Ministers refuse to rule out arming soldiers fighting Islamic State extremists as RAF Tornado jets sent back to Iraq to join the international aid mission.
Britain was edging towards military action in Iraq on Monday as ministers refused to rule out arming soldiers fighting Islamic State extremists. Ministers sent RAF Tornado jets back to Iraq to join the international aid mission helping tens of thousands of refugees fleeing militant fighters.
Although the jets are being used only for surveillance missions, officials have not ruled out escalating the British involvement in the conflict. The United States sent weapons to Kurdish fighters to help them push back IS forces in northern Iraq under the cover of air strikes, Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, said he did not envisage “a combat role” at present.
“We are talking at the moment about a humanitarian operation,” he said.However, Downing Street said arming the Kurds was “one issue that is out there”. There are growing calls, particularly from backbenchers, for Britain to take part in military action.
David Cameron is resisting appeals to recall Parliament. Mr Hammond said such a step was not necessary yet.
However, Conor Burns, the Tory MP for Bournemouth West, said:
“What we are seeing is a dogmatic Islamic faction who are determined to strike, to get rid of … anybody who doesn’t share their distorted and twisted view of the world.
“We should be doing several things more than we are already doing.”[Jew] Jack Straw, the former Labour foreign secretary, said:
“We are getting close to the need to recall Parliament.”An RAF C130 transport plane had to cancel a delivery of water and supplies because refugees ran towards the plane as it approached its drop zone.
A defence source said the Tornado jets could be operating within two days.
Mr Cameron and other senior ministers faced criticism for staying away while the situation in Iraq deteriorated.
With Mr Cameron, Mr Clegg and Mr Osborne on holiday, the crisis is being handled by Mr Hammond and Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, who took up their ministerial roles last month.