The Church of England has delivered a “withering critique” of David Cameron’s Middle East policy, describing the government’s approach as “incoherent” and “ill-thought out”, says Mark Townsend in The Guardian.
The letter signed by the Bishop of Leeds, Nicholas Baines, follows widespread accusations that Britain and the West have been slow to react as Islamic State (IS), formerly known as Isis, has imposed its “bloody rule across northern Iraq and swaths of Syria”.
Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Cameron appeared to pave the way for a more interventionist stance.
“If we do not act to stem the onslaught of this exceptionally dangerous terrorist movement,” he warns, “it will only grow stronger until it can target us on the streets of Britain. This threat cannot simply be removed by air strikes alone. We need a tough, intelligent and patient long-term approach.”
Britain’s role has already extended beyond humanitarian relief; the UK has joined an international coalition of countries that plans to supply arms to Kurdish Peshmerga forces to help them battle IS.
For the immediate future, Britain’s major contribution will be in providing up-to-date intelligence on IS forces and deployment in Iraq. But IS may be tough to unseat.
Fighting has reportedly resumed at the Mosul Dam in northern Iraq, just a day after Barack Obama claimed victory reclaiming it from IS, says Lizzie Dearden in The Independent.
IS has also fought off an assault by the Iraqi army in Tikrit. Earlier this week, IS insurgents posted a video on YouTube purporting to show the beheading of kidnapped US journalist James Foley. IS also threatened to kill another hostage, journalist Steven Sotloff, saying his life depended on Obama’s “next decision”.
Last week’s distribution of pro-IS leaflets on Oxford Street was a “troubling reminder”
of the “legitimacy they have built”, says Shashank Joshi in The Daily Telegraph.
The most shocking aspect of IS is “not that they are extreme sadists”, but that they are sadists “with a conventional army and nation-building aspirations”. What’s more, they are “incapable of compromise”.
In the face of such intimidation, our “resolve to completely destroy” them, “by both political and military means, should only be stiffened.” However, Cameron does face constraints.
Firstly, the UK can only be a junior partner to the US, and US intervention has been “halting, limited and reactive”. Secondly, Cameron “won’t want to get ahead of MPs” after last year’s vote on Syria.
British opinion is open to air strikes, but it “could turn quickly”, particularly in the event of a protracted, open-ended campaign. Therefore, Cameron’s approach is a “sensible one”. He is preparing the ground for greater involvement whilst “keeping his options open” and “waiting to see how US strategy and British political opinion evolves”.