I recently appeared on BBC Newsbeat for a debate on whether the UK should extend its airstrikes operation to Syria. I was arguing for, my opponent argued against.
Since the debate aired, I have received emails accusing me of being a "fucking kuffar", a "stupid Jew", and have even been threatened with gang rape. In addition to this, a friend, upon finding out that I'm pro airstrikes, told me not to bother messaging her ever again. We have not spoken since.
None of these people attempted to engage in a dialogue with me. None asked me why, or tried to interrogate my reasoning. Instead, they eschewed reasoned discussion, hurled abuse, and ultimately judged me for speaking my mind.
In response to both the online attacks and the friend who broke ties, I feel the need to express why I support our government's decision to carry out airstrikes in Syria.
A government's first and foremost responsibility is the security of its citizens. Isis, as proven by the spate of attacks it has carried out in the likes of Paris, Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon, and more, is not only an existential threat to the region, but also national security threat to others, including the UK. In fact, over the past 12 months, British security agencies have thwarted no less than seven terrorist attacks on British soil. All seven were either carried out by Isis, or were inspired by ISIS propaganda.
This proves that Isis presents a very real, grave threat to the UK. Extending airstrikes to Syria is a key part of a comprehensive political and military plan aimed at weakening the organization in its stronghold. Raqqa, in Eastern Syria, is ISIS' headquarters. It's where key decisions are made, and key personnel reside. ISIS even has a dedicated external operations structure in Raqqa; its sole function is to plan and concoct mass casualty attacks all over the globe. The UK is already carrying out airstrikes in Iraq so it makes no sense militarily to not extend this to Syria, the hub of the operation.
Along with being the brains of the organisation, Raqqa is also the heart. The symbolism that comes from controlling this mass swath of territory helps fuel the idea that ISIS is trying to establish a caliphate. Reducing ISIS' territorial hold will combat this and lessen the appeal of the group's cause. Since the coalition-led airstrikes in Iraq have taken place, ISIS has lost 30% of its territory in the region. Plainly speaking, airstrikes work.
A key point repeated by those against airstrikes, and one that my opponent mentioned, is the consequential loss of civilian lives. But the notion that we will indiscriminately bomb innocent civilians is ridiculous. We will be using Brimstone missiles - these are very precise, concentrated strikes that minimize the risk of collateral damage. Even the US does not have military capabilities as precise as ours. So, at the margin, our decision to join in with the coalition-led airstrikes campaign in Syria will not only weaken Isis, but will help spare civilian lives while doing so.
To put things into perspective, take Northern Iraq. We have been carrying out airstrikes there for some time. Since we started, there have been 130 RAF missions. Not a single civilian death has been reported, yet over 300 Isis fighters have lost their lives as a result of those operations. The difference between Isis and us is that we do not intend for any civilians to lose their lives. Isis, on the other hand, routinely kills civilians at will. In the long-term, by degrading and removing Isis from the region, innocent lives will be saved.
Not to mention that our allies, such as France, actually called upon us for assistance. Our decision to heed their call shows strong diplomatic solidarity. It's one we would have expected of them had situations been reversed.
A key development in the decision to carry out airstrikes is the formation of the International Syrian Support Group (ISSG), which spawned during the recent Vienna talks. The ISSG is comprised of key players in the region - including the likes of Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United States, and France - all united on the idea that, in order to bring stability to Syria, cooperation is needed. These states are beginning to realize that Isis needs to be removed from the region in order to bring peace and prosperity to it. Russia has amped up its military aggression towards Isis in the aftermath of the Metrojet bombing. Moreover, they are fast beginning to realize that Assad is a liability. With the added bonus of Russian support, his troops have retained territory, but have not managed to gain any.
The UN has even called upon its members to do everything necessary to defeat Isis. All these signs suggest an international consensus on removing Isis has emerged. It's the right time to act on a united front with our international partners.
That is why I believe our decision to carry out airstrikes in Syria is right. So instead of cutting off ties, or sending abusive messages, why don't you tell me why you disagree, and we can have a proper discussion about this, yeah?