RAF jets are poised to begin air strikes on Islamic State (IS) positions in Iraq after Parliament backed military action.
MPs voted 524-43 in support of military action in Iraq after an impassioned debate, and Prime Minister David Cameron said that the UK was ready to “play our part” in addressing the threat posed by the “appalling terrorist organisation”.
The British involvement comes after a plea by the Iraqi government for British assistance in combating the threat from IS, which has gained control of large swathes of land in Iraq and Syria in recent months, and declared these territories as part of a new “Caliphate”.
Six RAF Tornado GR4 fighters have been taking part in reconnaissance and intelligence gathering missions from a base in Cyprus since August, but they have not yet been involved in the strikes in Iraq and Syria led by the US, joined by France and a number of Arab states.
While Westminster has sanctioned air strikes on IS positions in Iraq, the motion was clear in that it did not include the mobilisation of ground troops or any military action within Syrian borders, despite IS’ de-facto capital being located in the Syrian city of Raqqa.
Cameron said that the first RAF military missions in Iraq would begin “relatively rapidly”, but Defence Secretary Michael Fallon warned that the war on IS would be “long and drawn out”.
Home Secretary Theresa May said that the government planned to rapidly introduce new powers, including passport seizures, to target Britons aiming to travel to the Middle East to join the ranks of IS militants.