Iraq crisis: Anti-war protesters call for mass march on Downing Street


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Anti-war protesters condemned the Government's decision to launch RAF air strikes to defeat terrorist group Islamic State (Isis) and called for a national demonstration later this week. "We must ensure that the insanity of a third war in Iraq is publicly opposed by the widest numbers possible. We need to break the cycle of violence," said Chris Nineham, a founding member of Stop the War Coalition.

Along with the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), Stop the War will march past Downing Street on Saturday, expecting thousands of protesters to join from across the UK. It's unlikely the march will emulate the 2003 demonstrations opposing the unpopular British invasion of Iraq, in which an estimated two million people marched in London and other UK cities in protest.

Nineham condemned the third round of military action against Iraq, fearing that more Western intervention would "only increase anger and hatred of the West".

"I think this is a shoot first, ask questions later foreign policy, which is in danger of actually strengthening the problem, deepening divisions and inflaming violence," said Mr Nineham.

Mohammed Kozbar, vice-president of MAB, called MPs' overwhelming support for military action on Friday – 524 votes in favour to 43 against – "disappointing" and "a mistake that we could pay heavily for".

"We want people from all communities to join us on Saturday to send a message to the Prime Minister that the British people are against the war in Iraq and Syria," said Mr Kozbar.

The organisers may struggle to recreate similar levels of protest. Recent polls show the majority of the British public approved of RAF air strikes in Iraq after videos emerged of IS members beheading British citizens, tipping the scales in support of military action from 37 per cent last month to 57 per cent on Friday.

Support crumbled, however, at the idea of sending troops back to Iraq, with 54 per cent of the public disapproving.

Despite the polls, the organisers remain confident the public will come out in numbers.

Kate Hudson, general secretary of CND, denounced the Government's decision. "You can attempt to militarily cut the head of Isis, but the same problems will arise again until the underlying, long-running problems – the need for justice, equality, and political and economic self-determination – are resolved."

Praising the British public's action in protesting against the previous Iraq war, Ms Hudson called for similar action on Saturday: "I would urge the British public to continue making their voices heard and engaging and discussing the issues of legality, alternatives to military options and whether the policy is right or not," she said.

"I'm calling on the British public to stay engaged democratically and to scrutinise the Government's decision."