The Syrian debate in the House of Commons


Instead of my usual article, I thought it would be helpful to circulate an abridged version of my contribution to the Syria debate in the House of Commons.

“I was in France and saw the stunned reaction of the French populace. There is no negotiation with those who gun down people going about their daily business and in restaurants, or those who take a bomb to a crowded football stadium. Removing Daesh, therefore, is an absolute priority.  If we are invited by our severely damaged and hurt allies and neighbours, the French, to bring special technology, it is a terrible dereliction that we do not involve ourselves and offer that technology.

In the past couple of days, I have talked to some very experienced allied generals. There is no doubt whatever that having the UK playing a full part in a coalition, bringing intelligence, planning and experience, does give an intangible moral and philosophical boost to the campaign. I am clear that this is about the safety of our citizens. We are better off if we engage in this activity.

The entities of Syria and Iraq were created in the 1920s out of elements of the Ottoman Empire.  When the Kurds—there were about 19 million then and there are about 30 million now—emerged from the First World War, they were promised a country. They did not get one. We are living with the consequences of what was decided then.

We should follow what the current Prime Minister is doing in Iraq in talking about functioning federalism. We need to give the ethnic groups security within the old post-world war one boundaries. If we look at how the Ottomans did it, they left the locals to run their own show. There is a clear breakdown in Iraq whereby significant autonomy is provided within these entities, and this is already happening with the Kurds.

My proposal is that we do not rearrange the post-world war one boundaries. We should work very closely with the locals in the Vienna negotiations, with the clear intent that at the end of the process, having removed Daesh by military means, we will have an entity that will allow local ethnic and religious groups to have real loyalty to the area where they live.

I shall support the motion tonight, but I urge the Government in the Vienna negotiations to look at how to bring in the Sunni and other local powers in order to establish a long-term solution. We have to look to the long term; there is no short-term fix. Ultimately, there will have to be an international presence to help grow these local institutions, but we must build them around the local ethnic groups.”