Extending air strikes against Daesh from Iraq into Syria

A lot of people have been in touch to express their views on the Government’s proposal for extending air strikes against Daesh to Syria. I would like to make clear that the decision to send UK men and women into combat is one that I do not take lightly. It is the gravest responsibility of those who are elected to the House of Commons. With this in mind, I respect those who take a different view from me. All of us oppose terrorism and I respect people who take a different view from me about how we should deal with it.

It is clear that Daesh poses a clear and present threat to our country. It is a threat both at home and abroad. Daesh has attacked Ankara, Beirut and, of course, Paris, as well as likely blowing up a Russian passenger plane. It has already taken the lives of British hostages, and inspired the worst terrorist attack against British people since 7/7, on the beaches of Tunisia. Moreover, it has repeatedly tried to attack us in the UK. The police and security services have disrupted no fewer than seven terrorist plots to attack the UK, every one of which was either linked to Daesh or inspired by its propaganda.

The United Nations was also clear in assessing the scale of the threat posed by Daesh and the need for action. The UN Security Council passed Resolution 2249 unanimously. It states that Daesh “constitutes a global and unprecedented threat to international peace and security”. It calls for member states to take “all necessary measures” to prevent and suppress terrorist acts committed specifically by Daesh and, crucially, it says that we should “eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Iraq and Syria”.

Arguments for war are rarely straightforward and are often clouded in uncertainty but difficulty cannot be a reason for inaction. The question of how to most effectively deal with Daesh is complex and multifaceted but I have long been convinced that there is a need for a military component to our strategy to defeat Daesh. Indeed we are currently carrying out air strikes in Iraq against Daesh targets, at the request of the Iraqi government. I believe our failure to extend those strikes beyond a border that Daesh itself does not recognise undermines the efficacy of our action in Iraq and diminishes our ability to degrade and ultimately defeat Daesh.

Military action cannot and will not be the only means of tackling Daesh, however. This must be part of a wider strategy, including ongoing political negotiations aimed at securing a lasting peace, and a comprehensive reconstruction plan in Syria. We also need a coordinated humanitarian effort to address the refugee crisis the war in Syria has created. We must also redouble international efforts to cut the funding to Daesh, through financial sanctions and action to close down black market trade in commodities.

However, having made the assessment that Daesh poses a threat to the UK; and given that we are currently carrying out air strikes in Iraq; and having been asked by our closest allies to extend those air strike to Syria with sanction from the UN to do so, I believe that we have a responsibility to act.

Again let me stress that I know for all of us this is a difficult and sensitive decision and the debate must be taken forward with respect and tolerance on all sides.

Please do feel free to be in touch: vernon.coaker.mp@parliament.uk