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5 September 2014updated 23 Jul 2021 10:29am

British military involvement in Iraq could begin “within weeks”

David Cameron hinted that the UK will soon join the US in air strikes on Islamic State.

By Anoosh Chakelian

The Prime Minister is using the Nato summit to signal what Britain will do in response to Islamic State (also known as Isis). He and the US President Barack Obama last night held talks on military and political action against IS.

David Cameron suggested that Britain would be joining the US in air strikes on the militant group, and that this could begin within weeks. On the subject of air strikes, Cameron said yesterday:

We need to show real resolve and determination, we need to use every power and everything in our armoury, with our allies, with those on the ground to make sure we do everything we can to squeeze this dreadful organisation out of existence.

He also told the BBC’s Today programme yesterday morning that he wouldn’t be “ruling anything out” regarding the UK’s role in combating IS.

According to the Daily Mail, among senior Tory MPs there is “overwhelming” support for the UK to join military action in the Middle East. And the BBC reports that it is the “more hawkish” Conservative MPs who are eager for a vote on military action. The same report suggests there is broadly a cross-party consensus on Britain upping its role from simply a humanitarian one:

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A year on and the mood could not be more different. A sombre consensus seems to be sitting over the chamber. The government’s action so far – humanitarian aid, surveillance support to the US, non-military help for the Kurds with the prospect of arms if they ask – has had the unwavering support of the Labour leadership.

There’s been barely a squeak of dissent. And with air strikes “not ruled out” by David Cameron, very few on either side of the Commons can be heard saying no.

With such support among politicians, and direct conversations with the US President on the importance of countering IS, “weeks” seems like a long time. This wait reveals the difference in how western leaders approach foreign intervention, post-Iraq war. They must ensure parliamentary (or, in the US, congressional) support, and possibly also backing from the public, before they act.

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