UK lawmakers vote to strike ISIS in Iraq
The UK Parliament voted overwhelmingly on Friday to join a U.S.-led coalition launching air strikes against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants in Iraq, after British Prime Minister David Cameron urged lawmakers to vote to approve “years” of strikes against the group.
The motion proposed by Prime Minister David Cameron’s government was passed by 524 votes to 43, a majority of 481.
The White House praised Britain for joining the military coalition battling ISIS.
“We certainly welcome the recent vote that occurred in the British parliament,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
“We are pleased to see the strong support from members of parliament for members of the British military working alongside U.S. servicemen and women.”
U.S. allies Denmark and Belgium also decided to join the anti-ISIS coalition. But unlike them, Britain will not allow its jets to strike ISIS targets in Syria — where the United States and its Arab allies have launched air raids.
Six British Tornado fighter jets based in Cyprus were poised to begin raids on militants within days or even hours.
The vote came after a sometimes heated debate in which lawmakers repeatedly questioned Prime Minister David Cameron over the duration and aims of the operation.
The debate has evoked memories of Britain’s role in the deeply unpopular U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 under then Labour prime minister Tony Blair, which led to the death of 179 British personnel over six years.
Labour’s Rushanara Ali, a party spokeswoman on education, said she had resigned from the front bench in order to abstain after the party leadership backed the government’s proposal.
“I understand the case that has been made and will not be voting against the motion. But I am unable in conscience to support the motion,” she wrote to Labour leader Ed Miliband.
Ali was elected in 2010 in the multi-ethnic constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow in east London, which has a large Muslim population.
“I am not confident that this military action will be effective in the short-term in just targeting the terrorists and not harming innocent civilians,” she said.
“Nor can I pretend to have any confidence that there is a credible long-term strategy to build up the capacity of the Iraqi army or that the potential impact on radicalization in the UK has been properly thought through.
“Too many mistakes have been made over the last decade and far too many people in conflict zones have had to pay a high price for misconceived actions by the UK and other countries.”