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British parliament votes to bomb Islamic State in Syria

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Updated: 00:00 GMT, Jan 1, 1970 | Published: 08:48 GMT, Dec 3, 2015 |
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Britain’s parliament voted on Wednesday (December 2) to launch bombing raids against Islamic State in Syria, supporting Prime Minister David Cameron’s case that the country needs to help destroy militants who are “plotting to kill us”.

After more than 10 hours of tense debate, lawmakers voted in favour of air strikes, by 397 to 223. British Tornado GR4 bombers could leave an air base in Cyprus within hours to launch the country’s latest military action in the Middle East.

Given Britain’s diminished role on the world stage, the victory hands Cameron the chance to restore Britain’s standing in global affairs. He had urged lawmakers not to turn their back on allies such as France in their time of need.

Many British voters are wary of being dragged into another war in the Middle East. Some view Western intervention in Iraq and Libya as a failure that sowed chaos across the region and the news of the vote was met by howls of disgust by dozens of anti-war protesters demonstrating outside parliament.

But the Nov. 13 attacks on Paris that killed 130 people and were claimed by Islamic State have stiffened the resolve of some lawmakers and divided the opposition Labour Party, which convinced Cameron he could win the support of parliament for extending air strikes beyond Iraq.

Cameron said the more than four-year Syrian civil war could not be resolved by military action alone, but that the strikes would “degrade” Islamic State militants – which he said should be called Daesh.

British air strikes are unlikely to change the military balance, given the United States is already involved, but the vote handed Cameron the chance to show Britain’s willingness to add to a Western consensus for taking the battle to militants in Syria.

The British public is divided over launching the strikes, with a YouGov opinion poll showing voter support for action in Syria had fallen to the lowest level since September 2014, with 48 percent of respondents supporting strikes and 31 percent against.