I thank the Prime Minister for providing an advance copy of his statement, which I received earlier today.
After the despicable and horrific attacks in Paris a fortnight ago, the whole House will I am sure agree that our first priority has to be the security of people in this country. So when we consider the Prime Minister’s case for military action, the issue of whether what he proposes strengthens or undermines our security must be front and centre stage of our minds. There is no doubt that the so-called Islamic State group has imposed a reign of terror on millions in Iraq, in Syria and now in Libya. All that ISIL stands for and does is contrary to everything those of us on these Benches have struggled for over many generations. There is no doubt that it poses a threat to our own people. The question must now be whether extending the UK bombing from Iraq to Syria is likely to reduce or increase that threat, and whether it will counter or spread the terror campaign ISIL is waging in the middle east. With that in mind, I would like to put seven questions to the Prime Minister.
First, does the Prime Minister believe that extending air strikes to Syria, which is already being bombed by the United States, France, Russia and other powers, will make a significant military impact on the ground, which has so far seen ISIL gain, as well as lose, territory? Does he expect it will be a war-winning strategy, or does he think other members of the original coalition, including the Gulf states, Canada and Australia, have halted their participation?
Secondly, is the Prime Minister’s view that the air campaign against ISIL-held areas can be successful without ground forces? If not, does he believe that the Kurdish forces or the relatively marginal and remote Free Syrian Army would be in a position to take back ISIL-held territory if the air campaign were successful? Is it not more likely that other stronger, jihadist and radical Salafist forces would take over?
Thirdly, without credible or acceptable ground forces, is not the logic of an intensified air campaign mission creep and western boots on the ground? Can the Prime Minister today rule out the deployment of British ground forces to Syria?
Fourthly, does the Prime Minister believe that United Nations security resolution 2249 gives clear and unambiguous authorisation for UK air strikes? What co-ordinated action with other United Nations member states has there been under the terms of the resolution to cut off funding, oil revenues and armed supplies from ISIL into the territory it currently holds? In the absence of any co-ordinated UN military or diplomatic strategy, does he believe that more military forces over Syria could increase the risks of dangerous incidents, such as the shooting down of a Russian military aircraft by Turkish forces this week?
Fifthly, how does the Prime Minister think an extension of UK bombing would contribute to a comprehensive negotiated political settlement of the Syrian civil war, which is widely believed to be the only way to ensure the defeat of ISIL in the country? The Vienna conference last weekend was a good step forward, but it has some way to go.
Sixthly, what assessment has the Prime Minister been given about the likely impact of British air strikes in Syria on the threat of terrorist attacks in Britain? What impact does he believe an intensified air campaign will have on civilian casualties—civilian casualties—in the ISIS-held territory and the wider Syrian refugee crisis, which is so enormous and so appalling?
Finally, in the light of the record of western military intervention in recent years, including in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, does the Prime Minister accept that UK bombing of Syria could risk more of what President Obama called “unintended consequences”, and that a lasting defeat of ISIL can be secured only by Syrians and their forces within the region?