Tim Farron’s email to party members on Syria

This has just come through from Tim Farron:

The decision every politician dreads is whether or not to send brave servicemen and women into military action in defence of our country.

When the Government asked MPs to support extending airstrikes into Syria in 2013 to target Assad, I refused to provide that support. I was not convinced at that time our intervention was properly effective, nor that it would be backed by a diplomatic effort to establish a lasting peace or prevent more suffering than it caused.

In response to that deep-rooted scepticism last time, I wrote to the Prime Minister last week together with Nick Clegg, Paddy Ashdown, Ming Campbell, Kirsty Williams and Willie Rennie setting out five principles against which the Liberal Democrats believe the case for extension of military action against ISIL in Syria should be based.

It is my judgement that, on balance, the five tests I set out have been met as best they can. I will therefore be asking my parliamentary colleagues to join me in the lobby to support this motion.

I have written in more length about how I have reached my decision. I hope you will take the time to read it here (note: and copied at the end of this post).

I believe it is right to support what is a measured, legal and broad-based international effort to tackle the evil regime that has contributed to the hundreds of thousands of desperate refugees, fleeing for their lives.

As a Liberal Democrat I am an internationalist. I believe in acting collectively with our friends and our European allies, joining Germany, France, Denmark, the Netherlands and others in responding to threats to our security within a framework of international law.

I was a proud supporter of Charles Kennedy when he led his MPs into the lobbies against an illegal war in Iraq on the basis of a dossier that sought to contrive a threat where none existed. This war has cast a long shadow over Britain’s role in the world and has severely damaged the confidence that the British people have in our intelligence services and the decisions of our Prime Ministers.

But this is not Iraq.

The Liberal Democrats were also the first party to call for action in Bosnia and Kosovo led by Paddy Ashdown. We call for action again now. The threat to Britain and our allies is clear. We can and must play a part to extinguish ISIL.

I am well aware that many in the party will disagree with me. I hope that, even if you cannot support me, you can support the approach I have taken and recognise that I have taken this difficult decision after the fullest consideration.

Best wishes,

Tim

Tim’s explanation in full

I have written in more length about how I have reached my decision below.

I am well aware that many in the party will disagree with me. I hope that, even if you cannot support me, you can support the approach I have taken, and recognise that I have taken this difficult decision after the fullest consideration.

ACTION AGAINST ISIL

Having considered the five principles I set out last week, having read the Foreign Affairs Select Committee report and the government’s response, having listened to the Prime Minister’s case for action, having listened to impassioned arguments for and against supporting military action from inside and outside the party, I am clear that this conflict is very different to Iraq in 2003 and I think it is important I explain why I believe that

THE ILLEGAL WAR IN IRAQ

In 2003 a ‘dodgy dossier’ was used in an attempt to convince us that Saddam Hussein represented an imminent threat to international peace and security. In 2015 there is no dodgy dossier.

Instead, ISIL murdered 129 people on the streets of Paris. In restaurants, at a concert, on the pavement, those killed could just as easily have been here in Britain, in London, already a top target for ISIL.

This is before even considering how ISIL is threatening the security and stability of Iraq, a sovereign nation that has requested the help of the United Nations in protecting itself.

Unlike 2003, ISIL’s evil is apparent to the world in the beheading of journalists and aid workers for a worldwide audience, the rape and enslavement of tens of thousands of women, the summary execution of gay men and women, its brutal occupation of vast tracts of Iraq and Syria, and the terrified exodus of humanity we see in refugee camps from Lebanon to Calais.

THE UNITED NATIONS

The role of the UN Security Council should matter to us. In 2003 it was impossible to secure support for a further UN resolution to legitimise action. It was the crux of our argument against the illegal Iraq war.

On this occasion, the UN Security Council has not simply supported a passive resolution, it has made an active call for action “to eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Iraq and Syria”.

UNSCR2249 was passed with the support of France and without objection from Russia and China. As members of an internationalist party that has placed great store on the framework of international law established by the United Nations, I urge you to read the text of that resolution which can be found here.

I would also ask you to consider that Article 51 of Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter provides countries with the right to take military action in collective self-defence.

Iraq has asked for help in defeating ISIL, now commanding its operations from Syria. Just earlier this month, ISIL launched a savage attack on our closest neighbour and ally in Europe. We know, too, that so far this year seven terrorist attacks by ISIL against the UK have been thwarted. ISIL is a direct threat to the UK, our allies and to international peace and security. We are being dishonest if, already engaged against ISIL in Iraq, we pretend that inaction now in Syria somehow makes us safer.

In 2003 there was the thinnest veneer of international support for action in Iraq. In 2015 there is a wide-ranging coalition of nations who are committed to the eradication of ISIL, including states from the region who understand the threat ISIL poses to their security and stability. Those same nations recognise that it is crucial there is a strategy for Syria beyond air strikes.

In 2003 there was no thinking about the post-conflict situation in Iraq. The result was a disgraceful corporate free-for-all that paid no heed to Iraq’s infrastructure and prioritised corporate greed ahead of reconstruction.

It is not just Iraq we should learn from. Similar criticisms have been levelled at the UK and her allies over Libya and Afghanistan. In 2015 we have a diplomatic process in the Vienna talks aimed at ensuring the world remains engaged with Syria through this period of conflict and beyond, supporting the Syrian people to rebuild in a post-ISIL, post-Assad Syria.

REFUGEES

Earlier this year I went to Calais. More recently I went to Lesbos. I saw young children exhausted and terrorised as they’d made the dangerous crossing across the Mediterranean. I heard through an interpreter a terrified seven year old boy’s first words as he landed on the beach from his rickety life raft: ‘Daddy, are ISIL here?’

I saw elderly women huddled beneath thin blankets as the evening came to the camp and the temperatures dropped below zero. I saw broken and desperate people who had witnessed horrific things in their own communities including the murder of loved ones. They pretty much all had one thing in common: they were fleeing for their lives from Syria and Iraq and in particular from ISIL.

So I came home from Lesbos and I angrily tore in to the Prime Minister for his callous refusal to take any of these desperate refugees. I proposed that we take three thousand orphaned refugees from the camps, and that the UK plays its full part by accepting others. I am personally enormously moved and angry about the plight of these desperate people, who want nothing more than to return home to a Syria and Iraq that is safe and stable and where they can live the lives they wish to in their own country.

Airstrikes alone of course are not going to resolve the hugely complex political situation in Syria. But I am clear that unless something is done to remove ISIL from Syria, from where it is coordinating its actions, there is no hope of progress towards that goal of a safe and stable Syria. And there is no hope for a home for refugees to go back to.

CONCERNS

Of course I have tremendous concerns.

I have pressed these directly with the Prime Minister. I believe it is critical that the Gulf states are vocal in their condemnation of ISIL. I believe much, much more must be done to cut off the funding and supply routes for ISIL.

I think that we have not paid enough attention to the way in which extremists here in the UK have been funded.

It is imperative that everything possible is done to minimise the likelihood of civilian casualties.

