US and UK solidify Syria strike plans
Prime minister David Cameron was involved in a telephone conversation with American president Barack Obama on Tuesday night to discuss the prospect of military action against Syria.
Cameron has recalled parliament for Thursday ahead of a meeting between the British National Security Council later today.
General, Sir Nick Houghton, is expected to tell that meeting that the military has serious concerns about any possible intervention, but will suggest it would be feasible for the UK to offer cruise missile support to any US action.
Cameron is aware that it would be a political disaster to act without the full backing of parliament, so no military action is likely to occur before the vote in the Commons on Thursday.
A number of Tory backbenchers and senior opposition figures have said they would not back military action against Syria without a prior United Nations (UN) resolution.
Shadow health minister, Diane Abbot, has stated she is prepared to resign if Labour leader Ed Miliband supported intervention, telling the BBC: “It’s not clear that any such bombing would be legal… And the danger is that we get dragged into a civil war in the Middle East”.
Meanwhile, the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, says that UN weapons inspectors need to be given sufficient time to carry out their investigations and that a UN resolution before they are completed seems unlikely. In a public address at the Peace Palace in the Hague, Ki-moon pleaded for a diplomatic solution, saying: “Give peace a chance. Give diplomacy a chance. Stop fighting and start talking”.
The message coming from the White House is that they are willing to side-step the UN if a resolution is not passed, as they have done in the past, with a spokesman describing the idea that the chemical attack was not carried out by the Assad regime as “preposterous”.
However, British support for intervention is more contingent on the legality of any action, with Miliband claiming he would only back legal and limited action.
Public opinion is still firmly against military action, with a recent poll by YouGov finding that 74% of people were against the deployment of troops, whilst only 25% would support long range strikes. Despite this, some form of military action is looking increasingly likely.