The United Kingdom is set to support America in a “global effort to degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State, ISIS or IS, militants fighting currently in Iraq and Syria; in a struggle which could reportedly end up lasting close to three years.
As previously reported, NATO has launched a “core coalition” of ten countries, that will be led by the United States and supported by the UK, France, Germany, Canada and Australia. These member nations have committed themselves to fighting jihadists in the region, following reports that the UK could start using airstrikes against IS.
During the NATO summit, held in Wales, Prime Minister David Cameron has been arguing in favour of a “comprehensive plan” to deal with the growing threat. This, Cameron admitted, did not rule out military intervention provided it would serve the best interests of the country. This statement is supported by the UK involvement in the new taskforce which has been created to deal with the problem using soldiers rather than airstrikes.
There were however signs that this decision was reached with difficulty. Reports coming out of the summit have indicated that the UK officials did not feel that the United States of America were putting enough emphasis on involving the regional powers. This could point to the American interventionist policy and a failure to learn from previous forays into Iraq. They were unsupported when they went into the region and led to a protracted military campaign. The French officials have also indicated that they are unwilling to commit to a military response and would not be drawn into one in Syria, although they did not state a position on military action in Iraq. There was unquestionably however some irritation on behalf of the British officials, at the attempts to put a predominantly North American and European force at the forefront of this conflict. This was in direct conflict with the idea that we would prefer to act as support of the nations in the area who would be able to police IS more effectively than we Western nations acting almost as invaders.
IS militants are already responsible for the brutal murders of two American journalists and have threatened to kill Scottish aid worker David Haines; who is believed to be being held in Syria. The murders were circulated after having been recorded showing a British accented man killing James Foley and Steven Sotloff.
The claim that there were tensions, however were refuted by President Barack Obama. The President insisted that the NATO members were unanimous in their attempts to stamp out what has been called “extremist nihilism” of IS, who have also been known as ISIS and ISIL. Obama stated “We are going to achieve our goal. We are going to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL, the same way that we have gone after al Qaida,” he told a press conference. The fact that outright defeat of al Qaida has been achieved can be debated as the organisation, although not as powerful as it once was, still exists.
Cameron, upon holding his own press conference said: “My argument is you need that mixture of intelligent politics, diplomatic pressure, long-term engagement in a comprehensive plan as well as the potential for military or other more aggressive action. This will take time and it will take resolve. We will proceed carefully and methodically, drawing together the partners we need, above all in the region, to implement a comprehensive plan.”
Cameron despite reassurances that the UK would join other NATO nations in a military campaign has not put the question to his own party about what their opinion of becoming involved in another Middle Eastern war. Also despite claims to the contrary the United Kingdom is not currently ready for such an offensive. The reason for this is thought to be that Cameron is waiting for a more cooperative Iraqi government to be formed which could happen this month.
US secretary of State John Kerry also has asked for an agreement on an international plan for dealing with IS by the time the general meeting of the United Nations General Assembly is held in New York later this month. Kerry and the Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, co-chaired a committee which called for a method to eradicate the “genocidal, territorial-grabbing, caliphate-desiring” fighters. Kerry was quoted as saying “We’re convinced in the days ahead we have the ability to destroy ISIL. It may take a year, it may take two years, it may take three years. But we’re determined.” Mirroring the statements made earlier by Cameron that we will have a “generational struggle” against IS.
“We will do everything we can to protect this individual, Mr Haines, but we have to be clear about the nature of the organisation that we are dealing with,” Hammond told BBC News. “They are utterly brutal; they are ideologically driven, almost pathological in the way that they behave. We cannot allow our strategy to be driven by their behaviour. We have to approach the challenge of ISIL with focus purely on what is in Britain’s best interests – protecting our citizens and our security from the threat that ISIL poses from foreign fighters, from potential attacks on our soil, destabilisation of the region. We will not be diverted from doing what is right by the threats from this organisation.”
With this reaction and apparent commitment from the Prime Minister that we will act against IS, provided that it is in the best interest of the country, it would appear we are likely to be at war again very soon. As stated above it also appears likely to be a predominantly Western response. Let us hope we have learned from the mistakes made in other military campaigns into the Middle East and we do not end up bogged down as we did in Iraq. Let us hope that we can bring lasting peace to the region, with the help of those in the region and not leave it war-torn and broken as we have done before.