The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, is going on the offensive in a bid to secure cross-party support for airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria. He will meet with the French President to discuss military tactics, before laying out a comprehensive strategy before the Commons later in the week. The Prime Minister hopes to have RAF Tornado jets in the air over Syria by Christmas.
The Sunday Times says the Prime Minister is determined to secure parliamentary support for bombing Syria within the next two weeks. He will travel to Paris on Monday to meet with French President Francoise Hollande, whose warplanes have already forced senior ISIS leaders out of Raqqa, Islamic State’s most important stronghold. Mr Hollande will then travel on to Washington to urge President Obama to intensify US airstrikes in Syria.
International resolve to combat Islamic State is hardening, following a UN Resolution authorising “all necessary measures” to defeat the jihadist army in Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin is due to travel to Iran on Monday to discuss the crisis.
Meanwhile the Chancellor, George Osborne will vow later today to put Britain on a “full war footing,” in the Middle East for a generation, with plans to buy 138 stealth fighter jets at a cost of £12 billion. According to The Telegraph, the purchase will be the centrepiece of the Government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review, due to be unveiled tomorrow, and will treble the firepower of Britain’s two new aircraft carriers.
Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, has promised “bigger and stronger defence for Britain”, with “more ships, more planes, and more troops ready to act.”
He has also promised more money for the SAS, and a new cyber-spy unit dedicated to uncovering terrorist activity on the “dark web”.
“We’re stepping up the fight against terrorists,” Mr Fallon told The Telegraph. “That means better equipment for special forces and a clearer plan for the military to support the police in extreme circumstances like the terror attacks in Paris.”
However, the government is already coming under pressure to do more, with calls to put troops on the ground in Syria.
Former defence secretary Liam Fox insisted: “We must be realistic – no military conflict is ever won from the air alone. We may still require an international coalition on the ground, similar to that which forced Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, if we are to rid ourselves of the Isil scourge.”
General the Lord Dannatt, former head of the British army has also conveyed his measured support for ground troops, saying: “the military success we seek will not come from the air alone.
“Effective combat troops are required on the ground to recapture the areas of Syria and Iraq now held by Isil.”
However, Lord Dannatt is mindful of the downsides of deploying Western troops into the Middle East, adding: “But if we have learnt any major lessons from our interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade, it is that our western presence on Muslim soil can all too easily be turned around from being part of the solution to a portrayal as being part of the problem.”
His solution is for Western forces to arm and train local militia groups such as the Peshmerga, Iraqis and Syrian opposition forces.
“If I was CGS today, I would be looking to see that Defence Secretary Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister agree to deploy effective training,” he told the Sunday Express, adding “We’d probably have to give that process between four and six months.
“But the longer we don’t take sufficient action, the greater the problem becomes, and the wider the IS insurgency will become. Time is not on our side.
“I’d be telling the PM that this might not work, and we are going to start preparing combat troops, because I would not deploy them until they’ve had three or four months work up period.”
Army chiefs are bullish about the effects that ground troops could have in the battle against Islamic State, suggesting that the jihadists could be smashed in just fourteen days by a well executed operation
Col Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, the former head of Britain’s chemical, biological and nuclear regiment, said: “Coalition troops overcame Iraqi forces within two weeks in 2003, and they were much better trained than IS fighters when it comes to things like using tanks.”