The bar on Syria action is like trying to win a football game without going into the opponents’ half, the UK’s defence chief says.
Britain’s top military commander has warned the UK is “letting down” its allies by not taking part in airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria.
Speaking on Sky News, Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nicholas Houghton compared it to being asked to win a football match without going into the opponents’ half.
He argued it “makes no sense” given the territory occupied held by IS – also known as ISIL and Daesh – spanned the border with Iraq and that its powerbase was in Syria.
Sir Nicholas’ intervention comes after Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said the case for Britain’s involvement in Syrian airstrikes would be strengthened if IS militants were found to be responsible for downing the Russian passenger jet in Egypt.
Mr Fallon argued it was “morally indefensible” that the UK was not currently attacking the extremist group’s key strongholds.
He also denied the Government had given up on winning parliamentary backing to extend RAF action from Iraq.
Sir Nicholas tells Sky’s Murnaghan programme: “To an extent yes, we are letting our allies down by not being a full player.
“But my view on this is a far more fundamental and simple one in a way and it’s the point you make about going up to a border and having to stop there.
“In the most simplistic way it’s like being asked to win a football match but not being able to go into the opponents’ half.
“Daesh, ISIL, they have a caliphate that extends across that border.
“But the source of their power, their command and control, their logistics, their organisation, the place from which they issue oirders to international terrorists is from within Syria.
“And so to be denied our ability to play a proportionate role in that makes no sense.”
Downing Street recently denied moves to seek majority backing among MPs for airstrikes in Syria had been ditched and said the Prime Minister continued to rally support for military action.
David Cameron has made no secret of his desire to carry out airstrikes against IS targets in Syria.
But he received a further recent setback after a report by the influential Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, which warned against British military involvement until there was an international plan to end the Syrian conflict.
Britain has already carried out strikes against Islamic State in Iraq, but in an embarrassing defeat Mr Cameron failed to get MPs to back his plans to bomb targets in Syria in 2013.
A Downing Street spokesman said last week: “The Prime Minister has set out very clearly his view that there is a clear rationale for taking military action in Syria but equally, he has always made clear that to do that would require the consensus of the House.”
And as the UK marked Remembrance Sunday with ceremonies being held across the country including the service at the Cenotaph, Sir Nicholas warned against “poppy Stalinism” and argued people should be allowed to do what they wanted.
But General Sir Nicholas told the Murnaghan programme: “I think one of the things we must avoid is a sort of a poppy Stalinism.
“People should be allowed to do what they want to do – remember in their ways.
“I think that certainly members of the Armed Forces will always wear their poppies and they are heartened by members of the public that wear theirs.
“I don’t think it means that’s necessarily a sign of disrespect or a lack of people doing their own commemoration or remembrance in their own ways.”