POLITICS

The U.K. Thinks It's 'Illogical' That It Isn't Bombing ISIS In Syria Yet

Britain is currently only launching strikes against the group in Iraq.

WASHINGTON -- British Prime Minister David Cameron plans to ask his parliament Thursday for the ability to launch airstrikes against the Islamic State group and other extremists in Syria because his government feels the current restraints on its military action are "illogical," according to the British ambassador here.

The ambassador, Sir Peter Westmacott, explained his government's position on the ISIS fight to HuffPost earlier this week. 

"If the U.K. is doing so much -- which it is doing -- in Iraq, then it is illogical that we should not also be engaged with our allies in Syria," Westmacott said. "The enemy doesn't recognize the border between those two countries, so why should we?"

Britain is presently launching airstrikes on ISIS targets in Iraq as part of the U.S.-led coalition against the extremist group. It is also helping train the Iraqi army to retake Islamic State-controlled territory. But Cameron cannot expand his campaign into Syria, as other allies have, without parliamentary approval. The prime minister is fighting for that consent just two years after parliament soundly rejected a previous attempt to intervene in Syria, after an August 2013 chemical weapons attack there believed to be the responsibility of Syrian President Bashar Assad. That vote was seen as a major embarrassment for Cameron.

Supporters of a British air role over Syria note ISIS's expansive presence in that country and the risk Britain faces from its citizens traveling there to train with extremists and then returning home.

"We have a national security interest in helping to solve the problems caused by the civil war in Syria and the broader terrorist threat," Westmacott told HuffPost Monday.

The ambassador added that the Cameron government sees the expansion of its anti-ISIS campaign as necessary to demonstrate British credibility.

The prime minister will decide when to schedule a vote on the move after it becomes clear how Thursday's address is received. Members of parliament have indicated that while many of them -- including some members of the Labor party, whose leader personally opposes the intervention -- are open to it, they are waiting to hear the specifics of Cameron's strategy.

The government will not set up a vote until it is certain of a positive outcome, Westmacott said.

 

This story is part of the third installment in The Huffington Post's "Diplochats" series, which interviews prominent diplomats on important global issues. (Note: The series was previously known as "Ambassadors Unplugged." Past stories in the series can be found here.) 

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