David Cameron has published a dossier making the case for British military action against Isis in Syria.
In a response to the Commons foreign affairs committee report that warned against expanding RAF strikes beyond Iraq, the prime minister said today: "The threats to our interests and to our people are such that we cannot afford to stand aside and not to act."
In a document published on parliament's website this morning, Cameron said ISIL was "not a threat that can be negotiated away".
Cameron is expected to hold a Commons vote on military action next week and hopes the document will help persuade enough Labour MPs to vote with the government.
He told the House of Commons this morning that US President Obama and French President Hollande had wanted Britain to join the strikes. "These are our closest allies and they want our help," he said. "If not now, when."
Making the case in his dossier, the prime minister said the RAF is armed with weapons, including the Brimstone missile, which "even the US do not possess" and would make a concrete difference to the fight against ISIL.
He said: "Throughout Britain’s history, we have been called on time and again to make the hardest of decisions in defence of our citizens and our country. Today one of the greatest threats we face to our security is the threat from ISIL.
"We need a comprehensive response which seeks to deal with the threat that ISIL poses to us directly, not just through the measures we are taking at home, but by dealing with ISIL on the ground in the territory that it controls. It is in Raqqa, Syria, that ISIL has its headquarters, and it is from Raqqa that some of the main threats against this country are planned and orchestrated. We must tackle ISIL in Syria, as we are doing in neighbouring Iraq, in order to deal with the threat that ISIL poses to the region and to our security here at home."
We have to deny a safe haven for ISIL in Syria. The longer ISIL is allowed to grow in Syria, the greater the threat it will pose. It is wrong for the United Kingdom to sub-contract its security to other countries, and to expect the aircrews of other nations to carry the burdens and the risks of striking ISIL in Syria to stop terrorism here in Britain."
In the wake of the Paris terror attacks, Cameron ramped up the pressure on parliament to approve military action. He had previously been unconvinced he would win any vote - however the government now believes the tide may have turned in its favour.
The government said its strategy for Syria was designed to:
- Protect the UK here at home by maintaining robust counter-terrorism capabilities
- Generate negotiations on a political settlement, while supporting and preserving the moderate opposition
- Help deliver, through this process, a government in Syria that can credibly represent all of the Syrian people
- Degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL, including through Coalition military and wider action
- Continue a leading role in humanitarian support and forestall further migratory flows towards Europe
- Support stabilisation already underway in Iraq and plan for post-conflict reconstruction in Syria
- Work in close partnership with allies across the Middle East, to mitigate the impact of ISIL and other violent extremist groups on the stability of the region.