Britain’s Mission Creep Continues Into Syria

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Foreign policy is currently top of the agenda as the ongoing refugee crisis asks questions over Europe’s immediate response to such a pressing humanitarian disaster, as well as longer term issues regarding Britain’s role in the Middle East. Since reconvening on Monday, parliamentary discussion has been dominated by these topics, exacerbated by the Prime Minister’s revelation that two British citizens had been assassinated by Royal Air Force drone strikes conducted on Syrian soil. This marks a watershed moment for the UK’s forces, which until now had not participated in strikes of this nature, and was authorised directly at a National Security Council meeting chaired by Cameron himself.

Numerous questions are raised by this incident, which is in effect the execution of British citizens within a state with which we are not at war. The ‘pros’ cited by advocates of drone warfare are numerous and well known, but the precedent set by the killings of Reyaad Khan and Ruhul Amin is troubling. The Prime Minister has appointed himself Presidential powers, insisting that the Attorney General, who was present at the NSC meeting, assured him of the legality of the strike. Attention must now turn to the future, over the purported existence of a ‘kill list’, for example, as well as the UK’s position on the moral and legal basis for UAV attacks. As Mehdi Hasan writes:

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It is clear that Britain’s mission creep in Syria has entered its next phase. With Labour due to announce its new leader on Saturday and the ever growing numbers of refugees in Europe serving as a backdrop, the next weeks feel integral in deciding the UK’s next steps in the Middle East.

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