David Cameron warns of ‘danger and instability’ in the world as he defends UK strikes on Houthi targets | Politics News
Not taking military action against the Houthis would have led to “more attacks” in the Red Sea, according to Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron.
The British military took part in a joint operation in Yemen alongside the US this week in retaliation for the targeting of international trade in the key shipping lane – followed up by a fresh attack by the US on Friday night.
Lord Cameron said the action by the Houthis was “effectively terrorist attacks”, adding: “If you don’t act against the Houthis in the Red Sea, you are going to see more attacks.”
And he hinted the government would be willing to join in further military action, telling Sky News’ Sunday Morning with Trevor Philips the UK had “demonstrated that we are prepared to follow words and warning with action”.
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Lord Cameron also warned: “It is hard to think of a time when there has been so much danger and insecurity and instability in the world.
“The lights are absolutely flashing red on the global dashboard and what we need at that time is strong leadership and a plan and that is what we have with the prime minister and the team in place.”
The foreign secretary further defended the initial response to the attacks on ships in the Red Sea, saying there had been 26 incidents since November – including an attack on HMS Diamond, that saw over 20 drones and missiles used by the Houthis.
Asked about concerns that the military operation could lead to an escalation in tensions in the Middle East, the foreign secretary said: “What are the consequences of not acting?
“We have endured almost two months of continual attacks and we gave warning after warning and frankly, ultimately that wasn’t working and the number of attacks was going up, the severity of those attacks was going up.
“So not acting is also a policy, and it was a policy that wasn’t working.”
A spokesman for the Yemeni armed forces in the Houthi-controlled north of the country said in a televised statement that the bombardment “will not go unanswered and unpunished” – saying it would not deter their support for Palestinians amid Israel’s war in Gaza.
Lord Cameron denied any link between the Red Sea attacks, saying the action was “completely separate”.
However, also speaking to Trevor Philips, the former head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, said the strikes had “inevitable” connections to the Israel-Hamas conflict.
“If one’s being rational in analysis, I agree with David Cameron that freedom of navigation is a different issue from Gaza, but the Arab street doesn’t think that,” he said.
“Inevitably there’s a connection. They’re going to have an impact across the whole area.”
Cameron may need to keep unintended consequences in mind
If there’s a foreign policy mantra to be extracted from David Cameron’s time as prime minister, it is likely around the cost of doing nothing.
As he wrote in his memoir about the 2011 intervention in Libya to stop a massacre in Benghazi, “to do nothing in these circumstances was not a neutral act – it was to facilitate murder”.
Two years after the Libya strikes and Cameron made a similar argument to persuade MPs to back bombing in Syria. It didn’t work.
He was defeated in a Commons vote and ruled out any intervention.
The now Lord Cameron says he still believes that was a mistake, but denies he is “over-correcting” by taking a firm line against the Houthis.
It is worth looking at how events in Libya and Syria ultimately played out though.
After initial claims of a new era of freedom, Libya eventually descended into violence, with the UK intervention criticised as ill-informed and lacking in strategy.
In Syria, President Assad remains in power, while Russian involvement there has increased Moscow’s influence in the region.
Two countries. Two different approaches. One similarly undesirable outcome for the UK.
A related danger hangs over military involvement against the Houthis. Set against the wider turbulence in the Middle East, any direct Western involvement must present a risk of triggering uncontrolled escalation.
Far from the cost of doing nothing, it may be the rule of unintended consequences that the foreign secretary should keep in mind.
The government has got the support of Labour in the action, with shadow health secretary Wes Streeting telling Sky News it was an “open and shut case”.
He also said his party understood the need to act “swiftly and decisively” without recalling parliament to debate the issue.
“These strikes were targeted and focussed and absolutely necessary in Britain’s self-defence and national interest,” Mr Streeting told Trevor Philips.
But the Liberal Democrats have attacked the government for “bypassing” parliament, and called for a retrospective vote on the action in the Commons when the prime minister makes a statement on Monday.
The party’s foreign affairs spokesperson, Layla Moran, said: “We remain very concerned about the Houthi’s attacks.
“But that makes it all the more important to ensure that MPs are not silenced on the important issue of military action.”