Appeal Against Military Action
Members of Parliament are due to decide whether to begin military action in Syria.
Waltham Forest Council Of Mosques – WFCOM has written a letter to Stella Creasy MP, John Cryer MP and Iain Duncan-Smith MP about it’s position on this crucial decision about to be taken by Westminister.
Waltham Forest - Responses
Response from John Cryer MP, Leyton & Wanstead - 30/11/2015 - 3:24PM
Many thanks for getting in touch and I am also grateful to all the other members of Waltham Forest Council of Mosques for the same. I should have called you anyway over the past few days and I’m sorry that I didn’t.
I have thought about this issue long and hard and the more I consider it the more opposed to air strikes I become. I don’t think it will achieve anything and could even make the situation worse. All the evidence indicates that the Free Syrian Army has nothing like the 70,000 troops claimed by the prime minister and others. So when a lack of ground strength becomes apparent, we will in all probability be called upon the send British soldiers. I don’t think this would be acceptable to the vast majority of British people.
I argued against air strikes in the Shadow Cabinet meeting last week, which you probably read about. I will do the same today.
All the best,
Response from Tim Bennett-Goodman, Councillor for (Higham Hill Ward) - Labour - 02/12/2015
Thank you for copying me into your very compelling letter to Stella Creasy MP.
I have written to Stella myself expressing my strong opposition to Britain extending the role of the RAF in this conflict. I have been watching the televised debate in the House of Commons earlier today and will continue to do so up to the result of the division. I must say that have yet to hear any argument that has made me change my mind in favour of the motion. Indeed, I heard it said that Canada has withdrawn from the campaign entirely which, if true, seems to demonstrate a level of moral leadership which we should emulate in this matter.
With you, I hope and pray that the vote this evening will not go in favour of the motion.
Other - Responses
Response from Mhairi Black, MP (Paisley & Renfrewshire South )[Scottish National Party]- 03/12/2015
Thank you for contacting me about the current situation in Syria and about the vote that will be taking place in the Westminster Parliament regarding the UK becoming involved in military action in Syria. I have received a huge amount of correspondence regarding this over the last few months.
I believe it is imperative that the UK Government supports renewed diplomatic effort to resolve his humanitarian crisis as the clearest way to reduce further human suffering in the country. Only United Nations sponsored initiatives will carry the international consensus required to bring this conflict to a resolution. The UK is currently chairing the UN Security Council and should do much more to use its role to show urgency, to build on the peace plan which was started in Vienna last weekend, and to develop the plan for peace and reconstruction. Immediately this should involve a ceasefire among all non-Da’esh forces in Syria as proposed by the U.S. Secretary of State this week.
Only through agreed international action can we bring an end to the civil war in Syria and thus tackle the refugee crisis and the evil of terrorism. The Foreign Affairs Committee Report concludes explicitly that the Prime Minister must address the efficacy of military intervention and how it will contribute to a wider initiative to end civil war and secure reconstruction.
The SNP is prepared to listen to the Prime Minister’s case on military intervention – however, as well as its legality, he must address the points raised in the Foreign Affairs Committee Report. So far the case has not been made that the UK adding to the bombing of Syria will make any material difference in the campaign against Da’esh.
The SNP supports the international initiative on Syria agreed in Vienna to secure a ceasefire, transition to stable representative government and countering terrorist groups. We believe UN Resolution 2249 (text of resolution below) is a welcome development at the United Nations in that it demonstrates that the international community are willing to work together in shared opposition to Da’esh.
There is no shortage of bombing in Syria. Adding UK forces to the 10 countries who are already bombing Syria will be militarily irrelevant and only cause further human suffering. The refugees that have started to arrive in Scotland have been the victims of Da’esh, suffering from their intolerance but also fleeing from the bombing which has become a constant part of their lives – seeing their world being turned upside down, bombs going off, friends and family being attacked, maimed and killed. I do not believe that the case for air strikes in Syria has been made.
On Tuesday 2nd December, along with over 100 other Members of Parliament from 6 political parties, I signed a cross-party amendment against the vote on air strikes in Syria.