I have been crystal clear that the future of Syria, after any action, must be at the forefront of the minds of all those asking for support for airstrikes, here in the UK and also amongst our international partners.

I realise, too, there is great uncertainty over the ability to command and control disparate ground forces which will be necessary to hold territory recaptured from ISIL inside Syria. All of these are reasons to question action.

None of them in and of themselves are reasons not to act.

AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE

There is no doubt that military action means diplomatic failure, and the formation and spread of ISIL is the ultimate display of our failure as an international community over the last five years.

We cannot undo the mistakes of the past, but we have the chance now to take action against an organisation that cannot be reasoned with and that does not obey international borders.

There is no quick fix solution for dealing with ISIL, nor is there an easy route to peace and stability in Syria, and it would be wrong of me to pretend otherwise. The military action we are supporting is just one part of a long process that will be needed to make that happen.

I cannot promise you that this will succeed. What I can promise you is that in supporting this action, in no way am I giving my unreserved and uncritical support to the government.

I can promise you that we will be holding the government to account on their strategy, that I will be ensuring that they continue to act in the national interest and in the interests of the millions of Syrians and Iraqis who deserve a stable home in a peaceful country.

The Prime Minister has set out what I believe is a comprehensive motion which gives us the ability to take action against ISIL in Syria and also restates our commitment to a long term solution in Syria. Those of you who disagree with this decision may find little comfort in this, but it is my commitment to you as leader that if at any point these objectives are no longer possible I will not hesitate to withdraw support.

CONCLUSION

I am instinctively inclined towards peace. I am deeply sceptical of the ability of military action to achieve positive political outcomes. But I am not a pacifist. ‎Just as I was proud to stand with Charles Kennedy against the illegal war in Iraq, so I was proud to stand with Paddy Ashdown as he was a lone voice calling for military intervention to stop the massacres in Bosnia and Kosovo.

As a Liberal Democrat I am an internationalist. I believe in acting collectively with our friends and allies, and in responding to threats to our security within a framework of international law. I believe that our decision-making should be governed by what we consider to be in the long-term interests of the UK.

I believe we should not take action without considering the long-term objectives of that action for Syria. And I believe we have a moral duty to the people living in the despair of Calais and Lesbos, who want a secure and stable future in Syria, to take the necessary steps to attempt to bring that about.

It is my judgement that, on balance, the five tests I set out have been met as best they can.

I believe it is right to support a measured, legal and broad-based international effort to tackle the evil regime that has helped trigger the wave of hundreds of thousands of desperate refugees, fleeing for their lives.

I will therefore be asking my parliamentary colleagues to join me in the lobby to support this motion. I am well aware, too, that many in the party will disagree with me. I hope that, even if you cannot support me, you can support the approach I have taken and recognise that I have taken this difficult decision after the fullest consideration.

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95 Comments

  • Richard Harris 1st Dec '15 - 9:50pm

    “Met as best they can”. You can’t pass your driving test “as best you can”. It’s a fudge. Shame.

  • Right choice.

  • Andy McGregor 1st Dec '15 - 9:56pm

    A well balanced explanation for a stance I agree with. Well put Tim.

  • Hard to see any other choice, but a good call and a brave one.

  • Tests passed as best as they can, at this moment.

    Doesn’t that mean they’re not passed?

    Yet more backtracking from our party from a previously held position.

  • ‘Unlike 2003, ISIL’s evil is apparent to the world’

    Oh dear. Talk about missing the point. Saddam killed far more people than ISIS have managed thus far. But that’s not the reason Iraq is remembered as a foreign policy disaster. Iraq was a disaster because we left the country in a worse state than we found it and we helped create a breeding ground for terrorism. Action in Syria is likely to have the same outcomes.

  • Gregory Connor 1st Dec '15 - 10:03pm

    I agree with Tim. Well argued, heavy-hearted but right.

    This is a very hard call indeed and RAF strikes against ISIL are neither necessary nor sufficient requirements for the destruction of this terrible conspiracy against humanity. My family is divided in its opinion about this and I respect anyone who thinks differently on this issue. However, risking our service men and women, and any consequent reprisals against British civilians, is a price that I think our country must pay, and perhaps has an obligation to pay, to stand in solidarity with our allies, with those oppressed by ISIL in Iraq and Syria, and with all the future victims of this barbarous sect..

    I think there should be a free vote on this for Lib Dem MPs but Tim has articulated what I hope will be the majority view in the House.

  • Gwynfor Tyley 1st Dec '15 - 10:03pm

    I’m not happy with giving our support – not because we should not support but because the PM has so abjectly failed to make the case or provide more of a plan than wishful thinking. He has failed the exam question. To provide support without a more considered strategy is to accept another PM doing the same as Tony Blair and going to war on the basis of unsupported assertions. How can you expect to be able to hold a government to account on other matters when you give your support on such an important one without the detail being provided.

    I would have preferred an abstention – to use the Scottish legal verdict of “case not proven”

  • Stephen Campbell 1st Dec '15 - 10:08pm

    This will end badly.

    With Russia on the side of Assad, one small mistake and this could blow up and become out of control very quickly. It’s almost as if Western leaders *want* to end up in a war (World War III) with Russia.

    But I guess our grandstanding politicians must always be seen to be Doing Something. And this is Something, so they might as well do it, eh?

  • Gwyneth Deakins 1st Dec '15 - 10:15pm

    Holding the Government to account in future will be pretty irrelevant if we support them now in taking the irrevocable step of bombing. In my view not one of the list of reasons above gives any answer to the fundamental questions of what ‘success’ in this issue would look like or how bombing will achieve it.

  • David Blake 1st Dec '15 - 10:20pm

    Cameron has not made the case. This will end in much more than tears.

  • Peter Hayes 1st Dec '15 - 10:20pm

    Wrong answer in part. Supporting the Kurds as the only effective forces on the ground, and following IS as they retreat should be our first priority. We will be in danger of being condemned if the Russian ‘random’ bombing of cities becomes defined as a Crusader attack on all Muslims, the targets will not recognise the different aircraft markings but blame and target all in their own countries.

  • Eddie Sammon 1st Dec '15 - 10:25pm

    Stephen Campbell, the problem is we can’t just leave good people to the mercy of ISIS, including our own people, and secondly being tough with Russia and Assad seems to be one of the best ways of improving our relations with the Middle East and there are clear humanitarian reasons for it.

    I always think we should act according to morals and self-interest. Morals alone can lead to people launching crazy plans and “to hell with the consequences” because they personally believe in it. We should look at both and I think this passes both tests of being morally right and in our self-interest.

  • For what it’s worth, I’m deeply torn on the issue, probably leaning against. But I’m glad we have a party leader who is keen to think these things through, detail his reasoning, and discuss it in depth with his colleagues, before reaching a position which is obviously reasoned and principled. I respect him for that, even if his decision is unpopular with members – and I’m glad ours isn’t a party where the leader is attempting to bully other members or MPs into doing what he wants, and where the atmosphere between the members is generally reasoned and respectful.

