In a surprise twist the Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has backed airstrikes on Islamic State in Syria, claiming that the situation is not akin to the one that preceded the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Farron had previously set out five tests that would have to be met before he supported prime minister David Cameron’s plans to drop bombs in Syria, stressing the legality of such a move and whether it would be supported by other measures.
Writing to Lib Dem members he said these tests had been met “as best they can”, adding:
“I believe it is right to support what is a measured, legal and broad-based international effort to tackle the evil regime that has contributed to the hundreds of thousands of desperate refugees, fleeing for their lives.
“As a Liberal Democrat I am an internationalist. I believe in acting collectively with our friends and our European allies, joining Germany, France, Denmark, the Netherlands and others in responding to threats to our security within a framework of international law.”
The situation contrasts the position of the late Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy, who made a name for himself opposing the Iraq War against widespread support in the Labour and Tory parties back in 2003.
Condemning the Iraq War as “illegal”, Farron said:
“This war has cast a long shadow over Britain’s role in the world and has severely damaged the confidence that the British people have in our intelligence services and the decisions of our prime ministers. But this is not Iraq.”
Parliament will vote on the airstrikes in Syria on Wednesday.
Image Credit – Tim Farron, March 2011 by Liberal Democrats