In a previous article, I said I would decide whether to support the Government in extending military action against ISIL/Daesh into Syria once I had seen the motion.
The motion is here and it is as follows (layout and emphasis my own):
That this House
- notes that ISIL poses a direct threat to the United Kingdom;
- welcomes United Nations Security Council Resolution 2249 which determines that ISIL constitutes an ‘unprecedented threat to international peace and security‘ and calls on states to take ‘all necessary measures‘ to prevent terrorist acts by ISIL and to ‘eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Iraq and Syria‘;
- further notes the clear legal basis to defend the UK and our allies in accordance with the UN Charter;
- notes that military action against ISIL is only one component of a broader strategy to bring peace and stability to Syria;
- welcomes the renewed impetus behind the Vienna talks on a ceasefire and political settlement;
- welcomes the Government’s continuing commitment to providing humanitarian support to Syrian refugees;
- underlines the importance of planning for post-conflict stabilisation and reconstruction in Syria;
- welcomes the Government’s continued determination to cut ISIL’s sources of finance, fighters and weapons;
- notes the requests from France, the US and regional allies for UK military assistance;
- acknowledges the importance of seeking to avoid civilian casualties, using the UK’s particular capabilities;
- notes the Government will not deploy UK troops in ground combat operations;
- welcomes the Government’s commitment to provide quarterly progress reports to the House;
- and accordingly supports Her Majesty’s Government in taking military action, specifically airstrikes, exclusively against ISIL in Syria;
- and offers its wholehearted support to Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.
In that motion and in the Prime Minister’s Memorandum to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, the Government has answered my objections.
Following attacks in Paris, Tunisia and elsewhere, UK military action against ISIL/Daesh is clearly in the just cause of defence against an enemy with whom there can be no negotiation. Daesh is a clear and present danger to British people at home and abroad. There is to be no attack on the Syrian government and no attempt to remove its institutions. We will attack our enemies ISIL/Daesh exclusively, in an extension of a current operation in Iraq.
Moreover, there is a comprehensive strategy to defeat ISIL/Daesh and strive towards peace in Syria by political means: extended airstrikes are just one component. The Prime Minister’s memorandum sets out that strategy. In particular, Daesh must be denied access to finance, weapons and resources. Diplomatic efforts among members of the Coalition and with Russia especially must and should ensure we do not stumble into conflict amongst allies.
I have carefully considered the many serious arguments for and against further action put forward by my constituents and in debate. On fears of retaliation, we already face a severe risk of terrorist attack from Daesh. On escalation, the proposal is to extend an existing operation, not enter into a general war and the wording of the motion is tightly drafted to exclude ground troops and attacks on other parties beyond Daesh. In Iraq, we are advised the RAF has caused no civilian casualties when fighting Daesh.
My instincts are profoundly anti-war. I voted against the previous proposition on Syria. I did not support the proposal on Iraq. I supported the action in Libya on the basis of UN consent and the “responsibility to protect”. I desire peace but I accept my responsibility to use force in defence.
Today, our country and our allies face a severe risk from a barbaric enemy against whom the only answer is lethal force. We must reply to that threat with courage through diplomatic, political and military means. In all the circumstances, I will give the Government my consent to fight Daesh in Syria in addition to Iraq.
The men and women of the Royal Air Force have my wholehearted support.