SYRIA: ‘We are letting our allies down’

General Sir Nicholas Houghton, the chief of the defence staff, said it “makes no sense” that RAF airstrikes in neighbouring Iraq had to stop at the border when ISIS based its stronghold in Syria
Sir Nicholas told Sky’s Murnaghan programme that “to an extent yes, we are letting our allies down by not being a full player.
“But my view on this is a far more fundamental and simple one in a way and it’s the point you make about going up to a border and having to stop there. In the most simplistic way it’s like being asked to win a football match but not being able to go into the opponents’ half.
“But the source of their power, their command and control, their logistics, their organisation, the place from which they issue orders to international terrorists is from within Syria. “And so to be denied our ability to play a proportionate role in that makes no sense.”
MPs rejected possible UK military action in Syria in 2013.
Sir Nicholas later told BBC’s Andrew Marr show that the UK had only ever said it could make a contribution towards an international effort to defeat IS.
“This is as much down an ideological route as it is a military route, and I do think it’s important that in the end the military dimension of this is done by regional players, by Muslim countries, by local armed forces,” he said.
“I don’t think we should play the decisive military role because it runs the risk of adding fuel to the radicalisation of Isis as an abhorrent cult.”
He also said evidence that a bomb may have brought down a Russian airliner in Syria may prove to be a turning point in the West’s relationship with Russia and attitudes towards the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“There is an opportunity for political convergence between America, ourselves, the West and Putin,” he said.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told Andrew Marr Britain saw “eye-to-eye” with the Russians on “lots of things” in Syria, such as “the need to destroy Isil” but he added: “The one thing we disagree on is the future of Bashar al-Assad.
“We and most of our allies believe he needs to go at a point in the transition.”