I will be voting later today to support UK military intervention against Daesh in Syria.
This is not a decision taken in haste. Indeed two years ago when we debated taking action in Syria, I voted to leave open the option of the UK taking military action. Parliament rejected that option. Whilst we will never know what difference UK involvement might have made, we do know Syria has descended into a state of anarchy, hundreds of thousands have been killed, four million have fled Syria and millions more are displaced within Syria. Assad is murdering his people with barrel bombs and Daesh are throwing gay people from the top of buildings, raping and enslaving women and girls and beheading Syrians and foreigners alike.
As many of you know, the Liberal Democrats set out five points which we said the Government had to meet for us to consider supporting the resolution to join our allies in France and America with their campaign against Daesh in Syria. I believe that the Government has gone a long way to meet these five points.
We firmly stated that we had to have a sound legal basis to justify military intervention. The UN Security Council resolution 2249 provides this authorisation for action against Daesh and indeed requires it. This means that it is not a repeat of the Iraq war - which I, along with all other Lib Dem MPs, voted against - and in reality it is the opposite, as this resolution lays a duty on us to fight Daesh.
I am confident that we will see cooperation in the fight against Daesh from the different countries in the Middle East along with Russia, Iran, Turkey and Western countries. I believe that through further negotiations we will see a larger, multi-national effort to degrade Daesh and remove their influence from the Middle East. This is starting to happen in the Vienna talks, with Iran and Saudi Arabia, implacable foes, sitting together at the same table.
The world is already united in its commitment to degrading Daesh and degrading Daesh must be the first step towards finding peace within Syria. The long term aim is of course to create a stable and democratic Syria. Limited UK air strikes in Syria will not bring democracy to Syria, however they could help buy time for the Vienna talks and their objective of finding a diplomatic and political solution for Syria.
I am pleased to hear assurances from the Government that we will see a commitment to investigating how jihadi groups are being funded which is of critical importance in the fight against Daesh. I also believe that the Prime Minister is starting to understand that if the UK is to be involved in military intervention in Syria, then we must also step up to the plate and provide a safe haven for more of the refugees who are fleeing the terror facing them in Syria. This is an issue which I will continue to fight for vehemently.
The Liberal Democrats are not giving unconditional support for our Government to carry out military intervention within Syria over the next few years; if we believe that we are making mistakes in Syria then I will do my duty as a Member of Parliament and express my concerns and hold the Government to account.
Like many of my constituents and supporters, at the forefront of my mind is that we must ensure that civilians do not lose their lives as a result of UK military intervention. The UK strategy is to ensure zero civilian strategies. This is the approach that has been adopted recently in Iraq. The issue of civilian safety is of utmost importance and strikes right at the heart of why people are against military intervention. Yet if we do nothing directly to tackle Daesh, then we are not helping these civilians and are instead putting them in grave danger. As a Liberal, I cannot do nothing and sit there and watch their suffering and I believe that it is morally right that the UK proceeds with air strikes within Syria as we are doing already in Iraq.
Crucially, as an internationalist I believe we must support our neighbours and be united against this terror. We have seen bloodshed very close to home through the abhorrent attacks in Paris, which sent an emotional shockwave through the British public. It saddens me to say this but the more Daesh consolidate their power, the more likely it is that we will see a similar attack in our own country, meaning that the time to put a stop to them should be now. We have also seen Daesh attacks in Lebanon, Ankara and elsewhere too and we should seek to reduce the risk of these attacks as well.
No one should ever want war and arguably liberals should be against war, which explains my scepticism over military intervention in Syria over the last few month.
We must be realistic with our predictions for the future and only hindsight will be able to say if I am making the right decision, but right now I can say that in my opinion the right decision is to support the Government's resolution to propose military intervention in Syria. I will vote in support of action tonight.
Tom Brake is the Lib Dem MP for Carshalton and Wallington