Statement on Syria

Isil-Daesh must be destroyed. It is responsible for the horrific attacks in Paris and Beirut in November, the killings of 30 British Citizens at Sousse in Tunisia, including Walsall Football Club supporters Joel Richards aged 19, his uncle Adrian Evans, and his grandfather Charles ‘Patrick’ Evans, journalists, aid workers, and thousands of innocent civilians in Syria, most of whom are Muslim.


I have decided to vote against the Government’s motion relating to airstrikes in Syria. In my view, the military, political and diplomatic conditions do not justify the use of airstrikes in Syria. The Foreign Affairs Select Committee voted yesterday for a motion opposing the use of airstrikes in Syria for similar reasons.


The Prime Minister’s strategy of bombing in Syria relies on suitable allies on the ground who could assist with targeting and who could take control of areas which had been targeted. It is not clear that such allies with sufficient capabilities exist and again today the Prime Minister could not adequately quantify the forces available on the ground. The Prime Minister did not set out specific action to stop illicit oil sales by Isil-Daesh or to cut off their funding streams. Crucially, I am not satisfied that civilians will be safe from harm.


Syria has been in a state of civil war for the last 4 years and the political situation is chaotic. There are hundreds of groups fighting as part of various coalitions, whose goals are unclear and whose allegiances are constantly changing.  2 years ago we were asked by the Government to bomb the Assad regime.


The situation in Syria is further complicated by the involvement of Russia and Iran backing President Assad and Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and US backing various rebel factions. Britain has gained an important diplomatic opportunity by not being directly involved in combat and by providing humanitarian aid to refugees in camps in Syria and Jordan. Bombing risks undermining this position.


The Arab states, the United Nations and the EU, must work together to bring about a comprehensive political and diplomatic settlement. Multilateral peace talks are reported to be taking place in Vienna this month and must be given the opportunity to take effect.


Defeating Isil-Daesh requires a coherent political, diplomatic and military strategy which the emphasis on UK air strikes in Syria does not provide. I will be voting against the UK carrying out air strikes in Syria.