Will Cameron intervene in Iraq?

David Cameron cut short his holiday to chair Wednesday’s Cobra emergency committee meeting on Iraq as pressure on him mounts to take military action against Islamic militants.

Last Thursday, President Obama announced air strikes against the Islamic State (Isis) in northern Iraq, but although he has said that the strikes will continue if necessary to “prevent an act of genocide”, he has repeatedly stated that he does not want to be pulled into a longer involvement in Iraq, says Martin Pengelly in The Guardian.

In recent days, both the US and the UK have been conducting airdrops of food and water to Yazidis fleeing persecution on Mount Sinjar. The response of the US and UK governments has been an “incoherent mess”, says Steve Richards in The Independent.

In an interview with The New York Times at the weekend, Obama suggested that the reason the US had not intervened militarily when Isis began its offensive was because such action would have encouraged Iraq’s Shia prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki (whose sectarian policies have alienated the Kurds and driven the Sunni tribes into the arms of the jihadis) not to compromise. Yet faced with the continuing horrors of Isis, that is just what Obama is doing now.

Meanwhile, Cameron, who stated last summer that there was “no political appetite for intervention” is now under pressure to join the US in its limited military mission. That would require Cameron to recall parliament early and be confident he could win a vote.

This “nervy, tentative pragmatism” may be preferable to the “shallow evangelism” of Bush and Blair, but “ultimately, it is for Iraq’s governing factions to work with all parties”.

It is “fantasy to think that the Iraqi government and its military can stop Isis on their own”, says FT’s Richard Haass. Isis has “zeal and momentum”, whereas Iraq is “beset by division, corruption and incompetence”.

Obama needs to make the case for military intervention. This is not about nation-building, but using air power to weaken an adversary. Others, including Kurds and Iraqis, will need to provide ground forces.

Isis is more of a threat than al-Qaeda; it wants to “create a caliphate… over swaths of the Middle East and beyond”. The US should carry out sustained attacks on both Iraq and Syria. Borders are irrelevant. “The president said people the world over look to America to lead. He is right. Now is one of those times.”

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