Islamic terrorists fighting in Iraq are ‘planning to attack us here at home in the United Kingdom’, David Cameron said today.
The Prime Minister told MPs that the crisis in the Middle East must not be dismissed as ‘nothing to do with us’.
He said the jihadist insurgents in Iraq, Syria, Somalia and Nigeria would ‘come back and hit us at home’ if the UK did not help defeat them.
The damning warning came after former security minister Baroness Neville-Jones claimed Britain was sending more Islamic extremists to Syria and Iraq than any other country in Europe.
Speaking in the Commons Mr Cameron said: ‘I’d disagree with those people who think this is nothing to do with us and if they want to have some sort of extreme Islamist regime in the middle of Iraq that won’t affect us – it will.
‘The people in that regime, as well as trying to take territory, are also planning to attack us here at home in the United Kingdom.
‘So the right answer is to be long term, hard-headed, patient and intelligent with the interventions that we make, and the most important intervention of all is to make sure that these governments are fully representative of the people who live in their countries, that they close down the ungoverned space, and they remove the support for the extremists.
‘If we do that, not just in Syria, but we have to help in Iraq, in Somalia, in Nigeria, in Mali, because these problems will come back and hit us at home if we don’t.’
Earlier, Baroness Neville-Jones warned there is a danger of ‘a sufficient number’ of British citizens travelling to fight in Iraq and Syria becoming radicalised against the West and returning ‘with the intention of doing damage.’
The former chairman of the British Joint Intelligence Committee said militants in the region posed the gravest threat to Britain today, as Iraq’s ambassador to the U.S. warned ISIS extremists could produce ‘a thousand’ global terrorists like Osama bin Laden.
Lukman Faily has said if the U.S. and other nations focus too much on Iraq’s internal politics and ignore the ‘immediate threat’ of a terrorist movement that’s gathering steam, the results will be catastrophic.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Baroness Neville-Jones said there was a danger of ‘real radicalisation’ if British citizens travelled to fight.
She said: ‘I think the danger lies in their desire to go, for whatever motive, and what happens to them when they are there, then that’s the danger of real radicalisation, coming back with skills and without any other activity in life and motive.’
She warned a ‘sufficient number’ could return to the UK with the ‘intention of doing damage.’
The former Tory minister said: ‘I think it’s entirely undesirable that any should go and indeed I think it may become an offence to do that.
‘But I think a sufficient number will be radicalised and will be radicalised in ways where this notion about how it’s the West’s fault will get embedded in their thinking and they will come back with the intention of doing damage.’
Baroness Neville-Jones said: ‘Unfortunately, I think the UK exports more young men to become jihadis in Europe than any other.’
She went on to say: ‘The intelligence picture is fairly clear. There’s no doubt the numbers are there and there is a real danger of these young men when they come back getting into serious trouble.
‘Our ability to track what’s going on is infinitely greater than it was post 9/11 which I think is one of the reasons why we haven’t seen the national alert rise.’
Baroness Neville-Jones was asked whether young men with ‘muddled views’ about fighting with Muslims, when in Iraq and Syria they would also be fighting against other Muslims, should be regarded ‘as potential radicals’.
She said: ‘I think we can’t take the risk of this kind of thinking just brewing without any kind of antidote.’
She suggested educating and providing young men with more information in the short-term, along with a longer-term process of better integration.
Mr Cameron yesterday said the police service and spy agencies have been ordered to focus their efforts on the Islamic insurgents, particularly those returning to Britain.
Today’s warnings were backed by security expert Professor Peter Neumann who said Britain will be ‘haunted’ by the threat of terror for years to come.
Professor Neumann, director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, said the country faced a ‘significant’ risk from a minority of those who joined groups such as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis).
He said: ‘I think personally that it is a threat that will continue to haunt this country and other European and western countries for years to come.
‘Even if Isis is pushed back from Iraq, they are still going to exist. This is going to be keeping the security services and police busy for many years to come.’
The ICSR estimates that between 400 and 500 Britons have gone to fight in Syria, with many believed to have joined the ranks of Isis.
Professor Neumann said: ‘Up to about a week ago almost all of them were in Syria but we are now seeing reports of people crossing the border into Iraq.’
It comes after MailOnline revealed more British citizens have signed up to fight in Iraq and Syria than joined the Army Reserve last year.
Ministers have been caught off-guard by the speed of the insurgency by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) sweeping through Iraq, with more evidence emerging of brutal executions.
Several hundred Britons have travelled to the region to join militants in fighting, but just 170 extra reservists enlisted over the past year.
Mr Cameron yesterday insisted the prospect of battle-hardened jihadists returning to the UK was a ‘real threat to our country’.
Mr Faily has warned of the dangers of the U.S and other nations focussing too much on Iraq’s internal politics and ignoring the extremist movement.
‘This is a global tumor in Iraq taking place now and in Syria,’ he said, referring to the Sunni militant group calling itself ISIS. ‘We’ve seen it before.’
The White House has scolded Nouri al-Maliki’s government in Baghdad for provoking ISIS by alienating the country’s Sunni minority.
Barack Obama said on Friday that U.S. military intervention would be conditioned on reconciliation efforts from Maliki’s Shia majority.
‘Any action that we may take to provide assistance to Iraqi security forces has to be joined by a serious and sincere effort by Iraq’s leaders to set aside sectarian differences, to promote stability, and account for the legitimate interests of all of Iraq’s communities,’ Obama said in public remarks.
‘So this should be a wake-up call. Iraq’s leaders have to demonstrate a willingness to make hard decisions and compromises on behalf of the Iraqi people in order to bring the country together.’
But Faily suggested during an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that Obama is naively fiddling while Baghdad burns.
‘These are all “nice to have” discussions,’ he said, but ‘what we have in Iraq now, to–is an immediate threat.’
‘But do you not feel this is an immediate threat?’ Amanpour interrupted, ‘that practically half the country feels disenfranchised? The Sunnis?’
‘We’re not saying we’re not happy to [have a] discussion,’ he responded. ‘We want to have that discussion. But we’re saying conditioning that discussion is not wise. Making clear that we all stand together against a threat in global terrorism is the question.’
‘Let me give you an example. What you have in Afghanistan, with one Bin Laden–you will have a thousand of them.’
‘No POWs,’ he warned. ‘Nothing, none of that. No rules of engagement but destruction.’
‘That’s the situation in Iraq.’
Obama told Congress on Monday that he is sending 275 armed military men and women into Baghdad to protect American embassy personnel and assets as they are moved elsewhere in Iraq and to Jordan.
They will be ‘armed for combat,’ the White House said, while insisting that the ground troops won’t be the first drop in an ocean of military entanglements of the sort that Obama campaigned against in 2008 and 2012.
An administration official also said Monday that the president is considering the deployment of a small contingent of Special Forces to Iraq, specifically to help the al-Maliki government slow the advance of ISIS.
Obama is also mulling unilateral air strikes to hamper ISIS, but administration sources told MailOnline on Tuesday that the primary objection to that strategy is political, not tactical.
The National Security Staff, one source said, is concerned that forcing ISIS off the battlefield now that neighboring Iran has sent 2,000 of its elite Quds forces to stabilize the region could effectively clear the way for Iran to seize oil fields and other lands in eastern Iraq.