Bombing Daesh in Syria?

The possibility of a vote in Parliament on bombing Daesh (also known as ISIL/ISIS/IS) in Syria is coming with talk in the news of which Labour MPs might back it, in a potentially close vote. I think we need to debate this too. It is likely to be a free vote or one with significant rebellions on all sides. Should our MPs be whipped?

The difference between attacking Daesh in Iraq and Daesh in Syria seems to be a legal one not a moral one. The former is in support of Iraq/Kurdish Iraq at their request, and the latter would arguably require a UN Security Council resolution which may be unlikely. And practically there are Iraqi ground forces to support from the air. In Syria, this is less clear, and bombing alone never seems to achieve anything.

If a plan to restabilise Syria requires the West and Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia to work together, will it ever happen? And is there any workable alternative? Is there simply no point bombing until some sort of plan for Syria exists?

Is the Middle East the mess that it is because of Western foreign policy mistakes or malice? Largely, no. Of course history is full of mistakes, and might otherwise have turned out differently, but let’s not deny the actors of the region their agency, or assume that everything is about us: relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia are not a proxy for relations between either and the West.

Western foreign policy in prosecuting the Cold War saw us close to some brutal regimes, but this hardly explains people wanting to join something far more brutal in response; you don’t protest against the death toll in the Muslim world by joining an organisation that kills mostly Muslims.

Daesh is less a result of our errors, than a reaction against what we get right: the values of tolerance, freedom, peace, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. It is easy to criticise foreign policy with hindsight, judging that every attempt to engage or confront was wrong and the opposite was obviously correct; that every ally less liberal than ourselves represents a shameful capitulation; that we never try hard enough to win allies.

For me, it is right, in principle, to react with force to the events in Paris. Not to do so will be seen as weakness. Daesh see this as a war; they threatened to send a million refugees our way and they delivered – they have now murdered 129 people of a NATO ally we are pledged to defend.

But we are better than them – we don’t do random violence. We need military targets and military objectives that work towards the defeat of Daesh and the possibility of a peaceful, stable Syria. History has us getting this wrong.

* Joe Otten was the candidate for Sheffield Heeley in June 2017 and Doncaster North in December 2019 and is a councillor in Sheffield.

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  • My view is simply that we need a strategy. Throwing bombs around the Middle East might make us feel like we are doing something, but what will happen after the bombs have landed? How can we be sure that ISIS will not simply move to civilian areas we wouldn’t bomb? What comes after? Who will manage the transition back to normality? What about the Syrian Government? Is removing Assad an absolute aim, on Day 1 or after a transitional period? What about the funding and oil revenues financing ISIS?

    I suggest we endorse the report of the Foreign Affairs Committee which made these points well; no vote unless there’s a convincing strategy in place that looks beyond the round of bombing we might carry out.

  • Glenn Andrews 18th Nov '15 - 4:57pm

    If we sanction the bombing of the Wahhabi Fascists without a UN resolution then history will have us getting it wrong again.

  • David Evans 18th Nov '15 - 5:05pm

    I think we need to remember that there are more than two differences between bombing in Syria and bombing in Iraq. Legal and moral are important, but one practical issue is the number of nations possibly bombing in Syria. Currently I believe there are still four – US Russia, France and Syria. Adding British planes to the mix is asking for trouble. Sticking to Iraq with just three nations (I think) is just that much less risky.

  • Matt (Bristol) 18th Nov '15 - 5:08pm

    Thankyou for this thoughtul article, Joe.
    My feeling is mainly expressed in questions, not answers: as much as we feel France’s pain, do we want to be Blair to Hollande’s Bush if France seeks reprisals in syria?
    Would bombing IS/Daesh whilst there are multilaeral talks going on with regard to Syria, whilst our relationship with Assad is still ambiguous and the Russians are militarily active, be a coherent response?
    Is Cameron proposing a coherent campaign, or does he just want a ‘black cheque’ – a vote in principle with no definite plan in place?

    To deny there is a need to act against IS/Daesh is becoming very difficult.

    But where is the basis to say that the UK should act (alongside whom?), in an air capacity alone without there being a complementary ground war (run by whom?)?

