16 August 2014
Last updated at 23:13
Prime Minister David Cameron has warned of the possibility of a “terrorist state” on the shores of the Mediterranean
Islamic State militants could grow strong enough to target people on the streets of Britain unless action is taken, David Cameron has warned.
The PM, writing in the Sunday telegraph, said a “humanitarian response” to IS was not enough and a “firm security response” was needed.
It comes as Church leaders expressed concern that the UK had no “coherent” approach to tackling Islamic extremism.
IS has seized large parts of northern Iraq and Syria over the summer.
The violence has so far driven an estimated 1.2 million Iraqis from their homes.
Kurdish forces, supported by US air strikes, are currently battling to retake Mosul dam from IS fighters in northern Iraq.
‘Only grow stronger’
Mr Cameron wrote: “True security will only be achieved if we use all our resources – aid, diplomacy, our military prowess – to help bring about a more stable world.
“If we do not act to stem the onslaught of this exceptionally dangerous terrorist movement, it will only grow stronger until it can target us on the streets of Britain.”
Meanwhile, the Bishop of Leeds has said “many” senior clergy in the Church of England are seriously concerned about Britain’s approach to the handling of the Iraq crisis.
The Right Rev Nicholas Baines has written to Mr Cameron asking about the government’s overall strategy in response to the humanitarian situation and to IS.
“Behind this question is the serious concern that we do not seem to have a coherent or comprehensive approach to Islamist extremism as it is developing across the globe,” he wrote, in a letter published on his website and. and backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
He criticised an “increasing silence” about the plight of tens of thousands of persecuted Christians in Iraq, and questioned whether they would be offered asylum in the UK.
Analysis: Robin Brant, BBC political correspondent
The language is very strong – “a battle against a poisonous ideology” – and the warning is stark – “a terrorist state on the shores of the Mediterranean” – as the prime minister seeks to make the case for Britain returning to Iraq.
After a week that has seen UK military aircraft drop humanitarian aid, David Cameron makes it clear that alone is not enough to defeat IS. He talks repeatedly about Britain using its “military prowess” and military action, alongside diplomacy, to defeat the group.
The talk is tough, but Downing Street insists this is not an escalation. The Ministry of Defence has been reminding people that the UK has played no role in supporting the latest round of US air strikes on IS targets across northern Iraq.
The prime minister’s message is as much about home as well as abroad. People walking around with an Islamic State flag “will be arrested”, he says. That is a nod to the growing concern about Britons who have gone to fight jihad, in Syria or Iraq, returning home with the intention of carrying on the struggle.
In June, Mr Cameron claimed that fighters from the group were plotting attacks against the UK – although the threat level has remained unchanged.
At the time, he said up to 400 British nationals were fighting alongside militant groups in Syria.
He added that several people had already been stopped from travelling to conflict zones, and preparing a terrorism offence abroad would become a crime under legislation to be put before Parliament in the next few months.
Downing Street later revealed that the UK security service had arrested 65 people suspected of Syria-related jihadist activities during an 18-month period – including 40 in the first quarter of this year.
On 29 June, IS declared that it had created a caliphate, or Islamic state, stretching from Aleppo in Syria to the province of Diyala in Iraq.
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Cameron warns that if IS is able to “carve out its so-called caliphate” the UK would be “facing a terrorist state on the shores of the Mediterranean and bordering a Nato member”.
In the past few days, the UK military has made aid drops to hundreds of people stranded in northern Iraq while the US has launched air strikes to target the militant group.
But the prime minister writes that a “broader political, diplomatic and security response” is needed, in addition to such humanitarian action.
“First, we need a firm security response, whether that is military action to go after the terrorists, international co-operation on intelligence and counter-terrorism or uncompromising action against terrorists at home,” he writes.
The prime minister suggests that anyone walking around in the UK with an Islamic state flag should be arrested.
Mr Cameron makes clear that he does not see this as a “war on terror” but “a battle between Islam on the one hand and extremists who want to abuse Islam on the other”.
The extreme Sunni group, which overran Mosul this summer, has been accused of massacring non-Muslims.
Whole communities of Yazidis and Christians have been forced to flee in the north, along with Shia Iraqis, whom IS do not regard as true Muslims.
Meanwhile, Iraq’s military response to a rapid advance by IS has been hampered by political turmoil in Baghdad.