime Minister David Cameron had asked Parliament to allow him to expand strikes against the fanatical Islamist group after it claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks in NATO ally France last month that killed more than 130 people.

Denouncing the militants as “medieval monsters,” butchers and rapists, Cameron urged lawmakers to “come together” to back military action.

“The House should be under no illusion that these terrorists are plotting to kill us and to radicalize our children right now,” he claimed.

Labour divided

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn argued that Cameron had failed to make a convincing case and called for more diplomacy instead to end the Syrian Civil War, which is now in its fifth year.

“Whether it’s the lack of a strategy worth the name, the absence of credible ground troops, the missing diplomatic plan for a Syrian settlement, the failure to address the impact on the terrorist threat or the refugee crisis and civilian casualties; it’s become increasingly clear that the prime minister’s proposals for military action simply do not stack up,” he said.

67 Labour members rebelled and supported airstrikes anyway, the BBC estimated.

The Scottish National Party, the third largest in the House of Commons, joined the majority of Labour lawmakers to oppose bombing in Syria.

Britain already participates in American-led strikes against the self-declared Islamic State in Iraq at the invitation of the Baghdad government.

Tornados at Akrotiri

The Financial Times reported earlier in the day that plans had already been drawn up to station more British fighter jet on Cyprus, the Mediterranean island where the United Kingdom maintains two military bases.

Eight Tornados are now based at RAF Akrotiri, flying two sorties per day. It appears likely that two more Tornados and six newer Typhoon jets will be send to double that capacity, according to the Financial Times.

It would only be the second deployment for the Typhoon, which previously saw action over Libya in 2011.

Although the Typhoon is less fit for ground attacks, it has a much higher top speed so it could reach its targets faster.

Ten British Reaper drones, which carry air-to-ground missiles, are deployed as well. So far, they have primarily done reconnaissance over Syria while attacking the militants in Iraq.

American and French warplanes fly from aircraft carriers in the region as well as bases in Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.