David Cameron came to the Commons today to make the case for the UK extending its bombing campaign against Islamic State to Syria. His tone was as emollient as possible, as he responded to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee report which argued that the UK should not do this. He said that the UK could provide unique capabilities and that there are 70,000 non-extremist, Syrian fighters who could act as a ground force to support the bombing campaign. He stressed that as long as the Islamic State ‘Caliphate’ exists, it would act as a rallying cry for Islamist extremists around the world and that it had ‘repeatedly’ tried to attack the UK. He also argued that if the UK did not act now, when France is asking for our help after an attack, then the UK’s allies would question this country’s reliability as an ally.
Perhaps, the most controversial part of Cameron’s statement was his insistence that he still believed that Assad has to go and that the current Syrian army could not be used to attack Islamic State. However, Cameron conceded that Assad would only leave as part of a political solution.
In a sign of continuing Downing Street nervousness about carrying the Commons on this matter, Cameron emphasised that there would only be a vote if there is a ‘clear majority’ in the House for action. But in his pursuit of aim, he received a significant boost when Crispin Blunt, the chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee who had previously been opposed, said that he would now support UK military action in Syria.