Isis crushed in Iraq and Syria, says Theresa May

UK prime minister tells British forces in Cyprus that Islamic State no longer holds any significant territory in either country

Islamic State has been crushed in Iraq and Syria, Theresa May has said. She told troops at a Christmas address in Cyprus that the jihadi group nolonger held any significant territory thanks to efforts by British forces.

Standing in front of a Typhoon fighter to speak to 100 servicemen and women at RAF Akrotiri, the prime minister was bullish about the military’s success in Operation Shader against Isis, or Daesh as it is known in the Middle East.

“Let’s be clear just what a difference that has made,” she said. “Just three years ago, Daesh declared a caliphate in Iraq and Syria, a safe haven in which to carry out the most barbaric acts and in which to plot murder on our streets at home.

“But today, thanks in very large part to your efforts, the so-called caliphate has been crushed and no longer holds significant territory in Iraq and Syria. You should be incredibly proud of that achievement.”

The base in Cyprus is at the heart of the UK’s operations in Iraq and Syria. It is home to 2,000 military personnel and has been the launch point for more than 1,300 sorties to Iraq and more than 250 to Syria since the action against Islamic State began. Only the US has carried out more airstrikes.

May said British military intervention was still needed in the region to ensure Isis didn’t regroup or a new similar force emerge. She referred to her recent visit to Baghdad to see the training of Iraqi security personnel.

“While we need to deal directly with the threat they still pose in the region, we also need to focus on training the Iraqi security forces to keep Daesh out,” she said.

“As conflicts and tensions fuel instability across the Middle East, it is not just the security of that region which is threatened, it is the whole international order on what global security and prosperity depends.”

May said Isis would still seek “new ungoverned spaces from which to plot and carry out attack” and that it was vital for Britain to continue to support the stability of its allies in the Middle East.

The prime minister said 2018 would be a special year because it marked the RAF’s centenary and the 100th anniversary of the armistice that brought the first world war to an end. She said today’s RAF personnel were “present day pioneers of the world’s most iconic air force”.

“It is you, your professionalism, your courage and your sacrifices that give meaning to the pledges we make as a nation,” she said. “It is you who take down our enemies and stand by our allies when the going gets tough.

“I hope that as a nation in this special year ahead we can collectively raise the national consciousness of the work you do and the sacrifices that you make in the service of others. As prime minister I will do everything I can to lead the nation in this endeavour.”

Wishing the troops and their 3,000 family members on the base a merry Christmas, May said they were “the pride of our nation and that is how you should be treated”.


Jessica Elgot

The GuardianTramp

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