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Iraq crisis: Isis extremists plan to attack us in the UK, warns David Cameron

Prime Minister calls for ‘long-term, hard-headed’ approach to deal with situation, as US pulls back from air strikes
  • @NigelpMorris

The Isis fighters advancing across Iraq are also plotting attacks on Britain, David Cameron has said as he warned it would be a grave mistake to ignore the threat to this country posed by Islamist extremists in the Middle East.

Around 400 Britons are believed to have joined the Isis forces in Syria and ministers believe many will inevitably have crossed the border and be among the militants who have seized wide stretches of northern Iraq.

The Government released figures showing a sharp rise in numbers of “Syria-related arrests” of British nationals and UK residents in recent months. Of the 65 arrests since the beginning of 2013, 40 were made in the first three months of this year.

The security services’ biggest fear is that some extremists could bring back to Britain the deadly techniques they acquired in Syria and Iraq.

Several people have been stopped from travelling to conflict zones and the Government is pledging a “sharp focus” on the danger from jihadists returning from the two countries. It also plans new legislation to prosecute people who plan and train for terrorism abroad.

Mr Cameron told MPs: “I disagree with those people who think this is nothing to do with us and that if they want to have some sort of extreme Islamist regime in the middle of Iraq, it won’t affect us. It will.

“The people in that regime, as well as trying to take territory, are also planning to attack us here at home in the United Kingdom. The estimates are now that this is a greater threat to the UK than the return of jihadists from the Afghanistan or Pakistan region.”

The Prime Minister, who was defeated by MPs last year over his backing for air raids against Syrian government forces, has made clear Britain will not take part in any military action in Iraq.

He repeated it was up to Iraqi troops to repel Isis and urged the Shia-dominated Baghdad government to include more Sunnis and Kurds.

Mr Cameron said the answer to the crisis was “to be long-term, hard-headed, patient and intelligent with interventions we make – because these problems will come back and hit us at home if we don’t.”

He also announced an extra £2m of emergency humanitarian aid is to be sent to displaced Iraqis, bringing to £5m the amount pledged by Britain since the crisis began.

There were fresh indications in Washington meanwhile that President Barack Obama and his national security team are pulling back from ordering aerial strikes in support of the Baghdad government, not least because US intelligence has yet to find certain targets that would warrant such action.

As he continued to ponder possible options for bolstering Baghdad in the face of the Isis advance, Mr Obama consulted for the first time directly with congressional leaders at the White House.

He has faced criticism from some Republicans for moving too slowly to react to the crisis while some Democrats have started to speak forcibly against any action that would threaten to embroil the US in Iraq’s civil war.

“It’s time for the Iraqis to resolve it themselves,” Harry Reid, the majority leader in the US Senate, commented in advance of the meeting.

“Those who attack President Obama for bringing our troops home from Iraq are wrong and out of step with the American people. After a decade of war, the American people have had enough. American families have had enough.”

General David Petraeus, who led American troops in Iraq in 2007 and 2008, warned that any American intervention had to have broad local backing to succeed.

“If there is to be support for Iraq it has to be support for a government that is a government of all the people,” he told attendees at an event in London, organised by the Centre for Policy Studies think-tank.

“This cannot be the United States being the air force for Shia militias… it has to be a fight of all of Iraq against extremists who happen to be Sunni Arabs.”

General Petraeus also expressed his regret at governmental failures he said had squandered the chance to move past sectarianism since US forces pulled out. “Sadly, in the past two and a half or three years, some of the deals [struck with rival groups] have not been supported or sustained,” he said. “That architecture, those agreements and initiatives have been undermined by sectarian actions.”

Terror Inc. Isis’s annual report

Over the past two years Isis has developed a disciplined military command which collects statistics and has produced two annual reports.

On 31 March 2014, Isis published al-Naba – “the news” – a detailed mix of narrative, table and graphs. The report show a central command that wants to publicise how it is using its resources such as suicide bombing and where it is achieving its targets: establishment of checkpoints, conversion of apostates and expulsion of Shia.

Isis divides activities into functions including assassinations, numbers of prisoners freed,  suicide-vehicle attacks and the number of repentant apostates. Isis has taken on board modern methods to measure its activities and to suggest areas for improvements. It also uses social media to reach an international audience.

The report only deals with Iraq. It is not clear if Syria – where Isis controls towns and operates administrative services as well as brutal regime of justice featuring amputations – operates a similar system.

It is clear that Isis aims to take control of the Sunni areas of Iraq. According to 2013 reports, Diyala in eastern Iraq was also the target of Isis’s repentance campaigns. “Dozens” are said to have deserted from the regime and joined Isis. Adding to this, Isis states that dozens of Shia were expelled from the province.

Source: Institute for the Study of War