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Issue #1695      July 29, 2015

British pilots used to bomb Syria

British pilots have secretly bombed Syria under the cover of foreign militaries in direct contravention of Tory promises to give Parliament the decision to wage war, human rights campaigners have revealed.

In a rush to justify military action, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon again attempted to ramp up the war rhetoric, this time by evoking the Battle of Britain, weeks after he claimed that no action would be taken without a parliamentary vote.

But legal action charity Reprieve said that covert action had already taken place after a freedom of information request to the Ministry of Defence revealed that RAF personnel embedded with US and other forces “operating in Syrian airspace” included pilots flying in “strike missions”.

“Documents obtained by Reprieve indicate that UK personnel have already been involved in bombing missions over Syria for some time, making the current debate over whether Britain should carry out such strikes somewhat obsolete,” said Reprieve staff attorney Jennifer Gibson.

“It is alarming that Parliament and the public have been kept in the dark about this for so long.” Stop the War Coalition said it made a mockery of Michael Fallon’s promise of a full debate and vote in Parliament on the issue.

“Western bombing in Syria will do nothing to halt ISIS (Islamic State). On the contrary it will add fuel to the flames of war engulfing the whole region and it will lead to an increase in terrorist attacks,” said a Stop the War spokesman.

“Since the start of the ‘war on terror’, jihadi organisation has spread from small pockets of central Asia across whole swathes of the globe.”

Parliament voted against British involvement in Syria two years ago, apparently forcing a red-faced David Cameron to adhere to the decision. But pressed on the matter, Number 10 admitted that the PM was well aware of the covert strikes and had been for some time.

Mr Cameron’s spokeswoman said the policy of embedding British personnel with foreign forces had “been in place since the 1950s.”She insisted that the Ministry of Defence had been asked about the issue beforehand.

“Upward of a dozen” Britons were embedded with other nations engaged in the anti-ISIS campaign, she said – although currently none are pilots.

Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament general secretary Kate Hudson said that the government had shown a shocking disregard for the will of Parliament.

“The Ministry of Defence claims that British troops who are embedded with foreign forces operate as if they were troops of those countries, but this is just anti-democratic doublespeak,” she said.

“These are British soldiers taking part in an operation which MPs voted against.” Tory backbencher John Baron, who opposed air strikes in Iraq, said that ministers must come to the Commons to explain what had happened.

Labour, which recently indicated that it could be prepared to back a fresh vote on extending air strikes into Syria, also said that it would be calling on ministers to make a Commons statement about the role British pilots had played.

Morning Star

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