UK eyeing bigger role in push to destroy ISIS

British Prime Minister David Cameron.
British Prime Minister David Cameron.PHOTO: AFP

Cameron to seek Parliament's approval to join US-led strikes against ISIS in Syria

LONDON • Britain is preparing to take on a bigger role in the international efforts to destroy the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS).

British Prime Minister David Cameron said yesterday that his government is in discussions over how it can contribute more to the fight against the group and will seek support from Parliament.

"I want Britain to do more, I'll always have to take my Parliament with me," Mr Cameron told US network NBC's Meet The Press in an interview yesterday .

"We are talking and discussing at the moment, including with the opposition parties in Britain, what more we can do. But be in no doubt we are committed to working with you to destroy the caliphate in both countries."

Britain conducts regular strikes against ISIS militants in Iraq but has so far limited its Syrian involvement to flying surveillance missions to gather intelligence.

Mr Cameron failed to get parliamentary approval for military action against the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2013 but has asked lawmakers to consider whether Britain should now join US-led strikes against ISIS in Syria.

Government sources say he is expected to wait until after the opposition Labour Party elects its new leader in September to seek a fresh vote on bombing Syria.

Last Friday, the Ministry of Defence said that British pilots embedded with US and Canadian forces had taken part in air strikes in Syria, angering some lawmakers who said the government had misled Parliament.

ISIS captured headlines last year when it seized large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq and declared an Islamic caliphate. Notorious for brutal mass killings, abductions and beheadings, the group has exploited social media to attract support across the globe, including in South-east Asia.

Many nations are on heightened security alerts and have revamped counter-terrorism laws to purge the threat from ISIS. Among them is Saudi Arabia, which carried out a nationwide dragnet in recent months that resulted in the arrest of more than 400 people linked to ISIS. Singapore is part of a US-led coalition of more than 60 nations to destroy it.

In its most recent attack, ISIS has claimed responsibility for a bombing that killed 100 in a Shi'ite-majority town in eastern Iraq last Friday. ISIS, which follows an extremist interpretation of Sunni Islam, has often attacked Shi'ite civilians.

In recognition of the fact that the influence of ISIS is being felt inside Britain, Mr Cameron is expected to use a speech today to warn young Britons against the temptation to travel abroad to join the militant group's ranks.

British recruits will become "cannon fodder" for the movement, Mr Cameron will say, according to excerpts of the speech released in advance. "If you are a boy, they will brainwash you, strap bombs to your body and blow you up. If you are a girl, they will enslave and abuse you."

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2015, with the headline 'UK eyeing bigger role in push to destroy ISIS'. Print Edition | Subscribe