Last week in Parliament I listened very carefully to the Prime Minister making the case for the UK’s involvement in air-strikes on Syria. He spoke eloquently, but it was clear that he did not have an effective strategy for following up the air strikes and bringing the stability that that country so desperately needs. That’s why I spoke up very clearly in Shadow Cabinet against UK involvement in air strikes.
It is understandable that in the wake of appalling atrocities in Paris, that we should want to do something urgently to combat Daesh / Isis and show solidarity with our allies, but we should beware of simply bombing places like Raqqa in Syria as a knee-jerk reaction, which, as fleeing Syrians have pointed out, would inevitably lead to civilian casualties.
We all abhor Daesh with their barbaric acts, and their murdering of innocent people including many Muslims, but military experts have warned that air strikes alone are not sufficient to drive Daesh out of the territory it holds. Far more needs to be done to cut off their supplies of oil and weapons, and to prevent more young people being drawn into their hateful propaganda and radicalisation.
But in terms of re-taking the parts of Syria they control, we need to have a strategy which includes how and by whom the peace can be secured. The Prime Minister talked vaguely about some 70,000 rebel forces, but they are scattered geographically, and composed of many disparate groups. The Prime Minister could not give us details about their commitment or capacity for taking and holding territory.
However, we now have signs of a greater determination in the United Nations to tackle the region’s problems, and Russia has shown a willingness to be involved. So where the UK should take a lead would be in furthering the Vienna process, getting commitment from the regional powers and developing a political strategy for the area. That now needs to be the priority. I am not a pacifist, but I shall not be voting for air strikes on Syria.