  • Rebecca Hanson 1st Dec '15 - 10:25pm

    “Post-ISIL plan

    The government must be absolutely clear on what Syria and Iraq will look like post-ISIL, and what post-conflict strategy (including an exit strategy) they propose to give the best chance of avoiding a power vacuum. This must be linked to the above diplomatic framework which will outline steps for ending the wider conflict in Syria.”

    So what have you concluded Syria and Iraq aill look like post-ISIL Tim?

  • James Ridgwell 1st Dec '15 - 10:27pm

    I support Tim’s position on this.

  • I’m sure it was a difficult decision, Tim, and it is one I would not have wished to have had to take. But for what it’s worth I believe that it is the wrong decision and that history will judge it as having been a mistake.

  • Denis Mollison 1st Dec '15 - 10:33pm

    I agree with RichardHarris – “You can’t pass your driving test “as best you can”. It’s a fudge”

    Bombing Syria is the easy thing to do, but if the 5 tests can’t be met – and they can’t – it’s the wrong thing.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/campaign-against-isis-is-there-any-hope-for-military-success-a6747396.html

  • I think it’s good that MPs have a free vote on this, I hope I’ve understood that this is what Tim’s saying: ‘I will therefore be asking my parliamentary colleagues to join me in the lobby to support this motion.’

  • paul barker 1st Dec '15 - 10:40pm

    I agree with Tim on this & I suspect a lot of our membership do too. I would be interested to know if any local groups have discussed it & what the result was. I know we have the LDV survey but in the past that has often shown a weighting towards activists & Members in London. I suspect this is one of those iissues where the wider membership are closer to our voters.

  • Bad call, we’ve just signed up fore another in lesson in abject failure. It comes to something when I agree with Matthew Parris and Christopher Hitchens and the only high profile politicians who I can respect are Dave Davis and Jeremy Corbyn.

  • Mick Taylor 1st Dec '15 - 10:43pm

    Sorry Tim. Bad call. I hope I’m wrong but I greatly fear terrorism on our streets in the near future as a direct result of this decision to go to war. Those who vote for war will have to face the consequences, but sadly those who may die in the bombs and bullets to come will have no choice.

  • If this were a decision made during the Coalition, I would be disappointed but not surprised. I am both disappointed and surprised at it now. It may end up being a vote where more Tories vote against Cameron than the entire Lib Dem party voting with him.

  • David Allen 1st Dec '15 - 11:04pm

    Twelve years ago on Iraq the Liberal Democrats stood for rational caution against knee-jerk gung-ho politics. We were right.

    Two days ago it looked as if we could again stand for rational caution. Don’t start a war if you don’t have a plan to win it and a plan for the aftermath. We could have been right again.

    It looks as if the SNP, to take an example, will vote for rational caution. But frankly, it won’t matter hugely to the SNP whether or not they get this vote right. It matters to us. Rational caution about military adventurism is one of very few things for which we still retain some vestiges of a sound reputation. Or it was, until today.

  • Mark Blackburn 1st Dec '15 - 11:05pm

    Disastrous decision and quite possibly the final nail in the coffin for the party – just wait for the exodus including many who’ve only just joined. What was the point of the five tests when they have quite clearly not been passed? While the Tory position was expected, the Labour shambles gave us a real chance to show unequivocal bravery and stick to the five test position, and be respected for it. But we’ve bottled it. So disappointing.

  • Paul Pettinger 1st Dec '15 - 11:16pm

    Maybe our MPs could take the Canadian Liberal whip (the Liberals have ceased the bombing of ISIS since taking power) and be given constitutional autonomy back when they are deemed politically capable to look after their own affairs?

  • Philip Rolle 1st Dec '15 - 11:19pm

    The best statement I have seen from Tim Farron.

  • While I understand why you felt you had to make the decision that you did Tim I honestly believe that you made the wrong decision because air power alone cannot defeat the enemy we face instead it needs to be defeated with boots on the ground, action to restrict access to arms and finance and action to enable more moderate views regarding Islam to be heard . Had the lib dems proposed an amendment to send in troops I would have been happy to support that but NOT air strikes alone.

  • I know it’s not the reason Tim has made his decision, but he seems to be in agreement with the majority of voters – if the polls are to be believed – and that’s never a bad thing for a politician.

  • David Allen 1st Dec '15 - 11:25pm

    Tim, read this:

    https://www.libdemvoice.org/an-open-letter-to-liberal-democrat-mps-on-syria-48476.html#comment-387034

    “What makes Syria and Russia so strongly against those bombing Syria uninvited, is that they believe that that the US plus UK & France, is not really trying to defeat IS, pointing to the well-known route for industrial-scale IS oil into Turkey, and the well known routes for IS arms and money via Turkey, and from Saudi Arabia up the river Euphrates – both of which can be stopped by the West if it chooses. In addition, the US has recently backed a Turkish idea to have a ‘safe, no-fly zone’ in Syria on the Turkish border, which is seen as an annexation of Syrian territory and will almost certainly lead to a war involving the Kurds, Russians, Syria and Turkey.”

    Just like Iraq in 2003, the true war aims are being concealed. The West is preparing to fight a proxy war against Russia. ISIL’s (real) barbarism is just as much a misleading excuse for a proxy war as were Saddam’s (unreal) weapons of mass destruction.

  • Denis Mollison 1st Dec '15 - 11:39pm

    I strongly agree with Mark. My post above against the decision was just on my understanding of the issue in itself.

    But Mark is right on its likely effects for our standing as a party.

  • John Roffey 1st Dec '15 - 11:50pm

    Mark Blackburn 1st Dec ’15 – 11:05pm

    “Disastrous decision and quite possibly the final nail in the coffin for the party”

    Yes – it has been teetering on the brink for 5 years – this decision has the potential to lead to the Party’s extinction as a force within the HofC.

  • Katharine Pindar 1st Dec '15 - 11:56pm

    I agree with John Grout, above. Tim Farron has taken a brave decision on a vital matter where there are no easy answers. He has considered every fact available and every point of view, and promises to continue to hold the Government to account. I am content with that.

  • I strongly disagree with Tim Farron MP and the Lib Dem position.

    The Lib Dems were correct in 2003 to warn against the unexpected consequences of military action in Iraq.

    We have seen these consequences unfold over 12 years. By removing a brutal secular dictator, we lifted the lid on a long-simmering multi-faceted sectarian civil war in the region. Every time we think it can’t get worse, it does. For example, the UK’s airstrikes left Libya as another failed state. Every ungovernable space is a space for Daesh to draw succour.

    In 2013, Cameron was urging us to bomb Assad. In my view, this would have led to ISIS occupying Damascus. Now, it appears that he is asking us to bomb *the other side* in the same civil war. Where is the strategy? Where is the long-term planning?

    I urge Lib Dem MPs to vote against the Government’s proposal tomorrow.

  • @Glenn
    I think you mean Peter rather than Christopher Hitchens – although it would have been interesting to have heard the latter’s opinion had he been alive.
    Tim Farron has made the wrong call on this one, though. I agree.

  • Your right Peter Hitchens. I think Christopher would have agreed with the bombing.

