DEFENCE – EXTREMISM & SYRIA – 20 July 2015

Dr Julian Lewis: At home, may I warmly welcome the Prime Minister’s speech today, which reflects a counter-radicalisation strategy of precisely the sort that was recommended to his extremism taskforce approximately two years ago? Abroad, however, and particularly in Syria, it appears from the Secretary of State’s statement today that he still thinks it is possible to bring down Daesh without promoting, as it were, the Assad regime, or to bring down the Assad regime without promoting Daesh. The reality is that he has got to face up to one or the other, and until we know which he regards as the lesser of two evils, it is not true to say that we have a coherent strategy for Syria.

[The Secretary of State for Defence (Michael Fallon): I do not wholly agree with my right hon. Friend. The fact is that none of us wants to see the Assad regime last a day longer than is necessary, but the regime has lost control of the part of northern Syria where ISIL is headquartered and from where its influence has spread. Tackling ISIL in northern Syria – tackling its command and control centres and interdicting its supply routes into Iraq – can be done in a way that does not prop up the regime, which was rightly the concern of the House when we last debated these matters. Of course, August 2013 was before the rise of ISIL right across Iraq and Syria, before the murder of British hostages there and before the slaughter we saw in Tunisia a few weeks ago.]