    As regards blame for the current crisis, to untangle the roots of this crisis takes us back through 30-40 years of politicking in the Middle East. The existence of Daesh is in no way purely a reaction to Western action, for sure.

    But did outside action by self-styled and aspirational ‘great powers’ (of which Western action was a significant part) contribute to creating the opportunitiy that Daesh seized? Hard to say no.

    You don’t have to be on the hard left or wearing a hair shirt to see that UK actions made the Middle East less stable in the last 20 years.

    Ken Clarke, 2003, during the debate on a UN resolution regarding Saddam Hussein’s regime, at a time when all knew war was coming: “The next time a large bomb explodes in a western city, or an Arab or Muslim regime topples and is replaced by extremists, the Government must consider the extent to which the policy contributed to it.”

  • Nick T Nick Thornsby 18th Nov '15 - 5:08pm

    Excellent, balanced piece, Joe.

    My view is that on balance we should support air strikes in Syria as well as Iraq, not because they are in themselves the answer to what is a complex problem, but because they can be a part of that answer.

    I find it rather frustrating that one of the critiques of the current air strikes is that they don’t accompany a strategy, because it is self-evidently not true. There is a strategy, and that is to back up those ground troops (the Iraqis and Kurds) fighting Islamic State with air strikes, and that is starting to have some success as can be seen in Sinjar.

    Clearly, though, that strategy is never going to be enough to achieve what should be all of our aims: to defeat ISIS and enable a lasting peace in a unified Syria.

    Arguably both of those objectives will not be met without western boots on the ground as part of a larger coalition, in the case of ISIS to defeat them militarily and in the case of more Syria more generally probably to act as peacekeepers to uphold a negotiated agreement (which must include a new government and the departure of Assad).

    The current isolationism that seems to have taken hold of our party and country is really rather dispiriting. Not only is it in our interests to do what we can to end the war in Syria and defeat IS, we have a moral responsibility to do so too. Air strikes may be a first step, but they will only ever be that.

  • Nick T Nick Thornsby 18th Nov '15 - 5:14pm

    Just on the legality point, a UN mandate is unlikely to be necessary for action in Syria to be lawful:

  • Apparently one of our drones operating over Syria on Monday identified a target for the French to bomb, can someone tell me what the difference is between that and an RAF fighter doing the bombing.
    France is at war. They have declared as such. As a NATO ally and under the Lisbon Treaty that means:
    1. really we are at war too (NATO alliance)
    2. Give all possible aid and assistance to the French

    I was bitterly against the Iraq War, travelled to London to march and hold the party banner, but here, do not think there is much of an out.

    One spin off from the P:aris shootings and is possibly that the concept of alliance and union with Europe may seem the right thing to support.

  • Matt (Bristol) 18th Nov '15 - 5:20pm

    PS – I meant ‘blank cheque’ above…

  • Glenn Andrews 18th Nov '15 - 5:20pm

    @Ncik Thornsby; You say the current isolationism that seems to have taken hold of our party and country is really rather dispiriting….. surely working for a UN resolution is the opposite of isolationism, unilaterally, or even multilaterally deciding we can ignore the UN charter undermines global security long term.

  • Graham Evans 18th Nov '15 - 5:24pm

    @Nick Thornsby Given the availability of thousands of US air-strikes to support ground forces in Syria, how is few more by the UK going to help the situation? Moreover, it is clear than the recent French air-strikes were not aimed at helping a ground offensive, but merely intended to act as “”Shock & Awe”.

  • Alisdair McGregor 18th Nov '15 - 5:25pm

    An additional important point to note here is that (unlike Iraq) a UN security council resolution is not necessary.

    Iraq was no threat to the UK and had made no threats to try anything against the UK and its allies. Making it seem like there was a threat was the point of the dodgy dossier.

    Daesh, on the other hand, have both performed hostile attack on UK allies, and have threatened to do the same to the UK itself. This could institutes a valid cassus belli.

    Thus, a UN security council resolution is not required.

