thetimes.co.uk/Blair calls for ground war on Isis

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SHAFAQNA – David Cameron must consider sending British troops to tackle Islamic State forces and other religious militants on the ground, Tony Blair has warned.
The former prime minister, who led Britain to war with Iraq, said the airstrikes being waged by US and French forces against Islamic State in Iraq “will not suffice” in eliminating the group.
Mr Blair’s remarks will increase the pressure on Mr Cameron as he heads to crucial talks at the UN over how to deal with the threat posed by Islamic State, also known as Isis or Isil.
The group has already beheaded two US journalists and a British aid worker on camera. The prime minister could commit the RAF to joining the air war against Isis targets, but he and President Obama have ruled out the use of their own combat troops to fight the group on the ground.
Mr Blair said there was “no solution that doesn’t involve force applied with a willingness to take casualties”.
“Airpower alone will not suffice,” he said. “[Islamist militants] can be hemmed in by airpower, but they can’t be defeated by it.” In an essay on the rise of extremism published today, Mr Blair said that regional powers in the Middle East should be given arms and training to take on Isis. However, he said that western troops may eventually be needed.
“I accept fully there is no appetite for ground engagement in the West,” he said. “But we should not rule it out… provided that there is the consent of the population directly threatened and with the broadest achievable alliance, we have, on occasions, to play our part.
“Our capacity and capability to wage the battle effectively are second to none in part because of our experience [in Iraq and Afghanistan].”
However, he condemned those calling for dialogue with the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad as a way of restoring stability in the region.
Downing Street will be reluctant to push ahead with a Commons vote aimed at sanctioning airstrikes without an indication that it would not face the embarrassment of losing it, as it did last summer over military action in Syria.
Labour sources indicated the party was more sympathetic to airstrikes on Isis targets in Iraq.
“The mood has changed among MPs and in the country,” said a senior Labour figure. “The government just needs to have allies in the region, a clear goal and a clear plan.”
Yesterday, activists at Labour’s party conference rejected the chance to debate the West’s response to Isis in favour of emergency motions on human rights, the NHS and low pay.
Mr Cameron is unlikely to ask for a UN security council resolution clearing the way for airstrikes in Syria, but he may sanction the recall of parliament to discuss a bombing campaign against Isis in Iraq.
One of the options emerging to justify airstrikes within Syria is Article 51 of the UN Charter, which could be used to allow British strikes to complement operations by Iraqi troops in Syria targeting Isis strongholds.

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