  • Wesley Setchfield 2nd Dec '15 - 12:20am

    I’m extremely disappointed by this?

    When looking at the 5 tests that Tim set out, 2 of them Tim says we will be pressing for more to be done, and the 5th only has an agreement to reconsider rather than an actual pledge or agreement.
    I do believe that military action is needed to eradicate IS but bombing is too random and indiscriminate. If the UN has a resolution to fight IS, why can’t we get an alliance of security council troops to focus an operation properly?

  • Steve Comer 2nd Dec '15 - 12:36am

    I couldn’t believe the news when I heard it and agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments expressed by Mick Taylor, Mark Blackburn, David Allen and others.
    I supported Tim forLeader and hoped we would start to re-establish ourselves as a distinctive radical party, like the Liberal Party I joined 41 years ago. But it eems we have morphed into the third and least relevant establishment party.

    Everyone knows we won’t defeat Daesh by bombing, and even ‘clever missiles’ will cause a vast number of civilian casualties. The combatants all have conflicting war aims, and as with Iraq and Libya there is non consensus on what the post war Syria will look like.

    Daesh will be celebrating the UK playing a bigger part in “the crusade” against them, and our allies in Saudi Arabia can continue to fund fundamentalists all over the world, while brutally repressing any oposition at home.

  • A range of good comments here. Whatever view we may take, I hope that tomorrow Lib Dem MPs will criticise the PM for his immoderate language. It is not right to call those who oppose the Government’s proposal “terrorist sympathisers”.

  • Let’s stop pretending. British involvement in this mess, in one form or another, was inevitable the moment France activated Article 42.7 of the Treaty on European Union. If we fail to provide whatever support we are able in the effort to defeat the so-called State straddling the Iraq-Syria border, we signal a lack of willingness to uphold our treaty obligations, or a lack of ability to do so. I’m not sure which would be worse.

    But, let’s also not pretend that this is some wonderful thing. Britain will almost certainly be bombing Syria, and no good will come of that alone. We can only hope that this will be as part of a wider plan arranged with our allies and with Russia rather than an independent displacement activity to disguise weakness.

    I have no confidence in the ability of Mister Cameron to develop or implement a strategy to defeat ISIS and restore peace. Much of my stance against military action so far is due to this, as well as the tokenistic nature of adding our limited resources to an already bombed out area of the world. Many questions about the intervention must also still be answered. Where are the safe zones on the ground? What will we do to establish them? Where is the diplomatic pressure against the gulf states funding ISIS and spreading the ideology that created it? What will we do to bring it about? Where is the plan to transition away from Assad’s dictatorship after the military campaign? What are we going to do to advance that over the foot-dragging of the Russians and the remains of their puppet regime?

    If those questions and others get reasonably credible answers during the parliamentary debate, then given that we are acting with local allies, regional powers engaged, in line with a United Nations mandate and in response to treaty obligations to help defend a fellow European Union member state, the comparison to 2003 is not useful. If they do not get answers, then it would be wrong to act – military action without strategic planning and a clear objective is merely the noise and confusion that comes before failure.

  • I don’t see a credible plan for routing out ISIS. We need ground forces for that, and I don’t believe the ones mentioned by the PM can do the job.

    I don’t think our ground forces will be as effective as an Arab League force led by Saudi Arabia. They have the military forces necessary and the moral imperative to do so. We should cash our diplomatic chips in with Saudi Arabia and get them to remove this stain upon Islam’s reputation.

    A UK bombing campaign without a credible plan to route out ISIS can only exacerbate the problem – we need an Islamic, rather than Western, solution to this Islamic problem.

  • This is wrong on so many levels. I’m honestly heartbroken to see Lib Dems supporting the bombing of civilians and adding to the refugee numbers. The bombing in Iraq has been counter-productive and ineffective. So will this be, but at the expense of how many innocent lives? Cutting off support, funding and arms supplies is the only way to stop this enemy.

  • Has Tim´s email been sent to all members? Just wondering…..

  • It is not wise to think you have elected a leader to be or do the predictable thing according to previous perceptions .It can and for some has resulted here with misconceptions. It is gratifying to discover that your party has elected a leader who has started to become a statesman. I detest war , but it is not warmongering we are witnessing , rather agonised soul searching , and for our colleagues in the House of Commons I am sure they should be engaged with in a constructive way , by all of us and certainly on this issue , not criticised for individual and , it would appear , collective judgements , which every mp has a right to make in a free democratic country whose values are worth defending.

  • The RAF are already bombing Daesh in Iraq (Years ago the RAF perfected its bombing techniques on the Kurds in this region-nothing like a bit of action for training) so in the bigger picture this vote may not have the importance it seems to have. Daesh is a good excuse for bombing but the real aim is regime change. However a government compliant to western interests is never likely to arise in Syria.
    Taking sides is not the answer to this civil war.(although there is no real Free Syrian side, they hate us just as much as all the others hate us) The world has changed since the last time Britain invaded Syria (1941)
    It seems that the mentality of many in England hasn’t changed since 1941, no longer can just a few Imperial troops be sent to calm down a situation.

  • Eddie Sammon 2nd Dec '15 - 3:42am

    German cabinet has approved military action in Syria. US, France, Germany, Australia and others. Good reasons plus strong partners, UK should support.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-34973286

  • Dave Orbison 2nd Dec '15 - 5:48am

    Eddie – “Good reasons, strong partners” has all the echoes of George W and his “coalition of forces for good against evil” for Iraq and look at how that ended. In the last couple of months much criticism has been made on LDV of Labour, some of it very fair – authoritarian, and its willingness to take us to war in Iraq being two stand-out issues that many LibDems proudly, and in my view, correctly, cite as strong points of differentiation between the parties. In the drama of the run up to the Iraq war back then Blair, aided by an unquestioning media, lapped up the WMD and 45 mins rubbish. Now we have Cameron disgracefully trying to bully MPs by calling opponents on this issue “terrorist sympathisers”. I have always wanted a strong LibDem party to be able to challenge Tory or Labour Governments as Charles Kennedy so ably did when I joined the LibDems back then. Now I just feel so sad for many LibDems who have been let down yet again by their MP’s. I really don’t know what the LibDem party is about anymore. Judging by the comments on Twitter last night, I am not alone.

  • Eddie
    Japan and China to sign up next?

  • Daesh / ISIS seem to be being treated as the greater of two evils here, when compared to Assad’s regime. I can assure you that, having spoken to people with family in Syria, they are not – they are the equal of each other.

    When the last vote was taken on Syria, I was genuinely ambivalent – I didn’t like the idea, but there was a clear objective (get rid of Assad) and protect the democratic movement. This time, there’s no clear objective for the endgame, just as it was in Iraq in 2003. How do we know if we’ve been successful? How do we stop Assad’s troops making advances against the rebels while we are concentrating our fire on Daesh? If that happens, which I suspect it will, how can we avoid ground troops going in? And in any case, with so many of the Daesh fighters now apparently outside Syria, will it actually make a difference?

    I respect Tim’s judgement, but that doesn’t mean I think he’s called it right. There are just too many unanswered questions about the future here.

