Britain ‘cannot opt out of’ Islamic State fight - Cameron

PM may announce plan to join air strike effort to defeat militants later this week

British prime minister David Cameron may announce as early as this week that Britain is ready to join air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq and that he plans to seek parliament's approval for such action.

Mr Cameron is due to set out his position in a speech to the UN General Assembly in New York tonight and is expected to call on the world to unite to destroy Islamic State militants, whom he has warned are planning to attack Britain.

The decision to strike in Iraq would be at Baghdad's request. Mr Cameron is due to meet Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi today. Sources in Mr Cameron's office expect him to request British air strikes against Islamic State during the meeting.

Mr Cameron has not yet decided whether Britain would take part in strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria because of legal issues, a source familiar with the matter said, and any announcement on Iraq would be to join strikes in principle and would not herald immediate action.


“This is a fight you cannot opt out of,” Mr Cameron told NBC News in an interview last night. “These people want to kill us. They’ve got us in their sights and we have to put together this make sure that we ultimately destroy this evil organisation.”

Earlier, the British leader's office said he supported air strikes by the United States and allies on IS targets in Syria. He has previously said he supports similar US action in Iraq.

"The prime minister will be holding talks at the United Nations in New York over the next two days on what more the UK and others can do to contribute to international efforts to tackle the threat we all face from (Islamic State)," his office said in a statement.

“The UK is already offering significant military support, including supplying arms to the Kurds as well as surveillance operations by a squadron of Tornadoes and other RAF aircraft.”

Britain was quick to join US military action in Afghanistan and Iraq a decade ago but a war-weary public and parliament's rejection last year of air strikes on Syria have made Mr Cameron wary.

He would need to recall parliament, which is in recess, to put proposed air strikes to a vote. That could happen as early as this Friday.

Douglas Alexander, Labour's foreign affairs spokesman, said his party backed US and Arab strikes, but sources close to the party said it would only definitively make up its mind when it saw the text of a resolution from Mr Cameron.