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UK's armed forces are planning possible cruise missile strike in Syria

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: August 27, 2013

By Steve Grant

Comments (17)

Downing Street has today confirmed that Britain’s armed forces are drawing up contingency plans for military action in response to the chemical weapons attack in Syria - and Westcountry-based sailors and commandos could be in the vanguard.

It was widely reported yesterday that Britain is planning to join forces with America and launch military action against Syria "within days" in response to the gas attack believed to have been carried out by President Bashar al-Assad's forces against his own people.

That notion was further fuelled by Prime minister David Cameron cutting short his holiday in Cornwall to return to London as the situation escalates.

This morning Downing Street confirmed the move.

Last night it was reported that Parliament is expected to be recalled by the end of the week, as Mr Cameron and Nick Clegg move to ensure MPs are consulted on any potential military action against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Downing Street is expected to make a final decision today on whether to recall parliament.

Totnes Tory MP Dr Sarah Wollaston last night commented on Twitter, saying: "Glad to hear rumblings that Parliament will be recalled but this has to allow genuine debate and opportunity to reject action with free vote."

Mr Cameron had already interrupted his holiday for talks with Barack Obama, the US president, François Hollande, the French president, and Angela Merkel, the German chancellor. After discussions via a secure telephone line over the weekend, all the leaders agreed on the need for a "serious response". Government sources confirmed that military action was among the options "on the table" but said no decisions had been taken.

The Prime Minister, however, is believed to have abandoned hope of securing any further meaningful response from the UN amid opposition from Russia.

Yesterday, the Daily Telegraph claimed that Royal Navy vessels were being readied to take part in a possible series of cruise missile strikes, alongside the United States, as military commanders finalise a list of potential targets.

The vessels are said to include the Devonport-based Type 23 frigate HMS Montrose and an unnamed nuclear submarine – almost certainly HMS Tireless, which left Plymouth last month and was reportedly spotted off Gibraltar on Saturday.

The ship, along with the Devonport-based assault ship HMS Bulwark and members of Plymouth-based 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines, are part of the Cougar 13 training deployment, which began exercising in the Mediterranean earlier this month.

The Telegraph reported Government sources as saying talks between the Prime Minister and international leaders, including Mr Obama, would continue, but that any military action that was agreed could begin within the next week.

Support for the move has come from former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Ashdown, who, writing in The Times, called for "sharp, quick, specific and punishing" action against the Syrian regime. He said that although he would "hate" an action that was not sanctioned by the United Nations, it was better than letting that body be further damaged by failure to respond to what could be the most "egregious breach" of human rights since it was founded.

As preparations gathered pace, Foreign Secretary William Hague warned the world could not stand by and allow the Assad regime to use chemical weapons against the Syrian people "with impunity". Britain, the US and their allies must show Mr Assad that to perpetrate such an atrocity "is to cross a line and that the world will respond when that line is crossed," he said.

British forces now look likely to be drawn into an intervention in the Syrian crisis after months of deliberation and international disagreement over how to respond to the bloody two-year civil war.

As pressure mounted on the Prime Minister to recall Parliament, Dr Wollaston said as there was no threat to UK national security, Parliament should be consulted to act as a brake to any "headlong rush" into an escalation of the situation. "I sense that we are on a headlong rush into escalating this conflict and I think Parliament can act as a natural brake to that," she told BBC Radio 4's The World At One yesterday. "I feel very gravely concerned about the potential implications of a further escalation. The issue for Parliament to debate is whether there should be military action in the first place.

"I think very many people around the country would feel gravely concerned about that decision being taken by a very small number of people without the opportunity for them to have a say through their MP. If our national security is at threat, we expect the Government to make decisions rapidly on our behalf. But that isn't the case here – this is a complex ethical issue with grave risks of further escalation. In that context it is absolutely right for Parliament to debate this issue."

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  • Sinjis_Things  |  August 28 2013, 8:50PM

    Looking at Cameron's behaviour over the Syrian crisis is almost the same as Tony Blair's some years ago and somewhat like Thatcher's over the Falklands. Is Cameron looking for a war to put on his CV and thus strengthen his position when looking for a new job after he's been dropped by the Conservatives?

    Rate   4
  • JayneParty  |  August 28 2013, 12:05PM

    The Russians are backing the Syrian government with arms deals, if they win the Russians get cheaper oil. We are backing the rebels, if they win we get all the oil contracts. I would like cheaper oil but if we had politicians with real backbone in this world they would be dealing with Russia and our own arms dealers, unfortunately the Russians have big gas reserves, so let's sacrifice Syrians instead. The press will help us fabricate stories about humanitarian intervention (caring bombs).

    Rate   3
  • NeuronTherapy  |  August 28 2013, 11:30AM

    Misleading headline. UK has no cruise missiles. We only have Trident and it would be better if we didn't have that. Two wrongs don't make a right. Let's hope Obama has too much sense to join the list of political leaders who have got bogged down in failed interventions.

    Rate   5
  • JayneParty  |  August 27 2013, 5:30PM

    Every nation has had civil wars. If it wasn't for over emotive press reporting no one would be interested. Leave it to themselves to sort out.

    Rate   6
  • manicstreet  |  August 27 2013, 4:12PM

    We should stay well away from any military involvement in Syria .

    Rate   9
  • Free2opine  |  August 27 2013, 3:36PM

    or even "wary of the Russian involvement"

    Rate   7
  • Free2opine  |  August 27 2013, 3:06PM

    Whilst the use of chemical weapons against any factions is abominable, it doesn't give us the right to go sticking our noses in. How can we be assured that this attack was from Mr Assad's supporters rather than from the other side. In other words, are we being drawn into this on false pretences!?? Will Russia just sit back whilst we take aim!??? Knowing Mr Putin, he won't just sit back and let the US and cohorts run roughshod over this country. Why is the UN taking a backseat on this one!? Could it be, that they too, are wary or the Russian involvement!??

    Rate   14
  • rags_n_bones  |  August 27 2013, 2:44PM

    I wonder what plans Cameron has got on the poor on benefits in the UK to pay for this war.

    Rate   9
  • Truro_England  |  August 27 2013, 2:42PM

    When did American become the Worlds Police ? I thought the UN was a diplomat and mediator, not the USA ! Tony Blair has had his say on Syria and next we're hear from Bush, the US ultimate aim is to have a big foot hold in the middle east and have total control of its oil......

    Rate   10
  • Corsham999  |  August 27 2013, 2:35PM

    We should stay the friggin hell out of the conflict.It has nothing to do with the UK (WHO GOT INVOLVED IN NORTHEN IRELAND WHEN THE TROUBLES WERE ON).

    Rate   10