Britain has joined the war in Syria against the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group, which is already facing mounting domestic and international military pressure against territory and assets under its control.
Britain began air strikes just a few hours after a December 2nd parliamentary vote, with Royal Air Force jets hitting oil fields under ISIS control in eastern Syria.
The UK cabinet approved a 12-point plan for British air strikes against ISIS to extend from Iraq into Syria. Parliament passed a motion on a 397-223 vote in favour of UK military action, after a 10-hour debate. Sixty-seven Labour MPs broke ranks with opposition chief Jeremy Corbyn and voted with the government.
According to the parliamentary motion, the objective of the air strikes is to “degrade ISIS’s capabilities so that it no longer presents a significant terrorist threat to the United Kingdom or an existential threat to Iraq, Syria or other states”.
“As far as I’m concerned wherever ISIS are, wherever they can be targeted, that is what we should do,” British Prime Minister David Cameron said during the debate.
Corbyn, a former chairman of the Stop the War coalition lobby group, had indicated he would call on Labour MPs to oppose the vote but scheduled a free vote under pressure from his shadow cabinet.
Britain could double the number of combat aircraft it has based in Cyprus, which would allow the Royal Air Force to increase the number of sorties its planes carry out in Iraq and Syria, UK media reported.
The German cabinet also approved plans to join the anti-ISIS coalition in Syria. The one-year mandate requires parliamentary approval but German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s broad governing coalition is expected to easily carry the motion.
Germany is to send reconnaissance jets, a naval frigate and up to 1,200 troops to the region in a support role but not actively engage in combat operations. “We are doing what is militarily needed, what we can do best and can accept politically,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told the country’s Bild newspaper. Germany has taken in more than 1 million Syrian refugees in 2015, the most in Europe, according to official estimates.
Both British and German officials linked the latest military efforts against ISIS in Syria to UN Security Council Resolution 2249, issued in the wake of the Paris attacks and which allows countries to take “all necessary measures” to combat ISIS.
This article by Mahmud el-Shafey originally appeared in The Arab Weekly