    On the other hand, there is no point in a simply airstrike-based mission in Syria. Airstrikes will not achieve concrete aims without on the ground troops. There can be no half measures; we should either formulate a plan (with out allies) for a long term commitment to a conflict, or rule it out entirely.

    And Daesh will not allow us to not be involved at all.

  • Matt (Bristol) 18th Nov '15 - 5:26pm

    Nick – One key problem is, how do Western nations, with their legacy of muddled and distrusted actions over the past decade, find a way to a) categroically defeat IS and b) secure both stability and democracy in a badly defined border territory whose existing governmental structures have been wiped out without c) finding themselves at high risk of war (or proxy war) with either Russia or Iran or both within the next decade as an unintended consequence?

    It is bascially a question of, us and whose army?

    As you admit, ‘the Kurds’ is only a partial answer.

  • I disagree. Bombing is always moral and strategic questions. Should we be risking civilians , both our own and in Syria and aircrews just to join in an already crowded airspace when a) air campaigns without ground troops have a history of dismal failure, b) it means that ISIL and similar groups outside of Syria are put on a back foot. c)it’s unclear what the aims are and d) the direct threat to us is actually more fluid than we are being told it is. Not so long ago the terrorism we now face was attributed to al qaeda who were said to be the biggest threat and were assured that removing them would make us safer. Now it’s ISIS. My feeling is that tackling ISIS without dealing with it’s support and supply roots in Turkey and Saudi Arabia as well as other Gulf states is an exercise in amoral futility, plus will increase domestic terrorism and when the utter disaster of militarism in the middle east since 9/11 is taken into account probably will not work anyway.

  • Nick T Nick Thornsby 18th Nov '15 - 5:34pm

    Matt – I think we have to separate out the battle against IS and the wider Syria problem. Defeating IS has to be part of a solution to end the Syrian civil war.

    IS is not a strong military force. It is likely to be easily defeated by a well-equipped, disciplined opposition.

    Then comes the different task of ending the Syrian war and rebuilding the country. That has to involve as many countries as possible, Russia and Iran included, but cannot happen without Assad going given the number of civilians he has killed – he will never be accepted as a legitimate ruler of a unified Syria. The alternative is a division of the country which is a deeply unattractive proposition.

  • Eddie Sammon 18th Nov '15 - 5:37pm

    Good article and some good comments. I’ve seemingly been to the right of most commentators when it comes to hitting Daesh back, but it is not because I am ideologically on the right, which I’m not, it is because it is where my instincts lie on the matter and I think the centre-left is dominating our foreign policy. I also argue against Islamophobia in the UK and people who threaten regular Muslims on our streets.

    I’m also beginning to see/feel that getting rid of Assad is not just western moralising, but something directly in our interests. How can we get local forces to focus on defeating Daesh whilst Assad is in power?

  • tony dawson 18th Nov '15 - 5:37pm

    David Cameron wanted to bomb Assad. Now he wants to bomb Assad’s greatest enemy. He might even rival Tony Blair in his desperation to be seen as a ‘big man’. He is desperate to believe that he has a clue as to what should be done and that what he will do will somehow have the effect which he wants it to have.

    Julian Lewis, the Tory MP who chairs the HoC foreign affairs committee, said: “What we need is a coherent campaign plan, endorsed by the chiefs of staff, involving the use of regional Muslim forces which are not Islamist, and which are ready to remain as an occupying power for years to come.

    “Airstrikes will not be decisive unless in support of credible non-Islamist ground forces of this type, and co-operation with the Russians will also be required.”

    I would dearly love David Cameron (and Tony Blair) to be forced to live right next door to one of these Daesh HQs that is being ‘precision-bombed’ (sic). It might give him just a smidgeon of perspective on the horrors of reality in which all he can think of what to do is to unleash some further horrors and then be surprised at the wave of hate he unleashes.

  • @ Glen Andrews “If we sanction the bombing of the Wahhabi Fascists without a UN resolution then history will have us getting it wrong again”

    I completely agree, Glen. A UN resolution is essential after the Blair Iraq fiasco.

    Two other points : we should not whip our MP’s on what should be a matter of conscience – and after Afghanistan (where John Reid forecast no casualties) I would be strongly opposed to any boots on the ground.

