Attack or be Attacked: PM Sets out his Case for War on Isil

Published: 27th November 2015 08:30 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th November 2015 08:30 AM   |  A+A-

David Cameron yesterday (Thursday) published a 36-page dossier detailing a series of arguments as to why it is militarily, legally and morally right to launch air strikes against Isil in Syria.

He said the terror group posed a "very direct threat to our country and our way of life" and that inaction put the UK at more risk. Air strikes in Iraq, which Britain is participating in, had helped in the recovery of 30 per cent of territory seized by Islamic State, he said.

"If we won't act now, when our friend and ally France has been struck in this way, then our friends and allies can be forgiven for asking: If not now, when?" the Prime Minister said.

The threat

Isil already poses "one of the greatest threats to our security", Mr Cameron's dossier says, and bombing Syria would not increase the risk because the UK is already in the "top tier" of targets.

The terror group needs to be hit in its headquarters in Raqqa because that is where "the main threats are planned and orchestrated". It must be denied a safe haven because "the longer Isil is allowed to grow in Syria, the greater the threat it will pose".

It has a "dedicated external operations structure in Syria which is planning mass casualty attacks around the world", the dossier adds.

Isil has been behind 40 successful terror attacks around the world in the past year, including the murder of 30 British citizens in Tunisia in June. Police and MI5 have foiled seven of its UK plots in the last 12 months, but of the 800 British jihadists who have travelled to Syria, around half have returned home. The dossier says Isil lures and radicalises young people online, urging them to carry out attacks here.

Assad, the recruiting agent

The dossier rejects any argument that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should be propped up by Britain as the "lesser of two evils". There is a "credible alternative" to both Isil and Assad and anything else "misunderstands the causes of the problem and would make matters worse".

"By inflicting brutal attacks against his own people, Assad has in fact acted as one of Isil's greatest recruiting sergeants," it reads. The dossier also claims that senior figures in the Assad regime have been "complicit" with the terror group in profiteering in resources, including oil, wheat and cotton.

Both Assad's regime of mass murder and Isil's "bloodthirsty campaign" have created a "human catastrophe that had crossed the borders of Europe".

70,000 Syrian troops

The future of Syria rests with the "moderate Syrian opposition forces, who are brave enough to stand up against both of them" (the Assad regime and Isil).

The defeat of Isil is only possible through "partners on the ground" and Mr Cameron flatly ruled out British troops. Instead, the air strikes would relieve pressure on the 70,000-strong Syrian opposition fighters who have shown themselves capable of "retaking and holding Isil territory" and "relieving the suffering of the civilian population" in those areas.

They were part of the peaceful uprising in 2011, have "fought on through four years of the regime's brutal campaign to extinguish them" and remain "critical" to Syria's future.

Coalition needs the RAF

The Coalition forces fighting Isil in Syria need the "world leading" skills of the RAF, the dossier says.

Fighter jet spy cameras that read the time on a clock tower 75 miles away and precision missiles that limit "collateral damage" mean Britain's airmen and women can play an "important and distinct role" in the fight against Isil.

Within the arsenal that would be used in Syria is the Raptor pod - a surveillance camera system that attaches to the Tornado aircraft, the precision Brimstone missile which "even the US do not possess" and the Reaper drones.

"Britain's military have the experience and expertise to sustain our role in the campaign for as long as required to get the job done; few other nations can," the document says.


The United Nations Security Council Resolution made it clear that Isil represented a "global and unprecedented threat" and that the UK had a right in international law to "self-defence", the dossier argues. That is both the defence of itself and that of its allies, including France, which Isil has also targeted, it says.

Attacking Isil in Syria helps in the Coalition's collective responsibility to defend Iraq but the threat now "goes far beyond Iraq and Syria".

"It is clear that Isil's campaign against the UK and our allies has reached the level of an 'armed attack' such that force may lawfully be used in selfdefence to prevent further atrocities being committed by Isil."

There is a "significant threat to the stability of the region" and Isil offshoots are spreading the conflict, the dossier warns. Jordan is at risk from the terror group both in southern Syria and western Iraq and the UK is working with the kingdom to "ensure its resilience" against the terrorists.

Political resolution

While the threat faced is "urgent", the dossier warns "there will be no end to the chaos in which Isil thrives and which fuels migration, for as long as the conflict in Syria endures".

It stresses that military action is only one element of "what is needed to defeat this appalling terrorist death cult" and that the "full answer" lays in the delivery of a new Syrian government that is "genuinely representative of all the country's people".

It says a political solution is "finally a realistic prospect" and that Britain would use its "full diplomatic weight" to "press for the ceasefire between the regime and opposition forces proposed at the recent Vienna peace talks".

Humanitarian response

The strategy will be backed up by Britain's "biggest ever" response to a

humanitarian crisis to "alleviate the immediate suffering" of the Syrian people. Some pounds 1.1 billion has been donated, the largest from any European nation, and Britain has provided almost 20?million food rations and 2.5?million medical consultations. More than 251,000 children have been given access to education in Syria and neighbouring countries and 20,000 refugees will be resettled in the UK.

War could last 'many years'

However, Mr Cameron cautioned that even with air strikes it would still take "many years" to restore stability in Syria and that a post-conflict strategy was crucial. "We know that peace is a process, not an event, and I am clear that it can't be achieved through a military assault on Isil alone," he said.

"There is a credible military strategy to defeat Isil in Syria, as well as in Iraq. We should not expect this to happen quickly. It will require patience and persistence. But it is achievable." The dossier reads: "Rebuilding Syria as Isil is pushed back and after the broader conflict comes to an end will be a much more significant challenge requiring a properly resourced and coordinated response from the international community and Syria's neighbours.

"It will require a sustained and coordinated investment from the international community over many years."

Lessons from the past

Post-conflict planning is also crucial if the UK and its allies are to learn the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan, the paper warns. "Preserving the institutions of the Syrian state through transition will be vital: the de-Baathification after the Iraq war (where Saddam Hussein's entire regime was dismantled) was a significant mistake, which we must avoid repeating."

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