British officials say Royal Air Force Typhoon and Tornado fighter jets, armed with Brimstone missiles capable of hitting moving targets, would bring the campaign highly accurate firepower and help minimize civilian casualties.
Critics say that British airstrikes will make little practical difference, and that ground forces will be needed to root out ISIL. Britain has ruled out sending troops, and critics of the government have responded with skepticism to Cameron's claim that there are 70,000 moderate Syrian rebels on the ground.
Cameron stood by that claim Wednesday, though he conceded, "I'm not saying that the 70,000 are our ideal partners."
Karin von Hippel, who was chief of staff to U.S. Gen. John Allen when he was Washington’s anti-ISIL envoy, said force alone wouldn’t defeat the group — but neither would diplomacy alone.
"The Brits have expertise and capabilities," she said. Their involvement "brings moral authority and legitimacy to the fight."
The British debate comes as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said NATO members were ready to step up military efforts against the ISIL group — and held out hope of improved cooperation between the West and Russia to end Syria's four-year civil war.
A day after U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the United States would deploy a new special operations force to Iraq to step up the fight against the fighters, Kerry said other countries could provide assistance that didn’t involve combat. He said the effort to expand operations would require more medical facilities, intelligence-gathering, military support structure, refueling operations, aerial defenses and other action.
The German Cabinet has approved plans to commit up to 1,200 soldiers to support the anti-ISIL coalition in Syria, though not in a combat role.
Despite talk of increased international cooperation, tension has soared between Russia and Turkey after the shooting down of a Russian military jet by Turkish forces last week.
On Wednesday, Russia's deputy defense minister, Anatoly Antonov, accused Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his family of benefiting from illegal oil trade with ISIL fighters.
Erdogan called the claim "slander" and said Turkey wouldn’t “buy oil from a terror organization."
Russia and the U.S. also disagree about strategy in Syria, with Moscow backing Assad and Washington saying he must go.