THE BLOG

To Avoid Repeating Mistakes in Our Past, The Government Should Listen and Take Action on Syria

26/11/2015 10:04 GMT | Updated 25/11/2016 10:12 GMT

The Liberal Democrats are not a pacifist party. Neither would we wish to commit our armed forces to action unless we were really clear that there was no alternative. Under Charles Kennedy's leadership, we demonstrated this in our decision on our involvement in Iraq.

And it is to this decision we return as we consider our response to the situation in Syria. The two conflicts are not the same at all, but the process of how we make the decision is. There are matters of principle at stake. In 2003 we set conditions or tests and we have done the same this time.

We have been critical of the international coalition's response in Syria, as despite early involvement and subsequent exit of Gulf States it has become a western battle and at times void of diplomacy. It is critical to involve Russia, Iran, Iraq and Turkey as well as the western states and the Gulf States. In addition the UN, Arab League and EU must play their part.

Light began to dawn last week when Senator Kerry brought people together in Vienna for talks, and then at the G20 when President Putin was seen deep in talks with President Obama and then separately with Prime Minister Cameron.

It looked as if everyone knew that what the coalition was doing was neither working nor sustainable.

With the possible vote on UK intervention in Syria coming in Parliament, for Liberal Democrats the criteria on which we would judge the Conservative government's plans to send our pilots into Syria.

As a party we have five criteria, or principles - a legal framework, a diplomatic framework, UK led pressure on the Gulf States to re-engage, a post ISIL plan, and a domestic plan - to include an exit strategy, a longer term plan for Syria and action on the home front.

We would only agree to military action if there is an international consensus, ensuring any action we take is legal under international law. The recent resolution by the UN provides this consensus, and gives a platform for this global threat to be faced down by a global effort.

Without peace in Syria, action we take will be ineffectual in the long term. We have to do all we can to ensure a positive future of the region in which neighbouring states play their role, especially the Gulf States who have expressed solidarity but delivered very little.

This all must tie into a wider plan for a post ISIL region, including an exit strategy. Lessons must be learnt from our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We do not know who will step into the spaces left by the power vacuum of the Syrian civil war but if we get involved we must ensure that it is the option best for the people.

There are also moves we can make at home, right now. The government must immediately publish its 2014 investigation into the Muslim Brotherhood and also we also call on them to conduct an investigation into foreign funding and support of extremist and terrorist groups in the UK.

Military action in Syria is not a move to be taken lightly, that is why our leader, Tim Farron, joined by all our past leaders, have written to Prime Minister David Cameron outlining our position. To avoid a repeat of the mistakes in our past the government should listen and take action.

Baroness Jolly is a Lib Dem peer and the party's defence spokesperson