LONDON, British fighter planes attacked an Islamic State-controlled oil field in eastern Syria hours after Parliament authorized British airstrikes in the fight.
After a 10-hour debate in the House of Commons Wednesday, members voted 397 to 223 to approve the military action. Within hours, Defense Secretary Michael Fallon reported, “I can confirm that four British Tornados were in action attacking oil fields in eastern Syria,” adding the airstrikes based out of Akrotiri, Cyprus, were “successful.”
Eight more planes — two Tornados and six Typhoon fighter planes — were expected to be sent to the Cyprus base to carry out additional attacks.
The vote in Parliament came after months of disagreement and comments over Britain’s involvement in fighting terrorism, and was a major victory for the Conservative government of Prime Minister David Cameron. Britain, though, adamantly opposes the involvement of western troops in ground combat in Syria.
“The threat is very real,” Cameron told Parliament as he opened debate “The question is this: Do we work with our allies to degrade and destroy this threat?”
While British airstrikes in Syria can dent IS undertakings there, the issue is more about Britain’s willingness to participate militarily in the battle against IS — also identified as Daesh, ISIS and ISIL.
“It will not make a big operational difference. It is important symbolically, useful operationally, but not transformative. A willingness to deploy will allay the concern that the U.K. is not a reliable partner,” commented Malcolm Chalmers of the Royal United Services Institute, a British security analysis organization.
By Ed Adamczyk