It is 2014. We have been confronted by a new evil. Its name? Islamic State. This has ignited a debate in Britain about what to do about IS. It is my opinion that we have no choice but to strike the militants before they become impossible to contain.
Let me be clear, I am not advocating boots on the ground. If this can be avoided then it should but we are approaching the precipice for a ground assault. Nobody has forgotten the consequences of the UK joining the invasion of Iraq which left an unprecedented number of civilians dead. However, the risks of doing nothing far outweigh the risks in conducting air strikes on the group to destabilise them and their machinery which they have used to butcher thousands of people in a very short period of time.
This is not a reactionary response to the killing of Briton David Haines. This, in my opinion, is a necessary step up of the war on IS, or more broadly the war on terror. But first, you must understand what IS is and what exactly they wish to do. In easy to understand terms, IS is a militant group that has drawn in fighters from across the planet, from Australia to America. They only want one thing and this is to establish an Islamic Caliphate. It should be made clear that this caliphate is not simply a small region. So far, IS have taken control of swathes of Syria and Iraq. The LOWER end estimates suggest IS control territory the size of Belgium, about 40,000sq km. They have total control of 8 million people, some of whom they have forced to convert because the alternative is death.
This is not a regional crisis. This is a crisis that is spreading beyond borders and is blurring the lines between countries. IS do not just want a caliphate in Syria and Iraq. They want their state to spread all across the region and ideally the planet, however crazy that idea is. They have the force to do. The CIA believe there are as many as 31,000 fighters now aligned to IS from 81 countries across the globe and they are increasing daily. There are now three threats that are posed by IS, in my opinion, that justify the military intervention of the UK and in order of severity these include;
1) The seizure of key territory and weaponry. You may think that because this is happening thousands of miles away it does not concern us. It does not threaten us. This would be a costly assumption to make. Last August, the Syrian government used a chemical weapon to attack those fighting the government and MSF says at least 355 people died. In the past, terror groups have not really stated an intention to use such weapons. IS is different. IS are willing and have even made plans to use weapons of mass destruction. It was reported in the Telegraph that the militants have planned to release the bubonic plague in shopping centres and have compiled manuals on how to create biological and chemical devices. This cannot be allowed to happen. This would threaten not only troops based in various Middle East countries and facilities but would threaten the West. Imagine for example a jihadist boards a plane with a undetected device containing a virus. Now imagine he detonates that device in the confined space of an air-plane cabin. This may seem like a horror movie script but with reports earlier this year that IS had seized a Syrian chemical weapon site, it could become reality very quickly.
2) The return of jihadists to their home countries is a developing and already challenging threat for the security services to tackle. There are an estimated 500 Britons fighting with IS in the territory they currently control. That is 500 individuals that MI5/MI6 have to keep an eye on and with stretched resources and busy workload it is not hard to envisage that some will slip through the net and then continue to prepare for a terror attack on their home soil. Given IS’ brutal tactics, including beheadings and burying people alive it would not be difficult for them to walk into a high street and start killing anyone and everyone who refuses to bow down and obey their version of Islam. It is necessary for the UK to step up its military involvement with its coalition partners to drive back and reduce the number of IS fighters so that the threat can be more effectively managed at home.
3) The murder of British citizens in the caliphate is increasing. The UK has a duty to protect its citizens wherever they are. There are many British workers who live in the region, especially those who work in the oil industry and all of them are now under the threat of attack by IS. Not only this but it is clear that IS do not give journalists the safety they require whilst reporting on their activities and inadvertently spreading their message. They have no problem with killing any nationalities and any faiths except their own. Men, women and children who are Britons are now at risk and the UK must protect them at all costs.
The UK is weary of war. We have been fighting for so long. But whilst we take a break our enemies regroup and grow in number. They increase their weaponry with the billions they have stolen and received in funding. They prepare for attacks that we have never seen before and attacks that could kill hundreds of thousands of people. It is time that we stop being paralysed by the mistakes we have made and take a bold and courageous stand against those that threaten our security.