‘ISIS threat has intensified,’ Fallon warns on eve of Syria airstrikes vote

Britain's Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon © Stefan Wermuth
Islamic State-inspired terror plots have increased tenfold in frequency, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon claimed as he set out the British government’s case for extending airstrikes from Iraq into Syria.

Speaking to the Defence Committee on the eve of Wednesday’s crunch vote, Fallon said there were 150 attacks inspired or directed by IS (formerly ISIS/ISIL) in 2015, compared with just 15 the previous year.

“The threat from ISIS has intensified. Let me put it this way: there were some 150 ISIL-inspired attacks – either ISIL-inspired or ISIL-directed – there were some 15 around the world last year.

Outlining the government’s argument for extending airstrikes from Iraq into Syria, Fallon said that although airstrikes alone would not destroy IS, they could greatly weaken the militant group.

Fallon also confirmed the Royal Air Force (RAF) would deploy extra warplanes to the Middle East if the Commons votes in favor of airstrikes. He did not specify how many more planes would be deployed.

The Cabinet has supported Fallon’s plan and Prime Minister David Cameron has urged all MPs to back intervention. The PM has said there is “growing” support for airstrikes among MPs, which he claims are in the national interest.

Cameron published the government’s motion on bombing IS targets in Syria on Tuesday afternoon. The document calls IS an “unprecedented” and “direct threat” and asks MPs to vote for “taking military action, specifically airstrikes, exclusively against ISIL in Syria.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has criticized the government’s decision not to hold a two-day debate before the vote and cautioned the government not to “rush to war.” Cameron has opted instead for a single day, 10-and-a-half-hour debate on Wednesday.

Corbyn, who has granted his MPs a free vote on the matter, appeared on the BBC to call on his shadow cabinet to reconsider supporting intervention. Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn meanwhile has reiterated his support for military action.