  • May I make a plea for a free vote for our MPs?

    I don’t know the right thing to do; I sure don’t think the whips should be telling our elected representatives what is.

  • Nick T Nick Thornsby 18th Nov '15 - 5:51pm

    Tony – for the reasons explained here, IS are far from Assad’s greatest enemy; if anything they are allies

  • An Economic Liberal 18th Nov '15 - 5:57pm

    Let us start from the position that deploying soldiers to Syria/Iraq to fight a ground war against IS is not politically feasible.

    Neighbouring Middle Eastern countries have not displayed a willingness to fight that ground war. The much talked about Iraqi Kurds are concerned primarily with defending Kurdish territory rather than prosecuting a wider war against IS in Iraq and Syria. The Iraqi national army has been shown as broadly corrupt, incompetent, and incapable of performing its duties. Iranian backed Shia militias supporting the Iraqi state are irregular, sectarian forces and have been accused themselves of war crimes. The moderate opposition in Syria is overshadowed by Jihadi elements, and past efforts to build them up into credible moderate powers have been failures.

    Arguably the hodgepode of actors in Iraqi could conceivably jointly push IS out as long as IS was forced to fight for its life over the border in Syria.

    However, the only local forces in Syria with the military potential and will to actually roll back the borders of IS territory are the forces of the Syrian state, as unpleasant as that is. A Russian brokered transition agreement to a fresh presidential elections between Assad’s government and representatives of the opposition factions is currently the least bad option which would allow a capable local force to engage and defeat IS with backing from a coalition of Western/Russian militaries.

    Any coalition should however insist on Assad stepping aside as a prerequisite to any such arrangement. He bears ultimate responsibility for the state use of chemical weapons against his population, and cannot remain in power if the West is to retain even a sliver of moral credibility.

    This should not be construed as impacting the separate issue of sanctions against Russia for the destabilisation of eastern Ukraine.

    If this ‘enemy of my enemy’ approach is unacceptable to our moral sensibilities, well, then we’re back to American, French, and British boots on the ground.

  • Eddie,
    we were told getting rid of Gadhafi was in our interests and before that Husain. The result is two failed states, hundreds of thousands dead and ISIS. This brings me to my other problem which is governments seeing what they want to see because it fits with a plan they had in the first place. If we had followed Cameron’s plan of two years ago ISIS would now perched on the Mediterranean coast and anyway removing Assad now means tackling Russia. Here is my satirical prediction for the end result of all this madness. Syria will be a small coastal country with permanent Russian Airbases. The Surrounding lands will be lawless patches of rubble policed by Iran, the Kurds will get some sort of partition. whilst Saudi Arabia continues to fund terror groups to destabilise their neighbours until at some point the oil runs out and it too collapses into chaos and whoever is prime minister at the time will be trying to drum up support to bomb some villages after another terrorist attack by fluid jihadi group who were actually based in Europe anyway.

  • Thank you for this piece, Joe; I agree with Nick.

    One thing which I think we’re going to have to confront at some point is the grip which Wahhabism has over Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states, which are where most of the funding for Daesh comes from. It would be good to see robuster criticism of hard-line conservative Muslim regimes such as those, and more overt support for moderate Muslim voices. We need to get past the instinctive cringe about criticising minority religious groups and be prepared call a spade a spade when it comes to oppressive religious conservatism. We therefore need to really up our game when it comes to supporting voices such as Hisham Matar over Libya and moderates in Saudi who face the prospect of death or mutilation for the crimes of expressing liberal values.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 18th Nov '15 - 7:27pm

    I will take some convincing that airstrikes are the right way to go unless I can see a direct benefit from them and a proper strategic objective with no associated mission creep. My worry is that those civilians who can’t get out of Syria not only have a murderous barbaric medieval death cult to deal with on the ground but risk death from air strikes too.

    I don’t think a plan for this can be drawn up on the back of a fag packet overnight. It’s going to take a lot of international co-operation and joint working and I’m not sure we are there yet.

