5 Sep 2014

Putting a Muslim face on a new coalition of the willing

Things are moving fairly slowly and cautiously in terms of Britain and others joining any US bombing campaign against jihadists in Iraq.

The US has formed and today made public a core coalition of 10 countries – nine Nato members plus Australia – which discussed the crisis this morning. The US Secretary of State John Kerry wants the group to come up with firm plans by the time the UN General Assembly meets on 16 September.

But there has been no concrete proposal for British participation in air strikes and no commitment asked for or given on military action. “We are not at the stage for these conversations,” a government spokesman said.

The emphasis is on the formation of a new Iraqi government first – and the hunt is on to put a Muslim, regional face on any “coalition of the willing”. That is why Barack Obama and David Cameron are both meeting President Erdogan of Turkey today.

The Incirlik air base in southern Turkey was used by American, British and French jets in the 1990s, policing Kurdish northern Iraq against any attack by Saddam Hussein.

Today’s fledgling coalition doesn’t need Incirlik – it could use aircraft carriers, or bases inside Iraq itself – but Turkey is the only Muslim member of Nato, and the British and Americans would like Turkey’s participation in some form. If not joining any bombing campaign, then at least providing logistical support.

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