Britain votes to join US-led air strikes against jihadists

London, England (AFP) — British lawmakers on Friday voted overwhelmingly to join anti-jihadist air strikes in Iraq as US-led raids in Syria disrupted the Islamic State group’s lucrative oil-pumping operations.

The House of Commons voted by a majority of 524 to 43 after the main political parties all approved military action saying that “lessons from the past” of the 2003 Iraq war had been learned.

“This is not a threat on the far side of the world. Left unchecked, we will face a terrorist caliphate on the shores of the Mediterranean,” Prime Minister David Cameron said ahead of the vote.

He warned the campaign could last for “years” as dissenting MPs in the debate questioned the duration and scope of the operation.

Washington is eager to build the broadest possible coalition to tackle IS, which has captured large areas of Syria and Iraq and declared an Islamic “caliphate”.

Britain’s Royal Air Force would join warplanes from the United States, France, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Jordan hitting IS targets.

Following the vote, British action is expected within days at the latest despite planned anti-war protests.

In recent days, Washington and its allies have carried out bombing targeting the funding sources of what US President Barack Obama has branded a “network of death”.

In the latest airstrikes, US planes destroyed four tanks operated by militants in Syria as well as several vehicles and jihadist positions in Iraq, the Pentagon said.

The US-led coalition also bombed oil refineries in east and northeast Syria where IS jihadists extract crude for sale on the black market, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitoring group.

Experts say sales of oil from Syria and Iraq usually earn IS between US$1 million and US$3 million a day.

But now, according to activists in Deir Ezzor, pumping has stopped.

“Oil extraction has been halted because of the security situation,” said Leith al-Deiri who spoke to AFP via the Internet.

Another activist from Deir Ezzor, Rayan al-Furati, confirmed the halt.

“There are no traders or clients going to the fields, (because they are) fearing the strikes,” he said.

Britain and France have both been careful to rule out launching strikes in Syria at the hub of the IS group’s power, unlike the Arab allies taking part in the aerial campaign.

“I do believe there’s a strong case for us to do more in Syria but I did not want to bring a motion to the house today which there wasn’t consensus for,” Cameron said on Friday.

Denmark said Friday it would send seven F-16 fighters to help combat IS militants in Iraq, joining Belgium and the Netherlands which also plan to deploy six aircraft each.

The Netherlands will also provide 250 military personnel and 130 trainers for the Iraqi military, and Greece said it would send arms to Kurdish forces battling the jihadists.

Turkey has so far declined to take part in military action, and has denied claims that its airspace or airbases have been used by coalition forces.

But President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that Ankara had changed its stance on its involvement in the campaign against IS following the release of Turkish hostages held in Iraq,

He said that “necessary steps” would be taken by parliament on October 2, without elaborating.

IS’s brutal abuses against civilians, rival fighters and Arab and Western hostages, as well as its success in recruiting Western members, have triggered international alarm.

FBI director James Comey said Thursday there was “no doubt” that jihadists would try to stage revenge attacks in the United States.

“The logic is that if they aspire to be the leader of the global jihad you don’t get there without striking America,” he said.

He also said the FBI had identified the Islamic State jihadist with a British accent who has appeared in videos showing the beheading of two US journalists and a British aid worker, although he declined to give further details.

On Thursday and Friday, police in London arrested 11 people suspected of links to Islamic extremists, including a notorious radical preacher.

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