News

Britain drafts military plans for Syria

Britain drafts military plans for Syria

Free Syrian Army fighters inspect munitions and a tank that belonged to forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad after they seized Aleppo's town of Khanasir August 26, 2013. Photo: Reuters/Ammar Abdullah

By Andrew Osborn

LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister David Cameron recalled parliament to debate Britain’s response to a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria, after his spokesman said plans were being drawn up for possible military action.

Cameron’s decision sets the stage for a tough parliamentary debate on Thursday that will culminate in a vote, the outcome of which remains uncertain.

The result is likely to depend on the wording of the motion, and government sources said Cameron would need to work hard to convince doubters across the political spectrum.

Many lawmakers in Cameron’s governing Conservative party are skeptical about the idea of military intervention in Syria after what they regard as costly and unsuccessful operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Cameron’s spokesman told reporters that no decision to use force had yet been taken but said that the prime minister felt strongly that the world had to act.

“Any use of chemical weapons is completely and utterly abhorrent and unacceptable … and the international community needs to respond to that,” the spokesman said, adding any decision would be part of a “strict international framework”.

“It’s reasonable to assume our forces are making contingency plans,” the same spokesman added, stressing any decision would be based on evidence from “a range of sources”.

Cameron cut short his holiday to return to London and will chair a meeting of Britain’s National Security Council on Wednesday to discuss the matter. He is expected to keep talking to other world leaders to ensure any response is coordinated.

After speaking on the phone to Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Tuesday, Cameron’s office said both men had agreed that “the world cannot stand idly by in light of such a significant chemical weapons attack.”

Writing in The Times newspaper, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who ordered British troops into Iraq and Afghanistan, said the West had to stop its “hand-wringing” and act.

A failure to intervene would leave Syria “mired in carnage” as a more dangerous breeding ground for extremism than Afghanistan in the 1990s, he said.

General David Richards, the former Chief of Britain’s Defence Staff, said “pin-prick” cruise missile strikes could aggravate rather than resolve the Syrian conflict.

“I think the scale of involvement to make a decisive difference in Syria would be so huge that it is something that we, at the moment, cannot sensibly contemplate,” he told The Sun newspaper.

(Editing by Stephen Addison and Jon Boyle)

Recent Headlines

13 hours ago in Sports

The week’s best sports shots

Denver Broncos’ Peyton Manning holds up the trophy after the NFL Super Bowl 50 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, in Santa Clara, Calif. The Broncos won 24-10. (AP Photo/Matt York)

A look back at some of the best plays and biggest moments in sports this week.

13 hours ago in Sports

The weekend sports schedule

kobebryantallstar

Here's a look at this weekend's sports schedule.

14 hours ago in Entertainment

Bill Murray tosses fans’ phones off rooftop

billmurray

The "Ghostbusters" star was unwinding at rooftop restaurant in California on Thursday when he spotted two starstruck fans trying to snap his photo.

15 hours ago in Entertainment

OPENING WEEKEND: ‘Deadpool,’ ‘Zoolander 2’ to battle at the box office

15-overlay-6

Here's a look at some of the films set to open this weekend.

15 hours ago in Entertainment, National

Roses and roaches: Cold-hearted Valentine’s Day ideas

valentines

With the coldest air in more than a decade forecast to grip the United States this Valentine's Day weekend, the holiday dedicated to love is flashing its frigid side.