NEW YORK -- US President Barack Obama welcomed Wednesday night’s House of Commons vote that authorised British military forces to target members of the Islamic State group inside Syria. The commander in chief added that RAF jets would be integrated into coalition strike missions straight away.
Domestically, the vote is a boost for the president, firming up the American-led international coalition in the face of heavy criticism from the administration’s detractors. It could also go some way to realigning the two countries following the Commons defeat two year ago when the same vote was rejected by parliament to the chagrin of Washington.
Obama: 'the United Kingdom has been one of our most valued partners'
Speaking after the vote, using the acronym Isil, Obama said: “Since the beginning of the counter-Isil campaign the United Kingdom has been one of our most valued partners in fighting Isil. We look forward to having British forces flying with the coalition over Syria, and will work to integrate them into our coalition air tasking orders as quickly as possible.”
The US Ambassador to the UK also welcomed the result. Writing after the vote, which was won by the government by 397 to 223, Matthew Barzun called the decision “testament to the shared determination between our two countries to degrade and destroy Isil in Iraq and Syria.”
However, Senator John McCain earlier offered a more reserved evaluation of Britain’s entrance into the conflict.
Speaking before the vote, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee and current chairman of the Senate armed services committee, told the BBC that while he welcomed Britain as an ally into the Syria fight, the RAF campaign would amount to no more than “token aircraft,” suggesting the real value to the US would be in allowing Obama to parade a broader international coalition.
“We will have some token aircraft over there from the British and they'll drop a few bombs, and we'll say thank you very much,” he said. “The president will be able to say 'now we have the British who will be helping us', and that's good."
“Airstrikes alone won’t win a conflict but it’s good to have increased airstrikes, it’s good to have increased air activities, it’s good to have shows of support from our British friends. So I’m glad of it, thank you, we appreciate it,” McCain added.
McCain: 'I'm glad of it, thank you, we appreciate it'
White House press secretary Josh Earnest quickly rebuffed those comments. He said: “I’m disappointed that Senator McCain would speak so cavalierly to diminish the important contribution of one of the United States’ closest allies.”
“The fact is we’ve asked every member of our 65-nation coalition to ramp up their contributions to this effort, and if the British parliament were to vote in favour of this decision and the British government were to follow through on this commitment of additional resources to the effort, that’s obviously something we would warmly welcome,” Earnest added.
Earlier this week, the German government pledged to send 1,200 troops to fight Isis, as well as potentially deploying reconnaissance aircraft and tanker aircraft pending ratification by the German parliament.