Cameron says Britain won’t ‘put boots on the ground’ in Iraq
PM says action needed to prevent violence hitting Britain as role moves beyond aid
British prime minister David Cameron has insisted his government has a “fully worked through” strategy to tackle Islamic State extremists after Britain’s role in Iraq moved beyond humanitarian aid. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/PA Wire.
He stressed that troops would not get involved in another war in the troubled country but argued that limited action was needed to prevent violence spreading to British streets.
Mr Cameron said he wanted to make it clear that “we are not going to be putting boots on the ground. We are not going to be sending in the British Army”.
With the US carrying out air strikes against Islamic State forces, British defence secretary Michael Fallon revealed that the RAF had now deployed the Rivet Joint surveillance aircraft alongside Tornado bombers to provide vital intelligence on extremist movements across Iraq.
But Labour and senior Church of England bishops have complained that the Government has no “coherent or comprehensive approach” to Islamist extremism and is failing to protect Christians from persecution.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast this morning, Mr Cameron said: “What we are trying to do is to help with the situation that we face.
“First of all, that is the humanitarian situation that we face... but alongside the humanitarian crisis there is also a political and extremism crisis in Iraq that has a direct effect on us back here in the UK.”
Mr Cameron said “we do want to have, and we do have, a fully worked through strategy for helping allies to deal with this monstrous organisation, IS.
“So we are helping the Kurds, we are working with the Iraqi government to make sure it is more representative of the whole country and, of course, we are working with neighbours and allies to put the maximum amount of pressure on IS and make sure it is properly dealt with.
“We have said that if the Kurds, the Peshmerga, want to have arms from us, that is something we would consider favourably.
“Up to now they have not been making that request. Really the sort of weapons they have been using have been more eastern bloc variety, and so they have been supplied by others.”
Mr Cameron said he viewed the Kurds as the “first line of defence against these murderous extremists in IS that are causing so much damage in Iraq”.
But he insisted that IS had already started inflicting “damage here in Europe”, highlighting a shooting at a Jewish museum in Brussels.
“We have already had the first IS motivated attacks in Europe; for instance, the dreadful terrorism that took place in Brussels just a few weeks ago.”
However, he stressed: “I want to be absolutely clear to you and to families watching at home, Britain is not going to get involved in another war in Iraq.
“Yes, we should use all the assets that we have, our diplomacy, our political relationships, our aid, the military prowess, the expertise that we have to help others - we should use these things as part of a strategy to put pressure on Islamic State and make sure this terrorist organisation is properly addressed and it cannot cause mayhem on our own streets.”
Mr Cameron said “keeping people safe here at home” was his “number one, two and three priorities”.