Response on behalf of Diane Abbott, MP (Hackney North and Stoke Newington) - Labour - 03/12/2015
Thank you for getting in touch with Diane Abbott MP about military action in Syria.
Hundreds of people from across the country have written to Diane in the past few days about their opposition to military action. Diane will endeavour to put across the points raised to colleagues in her party and in the House. As she said in her speech to the Labour Party Conference in September, she will not be voting to bomb Syria.
Further, contrary to what the media is saying, the case has not been made that bombing Syria would help keep the British people safe.
The situation is complex with Assad’s troops, ISIS and the innumerable Syrian opposition militias all fighting to maintain a stranglehold on the areas they have captured. And of course, with the devastating shooting down of the Russian plane and subsequent comments from President Putin, it is clear that military action will do nothing to see a resolution to this situation.
Of course, we should not just stand by and watch innocent men, women and children lose their lives. The first priority however should be to end the civil war in Syria and we should be using every diplomatic channel to get this done. It is also vital that the regional powers like Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey and of course, the Gulf States step up to the plate and do all they can to effectively and genuinely oppose ISIS. This also means choking off the funding once and for all.
Lastly, Diane is increasingly concerned by the plight of thousands of refugees arriving on Europe’s shores every day and in her role as Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, she will be spending a great deal of time holding the government to account for the promises made regarding Britain playing a full and proper role in providing a safe and peaceful sanctuary. That promise will be made increasingly more difficult for the British government and governments’ right across Europe to honour if we take military action that will see even greater numbers fleeing war, violence and death.
Response on behalf of Lisa Cameron MP for (East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow) - Scottish National Party - 03/12/2015
Thank you for your message.
Dr Cameron and her SNP colleagues believe it is imperative that the UK Government supports renewed diplomatic effort to resolve this humanitarian crisis as the clearest way to reduce further human suffering in the country. Only United Nations sponsored initiatives will carry the international consensus required to bring this conflict to an resolution.Only through agreed international action can we bring an end to the civil war in Syria and thus tackle the refugee crisis and the evil of terrorism.
The SNP is prepared to listen to the Prime Minister’s case on military intervention – however, as well as its legality, he must address the efficacy of military intervention and how it will contribute to a wider initiative to end civil war and secure reconstruction. So far the case has not been made that the UK adding to the bombing of Syria will make any material difference in the campaign against Daesh.
The UK is currently chairing the UN Security Council and should do much more to use its role to show urgency, to build on the peace plan which was started in Vienna last weekend, and to develop the plan for peace and reconstruction. Immediately this should involve a ceasefire among all non-Daesh forces in Syria as proposed by the U.S. Secretary of State this week.
Response from Ruth Cadbury, MP for (Brentford and Isleworth) - Labour - 03/12/2015
Dear Waltham Forest Council of Mosques,
Thank you for sending me your open letter to Members of Parliament expressing your views surrounding the Government’s proposal to launch air strikes in Syria.
There is no more important decision a country can take than to commit our armed forces to military action and I can assure you this is not a decision that I, or any Member of Parliament, would take lightly.
I am appalled at the suffering and loss of life on all sides in Syria, and share the wish of the international community to take some form of action to reduce the bloodshed. As a Quaker, this is an issue of conscience for me.
Our peace testimony is therefore central to my values. This means I want the violence and suffering to end. That’s why I stress that diplomatic channels must be used and why I support all measures to achieve a nonviolent response.
I want to be very clear that I will not support any move by the UK Government to take military action in Syria. Later on today I will be voting against military action in Syria.
Thank you once again for writing to me and for sharing your views.
Member of Parliament for Brentford and Isleworth
Response from Karen Buck, MP for (Westminster North) - Labour - 03/12/2015
Thank you very much for your e-mail.
I wrote a blog on the Syria conflict at the weekend which I have copied below- I hope it sets out my thinking fairly fully.
After further briefings and reading, including reflecting on the range of views expressed by constituents, I have decided to vote against the motion. However, I still find the arguments finely balanced and respect those of my colleagues who have reached a different conclusion, Above all, I don’t think this debate must be seen through the prism of internal party politics- matters of war and peace, life and death are far too serious for that.
