THE LEGAL CASE FOR BRITISH MILITARY ACTION IN IRAQ AND SYRIA 18 quantities of weaponry and fighters and has significant financial resources, largely as a 19 result of its control of oil producing assets in both countries; • IS has also threatened, attacked and killed Iraqi citizens. Captured members of the Iraqi 20 armed forces have been executed; citizens from religious minorities, notably the Yazidis, have been internally displaced amid international fears of ethnic cleansing;21 and, those captured, including women and children, have been held against their will, many of them 22 tortured, raped and executed. 1.2 International Responses to Iraq’s Request for Assistance In the face of overwhelming force, the Iraqi government requested international assistance to deal with the on-going armed attack from IS. The actions of the US vis-à-vis Iraq, outlined below, demonstrate American desire to lead as broad an international coalition as possible, in order to confer political legitimacy on the military campaign: • On 11 August 2014, US President Barack Obama announced targeted US airstrikes to both halt the progress of IS and protect Iraqi civilians; • Since then, Iraqi forces have been increasingly supported by Shia militias (often with Iranian backing), Kurdish Peshmerga forces (with Western, including British, backing) 23 and US air strikes; • On 10 September 2014, President Obama announced the expansion of his air campaign against IS, lifting restrictions on American strikes in Iraq and, for the first time, authorising direct attacks against the group in Syria as well.24 He also outlined increased 25 support to forces fighting IS on the ground; a more effective use of US counter-terrorism capabilities to prevent IS attacks (defined as funding restrictions, intelligence efforts and the provision of counter-narratives); and, the provision of humanitarian assistance to civilians displaced by IS.26 White House officials described a long-term campaign to 27 degrade the group’s ability to act with “impunity” in the territory it holds; • US Secretary of State John Kerry built a coalition to support Iraq’s efforts against IS, 28 securing support, for example, from ten Muslim-majority countries, in order to militate charges of an American-led war against Islam,29 as well as from several Western countries, 30 including Australia and France; 18 US officials estimate IS has up to 31,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria, while the group is believed to possess a wide variety of small arms and heavy weapons, including truck-mounted machine-guns, rocket launchers, anti-aircraft guns, portable surface-to-air missile systems as well as tanks and armoured vehicles. See: 'What is Islamic State?', BBC News, 12 September 2014. 19 ‘Will Obama's global anti-IS coalition work?’, BBC News, 14 September 2014. 20 Adherents of an ancient religion based on Zoroastrianism. 21 ‘Iraq, Syria and ISIS - recent developments’, House of Commons Library Standard Note, 9 September 2014, p.3. 22 ‘Statement by the President on ISIL’, The White House Office of the Press Secretary, 10 September 2014, available at: office/2014/09/10/remarks-president-barack-obama-address-nation. 23 ‘Iraq, Syria and ISIS - recent developments’, House of Commons Library (2014), p. 1. 24 ‘Statement by the President on ISIL’, The White House Office of the Press Secretary, 10 September 2014. 25 On 17 September 2014, the US House of Representatives voted by 273 to 156 to allow the arming and training of Syrian opposition groups fighting IS, with approval also given by the US Senate the following day. See: ‘House of Representatives approves Obama plan to arm Syrian rebels’, The Guardian, 17 September 2014, available at:; see also: ‘Obama hails Congress backing for Syria plan’, BBC News, 19 September 2014, available at: 26 ‘President Obama: “We Will Degrade and Ultimately Destroy ISIL”’, The White House Blog, 10 September 2014, available at: 27 ‘Obama Says U.S. Will Bomb ISIS in Syria, Train Rebels’, TIME Magazine, 10 September 2014, available at: speech-iraq-syria/. 28 They are Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon as well as six Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar. See: ‘World leaders vow to do “whatever necessary” to defeat Isis jihadis’, The Guardian, 15 September 2014, available at: isis-paris-summit. 29 Support included military agreements to use regional bases and air space as well as offers from “several Arab countries” to conduct air strikes. See: ibid. 30 Australia pledged 600 military personnel and France committed to joining the US-led airstrikes. See: ‘Will Obama's global anti-IS coalition work?, BBC News, 14 September 2014. 5

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