THE LIE that British troops would not return to Iraq is falling apart.
The British government has now admitted that it has sent soldiers to Iraq to train Kurdish fighters in the use of the heavy machine guns that Britain has supplied.
The government says that the soldiers have arrived in a “non-combat” role.
SAS special forces troops—who are certainly in a “combat role”— are also in the region.
Leaks to right wing newspapers claim that their deeds are shaping the war.
The Daily Express newspaper reported that an SAS unit stopped an entire Islamic State convoy with two shots from a sniper rifle.
First we were told that the British intervention was air drops of humanitarian supplies to save the Yazidi people trapped on a mountain.
Then it was air sorties “monitoring” Islamic State. Then it was bombing raids. Now it is about “trainer troops” and special forces.
The potential for still greater intervention is clear.
Yet both Britain and the US are nervous about the level of their involvement.
They know that air raids are unlikely to destroy Islamic State, but fear to commit the thousands of troops that could take control.
In part they know they face serious domestic opposition to any such move.
The West would like to rely on Kurdish, Iraqi and especially Turkish troops.
But US ally Turkey has said it will not get involved unless other countries supply significant numbers of ground troops.
Tensions are currently running high between the allies.
US national security adviser Susan Rice announced last weekend that Turkey had agreed to allow its airbases along the Syrian border to be used by US planes to attack Syria.
The Turkish government quickly said it had given no such permission.
Saudi Arabia has offered to train some 5,000 “moderate” Syrian rebels. But no such forces have appeared.
That’s why there is now so much talk of putting Western troops on the ground.
Former general David Richards, who retired as head of the British army in 2013, said, “It isn’t actually a counter-terrorist operation. This is a conventional enemy in that it has armour, tanks, artillery, it is quite wealthy, it holds ground and it is going to fight.
“So therefore you have to view it as a conventional military campaign.”
Meanwhile Islamic State troops are said to have reached Abu Ghraib in the suburbs of Baghdad and the Iraqi government is asking for US troops to help repel them.
Islamic State has come to control most of Anbar province, which contains the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi, once known as “the graveyard of the Americans”.
This was the region where the US pushed the “Sunni awakening” in an attempt to break the united resistance it faced after its 2003 invasion.