    I’d like to hear more about what the Syrian refugees have to say – they know only too well what the situation is there.

  • Eddie Sammon 18th Nov '15 - 7:35pm

    The direct benefit is that people will think twice about hitting us if they know it is going to come back at them. Otherwise jihadi groups from around the world will be queuing up to see who can land a free shot at the west.


  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 18th Nov '15 - 7:53pm

    The flaw in your argument, Eddie, is that France have been involved in airstrikes and it didn’t stop what happened last week. I think Daesh will do all they can to unsettle us across Europe and instil as much hate and misery and fear and division as they can. We have to weigh up the risks and benefits to everyone before we act. The consequences of yet another bodged foreign military intervention will not be good. We need to look at what’s best for global stability because it will take the world working together to rid us of Daesh. We also need to be sure that people’s lives will be made better by our intervention in the longer term, too.

  • Yes, a UN resolution is the way forward. We need to negotiate a settlement with Russia over Syria, involving the departure of Assad, yes, but also strong guarantees for the Alawites, possibly even partition in the long run. Meanwhile, it seems to me by no means impossible to place this disagreement with Russia to one side, and get broad support for recovering territory from Daesh in Syria and Iraq in the meantime. Cameron claims ‘Russia will veto’. But they lost an airliner to these people less than three weeks ago! Why would they Veto a sensible decision to combat Daesh? The reason they will veto, Mr Cameron, is because YOU are more focussed on projecting power against Russia in Syria than you are on the main task of opposing Daesh.

  • We should by the way, agree our Parliamentary position, then expect all our MPs to vote for it. It may not matter, but in a close vote we will look bloody silly with four on each side!

  • I am not arguing against airstrikes per se and am not opposed to them in principle. Whatever the reasons for the present crisis, we are where we are and we have to deal with it.
    But we have to understand that airstrikes may make us feel good about ourselves, but they will not end the civil war in Syria or make Da’esh dissolve away. However, if the civil war could be ended, Da’esh as a military entity will be dealt with very quickly. Ending the civil war soon, primarily depends on Iran and Saudi Arabia ending their proxy war and getting round the table with all the other stakeholders. The UN, Russia and the West must put pressure to bear make this happen. Unfortunately, Saudi Arabia is a malevolent regime, its biggest export ,after oil, being Wahhabism. It has the same ambition as Da’esh: to make Islam the only religion and for Islam to be ruled through a Caliphate. Make no mistake, Saudi Arabia is not a friend of the West and should be treated as hostile.
    Even if the war ended tomorrow, Da’esh, al Qaeda and other extremist groups will not go away. They are the enemy within, living among Muslim communities all over the world. With 1.6 billion Muslim worldwide, a few thousand extremists can easily hide, to make mischief at will.

  • @theakes – “Apparently one of our drones operating over Syria on Monday identified a target for the French to bomb, can someone tell me what the difference is between that and an RAF fighter doing the bombing.”

    A good point, I think a distinction between ‘bombing’ and targetted use of aircraft and/or drones in support of ground forces, particularly where these are under the control of people “on the ground” can be made, which would enable the use of drones, specifically, without an explicit Parliamentary vote.

  • Eddie Sammon 18th Nov '15 - 11:55pm

    Hi Caron, you make a good point and just last night I was thinking of how the Republic of Ireland have kept themselves safe by not going around bombing countries, but I worry that if we don’t attack it when it is small then we could have bigger problems down the line.

    It is imperative to think about the innocent Syrians in places like Raqqa too, but I still think it is best tackled whilst it is relatively small.

  • I asked Tim a question about Daesh at his Q&A at Bournemouth (specifically what he feels is a ‘Liberal’ response to the least liberal people on the planet); his stance was essentially that we need to get regional partners on-board with dealing with them directly and bolstering moderate forces, or introducing them where they are completely absent. A concerted effort to persuade Turkey to cut off land routes supplying Daesh, and Saudi and Gulf states to cut off their lines of direct funding would therefore seem to be a logical start. But Caron’s point about wanting to hear from the refugees is a good one which deserves repeating.