  • Allan Brame 2nd Dec '15 - 7:34am

    Obviously not an enviable decision to have to make and certainly not the one I would have preferred. At least we are fortunate that Labour’s self-destruction is dominating the coverage

  • Following John’s line above, I am not sure any local meaningful consultation of members has (or even will) take place. As a Local Party Chair, I would have thought I would have heard.

    On a personal note, I felt that, even though I would have liked Tim’s “tests” to be set somewhat tougher, it felt as though they would be very difficult for Cameron’s plan, such as it is, to pass. It came as quite a shock to me when the Party’s top brass announced support for the Cameron position.

  • Stephen Campbell 2nd Dec '15 - 7:55am

    Now that we know LibDems are in favour of dropping bombs and maybe escalating this conflict into WWIII, I have a few questions.

    What is the LibDem plan to help the innocent civilians who will be killed by our bombs? What is the plan for the increased number of refugees which will inevitably come our way, thanks to our glorious bombs?
    How will we know when the war is won? If ISIS are defeated, what then? Proxy war with Russia over the issue of Assad remaining in power?
    What do LibDems plan to do about the Saudi regime who, let’s be honest, are pretty much a “legal” version of ISIS who we consider “good friends and allies”? The Saudis whose, to paraphrase Tim’s words on ISIS, “evil is apparent to the world in the beheading of journalists bloggers and atheists for a worldwide audience, the virtual enslavement of tens of thousands of women, the summary execution of gay men, etc. Or the Turks for that matter who very well might be doing deals with ISIS concerning oil?

    Or, as I suspect, can none of these questions really be answered and people just want to rush into war again?

  • Ronald Murray 2nd Dec '15 - 8:19am

    Why apply five tests if you are not going to stick to them,bombing alone is useless. The free Syrian Army is a myth it is a bunch of groups opposed to each other. After the half done mess with Iraq have no faith any good will come out of this. Soldiers take ground and hold it air forces only provide airborne support. You can be assured Daesh will make sure plenty of civilians are in target areas. Come on Tim let’s have some sensible thinking and fresh ideas. We don’t have to support Tories now.

  • Tony Dawson 2nd Dec '15 - 8:21am

    To say that I am surprised and disappointed by this decision and action of Tim is more than an understatement.

  • I only joined the party about a month ago (having voted for it for years), and I am truly struggling to put into words just how disappointed, and frankly betrayed, I feel about this. Am I missing something here and is Mr Farron arguing that his 5 tests have been met, or has he simply abandoned them?

    If the 5 tests have been met then can someone (preferably the leader himself) explain how, for the hard of thinking like myself? If he has abandoned them, then surely this is his “tuition fees pledge” moment.

  • Jayne Mansfield 2nd Dec '15 - 8:51am

    I sincerely hope that it is we who oppose this action who are wrong,

  • Alan Depauw 2nd Dec '15 - 9:09am

    Does anyone doubt that, as Tim says, London is already a top target for ISIL? The key objective is surely to reduce that threat. I support him in agreeing to take action to do so.

    Military action should not preclude continuing to work on better integrating our various communities. We should redouble our efforts to understand and tackle the reasons why a small number of disaffected youths go to Syria and return, trained and fanaticised, to wreak havoc here. Nor should we shy from shining the spotlight on what our near neighbours are doing in this respect; a particular problem exists in France and it is no longer a purely local issue.

    We should also be aware that the geographic base of terrorism may well shift, specifically to Libya. I hope that Tim and his colleagues will question the government closely on what it is doing to help achieve stability there.

  • peter tyzack 2nd Dec '15 - 9:14am

    is there some ‘intelligence’ that has not been shared with us, as I can’t see how Tim has arrived at this otherwise. One of the 10 commandments is ‘thou shalt not kill, but here we are signing up to death and destruction… we need to stay out of a dispute that isn’t ours, we certainly should not be doing it because ‘France and the US want us to’. The way to world peace is not through bombs and bullets but through ‘goodwill to all men’ and ‘love they neighbour as thyself’.
    So, until this nightmare is over, I shall be keeping out of the centre of any major city and I shall not be taking any active part in the party.

  • Greg Simpson 2nd Dec '15 - 9:19am

    The right choice. All the concerns remain. Yes, Cameron’s case is wanting. And this is an ever evolving picture. But the current British position (taking on IS in Iraq, but not Syria) is incoherent. This at least puts us in play with our allies, and on the right side. You could argue that coherence would have been achieved by pulling out of Iraq actions as well. But no-one seems to be arguing that here. So, with heavy heart, you have more chance of achieving your war aims if you fight the battle in a geographically comprehensive manner.

  • Reading so many of these epistles you would imagine we have been sitting on the sidelines, our pilots sunbathing all day on the Cyprus beaches and the ISIS leadership only too willing to negotiate a reasonable political solution. Whereas the opposite is the reality.

  • Nigel Jones 2nd Dec '15 - 9:30am

    I am very disappointed. The 5 tests have not been met. As Mattew Parris said on newsnight, even the increased risk of terrorist attack in the UK would be worth it IF it was clear that we had a truly effective plan for achievement of positive results. There are still too many unanswered questions, not to mention the deaths and migration of more civilians.
    To act so quickly in reaction to the Paris attacks is a huge mistake, whatever Hollande says. It need more time to work both a plan and on diplomacy before any further military action will work. How can we possibly say that because of the Paris attacks, what was previously thought has now suddenly changed in a practical way ? The only change is the motivation to find a solution, but to work our a proper solution takes much more time.

  • Can anyone point me to an analysis of the results of the LDV survey on air strikes?

  • Dave Orbison 2nd Dec '15 - 9:38am

    Alan Depauw “the geographical base of terror may well shift’. Exactly. Perhaps the Commons motion should be amended to delete ‘Syria’ and insert “anywhere “. This alone shows the futility of trying to solve this problem by dropping bombs. In fact it’s not trying to solve it, it’s pretending to as no military analysis has yet even remotely suggested that this strategy alone will work as pointed out by those well known terrorist sympathisers so helpfully identified by Cameron – the Foreign Affairs Committee.. It’s a bad plan and done for the poor reasons with terrible, foreseeable consequences. We are doing exactly what ISIS want.

  • david watmough 2nd Dec '15 - 10:02am

    If the Lib Dems vote for air strikes I will resign this evening.
    I joined because of Charles Kennedy’s help and charm and principled stand against Bliar and Bush invading Iraq.

    Nothing liberal about bombing civilians.

    I am minded to join Jeremy’s Labour party.

  • David Pollard 2nd Dec '15 - 10:13am

    An analysis of the responses on Tom Brake’s FB page showed 86% against bombing. At least he had the courage to ask.

  • Peter Hellyer 2nd Dec '15 - 10:13am

    My previous criticisms of the Five Conditions notwithstanding, I welcome the decision to support the Government on bombing.

