Ahead of the vote on expanding the UK’s air operation against Islamic State to Syria, the British defense secretary said terror attacks similar to Paris and Brussels could ‘easily happen’ in London. He called for preventive airstrikes on terrorists in Syria.
In an exclusive interview with the Telegraph, Britain’s Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: “The threat to the UK is extremely high. An attack is highly likely so we have to respond.”
“What happened in Paris and Brussels could easily happen in London,” Fallon said, adding that it could as well be Manchester or Glasgow.
The defense secretary urged against pulling punches against Islamic State (IS, former ISIS/ISIL) terrorists.
“These aren’t people you can negotiate with. You can only deal with them by force,” he said.
The Royal Air Force (RAF) is already “making a difference in Iraq,” Fallon said, adding “we need to hit ISIL harder and deal with this death cult once and for all.”
The defense secretary’s interview comes a day after “Don’t Bomb Syria” mass protests in London, where thousands of protesters took to the streets to make their voices heard in a rally organized by the Stop the War coalition.
Prime Minister David Cameron has been planning to bomb Syria for months now, but it is Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn who might steal the PM’s thunder.
Corbyn has been opposing the Tory’s initiative to refocus Britain’s effort in the US-led anti-Islamic State coalition from Iraq to Syria, hoping to convince Labour MPs to oppose the Cameron government’s military adventure in a vote in the Commons next week. However, many Labour members appear to be ready to side with the government.
“I hope all MPs will weigh up the arguments. They need to keep us safe here in Britain, to respond to the United Nations resolution and to France’s call for help,” Fallon said in an interview.
Earlier this week, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called on London to expand its air attacks against Islamic State into Syria. As of now, British warplanes are striking IS in Iraq within the framework of the US-led coalition against the terrorists.
“We need British defense capabilities to win this war. The Royal Air Force is already in action over Iraq. Its involvement over Syria would make a practical difference,” the French minister wrote in an article published in the Guardian.
“It is France’s hope that British forces will soon be working side by side with their French counterparts to take this fight to the very heart of ISIS,” to “degrade and, ultimately, to destroy it,” the minister said.
The RAF is, in fact, already present in Syrian airspace, in the form of Britain’s MQ-9 Reaper drone It was used to provide surveillance for a wave of French airstrikes on Raqqa in Syria, Islamic State’s stronghold, in the wake of the Paris attacks, the UK Ministry of Defence says.