Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to contact me with their views about the Government’s proposal to carry out air strikes in Syria and the likely vote in parliament.
We have all been horrified by the massacres in Paris, Beirut, Tunisia and elsewhere and are united in our desire to see the defeat of ISIL/Daesh.
Hundreds and hundreds of constituents have contacted me over the past few weeks, but particularly over the last few days after I published a request on my website for views via an on-line survey.
As your elected representative, I wanted to hear from as many people as possible and I have read every response received so far and considered all of the issues fully and carefully. I have also listened to colleagues in Parliament, considered the recommendations of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, read independent expert analysis and discussed the issues with Syrian nationals living here in Cardiff Central.
Before David Cameron’s statement on 26th November, I had reached a provisional view that I could not support air strikes. On Thursday, nothing in that statement reassured me that air strikes would strengthen, rather than undermine, our national security which has to be the overriding test to apply to any proposal. In fact, I felt it added very little to what the Prime Minister had already told Parliament earlier in the week.
The overwhelming (96%) view of many Cardiff Central constituents who have contacted me and with whom I have had conversations about the issue, has reinforced my initial view.
I will be voting against air strikes.
We need a comprehensive and coherent strategy coordinated through the United Nations to defeat ISIL/Daesh. What is being proposed is neither a UN-led strategy nor an implementation plan by the international community coordinated by the UN, which must be much wider than the US, France and the UK and must include Syria’s regional neighbours.
Political and diplomatic action to erode the ISIL/Daesh base of support must be prioritised and this has to include halting the flow of funds and weapons at source. The Government’s plan does not address this and I have heard nothing to suggest that this is a priority.
The Prime Minister accepts that ground forces will be needed to capitalise on air strikes and defeat ISIL/Daesh. However, the suggestion that there are 70,000 troops of the Free Syria Army sufficiently organised to travel across Syria through Assad and jihadist held territory under air attack from Russia to join Kurdish fighters (who are being bombed by our NATO ally, Turkey) to re-take territory freed from ISIL/Daesh control, is neither credible nor plausible. I am extremely concerned that Parliament is being asked to vote on joining a war in Syria based on a paucity of convincing evidence about ground troops, which has echoes of the WMD evidence that led to our disastrous and erroneous war in Iraq.
A coordinated international humanitarian response to the existing population displacement and refugee crisis is also missing from the Government’s proposal, never mind a comprehensive strategy for dealing with the additional displacement and support for the exodus of refugees that will inevitably occur. The “donor” conference being held in January 2016 by the Government is a woefully inadequate and belated proposal.
There is a lack of clear objectives on rebuilding and reconstruction post air strikes, which were major failings in the UK’s interventions in Iraq and Libya. The lessons from those military interventions are clear, yet the Government appears not to have taken them on board.
Finally, I remain unconvinced that UK air strikes will reduce the threat of an ISIL/Daesh terror attack in the UK. I believe that air strikes may increase the threat. I am concerned that our involvement will lead to potential further radicalisation of young people when so much effort is being made by the Muslim community here to prevent this.
What is happening in Syria is grave and complex. I know that every MP will reach their decision on how they will vote with great care and responsibility. I fully respect the decision of colleagues who take a different view to mine on a matter which I believe is not a party political issue, but one of conscience.