David Cameron faces serious Cabinet split over plans for Britain to arm Syrian opposition
David Cameron is facing a serious Cabinet split over his plans for Britain to take a leading role in supplying Syrian opposition forces with arms.
At least five Cabinet ministers are understood to have raised “ serious reservations” about any significant move by the Government to increase Britain’s involvement in the conflict.
Their concerns have been echoed by a growing number of Conservative MPs who have warned Downing Street they may rebel against the Government in any Parliamentary vote on the issue.
Cabinet sources admit it could take 18 months of arming rebels to force the Syrian regime to the negotiating table – a bleak assessment which some fear may cause Britain to be sucked into a long military commitment with a highly uncertain outcome.
The ministers, who include the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, are said to have warned at a recent meeting of the National Security Council that supplying weapons to the Free Syrian Army might only escalate the conflict, killing many more people without any realistic prospect of decisive victory. They also believe it could be "next to impossible" to ensure that British arms do not fall into the hands of Islamist militants.
Others opponents include the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, the International Development Secretary Justine Greening, the Foreign Office Minister Baroness Warsi and the Cabinet Office minister Ken Clarke.
Senior Whitehall officials say that Mr Cameron has become convinced of the need for Britain to take a much more proactive stance in the Syrian conflict, with one describing it as a "one-man crusade". Another senior Whitehall source said: "He is the one who is driving this. He thinks that it is the right thing to do and that the experience in Libya shows that intervention can work. The danger, as we saw with Tony Blair, is that not all conflicts are the same."