Last night the House of Commons voted by 397 to 223 to extend the airstrikes currently happening against ISIL in Iraq to Syria. Within this figure 67 Labour MPs, despite having a free vote, went against the view of their leader, Jeremy Corbyn who did not support the government.
The debate in the Commons, which lasted nearly 11 hours, got off to a shaky start with reports overnight that at a meeting of the conservative parliamentary party the Prime Minister had urged his members not to support 'terrorist symathisers'. Twelve attempts were made to get an apology from the Prime Minister, but one did not come. An opposing amendment to the Bill was also defeated by 390 to 211, which gave an early indication that the government would win the vote.
Passionate speeches were made reflecting both sides of the argument and in a highly unusual move both the Labour Party Leader and his Shadow Foreign Secretary gave opposing closing arguments, the latter of which received a rousing cheer from across the House.
Within a few hours the first bombing raid by the RAF, flying out of Cyprus, was taking place.
Following the terrorist attacks in Paris the Prime Minister presented his plan for joining the fight in Syria against so-called ‘Islamic State’ (ISIL) to the House of Commons.
Wanting the support of the House, but clearly in favour of joining airstrikes, Mr Cameron set out to answer the questions why us? why now? and what would be our objectives? The plan was a pre-cursor to bringing a vote before the House of Commons.
The Prime Minister stated clearly that he did not believe Britain should ‘sub-contract’ the responsibility of taking on ISIL to others and that as a country we had the capabilities, equipment and skilled personnel to contribute greatly to allies currently involved in the region.
The PM reported that the UK was already in the top tier of countries being targeted by I.S and that the Director-General of MI5 and the Head of the Joint-Intelligence Committee had advised that inaction was a greater risk to the UK than what was planned. Every day we didn’t act, he said, ISIL was getting stronger.
What would be the legal basis?
Mr. Cameron quoted the legal basis under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter - the right to self-defence by the UK and collectively by our allies. He said that this also included supporting Iraq, a country that had a democratically elected government and long-standing UK support. He also pointed to United Nations Resolution 2249, which he considered as ‘the whole world coming together’ to sign up to ‘eradicate their safe haven in Iraq and Syria.’
What would be the objectives?
The primary objective would be to defeat the terrorists, their bases and training camps. The PM also said that if ISIL. can continue to peddle the myth of a caliphate it makes us less safe and a rallying call to those who sympathise at home and abroad. The PM pointed to the groups already operating on the ground such as the 70,000 strong Free Syria Army and Kurdish troops stating that the presence of western ground troops was counter-productive and ruled out.
The PM wanted to distance himself from the decision-making that led to the Iraqi war. He gave reassurances that post-reconstruction was in their minds, we would commit £1billion and that we had learnt the lessons of dismantling the Iraqi state.
The Four Pillars of the Plan
One – A counter-extremism strategy to counter the issues at home
Two- To support the encouraging diplomatic and political process which now sees countries such as Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iran and the United States all at the same table
Three- Military action to degrade ISIL in Syria
Four- To carry out immediate humanitarian and long-term stabilisation work.