Rother Valley MP Sir Kevin Barron column: There was a compelling case for extending airstrikes in Syria

Pictured Kevin BarronPictured Kevin Barron
Pictured Kevin Barron
This week in Parliament the main issue has been about whether we should extend British airstrikes against ISIL/Daesh to Syria.

I know that many people have strong views on this, and MPs across the House of Commons weighed up the arguments and arrived at different conclusions in a principled way on this most difficult issue.

I gave the issue a great deal of thought, but the horrific events in Paris really brought home to us the clear and present danger we face from Daesh.

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It could just as easily have been London or Manchester or Rotherham. 

In my judgement there was a compelling case for extending airstrikes against Daesh to Syria because of this threat.

Firstly, we should be in no doubt about the danger we face from Daesh. We know about their beheadings, crucifixions, throwing gay men off buildings, the enslavement of women and the discovery of a mass grave of older women in Sinjar, and we know they killed 30 British tourists in Tunisia, 224 Russian holidaymakers on a plane, 178 people in suicide bombings in Beirut, Ankara and Suruc and 130 people in Paris.

And crucially they are plotting more attacks on the UK and other countries from their headquarters in Raqqa, Syria.

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Secondly, the European Union and member states – including the UK – are doing a great deal to provide humanitarian assistance, but we must hold the Prime Minister to his pledge to do more, including on the UK’s commitment to reconstruction.

Thirdly, on the Syrian civil war, there is now important progress on a peace process through the Vienna talks held by the International Syria Support Group, which has brought together all the major international players behind a common vision of what is needed to bring the Syrian civil war to an end – talks and a ceasefire leading to a transitional government and elections.  This is vital because ending the war will help in the defeat of Daesh.

Finally, there is strong support from within the region, including Iraq, for action against Daesh.

We are part of a coalition of over 60 nations and we must continue to work with other countries to cut off the flow of finance, fighters and weapons to Daesh in Syria and Iraq.

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France has asked for our help and solidarity, and I think we have an obligation to stand together, shoulder-to-shoulder, with them and others in opposition to their ideology and brutality.

It is said by some that airstrikes don’t achieve anything, but this is not so. Airstrikes in Syria have helped the Kurds to resist Daesh’s attempt to take Kobane and in Iraq it helped the Kurds to retake Sinjar.

In Iraq, the RAF is already showing how it can carry effectively carry out targeted airstrikes to undermine Daesh’s military activities using their particular technological capability and skills.

This coalition effort is helping to degrade Daesh’s capacity and seeking to prevent them from expanding the territory they control. 

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Some also say that instead of airstrikes, the UK should be pursuing other non-military activities to take on Daesh.

This is a false choice. 

In accordance with the UN Resolution we should be taking all necessary measures.

The Government’s motion makes clear a commitment to seek to cut off Daesh’s sources of finance, fighters and weapons.

There are legitimate arguments not to take this form of action, but the threat is now and there are rarely, if ever, a perfect set of circumstances in which to deploy military forces.

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The first responsibility of government and of the opposition is to defend the national interest and to defend its people.

Therefore, on balance, I believe the right thing to do was to support the extension of airstrikes against Daesh to Syria which I did.