FOREIGN AFFAIRS – SYRIA – 7 November 2017

Dr Julian Lewis: May I appeal to the Foreign Secretary, even at this late stage, to adopt a more realistic policy on the outcome in Syria? It was always the case that if Daesh was going to lose, the Iraqi Government were going to win in their territory and the Syrian Government were going to win in their territory. We have not seen any sign of a third force of 70,000 moderate fighters. Will he accept the ​fact that, unpleasant though it is, it is better to recognise that the regime is going to persevere in Syria? That is a price that we have to pay for the elimination of Daesh.

[The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Boris Johnson): My right hon. Friend speaks on this matter with great wisdom. We must accept that the Assad regime does now possess itself of most of what we might call operational Syria. That is a reality, but it has not won. It does not possess all of Syria. If it wants the country to be rebuilt, it knows that that can be done only with the support of us in the UK and those in the European Union and the United States. That is the leverage that we hold, and that is how we hope to get the Assad regime and the Russians to engage in a proper political process. ...

​Sir Edward Leigh: We have the Foreign Secretary in front of us today, and he has chosen his words very carefully, so I think we should reserve our ire for the evil of this regime. However, may I ask him about what this Statement is really about, which is why Islamic State grew in the first place? Has the Foreign Office learned the lesson – here, I follow my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) – of our catastrophic invasions of Iraq and Libya? Our deliberate destabilisation of Syria has unleashed untold misery. Has the Foreign Office really cottoned on to the fact that, if we undermine deeply unpleasant authoritarian leaders, we simply unleash totalitarian movements such as Daesh? And who suffers? The minorities in the Middle East.

Boris Johnson: My hon. Friend makes an important point. If we look back at 2003, we see that, in the words of the Chilcot Report, no one could say that our strategic objectives were entirely attained – I think that is putting it mildly. But there are signs of hope, and there are people across the region who are willing to take up the baton of leadership. There are national institutions being born. We must support them, we must encourage them and we must not disengage. It would be absolutely fatal for this country to turn its back on the region and to think that we can thereby somehow insulate ourselves from the problems that are germinating there. We must engage, we must support the political process and we must be prepared to defend freedom and democracy where we can.]