It is with great reluctance that I voted in favour of air strikes in Iraq on Friday. This was an immensely difficult decision for me to make but I did this on the basis of the evidence presented to Parliament and discussions with experts working in the region; the need to stop further atrocities against civilians, the request from Iraq for assistance in accordance with international law, and that we will be supporting a coalition of Arab nations.
There is no graver decision for our Parliament and our country than the one taken on Friday. Intervention always has risks, but ISIL unchecked means more persecution of the innocent and a dismembered Iraq would be more dangerous for Britain.
We have seen ISIL’s hostage-taking of innocent British citizens, and it is not just British citizens who they are threatening: they also threaten Christians, Yazidis, fellow Muslims, Sunni and Shia, from many different countries and backgrounds; in fact anyone who does not subscribe to their deeply perverted ideology. This is why 28 EU member countries and the Arab League are providing support and 5 Arab states are taking part in a combined action against ISIL.
There are six criteria we are using to judge when military action is right and to make sure we learn the lessons of the past. These are: the action must have just cause; it must be the last resort; it must be of clear legality; it must have a reasonable prospect of success; there must be support in the region; and it must be proportionate.
Friday’s decision was an extremely difficult one to take and certainly not a straightforward one but I have scrutinised these six conditions and believe they are met in this case.
However I do have concerns that nothing was said about what safeguards will be taken to prevent innocent civilians being caught up in the action by our own military. And, although we are in a coalition against ISIL, it has not been spelled out who will be leading the campaign.
‘Mission creep’ is another concern. Even as the debate was progressing the Prime Minister was talking about reserving the right to extend military action into Syria and I believe this is a real danger. Nor did we hear any discussion about an exit strategy or the criteria by which military action will be judged to have been successful. I will be pursuing all of these points over the coming weeks and months.
I’d like to thank constituents who have taken the time to contact me about this issue; the responses were very mixed. Whether or not you agree with the decision I have reached, please rest assured that I will be keeping a close watch on the situation as it develops and holding the government to account if it strays from the agreed course of action.