A number of constituents have contacted me opposing UK bombing in Syria. In view of the interest I am sharing my reply to them here:
I opposed bombing the Assad regime two years ago when the Coalition government wished to do it and was pleased Parliament got the government to withdraw the planned motion for military action. Parliament subsequently went on to vote down a motion that anyway did not offer permission for the use of force. I did not support that diluted government motion.
This time I accept that Daesh is a serious threat to us as it is a movement that has people and sympathisers in western countries as well as in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. I have urged the government to take stronger measures to police our borders, to improve intelligence as they are now doing, and to reinforce our defences against home grown terrorism and against would be terrorists seeking entry to the UK.
I have asked the government a series of questions about their wish to add UK bombs to the bombing campaigns of the USA, France and Russia currently being undertaken in Syria:
1. As all agree ground troops are needed to work with bombing campaigns to destroy or remove Daesh from Syria, who will provide the ground army? How can we be sure they will work well with us, directing our bombers , reporting back on what has been achieved from the air and using the opportunity the bombing campaign provides to retake territory on the ground?
2. Is the UK government clear that its only military objective is to attack Daesh, or does it also still wish to remove the Assad regime?
3. What is the political strategy for rebuilding responsible government in Syria? Who will govern the areas currently run by Daesh if the military campaign works?
4. Is the UK planning to work alongside Russia, or is it possible to run a different military campaign with different objectives to the Russian one without entailing dangerous disputes with Russia?
5. The Free Syrian army is said to offer ground troops to win this war. Who commands them? Where are their forces? Can these very divergent groups of fighters be an available army for this task? How would we be able to co-ordinate with them? Why if there are 70,000 of them have they not already retaken Raqqa?
I await considered answers to these questions. I have no wish to impede assisting our allies or preventing further terrorist abuses, but I do wish to see a thought through strategy with emphasis on a future political settlement.