Air strikes on Syria: The case for and against

As British Prime Minister David Cameron is set to make a statement to Parliament on Thursday (Nov 26) on the need to join the air campaign in Syria ahead of a vote next week on extending Britain's air strikes there, The Straits Times Europe correspondent Jonathan Eyal weighs the arguments for and against such strikes. Conflict in Syria cannot be ignored as Europe is already feeling the effects.

For - Need to tackle threat of ISIS attacks, refugee crisis

Smoke rising from the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar during an operation in November by Iraqi Kurdish forces, backed by US-led strikes, to retake the town from ISIS and cut a key supply line to Syria. PHOTO: AFP

British government ministers have never claimed that air strikes are a panacea against threats emanating from Syria. But they have argued that, in the absence of a broader foreign military involvement to stop the Syrian civil war, air power can still achieve useful objectives.

The first objective is to target the bases of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist organisation. It is pointless to fight ISIS in Iraq - as a Western-led coalition of nations which includes Britain has done for the past two years - only to see the terrorists seek refuge and supplies across the border in neighbouring Syria. ISIS militants "don't recognise a border between Iraq and Syria, and neither should we", says British Prime Minister David Cameron.

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Against - Too difficult to distinguish between 'good' and 'bad' guys


Mr Cameron has had to grapple with domestic opposition to military involvement in the Syrian civil conflict since war started in that Middle Eastern country four years ago.

He became the first British leader in almost a century to lose a vote on a war question, when Parliament rejected his arguments for the use of air power against Syrian government forces in August 2013.

Much of this opposition stemmed from memories of Britain's involvement in the US-led invasion of Iraq a decade previously, a war now widely regarded by the electorate as a grave strategic mistake and a tragic waste of human lives.

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