    Will there be civilian casualties? Probably – but ISIL inflict them every day. Only by degrading their control over territory can there be any hope, for example, for an end to the brutal attempts to eradicate or expel the Christian and Yezidi communities in the areas they control. I’ve not seen them mentioned in the comments on the various articles posted. Shouldn’t this be a fundamental consideration for Liberals?
    Are Arab boots on the ground required? Yes, of course. The Emirates, the only Gulf state to be an unrelenting critic of ISIL and other jihadi groups, (all of which it’s banned), has announced they’re ready to supply them. Not enough, but a start. That’s an essential component of any military strategy.
    Can military action contribute to pushing forward the negotiations for a political solution, hard though that may be? Yes, in my view. It’s complex, and no end result will be ideal, but it may lead to a reduction of large-scale fighting, displacement of Syrians internally and as refugees.
    Syria will never return to the way it was before the civil war broke out, hundreds of thousands will never go home & humanitarian relief will be needed for years to come.
    There’s little point, in my view, in restricting UK action against ISIL to Iraq. Borders (and states) are irrelevant to ISIL
    Will UK involvement increase the threat of terrorism in the UK? ISIL say they’ll bring the UK up the priority list, but the threat is already there, with hundreds(?) of people who have fought with ISIL in Syria already back in the UK. Bombing or no bombing (in Syria), that’s not going to go away.
    No logic, to my mind, in continuing activity in Iraq, but not extending to Syria.
    This is not Blair/Iraq: there’s a present and real threat to the UK; a millennarian virus ravaging the Arab world, with implications far beyond. We should be there….

  • Dave Eastham 2nd Dec '15 - 10:25am

    re – UNSCR2249

    Not so sure this is the unequivocal endorsement from the UN for the proposed action that is being claimed. See “Voting on Military Action in Syria” from the UK Constitutional Law Association.
    http://ukconstitutionallaw.org/2015/11/28/veronika-fikfak-voting-on-military-action-in-syria/

    In my opinion I’m not sure this is quite the endorsement Tim seems to think. I think he has made the wrong call.
    Yes the RAF did use bombing in the 1920’s to “control” the Kurds, it was seen as a cheaper option at the time from “boots on the ground”. That did not exactly go well.
    Yes Paddy was right over Bosnia etc. But as they say, we should “learn from History” and all that. This is not the same. Please don’t bomb.

  • Dave Orbison 2nd Dec '15 - 10:42am

    Peter Hellyer “Will there be civilian casualties? Probably – but ISIL inflict them every day” Well that’s OK is it?
    Then you state “Are Arab boots on the ground required? Yes, of course.” You accept that bombing cannot succeed. Ground forces are necessary. You deftly side-step the use of UK forces by referring to ‘Arab boots’ as you know this would be one more barrier to overcome. Yet there is no suggestion that such a coordinated, ready and willing and capable force exists. So we have by your own analysis more civilian casualties in the name of an ill thought-out, unprepared military campaign. This is the very knee jerk response Farron warned against and has now committed to.
    And for the avoidance of doubt I am not a terrorist sympathiser.

  • Malcolm Lewis 2nd Dec '15 - 10:59am

    My thoughts are with those citizens of Syria, who, already living in the dystopian society created by Isil, now face the prospect of a supposedly superior, open liberal society, finally snuffing out the lives of themselves and their loved ones, in order to bring about peace to their region.

    Tim is wrong for the right reasons. He is attempting to squeeze liberal principles into a policy that could never accommodate them. I am sure he was genuinely tortured over this decision, trying to balance the siren voices of the hawks that throughout history have demanded that ‘might is right’, against his own Christian principles of peace.

    I’m sure that the crux of his argument, as well as others that are looking for the ‘killer argument’ in favour of bombing Isil in Syria, is the ‘Internationalists’ one. The one that offers the comfort blanket of ‘solidarity with our neighbours’. The one to fall back on when the morality of an action is dubious. Internationalism can be a good liberal principle, however, this is not one where it should be applied. Yes we should support France, et al, in their attempts to get rid of Isis, but let’s start by a fuller examination of the end game, including which regime we should be propping up after the dust has settled in Syria.

    I imagine there are many that recently joined the party like me, hoping its fortunes will turn around after the last disastrous general election, who wonder whether Tim’s decision will reinforce the public’s perception of us as merely ‘Tory-lite’.

    But worse still, I think if all our LibDem MP’s also follow Tim’s stance, it will certainly dim Britain’s light as a beacon of decent, liberal values in the world; if anything, it allows the darkness of barbaric states like Isis’s to further engulf it. Please think again Tim.

  • Richard Underhill 2nd Dec '15 - 10:59am

    The cross-party Foreign Affaits select committee came out against airstrikes in Syria, for carefully thought out reasons. RAF Typhoons were added to the strike-force. Crispin Blunt MP (Tory) changed his mind and backed david Cameron. The committee re-considered and voted 4 to 3 against air-strikes in Syria.

  • Ray Cobbett 2nd Dec '15 - 11:03am

    It there’s anything we learned from bombing Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan et al it is that it doesn’t work without a ground force. Sorry Tim but if your decision is an example of project fight backI fear it’s a loser for the Lib Dems and we survive to regret it.

  • Meral Hussein Ece 2nd Dec '15 - 11:06am

    I along with many of my colleagues in the Lib Dem Group in House of Lords are opposed to the UK air strikes in Syria. I have spoken against this in numerous internal group meetings, but there are always so called ‘experts’ who brush aside ou concerns. They cite how we must show ‘solidarity’ with our French allies, & ‘do our bit’ a few hundred more UK bombs on a ravaged Syria, will not in my view make any difference to ISIS, who don’t operate in a traditional method with static command centres. You can’t defeat an ideology with bombs. These so called 70k troops waiting to join forces with us is a fallacy, they’re disparate groups, fighting Assad, dispersed across Syria. Raqqa has thousands of civilians, which will almost certainly become victims or flee. Cameron is all too willing to attack Syria, creating more refugees, but not prepared to take a single Syrian refugee as a result. It’s clear this is more for symbolic reasons, to be seen to be ‘doing something’ In my view it’s a big mistake and will create more radicalisation, more terrorist s to their cause, & kill more civilians. Very little emphasis on cutting off funding, oil income, and arms to ISIS. I don’t believe the case has been made.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Dec '15 - 11:07am

    I remain unconvinced.

    It does not require occupation of a large amount of geographical territory to do what the terrorists did in Paris. All it requires is possession of the weapons and explosives and a warped mentality. So intervention to push ISIL (is that what we are calling them now?) out of the territory they are occupying will not resolve the terrorist problem, if anything it will make it worse by feeding the warped mentality.

    They must be defeated morally, and stooping to their level by saying violence must be met with violence does the opposite of that.

    Moral defeat means a universal recognition that they are sadists, motivated by a love of causing extreme hurt to others. There must be a universal recognition that anyone motivated by that is a bad person, and that if one uses religious language (whether meaning it supernaturally or metaphorically) they are not doing what God wants. Universal means no ifs-and-buts. If we want that universal agreement, we must do nothing which allows the iffers and butters to be able to if-and-but.