Here’s my statement:
I am extremely conflicted on this difficult issue- though having listened to the Prime Minister’s statement, I have to say he has not yet convinced me of the effectiveness of a policy which seems to rest on a number of disputed assumptions about the ground capacity of anti-Assad moderate forces, such as the Free Syria Army (regarded as essential to defeat ISIL since airstrikes alone cannot) and the prospects for a wider settlement and end to the civil war. Without this, it is hard to see how we can achieve an outcome we can all agree is necessary.
I hope you do not mind if I set out my thoughts fully.
I would rejoice at the destruction of ISIL/Daesh. They are an exceptionally vicious and dangerous organisation, inflicting hideous barbarity on Christian and Muslim communities within the Middle East, and sponsoring terrorism abroad. As the massacre in Paris demonstrated, they have the capacity and intent to do us terrible harm. At the same time it is also true that the Assad regime has been conducting a murderous civil war against the Syrian people, and it is largely, though not exclusively, the terror and the brutality the regime is inflicting which has contributed to a refugee crisis on a scale not seen since World War2.
Committing our country to military action is sometimes inevitable, in self-defence or in fulfilment of our ‘duty to protect’- and the choice NOT to act can also lead to terrible suffering and death (Bosnia, Rwanda). Hence I have supported military action in the past, and voted in favour of backing the Iraqi government in strikes against ISIL inside Iraq when this came before Parliament last September. I acknowledge the real dangers of militant Islamism in the various forms this has manifested itself in recent decades, and do not believe that the horrors we are not witnessing are all a consequence of Western interventions in Afghanistan or Iraq. But I have opposed military action in the past too, including when the Prime Minister sought backing to take action against Assad in 2013 (with the very real risk that it would have given more scope for groups such as those which eventually become ISIL to gain ground), and voting for the rebel amendment against the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
When we voted to support the Iraqi government against ISIL last year, Labour said that we would extend that support to Syria if ministers could present a coherent plan that met a number of tests about its aims and legality. So I have been open to the argument, and the situation is, of course, changing almost daily. For example, the unanimous vote at the UN last weekend means that there is now a legal basis for action. I also accept the argument that we have obligations to our allies and these must be properly weighed in the balance.
On the other hand, defeating ISIL and ensuring it, or another group in its image, does not re-emerge, means we have to learn from the mistakes of the past and not rely on vague and wishful thinking. Extending our role in the bombing campaign against ISIL in Syria is almost the simplest part (which is not to say it is simple or risk/cost free). Contributing to a lasting solution to the crisis is far more challenging.
So these are the key issues as I see them:
I agree with my colleague Dan Jarvis when he says one test is that “we need clarity about the difference that extending Britain’s intervention will make to hastening ISIL’s defeat. Our role should not solely be justified by solidarity, but on how we can make a practical difference”.
Given that the coalition has already conducted an estimated 2,700 air attacks in Syria (and 4,900 in Iraq, where we are already involved) it certainly cannot be argued that we are starting from a position of inaction. As Ewan MacAskill writes:
“In private briefings and in public testimony to Congress, a long line of senior American officers have acknowledged frustration with the battle against Islamic State. General John Allen, who was in overall charge of the US campaign in Syria and Iraq, has quit after a year. A marine commander, Lieutenant General Robert Neller, offering his best assessment of how the war is going, described it as a “a stalemate”. By the middle of last month the US-led coalition engaged in air attacks in Syria and Iraq had conducted 7,600 attacks (4,900 in Iraq and 2,700 in Syria). Their main problem is finding targets to hit”
David Cameron’s statement, whilst making a case for extending British air strikes into Syria, recognised the need for ground troops, since airstrikes are not sufficient to ensure victory. The assumption is that there are potentially 70,000 “moderate” Syrian forces to undertake this task.- but is this figure reliable in operational terms and is it sufficient? (The US alone had 170,000 soldiers in Iraq in 2007, when the insurgency was at its height). There are real differences of view as to the location, capacity and operational cohesion of these 70,000- not least as for many, their over-riding objective is defeating Assad. Meanwhile we are effectively backing these forces against ISIL despite the fact that one of our practical allies for this purpose- Russia- is also bombing some of them in de facto defence of Assad! So the assumption that airstrikes will easily support moderate Syrian forces to victory is an ambitious one, with huge potential to unravel.
