Belgium, Denmark, UK Join Military Action in Iraq

Belgium, Denmark, UK Join Military Action in IraqBelgium, Denmark, UK Join Military Action in Iraq

Britain, Belgium and Denmark on Friday joined the US-led coalition of nations that are launching airstrikes in Iraq.

The European lawmakers flatly described the moves as critical to security on home soil, arguing that facing down terrorists has become a matter of urgency. British Prime Minister David Cameron made a passionate plea for action in drastic terms.

Cameron told a tense House of Commons during more than six hours of debate that the hallmarks of the campaign would be “patience and persistence, not shock and awe” - a reference to the phrase associated with the invasion of Iraq.

The unpopular intervention has cast a shadow over the discussions because critics fear that Europe will be drawn into a wider conflict, specifically taking on the IS in Syria.

British lawmakers voted 524-43 for action after being urgently recalled from a recess. Belgian lawmakers also overwhelmingly approved, voting 114-2 to take part, despite widespread concerns that more terrorism may follow in their homeland as a refsult.

The White House said in a statement that it welcomed the countries to the coalition.

Denmark pledged seven F-16 fighter jets. Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said her government would send four operational planes and three reserve jets along with 250 pilots and support staff for 12 months. Lawmakers in Denmark must also approve, but that is considered a formality.

Britain is expected to deploy Tornado GR4 aircraft, a handful of which are in Cyprus, within striking distance of northern Iraq.

 Europe Shuns Syria Strikes

The British resolution does not address any action in Syria, though many lawmakers tried to push the government to admit that this is the likely next step.

Cameron has justified action in Iraq as lawful because the Iraqi leadership has asked for help.

No European nation has yet agreed to join the US and some Arab states in strikes in Syria.

The motion before Britain’s Parliament set no time limit, and that caused unease. Many lawmakers suggested the fight could stretch for years.

“ISIL is a death cult, it’s a gang of terrorist murderers. It’s not an army and it’s certainly not an army that’s going to be destroyed by aerial bombardment,” said legislator George Galloway, using a former name for the radicals.

Cameron ensured his success by keeping the motion narrowly tailored - staving off the defeat suffered a year ago when Parliament shot down the idea of attacking Syria.

 Legality Under Question

Russia questioned on Friday the legality of US-led air strikes in Syria to target IS militants because the action was taken without the approval and cooperation of Damascus.

The United States, which has long called for the dismissal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, began air and missile strikes on IS strongholds in Syria this week, backed up by some Persian Gulf Arab allies. Washington forewarned Damascus of the action, but did not seek approval for it.

“We believe that any action taken globally, including use of force, to overcome terrorist threats should be done in accordance with international law,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Lavrov said that approval was also needed of the country where the action was to take place, according to Reuters.

“It’s very important that such cooperation with Syrian authorities is established, even now that it’s an accomplished fact,” Lavrov said. “Excluding Syrian authorities from the struggle that is taking place on their territory not only goes against international law but undermines the efficiency of the effort.”

“We are fighting against terrorism consistently, constantly, not just when someone announces a coalition. It’s not just some pop-up idea for us,” Lavrov said. “We actively support countries in the region that are facing the threat and we have been doing so for a long time.”