​Labour may back Syria airstrikes if Cameron forces vote

Royal Air Force Tornado jets (Reuters / Russell Cheyne)
The Labour Party may support extending airstrikes against the Islamic State (formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq to Syria in the wake of the Tunisia massacre, despite opposing a vote on targeting President Bashar Assad’s forces in 2013.

One senior Labour source, quoted anonymously by The Times, said MPs wanted to see a clear plan, but had not ruled out backing airstrikes if another vote came about.

READ MORE: Will Cameron push for another vote to bomb Syria?

Cameron learnt from the 2013 vote the importance of taking people along with him, setting out aims, resources and the need for international agreement.

All those things will be taken into consideration.

The source also pointed out that while the aborted 2013 bombing would have targeted the Assad regime, a vote on attacks would this time be directed at Islamic State forces.

The target is ISIS and not Assad,” the source said. “We would need the government to come forward and tell us what they want to do. We are all aware of the size of the challenge.

Another source, also quoted by The Times, said: “The prime minister thinks it is important that people realize the link between British holidaymakers being killed and [ISIS] having safe havens in Syria or elsewhere.

On Tuesday, a former UK spy chief expressed support for drone strikes in Syria.

Speaking to The Guardian, Sir David Omand, formerly head of GCHQ, said that once the UK was armed with good intelligence, ISIS should be fought using drones.

To allow such intelligence to be used effectively at source, parliament should authorize British forces including RAF Reaper RPAS [remotely-piloted air systems, commonly called unmanned drones] to operate across the border from Iraq into Syria when necessary,” he said.

READ MORE: Cameron vows ‘full spectrum’ British response to ISIS Tunisia shooting

Addressing MPs on Monday, Cameron gave the strongest indication yet that he feels Britain’s strategy for confronting ISIS should be reframed to include airstrikes on Syria.

We do need to crush [ISIS] in Iraq and Syria,” he said, making it clear that in his view “military solutions” were needed.

Since parliament approved airstrikes on ISIS targets in Iraq in September 2014, the Royal Air Force has flown more than 300 bombing raids.

The RAF is not authorized to operate over Syria, however, following the embarrassing defeat of the government motion in August 2013.