SPEAKING in a House of Commons debate on Wednesday, former Chancellor Kenneth Clarke described the US-UK Iraq invasion as ‘disastrous’ and a ‘catastrophe’, which has contributed to the ‘anarchy’ in the region today.
Clarke warned British Prime Minister David Cameron against launching airstrikes against ISIL and its Islamic State, IS, saying there would be ‘political outrage’ with ‘very dubious legality’ to take military action without a vote in the House of Commons.
Clarke’s comments came almost a week after Britain’s foreign secretary Philip Hammond said joining US aerial attacks against ISIL is still on the table.
On Wednesday, President Obama said that he did not need the permission of Congress to launch airstrikes on IS targets in Syria. He also ruled out an alliance with President Assad of Syria against the IS.
Obama made it clear that the US will be arming and supporting the Syrian opposition, out of which ISIS and the IS emerged. Where Obama leads, Cameron will undoubtedly follow.
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov has already warned that the US will launch airstrikes against President Assad’s forces and seek to bomb the Syrian opposition into power.
• Three British military bases are to be set up in the Persian Gulf to fight the Islamic State, IS. The bases are to be part of a larger US-led offensive to battle militants in Iraq and Syria.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman and Bahrain are all candidates to host the bases. UK forces already use the Al-Minhad airbase near Dubai to fly troops in and out of Afghanistan.
It is also believed the Royal Navy would like to see the port in Bahrain expanded to accommodate more sailors and bigger warships.
The effort is part of a review of the UK’s presence in the Gulf following the NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan in December.
‘The effect is that we are making a strategic adjustment, which is in my view quite sensible,’ said Michael Clarke, director of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) think tank.
While still in the development stages, a spokesman for the MoD said any new UK military presence in the region would represent a continuance of the UK’s partnership with its Gulf allies.
‘The British military has maintained a constant presence in the Middle East since the 1980s and our armed forces routinely exercise with members of the Gulf Co-operation Council,’ the MoD spokesman told the Times.
‘The MoD is currently looking at its future engagement in the region including options for our military presence in the Gulf; this work is still in development and no final decisions have yet been made.’
A former British ambassador to the United Nations, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, said maintaining such a UK military presence in the region would help deter the IS from expanding into the territory of its vulnerable neighbours.
‘It will also make it more difficult for some internal cell in Bahrain or UAE or wherever, to think they can have a go at the local government if they see some highly trained and capable people standing alongside the government,’ he told the Independent.