Thank you for writing about the vote on Syria and so-called ISIS, or Daesh. I have had a wide variety of representations on this - for and against – and, in addition to the various Government statements and the debate itself, I have met with the Secretary of State for Defence to understand the full details of the political and military proposal by the Government for extending airstrikes, as part of a wider political and diplomatic plan to root out this terrorist group and work towards greater peace and stability in Syria and the surrounding area.
I know some people are concerned that this action will make us a target. We are already a target. These people despise our way of life, our freedom, openness and democracy. They have already killed 30 British tourists in Tunisia, over 200 Russians in Egypt, and now 130 people in Paris. We know they are planning more attacks. So the question I have to ask is whether we stand aside, or whether we act to defend ourselves.
Other people have said airstrikes don’t work. In fact they can perform a vital role, namely to degrade the ability of Daesh to expand its reach and export its terror. Fourteen months ago, they had expanded their territory and were close to reaching Baghdad. We in the West then responded with concerted airstrikes, and these have driven them back and out of many parts of Iraq. So airstrikes have a role in undermining their ability to fight, in destroying their leadership and equipment and the safe havens they currently enjoy in Syria.
I don’t see this extension of airstrikes as an end in itself. It’s one part of a wider strategy to build a strong coalition – now including 60 countries – which is implementing the UN resolution 2249. This strategy seeks to cut off their access to money, fighters and weapons; to strengthen the talks in Vienna for a broad settlement about the future governance of and a potential ceasefire in Syria; to improve humanitarian aid; and to ensure that at home we strengthen our efforts to tackle extremism.
I don’t believe that this decision will, of itself, bring peace to Syria, or destroy Daesh. The depth and breadth of the problem will take many years to resolve and any eventual solution will depend on the willingness of parties beyond our control.
But that is not a reason for inaction, or for mistaking the clear and present danger which these people represent to us. As Hillary Benn MP put it during the debate:
“But I say the threat is now and there are rarely if ever perfect circumstances in which to deploy military forces…”
So, whilst I respect those people who are concerned about the consequences of any action, I believe that the motion which the House of Commons passed deserved my support. I attach a copy of that motion so you can see how clear it is about the aims and the military limits of the actions proposed.
We can and should learn from past mistakes. But this situation is very different from the decisions made by Tony Blair, in the past. He did not have a unanimous UN mandate; the action involved Western troops overthrowing a foreign army and occupying an entire nation; and there were no matching diplomatic talks in hand. These are important differences.
So after careful consideration I supported the motion for the reasons I have set out.
The path ahead is going to be difficult and there will be set backs. But we face people who hold our values in contempt and who will only grow in strengthen the more we hesitate.
Mark Prisk MP
The Motion which the Government has tabled for the House of Commons vote states:
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.