United Kingdom and ISIL
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is designated as a terrorist organisation by the United Kingdom. British citizens have fought as members of the group, and there has been political debate on how to punish them. On 26 September 2014 Parliament voted to begin Royal Air Force airstrikes against ISIL in northern Iraq at the request of the Iraqi government, which began 4 days later, using Tornado GR4 jets. On 2 December 2015, the UK Parliament authorised an extension to the Royal Air Force airstrike campaign, joining the USA-led international coalition against ISIL in Syria. Hours after the vote, Royal Air Force Tornado jets began bombing ISIL-controlled oilfields.
British citizens in ISIL
William Hague, then Foreign Secretary, estimated in June 2014 that 400 British citizens were fighting in Syria, some for ISIL. Khalid Mahmood, a Labour MP, estimated that there were at least 1,500 Britons in ISIL. Former MI6 counter-terrorism head Richard Barrett raised concerns about the potentially large number of radicalised fighters that had returned to Britain from Syria and Iraq.
The British government proscribed ISIL as a terrorist organisation in June 2014. Previously, it had been proscribed as a part of Al-Qaeda. The government describes the group as follows:
|“||ISIL is a brutal Sunni Islamist terrorist group active in Iraq and Syria. The group adheres to a global jihadist ideology, following an extreme interpretation of Islam, which is anti-Western and promotes sectarian violence. ISIL aims to establish an Islamic State governed by Shari’a law in the region and impose their rule on people using violence and extortion.||”|
In August 2014, British Prime Minister David Cameron suggested that anybody displaying the black standard in the United Kingdom should be arrested.
Home Secretary Theresa May suggested new measures against radical preachers, stripping citizenship from naturalised Britons who fought for ISIL, and trying British-born ISIL members for engaging in terrorism abroad. Other figures, such as Mayor of London Boris Johnson, Conservative backbench MP David Davis, former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey and UKIP leader Nigel Farage have stated that all British citizens in ISIS should lose their citizenship. On 29 August 2014, the UK terror threat was raised from "substantial" to "severe".
Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a senior MP, advocated an alliance with President Bashar al-Assad of Syria to defeat ISIL. This was ruled out by Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, who stated "We may very well find that we are aligned against a common enemy. But that does not make us able to trust them, it does not make us able to work with them and it would poison what we are trying to achieve in separating moderate Sunni opinion from the poisonous ideology of [ISIS] if we were to align ourselves with President Assad."
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