The United States is poised to ask Britain and Australia to support air strikes in Northern Iraq, according to reports.
President Obama is set to authorise airstrikes and aid drops around the Iraqi town of Amerli, home of Iraq’s Turkmen minority, where 12,000 people have been under siege by Isil extremists for two months.
Officials in the US say that the siege represents a similar humanitarian crisis to that faced by thousands of Yazidis who were trapped on Mount Sinjar, which led to warnings that the massacres could descend into genocide.
Nickolay Mladenov, the United Nations special representative for Iraq, has said that the situation in Amerli “demands immediate action to prevent the possible massacre of its citizens.”
Britain has yet to receive any requests from the US for involvement in air strikes, but has previously said it will not rule them out. However, a Downing Street source
It comes after repeated calls from Tory MPs and some of the military’s most senior figures for Britain to support air strikes. At present, the RAF’s role has been limited to surveillance and aid drops.
According to the New York Times, officials in the US believe that “Britain and Australia would be willing to join the United States in an air campaign”.
Britain is already supplying weapons from Eastern European countries to Kurdish rebels, and Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, has indicated that it could also offer training in Baghdad.
Joining air strikes, however, would represent a significant escalation in Britain’s role in Iraq. A government source stressed that no requests from the US have been received.
Categories: Current Affairs