Parliament will be recalled tomorrow to vote on Britain’s role in fighting Islamic State (also known as Isis) in Iraq.
David Cameron has voiced his intention to join the US and France in airstrikes against the extremist militants in the Middle East.
Speaking at the UN in New York, he said the UK would “play its part” in fighting IS, describing the group as “evil against which the whole world must unite”.
The US alongside Arab states began attacks on IS targets on Tuesday. The PM emphasised that “past mistakes” in foreign policy decisions – hinting at the 2003 Iraq invasion – are no “excuse” not to confront the current problem that is rapidly developing. He added that Britain should not be “frozen with fear” into inaction.
Addressing the security council, he said:
My message today is simple. We are facing an evil against which the whole world must unite. And, as ever in the cause of freedom, democracy and justice, Britain will play its part. . .
One of the most disturbing aspects is how this conflict is sucking in our own young people, from modern, prosperous societies.
The threat to our security from foreign fighters is far greater today than it has ever been in previous conflicts.
Yet the PM was also at pains to point out that he had received a “clear request” from the Iraqi government for military assistance, the implication being that joining airstrikes against IS in Iraq has a legal basis, whereas it does not in Syria.
This is an important point, because lack of action in Syria – where IS is also operating – could call into question the effectiveness of airstrikes. And so far, Cameron has ruled out ground troops from western countries going into either Iraq or Syria. Indeed, the Tory MP and former Attorney General Dominic Grieve told the BBC’s Newsnight last night that although Syria comes under a different legal framework to action in Iraq, “there are circumstances in which it would be proper to intervene in Syria”.
The BBC’s James Landale reports that the government is “confident” of winning its vote on Friday, but has not proposed military action in Syria because of legal obstacles.