As Britain carries out initial air strikes on Isil targets in Syria, questions are being raised as to whether more is needed in order to defeat the terrorist. Boris Johnson, writing in today’s paper, suggests that David Cameron may have to leave Vladimir Putin and Bashar Al-Assad to destroy Isil, as the number of moderate ground troops he says are in the country “may be exaggerated”. “This is the time to set aside our Cold War mindset,” Johnson writes. “It is just not true that whatever is good for Putin must automatically be bad for the West. We both have a clear and concrete objective – to remove the threat from Isil. Everything else is secondary.”
Johnson may be touching on a sore spot in Downing Street by expressing public scepticism about the estimated 70,000 “moderate” troops in Syria, as this number has come under scrutiny over recent days. “They may include some jihadists who are not ideologically very different from al-Qaeda,” Johnson adds. No. 10 recently had to admit that the “moderate” fighters are made up of several “disparate” groups after claims that defence officials had expressed concern about claiming that 70,000 fighters were ready to join the fight against Isil. However, it has stood firm behind the number, saying it was approved by the joint intelligence committee.
In the meantime, David Cameron will be under pressure to show over the coming months that his air strikes are helping defeat the Isil threat. But will this be enough? John McCain, the former Republican presidential nominee, recently gave backhanded praise to Britain’s “token” effort, saying that the RAF will “drop a few bombs, and we’ll say thank you very much”. “The best hope of getting rid of Isil is an agreement between all the powers – America, Russia, France, Britain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the rest – to take them out, together with a timetable for Assad to step down and a plan for a new Syrian government,” says Johnson.
The London Mayor isn’t alone in suggesting that Russia and the Assad regime may be needed to bring about a decisive end, as Conservative Foreign Affairs Committee member John Baron has said similar over recent days. Military experts are also piling in, with Wes Clark, the former head of NATO Allied Powers in Europe, suggesting that world leaders will need to compromise on how long the Syrian president can stay in power. “Go back to the way we did it in Bosnia in 1990s. We put together a plan, we brought the parties together, and we said we would put ground troops there under certain conditions. And we could do the exact same move here.”
“Am I backing the Assad regime, and the Russians, in their joint enterprise to recapture [Palmyra]? You bet I am.” Boris Johnson
Cameron Under Pressure Over Desmond
Flooding which brought chaos to Britain and saw thousands of people evacuated from their homes may have been avoided if the Government had not cancelled hundreds of defence schemes. The Government has faced criticism after multi-million pound defences built following catastrophic floods in 2005 failed to keep the deluge out from people’s homes in Cumbria, the county worst affected by Storm Desmond. You can follow the developments on our live blog.
Corbyn’s ‘Women Problem’
Jeremy Corbyn and his allies have been accused of preparing to mount “sexist purge” of his shadow cabinet amid claims he is planning to sack senior women in the wake of the Syria vote. One shadow minister told The Telegraph: “They are bullying women, the way they are behaving is appalling. They are a macho bunch and it feels fundamentally sexist.” Meanwhile, Corbyn is insisting he will attend the Stop The War Coalition’s fundraiser this week, despite pressure from senior Labour MPs.
Tusk Passes Judgement
David Cameron is today expected to be warned that his plans to strip EU migrants of their benefits could be legally problematic, as the European Council makes it first formal response to his demands. Donald Tusk, the European Council president tasked with brokering an agreement between the EU’s 28 states, will issue a letter to national leaders detailing his verdict on the reform demands.
FN Triumphs In France
Marine Le Pen’s far-Right Front National (FN) was on Sunday night on course to make historic gains in regional elections in France, held in a state of emergency just three weeks after terror attacks that killed 130. Anne-Elisabeth Moutet has profiled Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, the FN leader’s niece, who is the new “wonder-girl of France’s far-right”.
MP Troll Charged
A 23-year-old man who described Hilary Benn, the shadow foreign secretary, as a “war criminal” and a “terrorist” on Facebook on the day after the Commons vote to bomb Syria has been charged with “sending malicious messages” to another MP. Craig Wallace, who also goes under the name Muhammad Mujahid Islam, will appear in court today charged with the offence of malicious communications.
Still A Christian Nation?
Britain is no longer a Christian country and should stop acting as if it is, a major inquiry into the place of religion in modern society has concluded, provoking a furious backlash from ministers and the Church of England.
Shared Ownership Boost
Nearly 200,000 people will be able to get on the housing ladder under a major extension of the Government’s shared ownership scheme, the Prime Minister will announce today.
Heathrow Decision Delayed
The government’s final decision on expanding Heathrow is to be put off until later next year, the Times reports, due to doubts that a third runway could meet air quality standards.
Cameron’s Lords Curb
David Cameron has been drawing up a plan to curb the power of the House of Lords, the FT reports. Lord Strathclyde, the Tory grandee charged the Prime Minister with reviewing the role of peers, is expected to propose that they should lose their veto over delegated or “secondary” legislation, such as the measure implementing tax-credit cuts.