A number of people have contacted me with concerns about Wednesday's vote (2 December) on military action in Syria. Similar questions are being asked so I am going to try and deal with them all in this statement.
How will you vote?
In 2013, I voted against military action on President Assad's forces in Syria. After much thought, I will support the government for the following reasons:
1) The threat to Britain’s national security. ISIS are motivated by an extremist religious philosophy which they wish to impose on the West. Their fighters have targeted and killed UK and other European citizens and they have tried to launch Paris style attacks on British soil.
2) The UK, in coalition with others at the request of the Iraqi government, has for some time been taking action against ISIS in Iraq. It makes no sense for British pilots to stop engaging combatants in Iraq simply because they have crossed the border into Syria.
What has this got to do with us?
Apart from the issue of national security, millions of refugees have fled Syria. Britain has been fulfilling a moral obligation to help them, both through paying for safe refugee camps in Turkey and the Middle East and by taking in thousands of refugees. If we have a moral obligation to look after Syrian refugees, then we have the moral right to intervene and take action to prevent more coming.
How will bombing civilians help?
Those who imagine that we are going to send in planes and participate in mass bombing of civilian areas have been misinformed. The UK intends to use very high-tech missiles against specific ISIS targets. We have been using military airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq for over a year after a huge and justified public outcry at the massacres that ISIS had been perpetrating against Kurds, Yazidis and Christians in Iraq. This vote would merely extend the action across the border to ISIS headquarters.
Will targeted strikes make a difference?
The airstrikes we have been carrying out for over a year in Iraq have made a difference. Land held by ISIS has fallen back into Iraqi government hands.
Why can't we use financial sanctions and target oil money?
I raised this question in a private meeting with the Foreign Secretary today (Tuesday 1 December). We are taking these actions. He was able to spell out what we are doing. I have been asked to keep some of these details confidential and given the reasons why. I simply assure constituents that I received a very full answer.
Surely we will need ground troops?
Targeted air strikes will not be enough and there will be a need for ground troops to retake land. There are believed to be around 70,000 Syrians under arms representing factions with whom the West could work.
How sure are you of that 70,000 figure?
The estimate comes from security agencies across the world. It is backed by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary.
What about a wider strategy?
There is a wider strategy which is to defeat ISIS, bring Assad to the negotiating table and set up a government with representatives of the Sunni, Shia, Christian, Kurdish and Yazidi groups in Syria. There is broad support for this plan across a range of nations. It will not be easy to achieve and will not happen overnight, but a great deal of work is going into this. It is very important to me that we have a workable plan. I have sat face-to-face with the Foreign Secretary and I believe there is.
Why don’t we just leave it to others?
We are already involved as we are attacking ISIS in Iraq. We have a high level of expertise in the use of targeted missiles and drones. In particular, we have missiles that are highly accurate against moving vehicles.