I thank all those who have contacted me about the UK’s proposed involvement in air strikes against ISIL/Daesh in Syria. I am particularly grateful to those who have taken the time to highlight their appreciation of the complexity of this issue. There is no greater responsibility for a Member of Parliament than voting on whether to commit British troops to military action.
I, like all my colleagues from across the House, feel revulsion at the horrific actions of ISIL/Daesh. There is no doubt that we are all united in wanting to see ISIL/Daesh eliminated. The crucial question is how this can be achieved and whether military intervention in Syria by the UK will achieve this.
The Syrian civil war has claimed over 250,000 lives and displaced millions of people. Bringing an end to the conflict and eliminating ISIL/Daesh requires a political settlement, a credible military presence on the ground, backed by a serious plan for humanitarian support and post-conflict reconstruction.
Having carefully listened to the Prime Minister’s statements, today’s debate and considered the arguments, I am not convinced of the case for extending UK air strikes to Syria. I will therefore be voting against the Government’s motion tonight.
My concerns about the Government’s current proposals are as follows:
1) There needs to be a comprehensive strategy on how ISIL/Daesh can be defeated. In particular, the Government’s response lacks clarity on what practical difference the UK’s involvement in joining the air strikes campaign will make beyond a show of solidarity with our allies. Whilst this is an important argument, I believe the case for our involvement in air strikes is weak given some 2,700 coalition air strikes have already been launched and some reports suggest coalition forces are running out of targets to hit.
2) The Government’s claim that there are ‘70,000 Syrian opposition fighters on the ground who do not belong to extremist groups’ has been disputed by numerous experts, the Conservative Chair of the Defence Select Committee and a majority of members of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. It has also been highlighted that these opposition fighters consist of loose associations of troops, some of whom have conflicting and extremist political agendas.
3) Air strikes will not achieve their intended aims without a substantial, credible and reliable ground operation, coordinated and supported by key international powers including Russia and Iran. This means urgently addressing the lack of clarity over the long-term future of Syria, and making sure the Vienna process produces a transition to an inclusive and sustainable government in a post-Assad Syria.
In conclusion, I will not be supporting the Government’s motion to extend airstrikes in Syria because I believe it will not be effective without an internationally agreed path towards a political settlement for ending the Syrian civil war, a credible ground offensive to defeat ISIL/Daesh and a clear exit strategy.