David Cameron defends 'clear' Iraq strategy

 

David Cameron: "Britain is not going to get involved in another war in Iraq"

Prime Minister David Cameron has insisted the government's position on Iraq is "clear" and said the UK would not deploy "boots on the ground".

Mr Cameron said Britain would "use all the assets that we have", including "military prowess" and aid to defeat the "monstrous" Islamic State militant group (IS).

Parliament did not need to be recalled to discuss Iraq, he added.

Labour said Britain's role in the crisis was "pretty unclear".

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has said the UK's military involvement in the country could last for "months", and has revealed that RAF surveillance aircraft are operating there.

IS, an extreme Sunni Islam group, is seeking to build a so-called caliphate - a new Islamic state spanning Iraq and Syria.

The group has seized large parts of both countries in recent months and is alleged to have carried out mass killings of non-Muslims.

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Analysis

Jonathan Beale, BBC defence correspondent

The British military role in Iraq has already morphed from providing humanitarian relief to gathering intelligence. It could easily change again to more direct intervention.

Even now one can assume that surveillance being carried out by the RAF's latest spy plane - the Rivet Joint - is being used to help the US military to identify potential IS targets.

The eight Tornado jets already at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, and currently being used for surveillance, could easily switch to a bombing role. But such a move would probably have to be approved by the Cyprus government.

The political language is changing - perhaps a sign that ministers are preparing the ground for airstrikes. The military hardware is in place. But there are still obstacles - not least consulting Parliament.

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Mr Cameron, who warned in a Sunday Telegraph article at the weekend that IS could target the UK unless action is taken, told BBC Breakfast there was a "political and extremism crisis" in Iraq that had a "direct effect" on the UK.

He said: "Britain is not going to get involved in another war in Iraq. We are not going to be putting boots on the ground. We are not going to be sending in the British Army."

Iraq mission: UK commitment

£13m

aid assistance

  • Tornado bombers (non-combat)

  • Hercules transport planes

  • Chinook helicopters

  • Rivet Joint surveillance aircraft

MoD

He said Britain would "use the assets that we do have" and work with its allies and the Iraqi government.

The government would "look favourably" on a request for arms from Kurdish fighters, he added.

Mr Cameron has faced demands to recall Parliament, which is on its summer break, to discuss Iraq, but he later said: "We are not contemplating things that would require that."

The government's Cobra committee met on Monday to discuss the situation in Iraq. Afterwards Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said: "There's no call for us to deliver air strikes at the moment. The US is delivering targeted air strikes and they're perfectly able to do what needs to be done."

A Downing Street spokesperson added that the humanitarian situation in the region "remains dire".

On Sunday, Kurdish forces - aided by US air strikes - were reported to have regained control of the strategically important Mosul dam after ousting IS militants. The facility was seized by IS earlier this month.

Handout image made available by the British Ministry of Defence (MOD) shows British Secretary of Defence Michael Fallon (C) meeting British Forces Personnel at RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus Michael Fallon met British forces personnel at RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, where the UK operation is based

Whitehall has confirmed UK military flights began ferrying ammunition from eastern European countries to the Kurdish Regional Government from last week. The supplies are for front-line forces battling Islamic State in northern Iraq.

Austria, France and Germany are also sending military supplies to the Kurds.

Mr Fallon told military personnel on a visit to RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus that the UK's role in Iraq had expanded beyond the original humanitarian mission to include intelligence-gathering.

"There may well now be in the next few weeks and months other ways that we may need to help save life [and] protect people and we are going to need all of you again and the surveillance you are able to give us," he said.

The BBC's Frank Gardner reports on the UK's military role in Iraq

Mr Fallon said the RAF had now deployed the Rivet Joint surveillance aircraft alongside Tornado bombers to provide vital intelligence on IS movements across Iraq.

Troops from the 2nd Battalion Yorkshire regiment had been sent into the Kurdish capital Irbil for 24 hours to prepare the ground for a possible rescue mission by the helicopters.

They have now left but British special forces are still believed to be in northern Iraq.

Rivet Joint surveillance aircraft

Boeing RC-135W (Airseeker)

£650m

paid for three spy planes from US

  • 500mph+ speed

  • 3,900-mile range (6,500km)

  • 131ft wingspan (40m)

  • 21-27 mission crew: including up to 3 pilots, 2 navigators, maintenance technicians and intelligence operators

MoD

Mr Fallon said Britain could also provide equipment such as body armour and night-vision goggles to Kurdish forces.

For Labour, shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander said: "It is important to understand the nature of the mission that British forces are now engaged in."

He called for "clarity" from the government but added: "We have supported the steps that the British government, along with other European allies, have taken."

Shia Muslim refugees from Mosul eat at a refugee camp in Baghdad, 17 August Shia Muslim refugees from Mosul eat at a refugee camp in Baghdad

Labour MP Ann Clwyd, who was special envoy to Iraq during the Blair government, told BBC News more clarity is needed.

She said: "Nobody is very clear, listening to the reports, what is actually going on. Are there troops already on the ground or are there not?

"We know the RAF has been very active, are there intelligence people on the ground or are there not?"

She raised particular concerns about thousands of Yazidi women apparently kidnapped in Iraq, adding: "Surely the intelligence services in this country could be used to locate these women."

