Britain Considers Joining U.S. Iraqi Airstrikes
British military chiefs are drawing up plans to help American airstrikes in Iraq, the Times reports. Senior figures are considering sending a spy plane to provide intelligence on ISIS positions, while Royal Air Force aircraft capable of refuelling U.S. fighter jets in mid-air will also be sent.
The UK government, which has welcomed American intervention in the fight against ISIS, has also not ruled out conducting its own airstrikes if the humanitarian situation worsens.
MPs are also discussing the possibility of using British special forces, who have long experience in the Kurdish region, to offer help in pinpointing targets.
Former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said: “I am fairly certain . . . that the intelligence capability of Great Britain will be made wholly available to the United States for this purpose. It may be... that British special forces may be of assistance to the Americans.”
Last night, in the first British action in the conflict, a transport aircraft also took off from military base RAF Brize Norton, in Oxfordshire, loaded with supplies for the thousands of refugees stranded in a mountain range close to Kurdistan.
Iraq’s ambassador to London, Faik Nerweyi, said that Britain and America need to send more support to beleaguered Baghdad government, who have struggled to fend off the threat from ISIS.
“Don’t ISIS deserve to be bombarded until their end? I think they do,” Mr Nerweyi said.
The Kurdish army, which is the best-trained and most competent force in Iraq, has lost ground to ISIS in the past week as its ageing military supplies begin to fail. The Kurds are already running out of bullets for their old, Russian-built AK-47s, leading to concerns that they may not be able to hold out against ISIS much longer.
The jihadists, on the other hand, now possess a vast arsenal of American-built weaponry, stolen from captured Iraqi army bases.
Former Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt has also said that Britain must do more: “We should offer to do as much as we possibly can, but it strikes me that it is a time for maximum support. “ He added that Prime Minister David Cameron should even go as far as authorising military intervention without a vote in the House of Commons.
The Prime Minister has said: “I am extremely concerned by the appalling situation in Iraq and the desperate situation facing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.
“I am especially concerned for the minority Yazidi community now trapped on Mount Sinjar, where they have fled for their lives. They fear slaughter if they descend back down the slopes but face starvation and dehydration if they remain on the mountain.”