CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

'SYRIA NEEDS A STRATEGY, NOT A GESTURE'

A Message to Parliamentary Colleagues

By Julian Lewis MP and Adam Holloway MP

19 November 2015

In 2013, MPs were asked to approve airstrikes against Assad and in support of his opponents. We refused to do so, on the grounds that the outcome would have been similar to that in Libya – a strategic ‘own goal’ – but with much more bloodshed and the prospect of Assad’s chemical weapons falling into the hands of the jihadis fighting to depose him.

Now we are asked to support the use of air power on the opposite side in the Syrian Civil War – against our deadly, self-proclaimed Islamist enemies. This 180-degree shift is a step in the right direction. Yet, one vital question remains: who will supply the credible ground forces without which airstrikes cannot be decisive?

Daesh/ISIL can be driven out, but only if a credible force is assembled to do the fighting on the ground. This must be with at least the acquiescence (if not the cooperation) of Russia and her client, the Syrian Government; and the force would have to remain as an Occupying Power for several years to come. That is why it needs to be a Muslim force, not a so-called “infidel” one.

If the Prime Minister proposes an integrated plan to help a suitable force drive out Daesh and remain in control, then that will be a strategy which we can support.

Can such a force be assembled? The Kurds alone will not be sufficient. Other extreme Islamist groups will not be acceptable. Bombing on its own will not be effective – and will remain ineffective, in the absence of appropriate ground forces, no matter how appalled we are by the atrocities of our enemies.

If military intervention is to succeed, a multi-national force must be assembled. This means forming an international coalition with regional powers who are willing and able to mount the military effort on the ground.

We should oppose mounting airstrikes unless and until that happens.

We need a strategy to win – not another empty gesture.

[Both Julian and Adam are writing in a personal capacity]