The “lights are absolutely flashing red” on the global dashboard, the UK foreign secretary has said, insisting airstrikes against Houthi sites in Yemen were necessary to prevent future attacks by the group.
David Cameron said it was “hard to think of a time when there has been so much danger and insecurity and instability in the world”.
Praising the prime minister’s judgment on the military action, he said Rishi Sunak had “followed all the correct procedures” before the strikes, including assembling ministers, listening to advice, and consulting allies.
Asked on Sky News whether ministers had considered that the strikes could raise the likelihood of terrorist action in the UK, Cameron said: “The threat level is set after careful consideration by the joint terrorist assessment centre and that is the right way of doing it; it is not in the power of politicians just to suddenly wake up one morning and change the threat level.
“Our view is, look, take a step back from this, 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, as it were, on the global dashboard and what we need at that time is strong leadership and a clear plan. That is what we have with the prime minister and the team in place.
“And taking action, if you don’t act against the Houthis in the Red Sea, you are going to see more attacks, they are effectively terroristic attacks, you will see more of that.”
On Monday, Sunak will make a statement to parliament addressing the strikes. The foreign secretary said it would not have been right to have held a debate and vote before the UK-US military strikes because of “operational security”.
Cameron was speaking on the 100th day since Hamas attacked Israel, sparking the country’s bombing of Gaza. He denied that the Red Sea conflict was linked to the Israel-Gaza war.
When asked about the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, criticising the “disproportionate” UK-US strikes in Yemen, Cameron said: “We don’t agree with what President Erdoğan has said. If you look at the action we have taken, it is actually backed by a very wide coalition of countries.”
He added: “He is an important Nato ally, but in this case we don’t agree. We see this as completely separate from the Israel-Gaza conflict.”
Rejecting suggestions that the strikes had escalated the situation in the Red Sea, the foreign secretary told the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg: “The escalation has been caused by the Houthis. I mean the point is, since 19 November you have had these 26 attacks.
“There have been more of them; they have been getting worse and, you know, not acting is also a policy; it is a policy that doesn’t work.”
While facing questions from a committee of MPs on Tuesday last week, Cameron suggested he was “worried” that Israel might have broken international law with its bombing of Gaza. Asked on Sunday about his comments, Cameron said: “I didn’t say that.”
Asked whether he thought Israel had a case to answer in the international court of justice, where South Africa is accusing it of genocide, Cameron said: “No, I absolutely don’t. I think the South African action is wrong; I think it is unhelpful; I think it shouldn’t be happening.”
The former head of MI6 Sir Richard Dearlove said the UK was “absolutely” right to launch strikes on the Houthis, but acknowledged there was a risk the action on the Houthis could inspire “lone wolf” terror attacks in the UK.
Asked whether people in the UK should be feeling safer, Dearlove told Sky News’s Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips: “If you’re talking about the sympathetic radicalism and the events in the Middle East now motivating, let’s say, domestic terrorism, well, there’s a risk there.
“If you’re looking at the Houthis specifically, do they have an infrastructure in the UK which could be a sort of conspiratorial organisation to mount a terrorist attack? Unlikely. Very unlikely in my view.”
Speaking to the BBC, the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, said there was “no inconsistency” between his support for strikes on the Houthis, and his previous calls for parliamentary oversight of military action.
Starmer had said he would ensure military intervention was subject to approval by parliament, and considered passing an act of law to bind the government to this. Asked whether he had changed his position, he said: “No, there is no inconsistency here.
“There is obviously a huge distinction between an operation, the like of which we have seen in the last few days, and military action, a sustained campaign, military action usually involving troops on the ground.”