    This is too important an issue to be used to play political games. I am appalled by the way it has been used in just this way both internally in the Labour Party by opponents of its current leader and externally by opponents of the Labour Party. I urge all who are doing this – STOP! He is making a valid point which needs to be made, and even if you disagree with him, let him make it.

    This is exactly the same position I took with Tony Blair. I disagreed with the invasion of Iraq, but I was appalled by those who used it to play political games because they were domestic opponents of Blair. I see no reason to suppose Blair was motivated by anything but a naive and mistaken belief that life would be made better for the Iraqis if he assisted in deposing the dictator. Those who whipped up warped mentalities by making out it was some sort of “attack on Islam” or done through pure delight in violence, and so on, should hang their heads in shame at what that has led to, just as those who make false accusations against Corbyn and what motivates him, in reality because they dislike his economic approach and want to do him down for that, should hang their heads in shame at using this horrendous situation to play domestic political games.

  • Tim writes…”I was a proud supporter of Charles Kennedy when he led his MPs into the lobbies against an illegal war in Iraq on the basis of a dossier that sought to contrive a threat where none existed. This war has cast a long shadow over Britain’s role in the world and has severely damaged the confidence that the British people have in our intelligence services and the decisions of our Prime Ministers……But this is not Iraq.”

    Tim, you are right; this is not Iraq…..amongst all the uncertainties regarding Syria, one thing is certain. Regardless of how this turns out, when it comes to rebuilding the post war infrastructure, it will be exactly like Libya!

  • Eddie Sammon 2nd Dec '15 - 11:47am

    In response to those here who have said or think: “we can’t defeat an ideology with bombs”. Correct, but we are not trying to defeat an ideology with bombs. It is the military targets and training camps that we are trying to destroy with bombs. The ideological battle is another one that goes alongside it. It is also why Lib Dem campaigns for refugees and against Islamophobia are broadly good.

  • David Howarth 2nd Dec '15 - 12:17pm

    UNSCR 2249

    Veronika Fikfak, whose blog post was referred to earlier, is wrong about how the UN Charter works. The Security Council doesn’t have wait and see whether measures short of force have worked. Article 42 says it can authorise force immediately if it considers that other measures ‘would be inadequate’.

    One needs to remember that the inherent right of self-defence lasts only until ‘the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security’ (UN Charter article 51). France would hardly have proposed 2249 if it thought it would bring into question its own use of force.

    That means that one of two things must be true: either 2249 authorises force itself (it does, after all, say that the Security Council “Calls upon Member States that have the capacity to do so to take all necessary measures … to eradicate the safe haven [ISIS] have established over significant parts of Iraq and Syria”); or it preserves France’s (and Iraq’s) right to self-defence, which includes collective self-defence, as part of which France has invoked art 42(7) of the EU Treaty obliging us to provide “aid and assistance by all the means in [our] power”.

    We can’t get out of our treaty obligations that easily. Nor, as internationalists and pro-Europeans, should Liberals ever want to.

  • Andrew Coulson 2nd Dec '15 - 12:39pm

    1) “….. Those of you who disagree with this decision may find little comfort in this, but it is my commitment to you as leader that if at any point these objectives are no longer possible I will not hesitate to withdraw support……”
    Alas, you cannnot try out war as a policy, then call it off if it doesn’t turn out well. Like puppies, wars are not just for Christmas
    2) Why all this harking back to Iraq? A more recent, and more analogous (though still not _very_ similar) case is Libya. In that case, I followed the informed commentators, and thought it was probably a good policy to knock over Muammar Gaddafi. I was wrong.

  • Peter Hellyer 2nd Dec '15 - 12:45pm

    @Dave Orbison

    ISIL will continue to inflict civilian casualties in Syria (& Iraq) while they control territory. Only when they no longer control territory is there a hope of that being brought to an end (though civilian casualties caused by their activities elsewhere, e.g. Paris, will continue). I don’t welcome civilian casualties caused by any bombing (relatives of mine have been very close to Assad’s bombs), but not trying to degrade ISIL simply allows them to continue with their slaughter. They’re not going to stop if they’re not bombed by Britain – they’ll just carry on trying to extend their area of control (causing yet more civilian casualties & refugees). Isn’t it important to try to stop that?
    It’s obvious that a powerful (non-Syrian) Arab boots-on-the-ground approach hasn’t yet materialised. But it’s also true that there seems to be progress in that direction. Now, following Paris, the UN resolution and other recent developments, there’s a chance that a mix of effective air AND ground operations may, at last, be getting going. It should have happened long ago. So too should the serious efforts towards a political solution, (but those have to exclude ISIL). The two tracks, military & political, are linked.
    A knee jerk reaction on my part? Not really. In my 40 years in the Middle East, I’ve felt the impact of a whole slew of conflicts in the region. Some relatives of mine have fled both Assad & the jihadis, others remain very near the front-lines inside Syria. It’s all pretty close to home for me.
    I understand why many people oppose to further UK involvement. Cameron’s remarks about “terrorist sympathisers” were disgraceful. But there is, in my view, a good case for involvement even though it’s not clear (nor can it be) how the current tragedy in Syria (and Iraq) will eventually be resolved. Perhaps, though, a further deepening of the tragedy can be prevented. As things are now, it could, and probably will, get much worse.

    @ Matthew Huntbach

    “They (ISIL) must be defeated morally, and stooping to their level by saying violence must be met with violence does the opposite of that. Moral defeat means a universal recognition that they are sadists, motivated by a love of causing extreme hurt to others.”
    Universal recognition of their moral bankruptcy & sadism will do nothing, literally nothing, to help those under their control. I wish it were otherwise….

  • Folk who oppose the bombing are no more terrorist sympathisers than those who want to bomb are collaborators with a regime that used chemical weapons on its own people.

  • “ISIL will continue to inflict civilian casualties in Syria (& Iraq) while they control territory. ”

    And a bombing campaign will not remove a single inch of Syrian or Iraqi territory from Da’esh’s grasp.

    “though civilian casualties caused by their activities elsewhere, e.g. Paris, will continue”

    And yet the justification that is being given for this campaign is that it will via some magic ‘degrade’ Da’esh’s ability to conduct terror operations abroad.

  • Dave Orbison 2nd Dec '15 - 1:36pm

    Peter Hellyer – You seem to imply that opposition to this ill thought intervention equates to advocating that we ‘don nothing’. It is a charge that is all too often lobbed at those of us who have the temerity to point out the inconvenient truth plan is ill thought out. You yourself say “there’s only a chance of ground forces” being provided from the region.

    If you saw someone drowning but you couldn’t swim, should you jump in so as to be ‘seen to do something’? Putin has to my mind come closest to describing the mess, the mercenaries, and the different factions. ISIS are not the only ‘baddies’ out there. We need a plan to deal with all of the entities to bring about a lasting peace. This includes tackling issues such as funding, oil trading, and arms supplies. It also involves analysing the role that Turkey, Saudis, and others play in all of this and applying diplomatic pressure on those aiding and abetting ISIS directly or indirectly.

    We should listen to Robert McNamara in the film Fog of War. So many mistakes made and yet again repeated.

