Iraq crisis: Government considers deploying ground forces as conflict worsens

 

Whitehall Editor

Britain has had to abandon an overnight aid drop to refugees who have fled from their homes in Northern Iraq over fears they would hit those on the ground.

Downing Street said crowds of thousands of people had congregated on the mountainside area around the town of Sinjar when the RAF C130 tried to airdrop water and essential supplies.

But they were forced to turn back without making the drop because of the pilots' fears that those on the ground could be killed or injured.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said they would continue to try and make aid drops, but the incident underlined how difficult the situation was. This morning the Foreign Secretary chaired a meeting of the Government’s emergency response committee Cobra.

Government officials are understood to be attempting to draw up plans with the Americans to find a long term solution to the refugee crisis in Northern Iraq.

And for the first time the Government said it might be prepared to send British troops in a humanitarian capacity to help secure the passage of the refugees out of the range of Isis fighters.

“Some sort of force on the ground may well be considered,” said the spokesperson, adding: “The work on this is in the planning stage and then decisions will need to be taken.”

However, recalling Parliament was “not on the cards at this stage” despite calls from some backbenchers for MPs to be brought back.

 

They also ruled out helping the Americans with air strikes against Isis forces, saying that at the moment the UK was focusing on the humanitarian aid effort. However, providing arms to the Kurdish fighters engaging Isis was not ruled out, though no decisions have been taken.

Former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell, also a member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said the Government would be "well advised" to seek support from Parliament should it wish its action to go beyond providing humanitarian relief and logistical support.

He said: “The unparalleled barbarity of the jihadists of IS is a sufficient and compelling reason for humanitarian intervention. Short of Kosovo, it is hard to think of any more pressing argument for intervention in recent times. I cannot imagine any opposition within the House of Commons for the action now being taken by the British Government.

"But if it is proposed to any extent to go beyond providing humanitarian relief and logistical support for the United States, the Government would be well advised to seek the endorsement of Parliament."

Tory Conor Burns said MPs should be brought back from their summer break because the Government response to the slaughter of minority Christians and Yazidis was "not strong enough".

Lord Dannatt said the risk of a genocide unfolding meant further help should be considered, arguing that the UK shared “some culpability” for the breakdown in Iraqi society.

“The Peshmurga [armed Kurdish fighters] are willing to stand. They need to be supported with some military hardware, with equipment, possibly some training - probably out of the country," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"But also the air strikes need to be stepped up and they need to be well targeted. It may need people on the ground to make sure the air strikes are accurate and therefore effective."

Asked if that meant UK forces, he said: "The United States in the lead and us in support. We all bear some responsibility. The breakdown in society in Iraq post-2003, we have some culpability for that and so it is difficult for us to say 'not our problem'."

While re-engaging militarily in Iraq could be politically explosive and publicly unpopular, it might still be the right thing to do "in extreme circumstances", he suggested.

"We have got to look carefully just to ensure that there isn't a genocide about to be perpetrated which we know about and while we are watching."

Urging strong action to help the Kurds, London mayor Boris Johnson said "it would be an utter tragedy if we did not do everything in our power to give succour and relief to those who are now facing massacre and persecution, and to help repel the maniacs from one of the few bright spots in the Middle East".

"Yes, we have got it wrong before, and yes, we cannot do everything," he wrote in his column in The Daily Telegraph. "But that doesn't mean we should collapse into passivity and quietism in the face of manifest evil. These people need our help."

Mr Burns, who is leading demands for an emergency Commons debate, said he wanted to see the UK deploy special forces, arm the Kurds and look at offering asylum.

"These are brother and sister Christians, and this is happening to them in no small part because of our record in Iraq. I feel very strongly that the Government's response is not hard enough or strong enough. These people are being beheaded by people from IS, and our only response is to drop some food or water on them."

Mr Cameron and US president Barack Obama discussed the air drops in a phonecall on Saturday, but admitted that a "long-term solution" would be needed to quell the IS advance.

Bayan Sami Rahman, the Kurdistan regional government's high representative to the UK, appealed for its forces to be armed by the UK and other Western nations.

As Kurdish forces reported that they had retaken control of two towns near the capital Irbil, she said outside troops on the ground were not required "at this stage".

"But beyond that we do need military assistance. We need equipment, we need weaponry, we need sharing of intelligence and we need the air strikes," she told Today.

"We have a very committed and courageous Peshmurga defending Kurdistan and fighting Isis, unlike the Iraqi army which melted away. What we don't have is the weaponry. We can't match what Isis have managed to capture from the Iraqi army."

This came amid renewed political turmoil in Baghdad, where security forces were out in force after under-fire Iraqi prime minister Nouri Maliki again refused calls to step down and announced that he would take legal action against the country's president for what he called "a clear constitutional violation" by missing a deadline to name a new premier.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
News
i100(More than you think)
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Arts and Entertainment
John Hurt will voice Prince Bolkonsky in Radio 4's War and Peace
radioRadio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Recruitment Genius: Development Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Development Scientist is required to join a ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up