The Government “reserves the right to take action” to stem any immediate humanitarian crisis on the ground in Iraq, George Osborne has said.
Amid speculation that Britain could soon join air strikes to deal with the growing threat from Islamic State (IS) militants, the Chancellor said “we haven’t ruled things out, but let’s be clear we’re not at that stage today”.
Mr Osborne underlined the “direct threat” to British security posed by IS but emphasised the Iraqi government’s role in defeating the organisation.
He told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show: “We absolutely need to defeat this Islamic terrorist organisation, it is a direct threat to the security of people living in Britain, as well as, of course, an enormous threat to stability in the Middle East.
“It needs to be defeated, there are already American air strikes, but they are in the context actually of a locally-led operation by the Iraqi people, by other countries in the neighbourhood, so this is very different from 10 years or so ago with the Iraq war, where it was a Western invasion.
“This is an operation by the Iraqi government, which by the way needs to be more representative, it’s an operation from people in the Middle East to destroy this threat, which we will assist in any way that we can and in a way that helps them with their cause.”
He added: “On the question of air strikes we are not at that stage today, we haven’t ruled things out, but let’s be clear we’re not at that stage today.”
On the role of parliament, Mr Osborne said: “If there needs to be an immediate, emergency operation because there’s an immediate crisis on the ground, a humanitarian crisis, and it’s not possible to go to parliament, then of course the Government reserves the right to take action, that’s been the position of previous governments.