UK to step up support for Kurds fighting Islamic State militants

Cameron orders supply of ammunition and equipment to Iraq after government formed

Kurdish Peshmerga fighters advance during clashes with the Islamic State on the front line at Buyuk Yeniga village yesterday. Photograph: Reuters/Ahmed Jadallah

Kurdish Peshmerga fighters advance during clashes with the Islamic State on the front line at Buyuk Yeniga village yesterday. Photograph: Reuters/Ahmed Jadallah

 

The United Kingdom will ramp up support for Kurdish forces fighting Islamic extremists in Iraq, increasing the prospects of air strikes by the Royal Air Force in coming weeks.

British prime minister David Cameron has ordered the supply of British-made ammunition to the Kurds, along with more body armour and other equipment.

Washington has yet to request British military action, but Downing Street signalled yesterday that a call could come from Baghdad if a new government is formed in the next week.

London is pressing Middle East states to act, believing that they have too often left the US and the UK to take the lead roles, and subsequently complain about the actions taken.

Military trainers have been offered to the Kurds, and this could take place in Jordan, it was signalled shortly before Mr Cameron met Jordan’s King Abdullah.

One of the British army’s most senior officers, Lieut Gen Simon Mayall, is advising the Kurds and is to report back to Mr Cameron on what extra help will be needed.

Air strikes

Syria

Mr Cameron, rejecting calls for a pact with Mr Assad, said such deals had dragged the West into “all sorts of moral quagmires” in the past.

Conservative whips in the House of Commons have begun to gauge whether MPs will back air strikes in a bid to prevent a repeat of last year’s humiliation over Syria.

London hopes that a new government could be in place in Baghdad by September 11th, opening the way for the Iraqis to invite London to help them defeat Islamic State.

The House of Commons will debate the threat posed by extremists next Wednesday, offering Mr Cameron an opportunity to seek the backing of MPs for military action.

“The Iraqi government is a legitimate government. We believe it is about to become more legitimate with a new prime minister with the backing of all of his country,” said Mr Cameron

Labour leader Ed Miliband, who opposed Syrian action last year, has signalled that he will take a different action this time: “(Isis) is a threat that can’t be ignored.”

Mr Cameron’s difficulties are heightened by the threat from Islamic State to behead British hostage David Haines who appeared in last week’s video with Stephen Sotloff, shortly before the American was butchered.

Ruling out paying a ransom, Mr Cameron criticised states that have – Germany, France and Italy, particularly – though he did not identify them. “That money goes directly into kidnapping more people, into getting arms and weapons, and plotting terrorist outrages including here in the UK,” he said.

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, echoing Mr Cameron’s demand for Middle East states to become involved, said military action had to be led by countries in the region.”

Britain, he said, “could only act in support”. : “The first thing to say is air strikes on their own particularly by the West against the rest don’t work.”