British parliament on Friday voted to approve air strikes on Islamic State (ISIS) targets in Iraq, making it one of the latest European countries to join the U.S.'s ever-expanding bombing campaign on the war-ravaged country.
The House of Commons approved the air strikes in a vote of 524-to-43, with the heads of all major parties lining up to endorse. The vote was a notable shift from the British parliament's decision last year not to join potential U.S. strikes on Syria, which were then proposed to target the regime of Bashar al-Assad, in part because of the war-weariness of the UK public.
This time Prime Minister David Cameron, a strong proponent of the bombings, waited until seven weeks after the initiation of the U.S. attacks in an apparent bid to gain political consensus before the vote. Furthermore, the vote approved bombings in Iraq but not Syria, where the U.S. is leading a war campaign.
Some hawkish lawmakers complained that the vote did not go far enough because it excluded bombings on Syria. A minority of voices in parliament warned that the government is repeating the same mistakes it had made in Iraq and Afghanistan. Labor Party MP Rushanara Ali resigned from her party's front bench after refusing to support Britain's participation in the U.S. war.
In his statements to parliament, Prime Minister David Cameron sought to distance the coming bombings from the UK's unpopular decision to join the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, while also indicating the new war could last a long time.
“We would want to see a stable Iraq and — over time — a stable Syria too; ISIL degraded and then destroyed as a serious terrorist organization,” said Cameron. “But let me be frank: we should not expect this to happen quickly. The hallmarks of this campaign will be patience and persistence, not shock and awe.”
But opponents say air strikes will only worsen the UK's crimes against the people of Iraq and intensify military escalation and violence in the region.
"All the experience of the terrible wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya has shown that western military action only serves to kill innocents, destroy infrastructure and inflame violence," stated the UK-based Stop the War Coalition in a call for an emergency protest before the vote. "ISIS is a reactionary force, but it is in part a product of the disastrous occupation of Iraq by Western powers. ISIS is funded by some of our main allies in the region, including Saudi Arabia. Escalating Western military intervention will do nothing to stop them but will create more suffering and further destabilize the region."
The vote means that, within hours, Britain will be poised to use Tornado fighter jets and surveillance and intelligence air craft to launch bombings, in addition to the reconnaissance missions it has already been flying over Iraq.
Also on Friday, the Danish government announced it will deploy to Iraq seven F-16 air craft and at least 250 pilots, and Belgium voted to send six F-16 fighter jets. France was the first European country to bomb Iraq in this latest war, and the Netherlands announced earlier this week it will participate in bombings on Iraq. None of these countries has revealed immediate plans to participate directly in U.S. bombings on Syria, although Cameron has argued there is a "strong case" for striking Syria as well.
Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to aggressively pursue war in Iraq and Syria with no formal congressional debate or vote.