British Prime Minister David Cameron is making his case for the Syria vote, pressing for air strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria, claiming that UK warplanes can help “keep the British people safe” from terror attacks.
Cameron previously claimed that those who opposed airstrikes in Syria were “terrorist sympathizers,” and later faced calls to apologize for his tough stance, according to the BBC. The British parliament is debating whether or not to commit to airstrikes this Wednesday, and a Syria vote is expected to take place at around 10pm GMT.
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Heated exchanges in Parliament as politicians prepare for Syria vote
Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has been outspoken in his opposition to military action, said that Cameron’s stance “demeans the office of prime minister.” Cameron refused to apologize ahead of the Syria vote.
Members of Parliament will vote on whether Britain will join France, the U.S. and Russia in carrying out airstrikes on targets in Syria. Cameron’s government proposed a motion that would see British planes “exclusively” attack Islamic State targets.
If parliament votes to approve airstrikes, operations are expected to begin within days. Labour leader Corbyn has decided not to impose his personal opposition to airstrikes on his MPs, who will be allowed to vote freely. Cameron hopes that this gives him a chance to score a majority.
Conservative Prime Minister urges British intervention in Syria
The Prime Minister urged MPs to “answer the call from our allies” and take action, Mr Cameron said: “The House should be under no illusion that these terrorists are plotting to kill us and to radicalize our children right now.”
According to Cameron the question is simple. “Do we work with our allies to degrade and destroy this threat and do we go after these terrorists in their heartlands from where they are plotting to kill British people, or do we sit back and wait for them to attack us?” he said.
Cameron previously claimed that over 70,000 moderate fighters were currently in Syria, a number which generated plenty of controversy. He backed up his claim by revealing that the numbers were provided by the Joint Intelligence Committee, Britain’s senior intelligence body.
As part of his case for military action, Cameron told MPs that the forces were “not ideal, not as many as we would like, but they are people we can work with.”
UK airstrikes likely as Labour politicians set to vote in favor
In an interesting linguistic pivot, Cameron revealed that British officials would now refer to Islamic State as Daesh, because “this evil death cult is neither a true representation of Islam nor is it a state.”
Corbyn criticized the Syria vote, remarking: “It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the prime minister understands public opposition to his ill thought-out rush to war is growing – and wants to hold the vote before it slips from his hands. It’s become increasingly clear that the prime minister’s proposals for military action simply do not stack up.”
However more than 90 Labour MPs could back the Conservative government in the Syria vote, which is expected to win approval for airstrikes. Controversy dogs the issue, thanks to Cameron’s “terrorist sympathizers” accusation and the treatment of Labour MP Stella Creasy.
Labour MP Creasy targeted by controversial protest
Creasy remains undecided on her vote, and was targeted by protesters who massed outside her private residence in her constituency of Walthamstow, north-east London. While organizers of the protest march claimed that the crowd passed by her house out of pure coincidence, some social media users compared the behavior to bullying.
On Wednesday Creasy reported that her office had been receiving threatening phone calls as she scrutinized the government proposal for airstrikes ahead of the vote. Creasy is among a number of pro-intervention center-right MPs that have drawn the ire of left-wing elements in the Labour party.
According to a letter sent to Creasy and other pro-intervention MPs, the group will be subject to a campaign for their deselection as MPs if they vote in favor of airstrikes. Other Labour party members have called for any Syria vote in favor of airstrikes to trigger a vote on MPs immediate deselection.
Under recently-elected leader Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour party has struggled with internal wrangling between left-wing MPs and center-right elements of the party. The consequences of today’s vote could be far reaching not only for Daesh militants and Syrian civilians, but politicians from Britain’s largest opposition party.
“I wanted to be absolutely clear at the start of my statement that this is about how we fight terrorism not whether we fight terrorism,” said Cameron. Some politicians and members of the public, scarred by the memory of Iraq and Afghanistan, do not think that airstrikes will keep Britain safe, but it looks as though Cameron and the Conservatives may win the day.