    And Eddie Sammon: Interesting analogy, but the Republic of Ireland is a mostly neutral country with a small population, tiny global footprint and very limited overseas commitments. The UK is not, and should not aspire to be, in a similar position. Within the next few decades, the UK is highly likely to become more populous than Germany, and barring xenophobia and isolationism on an order of magnitude or two greater than what we’ve seen so far, it will retain substantial overseas commitments and a reasonable-to-substantial global footprint. We should not be aspiring downwards, to be another Ireland or Denmark; the UK should aspire to be itself, but better – a leading voice in Europe and the world, with a significant role in diplomacy. Gordon Brown was the last UK prime minister to do this, by knocking heads together in the response to the financial crisis – if David Cameron chose to, he could have taken a much more substantive role in dealing with Daesh during the days of the Coalition, but he didn’t. He abdicated that role to Germany, and the rest is or soon will be history.

  • Airstrikes alone won’t solve this. Never will. The only way out of it is to create the conditions on the ground for a peace process to start up. It seems unavoidable now that this will involve military confrontations with what we are apparently now calling Daesh, but it is imperative that we do not allow the task to inflate to a perpetual occupation or defacto colonisation effort.

    We need to respect the activation of Article 42.7 TEU and back up the French effort, rather than jump in with a fifth independent, non-coordinated attack on apparently random targets in Syria. As well as that, we need to work with the Russians and the Americans, and their proxies on the ground be they Assad or the opposition forces, to militarily defeat the self-declared Daesh caliphate.

    And then we need to take a step back. A peace process between the non-jihadist sides in the multi-state civil war that has spread out across Syria and Iraq and laps at the borders of Lebanon and Jordan is needed. It needs to be driven from within and allowed to go where they want to take it, even if we in the West don’t necessarily like the conclusion. Anything else is just another imposition of the sort that got us into this mess in the first place. We might need to accept that Assad’s role continues far longer than we’d prefer. We might even need to accept that the postcolonial borders we drew in the 20s are obsolete and accommodate a new settlement in the region. I don’t know what outcomes might present themselves, perhaps I shouldn’t even speculate on this area that so obviously needs a local voice to be heard. But either way, we must not find ourselves still stuck fighting counterinsurgency in Syria come 2025.

  • Bombing Syria has more to do with maintaining an Anglo-American relationship than bringing peace to Syria.
    American foreign policy in the Middle East has been disasterous in the last thirty years.

  • Tony Dawson 19th Nov '15 - 7:08am

    Mick Thornsby I am surprised at you repeating that conspiracy theory guff. The funny thing is that i agree with the author about the evil of Assad. It’s just that he talks so much rubbish in his efforts to undermine the prospect of the US and Russia joining with Assad against ISIS. Yes, Russia HAS bombed the FSA but it has also done serious damage to ISIS in Syria (insofar as bombing can do) – rather more than the US have done. Historically, The US likes to keep civil wars churning.

  • Ed Shepherd 19th Nov '15 - 8:17am

    Assad has seen what happened to Gadaffi and Hussain who met gruesome fates due to dimwitted intereference led by the USA and UK. Assad knows that he needs to cling to power in order to keep himself and his family from suffering horrific deaths. They wouldn’t even be safe in exile in Russia. I suspect he is resigned to his two choices of seeing his regime prevail or being overrun by rebels or ISIS. In the case of the former, he will end up running a shrunken statelet including a Russian base and an uneasy truce with rebel or ISIS held neighbouring statelets. In the case of his regime losing, perhaps he and his family will commit suicide in a bunker. The UK needs to decide whether it supports the option of an Assad-led statelet or letting Assad’s territory end up governed by rebel groups who might impose a regime that is no nicer than Assad’s.

  • A Nonny Mouse 19th Nov '15 - 10:00am

    I’m currently in a country much closer to Syria. The situation there really isn’t as simple as people think. Firstly, there’s effectively a three-way conflict going on, with Assad on one side, Daesh on another, and anti-Assad and anti-Daesh forces on the third.

