The UK Parliament is in the midst of a tumultuous debate over whether British forces should participate in airstrikes on Syrian territory.
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Embedded in the theory justifying the UK strike in Syria is the idea that the Syrian government was unwilling or unable to suppress that threat. It seems France also may soon rely on the same legal theory as the United Kingdom.
A British Anwar al-Awlaki Scenario? UK Targets British ISIL Member, in Syria, on an Imminent/Continuous Threat Theory
The novelty is not British involvement in the use of lethal force against an ISIL target, a British citizen. The novelty, instead, was the location of the attack (Syria) and the resulting invocation of what looks very much like the US government's imminent/continuous-threat self-defense theory.
Prime Minister David Cameron is looking to do more in Syria against ISIS. Today his Minister of Defence, Michael Fallon, made the case before Parliament that the UK should participate in coalition airstrikes against ISIS inside Syria. The UK government’s renewed interest in undertaking airstrikes in Syria is driven largely by the attack last week on tourists in Tunisia, in which 29 or 30 of the 38 killed were Brits. (Officials are investigating links between the attacker and ISIS.) Cameron’s government also seems motivated by the idea that limiting uses of force to Iraqi soil makes little strategic sense when ISIS itself treats the Iraqi/Syria border as irrelevant. But what does this still-developing situation say about the UK's justification, under international law, regarding the use of force?