Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, gave the biggest indication yet of Cameron plans to extend the UK’s air strikes to Syria by attacking the ‘illogicality’ of only bombing Iraq - as reported in the Guardian.
In an address to Parliament, Fallon gently probed the possibility of future military action by reminding MPs that it was for ‘all members to consider carefully how best to tackle Isil, an evil caliphate that does not respect state boundaries’.
The defence secretary emphasised, however, that no action would be taken without a Commons vote and ‘consensus’ among MPs, a nod to David Cameron’s humiliating defeat on a government motion on possible intervention in Syria in 2013 by 272 votes to 285,
The attack, claimed by ISIL, adds to a growing body of evidence that the organisation is successfully organising and directing terrorist attacks from its safe haven in Syria against British targets.
It is understood that Cameron believes ‘there is a case to do more in Syria’, per the Telegraph, pledging a ‘full spectrum’ response to the massacre in Tunisia. The Prime Ministers spokesman added, however, that there was a ‘need for more thought, more deliberation, and more time’, an indication that Cameron will wait until Labour has successfully elected a new leader before proposing a parliamentary vote.
The news was cautiously welcomed by the Labour Party who indicated it would not oppose military action in Syria as it did in 2013. Harriet Harman, the party’s acting leader, agreed that Islamic State needed to be ‘stopped’, per the BBC, but indicated that the party would only support a parliamentary vote if the objective took account of the void posed by post-conflict aftermath.
Alex Salmond, the SNP’s international affairs spokesman, expressed reservation over any new military action, however, citing past experience in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan. Speaking in the Commons debate, covered by the Scotsman, Salmond added that, ‘in each stage of military intervention we were assured...this next intervention was the absolute key...i think, on it has to be said every occasion, exactly the reverse has come about’.
Fallon’s speech is likely to be seen as an attempt to test the waters for a future parliamentary vote to permit UK air strikes against Syria. In comparison to 2013, the threat emerging from the country is inherently different; President Assad was the head of a government, while Isis represents a transnational terrorist organisation. Facing the ever present threat of a Tory revolt, however, any parliamentary vote will be delayed until Cameron can fully ascertain whether he can rely on the support of the future Labour Leader.