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British Parliament Approves Airstrikes Against ISIS

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Today, the global coalition bombing the group known as ISIS grew by one country, and it's a key addition. The United Kingdom says, its Air Force will begin hitting targets in Iraq right away. While British jets probably won't change the military outcome of this fight, this is an important political marker for the Obama administration's efforts to build a worldwide alliance. NPR's Ari Shapiro reports from London on today's debate in Parliament.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: The U.K. was one of the first allies to join the U.S. during the 2001 Afghan War - same with the 2003 Iraq War. More than a decade later, people here are sick of war and cautious about getting sucked into another long military involvement in the Middle East. Just last year, Prime Minister David Cameron suffered a humiliating defeat when he asked Parliament to support airstrikes against the Syrian army, and lawmakers said, no. So this time, Cameron built his case for intervention slowly and carefully.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

MINISTER DAVID CAMERON: Mr. Speaker, this is not 2003, but we must not use past mistakes as an excuse for indifference or inaction.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Yeah.

CAMERON: We will play our part in destroying these evil extremists.

SHAPIRO: Cameron recalled Parliament from a four-week break specifically for this vote, and he laid out the groundwork first. Earlier this week in New York, the prime minister met with Iraq's new leader, Haider al-Abadi. And today in London, Cameron told lawmakers that Abadi made a personal request for British military support.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

CAMERON: So there's no question that we have the legal basis for action, founded on the request of the Iraqi government.

SHAPIRO: Cameron also secured the support of all three major political parties. Opposition Labour leader, Ed Miliband, stood up to endorse the effort during the Westminster debate.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

ED MILIBAND: This case is about supporting a democratic state. It is not about overturning an existing regime and seeking to build a new one from the rubble - a much harder undertaking.

SHAPIRO: Parliament did not authorize air strikes in Syria, where the U.S. is dropping bombs - only Iraq. Some lawbreakers asked how this strategy can succeed when ISIS fighters can slip across the border from one country to the other. And lawmakers expressed other reservations, too. David Winnick is with the Labour Party. He said, there's no question ISIS is bad. The question is whether Cameron's approach will work.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

DAVID WINNICK: Look at what the House of Commons agreed to - Iraq, Afghanistan - in this government, Libya. None are success stories. Are we going to embark on action that could last for years?

SHAPIRO: Cameron warned that this will not end quickly. He said, quote, "the hallmarks of this campaign will be patience and persistence, not shock and awe." Ari Shapiro, NPR News, London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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