Tornado GR4 fighter bombers are very formidable pieces of military hardware. The plans to deploy them over Northern Iraq as announced yesterday will be cheering news for the Kurdish communities and the estimated 150,000 Yazidis currently surviving in the mountains. Rowan Williams explained at the Edinburgh Book Festival, the idea that military intervention ten years ago would create a stable, Western-style democracy was a “terrible illusion”. He went on to say that leaders are now faced with “unpalatable” choices as a result of previous mistakes. Many British people have been calling for the British Government to intervene militarily to assist the Yazidis and with the imminent departure of some of the GR4 jets, the Government appears to have done so. According to the same piece from which Rowan Williams comments are sourced, over the weekend, David Cameron has spoken by phone from his Portuguese holiday to Barack Obama, and the two men agreed during their conversation that aid drops alone will not be enough to meet the needs of the fleeing families and the priority must be to “get these people to safety and avert a genocide”.
The sending of a number of fighter-bombers to Iraq, is not in itself sufficient for some of the men and women who understand the nature of warfare. As the BBC report General Sir Richard Shirreff who was the UK’s most senior officer in Nato until March, said the UK government had “politicians who want to posture” but “do not have any stick”. “What we have got is this commitment-phobic government that is terrified of being seen to be putting boots on the ground at a time when they are trying to extract from everything,”.
At present apart from phoning Barack Obama and authorising the deployment of an unknown number of Paveway IV smart weapons and Stormshadow Cruise missiles to be available for use over a Nation that we were withdrawing from, Mr Cameron has made it clear that he is not going to interrupt his holiday, and certainly not recall Parliament. This is the same Prime Minister who last year authorised the recall of Parliament to pay respects to an 87 year old woman who died, and separately for a debate on intervening in Syria. His desire to do so was challenged and defeated by Parliament and perhaps he is fearing the same outcome. As I have written previously, Parliament is bound to be recalled this Summer and so what is missing is not the decision to do so, but rather the leadership to plan for a recall that will ensure that the Government are seen to be in control of events, not simply blown around by the wind. General Shirreff believes that the Government are terrified to act due to the impending election, however the need to act or indeed to bring back the GR4 Jet Bombers is something that in time will need to be debated amongst our elected political leaders. Simply refusing to plan for such a debate cannot strengthen the reputation of our Prime Minister.