Many of those concerned by an ‘ISIL first’ (Cameron’s words) approach want to be convinced both than there is a realistic prospect of securing a victory on the ground – bearing in mind the previously unpredicted scale of Western involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan that proved necessary over many years- and that defeating ISIL contributes towards an end to the civil war.
There needs to be credible plan for a political agreement to end the conflict, beginning with a cease fire and with an emphasis on the establishment of safe havens for civilians, and this can only be secured by agreement with the other key partners now involved. It is surely impossible to see President Assad remaining in place as part of that process, given his regime’s role in atrocities which has substantially driven the mass exodus from the country, and which is responsible for more than 90% of the 200,000 deaths since 2011. In turn that means clarity on a political agreement which has the commitment of the key powers involved in the conflict, including Russia and Iran. The alternative- defeating ISIL whilst leaving Assad in a stronger position domestically, means no end to the suffering or to the outflow of refugees.
In the past, post-conflict reconstruction has proved far harder than anticipated following recent interventions, such as Iraq, whilst the experience of Libya shows that airstrikes may have an immediate impact but do not of themselves prevent the disintegration of the state. Lessons may have been learnt from Iraq regarding the risks of dismantling the apparatus of the state, but it is reasonable to want to know how Syria can be assisted given the very different interests within the anti-ISIL coalition.
In the short as well as the long term, we need to be looking at the economic, financial and ideological factors underpinning the conflict. How are ISIL being funded? Today’s government statement revealed that ISIL are generating an astonishing $1.5 million dollars daily from oil revenues- money which funds their terrorist as well as military capabilities. Where is the oil being pumped from within ISIL territory being sold to and why? How is money getting in and out of the territory it controls? How are funds from sympathisers being generated and transferred? And how do we bear down on the extremist theology being practiced and exported by countries in the region with which we are otherwise allied? As Paddy Ashdown said on the radio this week, there also has to be pressure on the Gulf States to stop the flow of Sunni jihadism.
The Paris atrocities demonstrate ISIL’s terror capacity- as was previously the case with Al-Queda, and as to varying degrees is the case with other groups, such as Jabbat Al-Busra; Boko Haram and Al-Shabbab. Of course it is right that we want to deal with the terror threat, yet the journalist (and David Cameron’s former speechwriter) Ian Birrell, has written:
“ blasting it to bits will not solve the issues that sparked its rise. We can destroy it, just as we defeated al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, but similar groups will flare up again in a different guise. The militants feed on poverty and poor education, the alienation of minority groups, sectarianism inflamed by repression, colonial borders that fail to match realities on the ground, and cack-handed foreign interventions. And generations are growing up for whom conflict is normal as ethnic, political and religious divisions worsen. More than ever we need focus in foreign policy, yet it seems sorely missing amid endless talk of fighting”
Finally, both at home and abroad we must continue with, and constantly refine, an effective intelligence, community policing and counter-terrorism capability, complemented by a comprehensive strategy for working with the majority of Muslim opinion which rejects extremism.
I still do not absolutely rule out the possibility of a package of measures which would, together, include and justify further military involvement, Yet neither the latest statement to Parliament- measured in tone though it was, nor the comments of the Defence Secretary earlier this week saying it would be for a “moderate Syrian government” to provide the necessary ground troops to support airstrikes, help defeat ISIL and maintain the peace, provided a sufficiently firm outline of to how to reach that desirable outcome to convince me. Our inability to find a coherent and internationally co-ordinated response to the refugee crisis doesn’t bode well, either, despite Britain’s undeniably important financial contribution.
So in conclusion: I believe taking part in an extension of military action without an robust, internationally agreed plan for Syria- including, but not restricted to- the defeat of ISIL, how we would deal with the aftermath, how we might build a lasting peace and what an exit strategy would be, risks repeating recent history. I may still be convinced by the precise proposal put before us, or by new information or circumstances, but as of now I think it unlikely.
Thank you again for contacting me on this most important of issues.
