​‘Illogical’ not to bomb Islamic State in Syria – Def. Secretary

Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon (Reuters / Suzanne Plunkett)
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has attacked the current policy of only bombing Iraq and not Syria as the British government continues to cite the Tunisia massacre as a reason for extending airstrikes against Islamic State (formerly ISIS/ISIL).

Speaking with the BBC, Fallon said: “We’ve always been clear that ISIL has to be defeated in both Syria and Iraq.

We have plenty to do in Iraq. Each member of the coalition is doing different things. ISIL is organized and directed and administered from Syria. There is an illogicality about not being able to do it.

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

Fallon argued that while a vote would be required, there is no legal barrier to bombing Islamic State in Syria. He also said the new Conservative majority government needed to reassess its strategy.

It is a new parliament and MPs will want to think very carefully about how we best deal with ISIL. [There is an] illogicality [with] ISIL not respecting the border lines; they don’t differentiate between Syria and Iraq, they’re establishing this evil caliphate across both countries.

However, Fallon said the move was not necessarily needed immediately.

We don’t need it at the moment because we are playing our part in the campaign and what we do in Iraq actually frees up the US aircraft to attack in Syria,” he said.

ISIL has to be defeated in both countries. Its evil in Iraq is all being directed by its headquarters in Syria.

Fallon also hinted that the pursuit of such a policy would require evidence of a connection between the Tunisia killings and Islamic State in Syria.

If we can link it back, [if] it does link directly back to ISIL in Syria, then we will have to reflect with the rest of the coalition how best we deal with that.

However, Tory justice minister and former soldier Crispin Blunt disagreed, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today program on Thursday: “There’s no military necessity for this. We are not providing very many of the aircraft.

READ MORE: Labour may back Syria airstrikes if Cameron forces vote

Five percent of the missions are being flown by the United Kingdom. Therefore it makes no practical difference.

Fallon and Blunt’s interventions come a day after anonymous sources within the Labour Party said the opposition could well back another vote on attacking Syria, despite voting down a government motion to do so in 2013.

Addressing MPs on Monday, PM David Cameron gave the strongest indication yet that he feels Britain’s strategy for confronting Islamic State 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.

Stop the War Coalition (StWC) were quick to respond on Thursday. In a statement, a spokesperson for the anti-war group said: “Michael Fallon’s speech about bombing Syria is part of a process designed to soften public opinion for an autumn vote on such a campaign.

“The proposal is in response to the terrible attack in Tunisia last week, but will do nothing to stop further attacks. Support for ISIS in Tunisia has grown in the past two years, largely as a result of the growth of terrorism in neighboring Libya.”

“That in turn dates from the British and French led bombing of Libya in 2011 which has created a state of civil war, terrorism and misery for its people,” they said.

StWC said bombing would only exacerbate the issue.

“Fallon’s proposal means more of the same: more bombing, more misery for ordinary people of the Middle East, more resentment leading to more terrorism. It can be no solution.”

The news came as Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has confirmed the final death toll from the Tunisia attacks as 30.

Speaking in the Commons on Thursday afternoon, Scottish National Party (SNP) international affairs spokesman Alex Salmond MP raised the lessons of recent military interventions.

“The reason for skepticism is the experience we have of the success of military interventions in a range of Islamic countries,” he told the Commons.

“In each stage of military intervention we were assured and told and it was argued this next intervention was the absolute key or at least would progress the objectives of this country.”

“I think, on it has to be said every occasion, exactly the reverse has come about.”

Acting Labour Party leader Harriet Harman appeared to entertain the idea that some escalation or extension of counter-terrorism efforts might be in order, telling ITV News: “ISIL brutalize people, they murder people and they are horrifically oppressive.

“So everything that can be done to stop them must be done, and any proposals that the government bring forward which will help tackle the growing horror of ISIL, of course we will look at them very, very seriously.”

Downing Street has announced that it is considering the legal basis for extending operations to Syria.