A British Eurofighter EF-2000 Typhoon. (Reuters/Giampiero Sposito)
Armed British RAF jets have been deployed on their first mission in Iraq since UK lawmakers voted to authorize military strikes against so-called Islamic State (IS) targets in the country.
A Ministry of Defense Spokesman (MOD) confirmed on Saturday that “Royal Air Force Tornados continue to fly over Iraq and are now ready to be used in an attack role as and when appropriate targets are identified.”
The spokesman added that no running commentary on the jets’ movements would be forthcoming, but they “are pleased with the response time achieved.”
The MOD confirms RAF Tornados fly over Iraq from Cyprus following parliamentary approval.
On Friday, MPs in Britain’s House of Commons voted overwhelmingly to take part in military action against Islamic State (also known ISIS, or ISIL).
The motion proposed by Prime Minister David Cameron’s government was passed overwhelmingly by 524 votes to 43 – a majority of 481.
Britain’s three biggest parties, coalition government partners the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, plus the opposition Labour party, all officially backed the bombing campaign. The government insisted the intervention was legal under international law because it was requested by the Iraqi prime minister.
RAF Tornados ready for attack role if appropriate targets are identified. MOD statement.
The measure did not propose any UK involvement in airstrikes in Syria, where a US-Arab coalition began bombing IS militants on Tuesday. A year ago, British MPs rejected airstrikes on Syria to oppose the government of President Bashar Assad.
Cameron told MPs early in Friday’s debate the situation in Syria is “more complicated” than Iraq because of its “brutal dictator” President Assad, and the civil war that has been ongoing there for the past three years.
He noted, however, that there was a strong case for attacking IS in Syria, a proposition which both Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Defense Secretary Michael Fallon have cited as a distinct possibility.
Cameron added that there was no “legal barrier” to expanding operations into Syria, though MPs were far from united on such a move.
Shadow Education Minister Rushanara Ali resigned from Labour’s front bench on Friday in order to abstain from voting on the measure.
“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 wrote in a letter to Labour party leader Ed Miliband. “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.”
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