And she questioned Mr Cameron's decision to go on holiday again, saying his absence was not "satisfactory" and describing the situation as a "mess".

Mr Cameron has defended his latest holiday, saying: "Wherever I am, wherever I am in the world I am always within a few feet of a BlackBerry and an ability to manage things should they need to be managed."

Thousands of Christians and Yazidis have fled their homes to escape IS fighters. IS has also persecuted Shia Muslims, whom it does not regard as true Muslims.

Kurdish officials said the next objective was to clear IS fighters from the Nineveh plain, north-west of Baghdad, "to ensure the return of minorities".

 

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1081.

    When will people realize that you can't fight ideas with cannons?

    If you actually want to see the end of IS, you have to take away what makes them strong: the instability and unpredictability of daily life in these regions. Give the locals help, hope, infrastructure and ideals that are meaningful to them. Give them a future. Killing militants will just radicalize more militants.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1080.

    Why oh why are we getting involved with this hornets' nest? Cameron should learn from Bliar's foolishness. I can see us ending up with a heap more asylum seekers to cloth and feed as if we did not have higher priorities here that are British born and bred!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Still cannot understand how Bliar seems to be Teflon on this! His day may come yet!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1079.

    Interesting that Turkey always seems to get away with everything. That odious Islamist Erdogan let ISIS use Turkey to train Jihadists, then cross into Syria.

    We also never hear about the illegal Turkish settlements in Cyprus and the 140,000 settlers they shipped there.

    Strange how the left don't have a problem with Turkish occupation of Cyprus. They're actually encouraging Turkey to join the EU.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 1078.

    Douglas Alexander called for "clarity" from the government but added: "We have supported the steps that the British government, have taken."

    +++

    That's Labour for you.

    Supporting something lacking clarity...

  • Comment number 1077.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1076.

    The SAS are already in Iraq gathering intelligence.......

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 1075.

    Wonder what Saudi Arabia's reaction would be if ISIS, turn their attention to them, and decide to topple the House of Saud. Wonder who they would go "cap in hand " to, for help....

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 1074.

    @221 Dave,

    You fail to point out one thing. Political Islam is a relatively new phenomena, wealthy Arab states spreading Wahhabism and other forms of intolerant Sunni Islam are relatively new, too. The fact is, genocide of non-Muslims is happening in a Brutal way and the guilty party is the flourishing radical Islam.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 1073.

    I haven't got a lot of time for fundamentalists of any persuasion, but we seem to have quite a few of our own judging by the right-wing rantings from them on here. You don't counter hate with hate.

    Strange that opinion polls show the vast majority want no part in military action in Iraq but right-wing opinions here are all for wiping out the Middle-East!

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 1072.

    Is it time for the Middle East royalist thugs to turn their attention to dealing with the problems within their region.

    It is nauseating to see them doing nothing, apart from buying up large tracts of London and football clubs and expecting our kids putting their lives on the line to maintain their dictatorships.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1071.

    WE NEED TO ARM THE REBELS AND HELP THEM DEFEAT ASSAD!!

    Erm...Scratch that we dont like them anymore lets support everyone we spent years harrasing..

    How about then we clean up by destroying the IS terrorists and the Israeli terrorists since both enjoy killing innocent people.

    Chalk and Cheese reactions OFC, Cant be seen to oppose Israel in public but we can badmouth everyone else for anything.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 1070.

    Blair, Brown & NuLabour opened our borders to all and sundry, including the Muslims who come here to take our benefits, NHS, housing etc, whilst waging holy war on us.

    Now NuLabour want to blame the current Government - sheer hypocrisy!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1069.

    And. to think Mr C was all for arming these ISIS thugs against Syria just to please Saudi's- age old war between the sunny and shia- perhaps Mr C should ask for hard cash from the Saudi's,

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 1068.

    BBC: "Prime Minister David Cameron has insisted the government's position on Iraq is "clear" and said the UK would not deploy "boots on the ground""

    This coming from a man who wanted to supply and arm these islamic militants only a few weeks ago. That doesn't sound very clear to me.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1067.

    "If we had offered the free Syrian Army help over the last three years then Isis would never have formed"

    What was the FSA realistically going to achieve? another Libya or Egypt?

    Sure a small vocal minority have strongly held progressive aspirations, but its all for nowt if the majority turn any resulting free elections into bun-fights drawn along the same old religious and sectarian lines

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1066.

    Wondering how the Campaign Against Arms Trade feel about this " Whitehall has confirmed UK military flights began ferrying ammunition from eastern European countries to the Kurdish Regional Government from last week. The supplies are for front-line forces battling Islamic State in northern Iraq. " and if they are still going to try to stop the UK Government from supplying Israel with equipment.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1065.

    It's incredible,when we shouldn't go to war we do and when we should like now we don't.We are ruled by imbeciles

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1064.

    http://rt.com/uk/180536-kurds-gaza-isis-brawl/
    This makes interesting reading,especially the last paragraph

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1063.

    There will never be peace within the Middle East as long as Islam is the prominent religion. That is the hard fact, and considering Christianity wont ever do what Isis is doing we may as well come to terms with the fact that peace wont ever exist. The only possibility left is for the world to suck their oil reserves dry and turn the place into wasteland and that is exactly what is happening.

  • Comment number 1062.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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