  • Peter Hellyer 2nd Dec '15 - 1:53pm

    @David 1

    —-
    “ISIL will continue to inflict civilian casualties in Syria (& Iraq) while they control territory. ”
    And a bombing campaign will not remove a single inch of Syrian or Iraqi territory from Da’esh’s grasp.
    “though civilian casualties caused by their activities elsewhere, e.g. Paris, will continue”
    And yet the justification that is being given for this campaign is that it will via some magic ‘degrade’ Da’esh’s ability to conduct terror operations abroad.

    Simply,

    1. A bombing campaign on its own won’t remove any territory from Da’esh. True enough,. But, as the Kurds in Iraq and Syria (e.g. Kobani) can tell you, it does help troops on the ground! The Kurds will benefit from bombing support in their drive to cut Raqqa, the Da’esh capital, off from the porous Turkish border. And that would help significantly in, for example, cutting Da’esh supply lines, routes for selling oil to Turkey etc.

    2. The campaign MAY degrade the ability of Da’esh to carry out terror operations abroad. It cannot stop them altogether, though, and Cameron hasn’t claimed that it will. No-one should have any illusions about that. Whether Britain bombs or doesn’t bomb Da’esh in Syria (as well as in Iraq), Da’esh still has the UK as a target, with “assets” inside the UK upon which it can count. And it will try to strike quickly.

    No-one with any knowledge of the situation inside Syria would claim that joining in the bombing campaign against Da’esh in Syria offers a panacea that will, miraculously, end their territorial control there and make Europe safe from attacks. There’s no panacea. But a failure to act would lessen pressure on Da’esh, when more is required, without making the UK any safer.

  • Eddie Sammon 2nd Dec ’15 – 11:47am
    “In response to those here who have said or think: “we can’t defeat an ideology with bombs”. Correct, but we are not trying to defeat an ideology with bombs. It is the military targets and training camps that we are trying to destroy with bombs. ”

    Eddie, those military training grounds etc aren’t static with a great big red ” X marks the spot” helpfully painted on to show where our bombs should land. Daesh will hide in hospitals and civilian areas, and already they are on the move to Libya and elsewhere. Yes some infrastructure may go but they will regroup elsewhere with the funds and weapons which our allies are providing them with ready to strike again. Whilst they have money and weapons, they arent goung to be defeated by air strikes because they will simply hide elsewhere.

  • Peter Hellyer 2nd Dec '15 - 2:41pm

    @ Dave Orbison
    My last contribution today…

    Of course other things can be done, though I would be wary about taking Putin as a guide, given his support for Assad, responsible for most of the civilian deaths in Syria. (With many Chechens amongst Da’esh and other groups like Jebhat al-Nusra, Putin has good reason to be concerned about blow-back inside Russia, though).
    Pressure on Turkey: yes – increasingly needed, given their hostility to the Kurds and their softness on Da’esh, Jebhat al-Nusra and other jihadis. I suspect that the recent EU ‘bribe’ to Turkey if it closes its borders with Greece to slow down the refugee influx is not a helpful step in terms of Syria, though it may reduce the flow of refugees). Putting pressure on those countries supporting other jihadi groups – yes. Helping Jordan more (not just with the refugees). Helping Lebanon cope with its refugees from Syria (around 20% of the population, an incredible burden).
    Identifying and shutting off Da’esh’s revenue sources – oil trading, antiques smuggling, illicit money-transfers
    Continuing bombing in Iraq, in support of the Kurds.
    Using what diplomatic weight the UK still has to support discussions around a potential political solution – which must include the removal of Assad.
    All this and more can, and should, be done. I’ve never thought that it’s a choice between bombing and “doing nothing”. Rather, I believe that all of the above AND bombing inside Syria are required. Nor do I believe that those opposed to extending RAF bombing to Syria are advocating that the UK should do nothing..
    As for local ground forces, the Kurds are already there, others are talking about coming in. It’s they who say they need air support. It’s their lives that are on the line. At Kobani, it was the US air support that enabled the Kurds to defeat Da’esh there. (How to prevent Da’esh and Turkey continuing to share a border, I don’t know, given Turkey’s own policies, but it’s pretty important).
    I don’t believe that bombing Da’esh in Syria, in itself, will bring about a solution. I do believe, though, that it will contribute to the emergence of a situation in which a genuine prospect of a solution at last becomes possible, though enormous further complications in terms of political discussions still lie ahead.

  • Tim Farron says “In 2003 a ‘dodgy dossier’ was used in an attempt to convince us that Saddam Hussein represented an imminent threat to international peace and security. In 2015 there is no dodgy dossier.”

    What on earth does he think Cameron’s 70,000 unicorn-riding cavalry are if not the direct equivalent of the dodgy dossier? Robert Fisk, who knows the area better than almost anyone, reports that he doubts that there are 700 active “moderate” foot soldiers in Syria and says the true figure may be nearer 70!

    http://www.commondreams.org/views/2015/11/29/70000-moderate-fighters-syria-its-another-cameron-photoshop

    Meanwhile, what do we think is the real story in the middle east? Here is an interpretation that makes far more sense than the official narrative. Spoiler alert: “While the populations of Europe and the US are fed raw propaganda about the regional aims involved, the reality is far different.”

    http://www.peakprosperity.com/insider/95544/murder-and-mayhem-middle-east

  • Peter Kellner on the World at One today provided some interesting statistics.

    He said that a week ago public opinion was in favour of air strikes by a margin of around 59% to 20% – a margin of nearly 3:1.

    In the last week that has shifted to only 48% to 31% – still a majority in favour but a much reduced one corresponding to roughly 5 million people switching their view.

    That corresponds with my (entirely subjective) sense of how the balance of opinion was evolving here on LDV with the balance of opinion shifting substantially against war as the pros and cons were aired.

    Nationally, it looks like Corbyn is winning the argument if not the vote despite a blizzard of propaganda.

  • Russell Simpson 3rd Dec '15 - 5:08pm

    I joined the party after the 2010 election as I thought the LibDems were doing the responsible thing by being prepared to go in to government and after disillusionment with Blair’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I am now very seriously considering leaving the party. It is very difficult to see how “more bombs without boots” will make the situation better. Over 2/3rds of party members are opposed to bombing Syria. Tim, as a Christian do you really think that the action you voted to support meets all the just war criteria? Of course ISIL is evil and needs to be destroyed but I fail to see how that will happen with this action. It’s more likely to make the opposite happen. Very disappointed and depressed. I fear the Fightback stops here!

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Dec '15 - 7:16pm

    Peter Hellyer

    Universal recognition of their moral bankruptcy & sadism will do nothing, literally nothing, to help those under their control.

    Yes it will. One of the reasons stopping me from supporting military action is the readiness of some who, while they claim not to be sympathetic to the sadists, do seem very willing to denounce any action taken against them as due to some sort of racist/imperialist/etc motivation, and so use that to build up the sort of support the sadists need to carry on doing what they are doing.

  • Richard Underhill 2nd Apr '16 - 1:46pm

    Tim Farron is on BBC Radio 4 any questions at 13.00 on 2/4/2016. Any Answers follows.

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