Iraqi militants could attack the UK, David Cameron warns
Britain faces a direct threat of terrorist attack from the Iraqi militants currently advancing on Baghdad, David Cameron has warned.
The advance of Sunni fighters under the banner of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) has seen several key cities captured and battle lines drawn up less than 60 minutes’ drive from the capital.
And ahead of a meeting with his most senior security advisers to discuss the UK’s role in the ongoing crisis, the Prime Minister said people should be under no illusions that the deteriorating Middle East security situation “won't affect us”.
While the U.S. has deployed a number of warships to the Persian Gulf and sent some 275 soldiers to bolster security for its own assets in Iraq, both it and Britain are yet to come to a decision over the form and scope of any possible Western intervention.
The Prime Minister will today chair a meeting of the National Security Council, in discussions that follow on from Foreign Secretary William Hague’s two statements to the Commons on Iraq this week.
As well as warning about the danger of British citizens going over to Iraq and Syria, becoming radicalized and returning to carry out attacks, Mr Cameron said Isis fighters themselves “are also planning to attack us here at home in the UK”.
Speaking at Prime Minister's Questions, he said: “I disagree with those people who think this is nothing to do with us and if they want to have some sort of extreme Islamist regime in the middle of Iraq, that won't affect us. It will.
“So the right answer is to be long-term, hard-headed, patient and intelligent with the interventions that we make.”
Mr Cameron said Britain was increasing the humanitarian aid it was sending to people displaced by the fighting in Iraq from £3 million to £5 million.
He said it was “vital” that Isis was pushed back by the forces of the Iraqi government after the sweeping gains it made last week.
Yesterday Mr Hague announced that the “circumstances are right” to reopen the British embassy in Iran, approaching three years since it was closed when protesters stormed the building and ransacked offices.
But while improved relations with Tehran have been discussed publicly by both the U.S. and UK in the two weeks since Isis’s lightening campaign in Iraq began, the Prime Minister insisted that the desire to restore diplomatic links went beyond a simple plea for help dealing with the militants.
The Foreign Secretary said Iran was “an important country in a volatile region” and said that it was important for Britain to maintain embassies all over the world “even under difficult conditions”.
“There has never been any doubt in my mind that we should have an embassy in Tehran if the circumstances allowed,” Mr Hague said.
He did not give a precise date for the embassy to reopen, saying there would be a “small initial presence” as soon as “practical arrangements have been made”.
By Adam Withnall