IS crisis ‘may last 15 more years’

Published: Friday 6th February 2015 by The News Editor

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The crisis in the Middle East caused by the rise of the so-called Islamic State (IS) could last for another 15 years, a former British diplomat in the region has warned.

Sir John Jenkins, who retired as the UK’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia at the end of January, warned the threat posed by IS was potentially the gravest situation facing the region since the end of the Second World War.

His comments came as David Cameron said the challenge of Islamist extremism would take “years rather than months” to address.

Sir John, who also served in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Israel during his Foreign Office career, said: “This is probably the most challenging set of circumstances countries in the region, particularly in the Gulf, have faced since the 1960s and maybe since the end of the Second World War.”

He told BBC2’s Newsnight: “There’s a whole set of physical and material challenges to the national security of these states.”

He added: “I wouldn’t be surprised if we were looking at 10 to 15 years of instability and insecurity in Iraq, in Syria, in parts of north Africa.”

A highly critical report by MPs on the Defence Select Committee called for the UK to step up its involvement in the fight against IS and claimed military chiefs were unable to present a clear strategy for the mission.

Sir John said countries in the Gulf region questioned the level of support they were getting from Western allies.

“T here was a time when you could simply say the answer to everything was to increase the strength of a naval flotilla, for example, in the Gulf ,” he said.

“I think it is far more complex than that now and I think we are all trying to work out how we deal with that.

“Speaking quite frankly, people do wonder about the level of commitment that the Western alliance and particular countries are prepared to make to the national security of the Gulf in this age of anxiety.”

In an interview with MailOnline, the Prime Minister said the Government was “doing everything that we can to defeat the monstrosity of ISIL (IS)” and defended the UK’s contribution to the military effort.

He added: “Look, we are taking action, we are the second nation in terms of bombing runs that have been carried out in Iraq.

“That is making a difference on the ground and we are seeing the growth of Iraqi security forces and Kurdish forces sweeping ISIL out of parts of Iraq, and we need a long-term plan for both Iraq and Syria so we defeat ISIL.”

But the Prime Minister insisted countering the threat was about more than just military action.

He said: “We have got to go after the hate preachers, we’ve got to go after the radicalisation.

“We have got to stop people travelling to Syria, we have got to prosecute those who have been and been radicalised and would do us harm

“You have seen actually a big growth in the number of people in Britain who have been prosecuted and convicted for Islamist extremist violence. We need to keep up our guard.

“I think the threat of Islamist extremism is a threat that we are going to face throughout this generation. It is going to be years rather than months.”

Published: Friday 6th February 2015 by The News Editor

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