Karen Buck MP
Response from Liz McInnes, MP for (Heywood & Middleton) - Labour - 03/12/2015
Thank you for contacting me about today’s vote in parliament on the possibility of the government joining airstrikes on Syria. This is one of the most difficult issues I have had to vote on since becoming a Member of Parliament. After weighing up both sides of the argument, and listening to the views of my constituents, I will be voting against the Prime Ministers motion to authorise airstrikes on Syria.
I have also put my name to the following amendment which will be moved in the House of Commons this afternoon:
‘while welcoming the renewed impetus towards peace and reconstruction in Syria, and the Government’s recognition that a comprehensive strategy against Daesh is required, does not believe that the case for the UK’s participation in the ongoing air campaign in Syria by 10 countries has been made under current circumstances, and consequently declines to authorise military action in Syria.’
I hope you find this reply helpful, and please do not hesitate to get in touch if I can be of any further assistance with this, or any other matter.
With all good wishes,
Response from Roger Godsiff, MP for (Birmingham, Hall Green) - Labour - 03/12/2015
Thank you for contacting me expressing your concern about the prospect of Parliament voting to allow the UK to participate in bombing in Syria.
I voted against Britain participating in military action in Syria and I also spoke against this in the House of Commons. I have not changed my position.
ISIS is a homicidal organisation which has no respect for human life other than for those who are totally committed to its own perverted view of Islam – as the recent Paris bombings confirm – but I am not convinced that dropping an increasing number of bombs on areas controlled by ISIS in Syria is going to stop carrying out their reign of terror throughout the world. On the contrary the continual bombing is terrifying the half a million plus Syrian people who are trapped in ISIS held areas and is a massive contributor to refugees fleeing from Syria which are causing enormous problems for western countries.
Of course ISIS needs to be destroyed because they could kill anybody but there are already bombs being dropped by America, Russia and France and Britain’s contribution towards helping our ally, France, would be far better directed towards us using our expertise in braking up terrorist cells in western countries and in giving intelligence and logistical support to those elements fighting in Syria against ISIS.
Furthermore I believe that no fly-zones need to be created in Syria so that innocent civilians can seek refuge in them and if there were to be a UN Mandate approving no fly-zones then I will be happy for the UK to take part in policing them.
I hope this makes my position absolutely clear on the matter.
Roger Godsiff MP
Response from Angela Rayner, MP for (Ashton-under-Lyne ) - Labour - 03/12/2015
Thank you for contacting me. This is my full statement on the Syria vote.
I would not hesitate to support military action in Syria if I believed it would help save lives in Britain and make our world a safer place.
But I am not convinced.
I do not see how more bombing of Syria, on top of the attacks of the French, Russians and Americans, is going to make our streets safer.
All the military experts agree that ISIL will only be defeated by troops on the ground in Syria.
The British public have no appetite for a ground war. Nor do any of our Western allies.
We must step up our efforts to support local forces with intelligence, monitoring and surveillance.
But Iraq has taught us that we must stop short of putting British troops in harm’s way in a land where we do not belong and where we cannot be part of the long-term solution.
By joining the bombing campaign, we would only be adding to the awful loss of innocent human lives and the terrible, horrible destruction of the ancient civilisation of Syria, which was begun by Assad.
And we may be sowing the seeds for further terror on our streets.
I do not believe that David Cameron has offered either a credible, or comprehensive, strategy for war. It is based more on hope than experience. And after Iraq, we cannot make the same mistake in Syria.
ISIL are a truly appalling terrorist group and it is clear that they pose an extremely serious and growing threat, both to the people of Iraq and Syria and, as we have seen in the dreadful terrorist attacks in Paris and on the beaches of Tunisia, to British citizens at home and abroad.
Our police and security services have prevented at least seven different attacks from taking place here in Britain so far this year, and there have been over 150 ISIL-related attacks around the world in 2015. I do not believe that we can turn our backs on this threat and leave the British people vulnerable.
It is a real and ever present danger. We have not experienced this kind of threat to our way of life, freedoms and democracy for 70 years.
That’s why I support the extra funding that the Government has announced to both the intelligence services and GCHQ to help meet this threat.
Intelligence is part of the key to defeating ISIL.
