The British are coming. Airstrikes on ISIS strongholds in Syria by British fighter jets began yesterday, just hours after Parliament authorized a military role in the international battle against the Islamic State. The British Defense Ministry said four Tornado fighter jets left the Akrotiri Royal Air Force Base in Cyprus, carried out their missile raid, and returned without incident. The strikes targeted oil fields that fund ISIS.
Writes the New York Times on Dec. 2: “The vote, after months of wrangling, hand-wringing and a daylong parliamentary debate, underscored the concerted efforts of Prime Minister David Cameron, whose Conservative Party has a majority in Parliament, to restore Britain’s reputation as a serious global actor.”
Prime Minister David Cameron said on Wednesday, prior to the House of Commons vote: “Do we go after these terrorists in their heartlands from where they are plotting to kill British people, or do we sit back and wait for them to attack us?”
Cameron spoke of the “very real” threat of ISIS, which has proven its ability to strike multiple nations. “The question is this: Do we work with our allies to degrade and destroy this threat?”
After a ten and a half hour, emotionally charged debate, British lawmakers passed the military action by a vote of 397 to 223. The military, on standby, left within hours.
Some question what impact four fighters could make in the war against the Islamic State. While additional air assaults are likely planned, the UK involvement in Syria – airstrikes already have been conducted in Iraq – is more about a display of solidarity among coalition forces.
“It will not make a big operational difference,” said Malcolm Chalmers of the Royal United Services Institute, a research organization specializing in security, according to the Times. “It is important symbolically, useful operationally, but not transformative. A willingness to deploy will allay the concern that the U.K. is not a reliable partner.”
Defense Secretary Michael Fallon told the BBC that the airstrikes hit the Omar oil fields in eastern Syria, and dealt “a very real blow at the oil and the revenue” which helps finance ISIS militants and propaganda.
Adds Fox News: “Cameron has long wanted to target ISIS in Syria, but had been unsure of getting majority support in the House of Commons until now… The mood surrounding the airstrikes changed following the Paris attacks in November, claimed by ISIS, that killed 130 people. Both France and the U.S. urged Britain to join the air campaign in Syria, and Cameron said Britain shouldn’t let its allies down.”
President Obama welcomed the British vote, calling the Islamic State “a global threat that must be defeated by a global response.”