None of the seven terror plots foiled in the UK over the past year was directed from Syria, senior MPs have been told by security and intelligence sources.
Despite David Cameron’s claim that the plots were ‘linked to’ or ‘inspired by’ ISIL, MPs have ascertained there is no evidence that any of them were actually coordinated by the Islamists’ command and control centre in Raqqa.
The admission is a serious challenge to the case for RAF bombing in Syria as it counters the hints from some Tory – and Labour - MPs that ISIL in Syria had to be targeted with airstrikes because it poses a ‘direct’ threat to the UK.
HuffPost UK has been told that in the run up to the Syria vote in the Commons, senior Shadow Cabinet ministers and senior MPs in other parties asked detailed questions about the nature of the threat posed by ISIL.
When pressed, senior intelligence officials representing the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) said that the seven foiled British terror plots over the past 12 months were either ‘lone wolf’ types, from individuals radicalised or ‘inspired by’ Islamist propaganda, or ‘linked’ to ISIL in other ways.
MP were further briefed that there was some suggestion that the Paris attacks may have been directed from Syria, although the intelligence was far from firm.
But there was no evidence of any of the potential UK attacks being directed in a similar way, even though the nature of the threat could change at some point in the future.
Some MPs were persuaded to vote for bombing in Syria after being briefed confidentially by the PM’s National Security Adviser Sir Mark Lyall Grant and other officials.
Hilary Benn, the Shadow Foreign Secretary who made a much-praised speech during the Commons debate, said beforehand that there was now a “strong case” for the UK “playing our full part” because “the threat to the UK, to our citizens, from Isil-Daesh is very real”.
Yet other MPs believe that the Prime Minister exaggerated the cause of the seven foiled terror plots and that it was as much 'spin' as his now infamous claims of 70,000 'moderate' ground troops in Syria ready to work with the West.
In his first Syria statement to Parliament on Thursday November 26, Mr Cameron declared: “In the last 12 months, our police and security services have disrupted no fewer than seven terrorist plots to attack the UK, every one of which was either linked to ISIL or inspired by its propaganda.
“So I am in no doubt that it is in our national interest for action to be taken to stop it—and stopping it means taking action in Syria, because Raqqa is its headquarters.”
Yet senior Westminster sources said that Alex Salmond, former SNP leader and still a Privy Councillor, captured accurately the summary of UK briefings to MPs when he appeared on Radio 5 Live’s ‘Pienaar’s Politics’ on Sunday.
Mr Salmond said: “Every one of the seven foiled plots - and let’s compliment our security services in keeping us safe -not one of them was directed from Raqqa.
“And you will find that admission, although not fronted up, in the Prime Minister’s own statements. They’ve either been inspired by - that is lone wolf stabbers or shootists who are caught up in the worldwide rhetoric of Daesh and decide to do something on their own, and perhaps the incident in the Tube station in London last night was an example of that - or ‘connected to’.
“And ‘connected to’ is like the shooting in California, where the perpetrator says I’m a supporter of Daesh and Daesh of course immediately claims responsibility because they will claim responsibility for everything.”
The former First Minister of Scotland went on: “I’m saying what is fact: not one of the seven foiled plots was directed from Syria. If you look at the Prime Minister and examine his own record you know that.
“That doesn’t mean to say there couldn’t be future directed plots. But it does mean that the vast majority of the danger we face are plots which are either inspired by or connected to [ISIL].”
Mr Salmond added that it was a huge leap from the intelligence to backing bombing in Syria.
“You have to judge whether or not your actions in terms of what you’re doing actually makes that danger more likely, as opposed to foiling a directed plot,” he said.
“And then you have to judge whether or not it is possible to bomb in a deeply congested urban area like Raqqa without the inevitable civilian casualties.”
Several Labour MPs, including Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, have also been briefed on the threat posed by ISIL and have concluded that the risk of civilian casualties and of reprisals from terrorists were too great to justify bombing.
Downing Street today slapped down Boris Johnson after he also suggested that the 70,000 ground troops claim had been exaggerated.
The PM's official spokeswoman said that the claim, like others in the PM's statement, had been cleared by the Joint Intelligence Committee.