War with Isis: David Cameron has been left behind by the pace of events

Despite Cameron's desire for airstrikes, the UK is yet to take action

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The Independent Online

Even as Russian warplanes were preparing to carry out their first attack in Syria, David Cameron was talking in New York about the role he was playing in trying to end the savage civil war and a possible role for President Bashar al-Assad in a transitional government. But in reality the British prime minister has long been left behind in the slipstream of unfolding events.

David Cameron took second place to no Western leader in crying “Assad must go”, when the Syrian uprising was in its early stage four years ago and there was still a chance of a compromise before the country sunk into bloodbath.

The Prime Minister was replicating his cries of “Gaddafi must go” and had been the prime instigator, along with French president Nicolas Sarkozy, of the Nato bombing campaign in Libya which was instrumental in the fall of the regime. Libya is now, of course, a place of strife with territory being carved up by feuding militias.

There was no direct intervention in Syria by the UK or, for that matter, any other Western powers. When I covered the battle for Aleppo in the Summer of 2012 such an intervention may well have swung the balance in favour of the rebels, most of them moderate, and there were indeed many moderate rebels then, against the regime. But no such intervention took place and extremists of Isis and the al-Qaeda linked Jabhat al-Nusra subsequently got the whip hand among opposition forces with help from their backers in the Sunni Gulf States.

A year later, when President Assad was accused of crossing Barack Obama’s ‘red line’ with the use of chemical weapons in Al-Ghouta, Mr Cameron went to the Commons confident of getting approval to join projected US air strikes against the regime, but failed to do so; with the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader he may lose in the Commons again when he goes there to try and get approval of MPs for extending air strikes from Iraq to Syria.

France, meanwhile, started its own air strikes against Isis in Syria without Francois Hollande having to face the prospect of embarrassment in parliament.