    I know people directly and personally affected by the conflict. In directing their fire towards Daesh, the west will inadvertently give some cover to Assad, allowing him to continue with his murderous regime. Attack Assad, and you displease Russia and give some cover to Daesh. We have to realise that, whatever we do now, there are going to be consequences to it. I’m glad that, thus far, France has held off invoking Article 5 of the NATO treaty, which it could do if it wanted to. However, I can see a point – maybe in days, maybe in weeks – where they will invoke it, and then we have to decide.

  • Nick Thornsby 18th Nov ’15 – 5:51pm…………Tony – for the reasons explained here, IS are far from Assad’s greatest enemy; if anything they are allies

    Another ‘unbiased’ link….The so called freeing of Jihadists is entirely based on sources labelled Syrian ‘freedom fighters’…. The same sort of nonsense that was used to justify our removal of Gaddafi..How did that turn out?

    Knee jerk actions are NEVER the answer… ever since 9/11, and our ‘knee jerk’ removal of Saddam, our ‘strategy’ has made things worse….You expect Russian/Assad co-operation in dealing with ISIS and yet make Assad’s removal part of your plan? You use your own pre-formed ideas as ‘facts’; name any ‘leader’ of the so called moderates who could unite Syria?…..As for ISIS ‘being easily overcome by a well trained force’ , ISIS are not just a Syrian problem. They control vast areas in Libya and other neighbouring countries….Western boots on the ground? We’ve had those in Iraq for well over a decade and ISIS stil exists…
    Countries like Qatar and Saudi are a major cause of the problem and yet seeking Iranian and Lebanese support is somehow taboo…. Your ideas are as muddled as those of Cameron/Obama…”Bomb today and let tomorrow take care of itself”…The old adage regarding the ‘paving’ on the road to hell comes to mind…

  • 2 points
    1 all Middle Eastern nations have governments which are either Sunni Shia or military. Theres a desperae need for a civilian homegrown non sectarian government somwhere to break the mould.
    2, theres also a desperate need for a mid eastern Mandela, Gandhi of ASSK as a standard bearer for true moral leadership.

  • Jonathan Brown 20th Nov '15 - 12:16am

    I’m more than willing for the UK to take part in military action against ISIS if, and it’s a huge if, it’s as part of a sensible strategy. And I don’t see any evidence that the government’s plans are. Of course it’s absurd to be fighting ISIS in Iraq and not in Syria, but it’s absurd to be fighting an air war without coordinating it with people on the ground.

    To a limited extent we’re doing that with the Iraqi state, Iran and a whole variety of sectarian Shia militias, and making only very limited progress. We’re also doing it with Syrian and Iraqi Kurds, although that clearly won’t work outside of the areas of interest to the Kurds. What we’re not doing is coordinating with the people who have previously beaten ISIS and will do so again – Iraq’s Sunni communities and Syria’s opposition forces.

    The Assad regime kills far more people than does ISIS, and so is far more of a concern to Syrians. ISIS won’t be defeated unless Syrians do it, and they can’t do it while the regime and it’s Russian allies are bombing civilian infrastructure of all areas free from regime rule.

    The Syria Campaign has some good graphics (Lib Dems love good bar charts don’t we?). It’s the failure to understand much of this that leads us to diversionary policies of bombing a few ISIS trucks in the desert. Fiddling while Rome (Syria) burns.

    One final thing. Although we shouldn’t downplay ISIS’ ideological hatred of ‘Western values’ we shouldn’t overlook other important motivating factors: the ‘jihadi cool’, loot, sex slaves and power that western recruits seem to crave, and the Saddamist / Baathist culture of fascist militarism that underpins the organisation:

  • I have recently read two articles which are of relevance to this debate, and which deserve a wider audience. Firstly an article in The Spectator Secondly an article in The Huffington Post . The article in The Spectator suggests that we have the capability to be more precise in our strikes than other nations flying such missions and so far in the last 14 months have done so with no civilian casualties. I believe we should we not use this skill/capability against ISIL in Syria. The article in the Huffington Post, by the Labour PM John Woodcock, suggests we should do more to help the Kurdish fighters and again I believe we should be doing this. He does not suggest we use our own troops but that we should be supplying the Kurds with more ‘Kit’.

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