Tory cuts to our armed forces – now at their smallest since the 19th century – do not help, of course.
But we also need to do much more work in our own communities here at home – to challenge extremism in all its forms. To challenge the ISIL perversion of the great religion of Islam. And to challenge their medieval, savage view of the world.
British values of freedom, democracy, equality and opportunity for all regardless, of race, creed, gender and sexual orientation are under threat and we must defend them.
But we must stop short of war.
I have had hundreds of emails from constituents appealing for a ‘no’ vote. I have spent hours listening to the views of my constituents and Labour Party members. They have spoken with one voice.
That is why I shall be voting against bombing Syria.
Response from Ronnie Campbell, MP for (Blyth Valley) - Labour - 03/12/2015
UK Military Involvement in Syria
Anybody who knows me knows that I am not some woolly peacenik. I believe that military action is sometimes needed to, for example, defeat fascism.
I believe in strong modern military and security forces to keep Britain safe and for jobs in the defence industry to be protected.
And I am proud of family members who have served in our armed services.
But the ongoing argument about British military intervention in the Syria – and I’m afraid there are hawks on the Labour benches as well as the Tories – is dangerous nonsense.
We have seen time and time again that random air strikes only succeed in encouraging more volunteers to join ISIS. More bombing would only create more ‘martyrs’ and make Middle East militants that much stronger.
And Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya has shown that you cannot bomb an idea to create a democratic republic.
The way forward is by isolating the jihadists through collective diplomacy involving all Syria’s neighbours and Russia. I am not saying that this will be an easy path, especially now that Russia has begun its own bombing campaign in Syria, but it has to be tried.
As Jeremy Corbyn has repeatedly said, Britain needs a “radically different foreign policy”, including standing up for human rights instead of selling weapons to repressive regimes, more international collaboration, and “clever, patient, difficult” diplomacy rather than military interventions.
In the short term, at the very least, there should be a review of existing air strikes against Islamic State.
The government admits that currently there is no majority in the Commons for extending air strikes, but that could change swiftly and ministers have not abandoned plans for an eventual vote. It would only take a small swing in the public mood – fuelled perhaps by the Europe-wide refugee crisis and the downing of an airliner full of tourists in Egypt – for a vote to be pushed through.
Yet again, we could find ourselves dragged deeper into a war of attrition with no clear strategy for winning a lasting peace.
The influential Foreign Affairs Committee has consistently warned David Cameron against seeking MPs’ support until he could show there was a clear plan to both defeat the jihadists and end Syria’s bloody civil war.
So far there is nothing like a coherent political strategy for Syria, but even without a Commons vote Britain is carrying out deadly bombing raids against ISIS fanatics and their terror network almost every day in Iraq. It would not take much to extend that to Syria – Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has said it is ‘illogical’ to attack ISIS in Iraq without also tackling its Syria strongholds.
However, I believe that would be playing into the hands of terrorists.
People should also be aware that there is a strong move amongst the British Establishment to go to war to atone for past military failures.
The Stop the War coalition said: “There is a palpable sense of the government straining at the leash, impatiently regarding democratic constraints as a nuisance, and softening up opinion in advance of a new Commons vote, probably in the next couple of months. Clearly, any RAF bombing of IS in Syria, were it to go ahead, would primarily be about defending the regional order in the Middle East, and perhaps even the Syrian state from a particular form of violent extremism. But there is something else going on here as well.”
And both politicians and generals want to show Washington that they are still a competent ally and thus retain some semblance of international prestige by riding on the coattails of the global superpower.
We have been there before, and look how that turned out.
The public has the right to an open, frank, and thorough discussion over whether we want to carry on throwing our weight around the world, more often than not to terribly destructive effect like the 300, 000 civilian’s deaths in Iraq.
I will continue to oppose British bombing in Syria, never mind the next logical step – British boots on the ground.
Ronnie Campbell, MP
Response from John McDonnell, MP for (Hayes & Harlington) - Labour - 03/12/2015
Thank you for contacting me, Just to confirm I voted against this action
Response from Stephen Timms, MP for (East Ham) - Labour - 09/12/2015
Thank you for taking the trouble to send this to me.