The Defence Secretary has given the clearest indication yet that the Government is preparing to take military action against Isis in Syria.
In a Commons statement on the revelation that five British pilots secretly carried out drone strikes in Syria while embedded with coalition forces, Michael Fallon suggested ministers favoured legitimising operations in the country.
“Its command and control is in northern Syria. It is from there its weapons and fighters flow into Iraq. It is from there that its global influence spreads and from where the direct threat to the UK comes,” he said. “Isil has killed many of our fellow citizens. It is actively plotting to kill more.
“We are also determined to use the forces at our disposal to do more to tackle Isil at its source.”
But in a sign of the divisions within Parliament on the issue, the Conservative chairman of the Defence Committee, Julian Lewis, said that attacking Isis in Syria would risk “promoting” Bashar al-Assad’s brutal regime. “The reality is that you’ve got to face up to one or the other, and until we know which you regard as the lesser of two evils, it is not true to say that we have a coherent strategy for Syria,” he said.
The shadow Defence Secretary Vernon Coaker condemned the Government for its failure to announce that British personnel had been involved in attacks on Syrian soil,
However, Mr Fallon denied that the Government had hidden the embedding of the pilots from the public and Parliament, and insisted there was “nothing new” about the practice.