UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has announced that two armed Reaper drones will be sent from Afghanistan to Iraq to take part in military operations against ISIS. The drones will no doubt soon be undertaking airstrikes alongside RAF Tornados and US aircraft. It is expected that further RAF Reapers will join this initial deployment once UK forces withdraw from Afghanistan. The MoD has refused to disclose where the drones will be based (except to indicate they will not be based in Iraq) – RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus and Al Minhad airbase in United Arab Emirates are possibilities.
It was only weeks ago at the beginning of September that polling showed the majority of Britons were against joining with US airstrikes on ISIS. However the public beheadings of western hostages has (as no doubt the perpetrators intended ) swung public opinion in favour of a return to military involvement in Iraq. It should be remembered however that there is no UN resolution supporting military action – a fact which most – but not all – have forgotten.
As we – and many others – have written previously, UK airstrikes and drones are unlikely to be effective in combatting ISIS and will only increase the security threat to UK citizens around the globe. Indeed it can be argued that the seed of the current situation and the rise of ISIS was sown in previous military interventions in Iraq.
What is likely to be more effective in countering ISIS and building long-term peace and stability in the region is ensuring more equality and inclusion in Iraq itself, thus lowering sectarian tensions and draining support for ISIS; ending the supply of vast amounts of arms to the region – masses of US arms have been seized by ISIS for example; and cutting the financial support for ISIS, particularly from Saudi Arabia.
To summarise UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the recent General Assembly discussion, ‘Missiles may kill terrorists but, in the long-term, only inclusion, education and good governance will kill terrorism.’