By: Ted Thornhill
The son of the heir to the Saudi Arabian throne has personally put the royal seal of approval on the attacks against Isis, by taking part in bombing runs.
Prince Khaled bin Salman, the son of Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, has been pictured in the cockpit of his F15 fighter jet after piloting it in strikes against the terrorist group in Syria.
He was joined in the skies by the United Arab Emirate’s first female air force pilot, Major Mariam Al Mansouri, 35, whose F16 fighter was one of several from a group of Arab nations that are blitzing Isis.
The Saudi prince is thought to have piloted one of four attack aircraft from the Kingdom in a third night of missions against Isis, also known as Islamic State, according to The Times.
There are thousands of princes in Saudi Arabia, but Prince Khaled is from the very top tier. His father is the First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence of Saudi Arabia – and his father was the King.
It reported that the prince’s participation in the attacks was revealed by the Saudi government not only to reassure the West that it is determined to take a firm stand against extremist groups, but to send a message to the Saudi population that Isis is an enemy of the Kingdom.
Some have suspicions that Isis is being partly funded by wealthy Saudis – a view bolstered by the fact that many in the country are sympathetic to their views.
Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a political scientist with ties to the UAE government, said: ‘Saudi Arabia is not shying away but there is a huge risk of a backlash at home. I hope the U.S appreciates this.’
To help win over hearts and minds in Saudi Arabia newspapers there printed the pictures of the Saudi pilots with captions that explained that Isis ‘damages the image of Islam and make it appear as a deformed religion based on killings and beheadings’, the Financial Times reported.
The photos were also accompanied by praise from Prince Khaled’s father.
The prince’s participation in the attacks is said, nevertheless, to have resulted in death threats.
Major Mansouri, from Abu Dhabi, made a remarkable rise through the ranks of the UAE air force. She joined it in 2007 and is now a squadron commander, according to Business Insider.
She is one of eight children and has a degree in English literature.
David Cameron said late Wednesday he will ask Parliament to approve joining international airstrikes against Isis.
He urged Britain to shake off the spectre of the Iraq war and back potentially years of RAF strikes against the ‘psychopathic murderers’ of Islamic State.
MPs have been scrambled for an emergency recall of Parliament tomorrow to sanction bombing raids on terrorist positions in northern Iraq.
All three party leaders indicated support for air strikes, and the attacks are expected to begin as early as tomorrow night.
But the Prime Minister said the fight against Islamic terrorism could last for years.
Mr Cameron, who last night held talks with Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi to finalise military plans, stressed that British troops would not be sent back to Iraq.
In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Mr Cameron acknowledged the wariness felt by many in the international community over military action in Iraq, following the decade of violence which followed the US-led invasion of 2003.
But he said it was vital to ‘learn the right lessons – Yes to careful preparation; no to rushing to join a conflict without a clear plan’.
Mr Cameron warned: ‘We must not be so frozen with fear that we don’t do anything at all.
‘Isolation and withdrawing from a problem like Isil will only make things worse.
‘We must not allow past mistakes to become an excuse for indifference or inaction.’
Action against IS should be ‘comprehensive, intelligent and inclusive’, working with partners in the region, potentially including Iran – whose president Hassan Rouhani he met for historic talks at the UN.
And he added: ‘We should be uncompromising, using all the means at our disposal – including military force – to hunt down these extremists.’
The struggle with extremism must be waged not only against IS in Iraq and Syria, but also against Boko Haram in Nigeria, Al-Shabaab in Somalia, Ansar Al-Sharia in Libya and al-Qaida in Yemen, Mr Cameron said.
Meanwhile, Turkey appears to be inching toward a greater role in the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State after the group freed 46 Turkish hostages, but it remains unclear how far it will go to combat the militants.
As the United States builds a military coalition including Gulf Arab states to fight the radical Sunni militant group, Turkey has been conspicuous by its absence, playing no public role in U.S.-led air strikes on Syria this week.
While Ankara had previously ruled out military action against its neighbour, its tone changed after the alliance air strikes began this week.
‘We are seriously considering military cooperation with the United States to combat IS,’ a senior Turkish official told Reuters on Wednesday, referring to the group by its acronym.