32015Dec

My latest column in the Gazette and Herald

Michelle Donelan's Column in the Wiltshire Gazette & HeraldMy latest column in the Wiltshire Gazette & Herald.

“Amongst all the debate and emotion of the past week’s discussions about Syria, the resulting media storm and the anticipated vote on the UK extending airstrikes over the Iraqi border into Syria, there remains a terrible sense of déjà vu which, very understandably, has caused some anxiety among a number of MPs and a great number of constituents.

The major concern is a foreboding that the government is repeating errors of Tony Blair’s government in Iraq and the more recent events in Libya by committing to military action without a comprehensive long-term strategy involving regional powers and allies. In those previous military interventions, the UK vastly underestimated the complexities of the regional politics and the fanatical nature of many of those we were fighting against.

Last week, the Prime Minister spoke for over two and a half hours to Parliament and outlined his case. I was unable to ask David Cameron a question directly so, at the weekend, I wrote to him to clarify some concerns that I shared with the three hundred or so constituents who have emailed me on this. I will put both my letter to the Prime Minister and his response on my website michelledonelan.com.

What is needed is a comprehensive and realistic long-term strategy – both military and non-military – to respond to ISIL. I have received assurances that any strategic bombing will take place in parallel with regional forces on the ground, perhaps including the Kurdish Peshmerga, moderate Security Forces and the Free Syrian Army and that these troops are actually capable of regaining any territory cleared by the bombing campaign. The non-military approach is arguably more complicated than the military. With the multifarious and deep rooted religious and cultural differences there needs to be political transition in Syria that is carefully managed. How this would be achieved is not clear.

The French socialist President, the UN Security Council (which includes both China and Russia), President Obama, our Prime Minister, military and security forces and, very significantly, the Germans all agree that action is absolutely necessary. This summer, ISIL took the life of a local couple and twenty-six other UK citizens whilst they holidayed on the beach in Tunisia, we have seen devastating attacks in Paris, ISIL backed terrorism in Belgium, Denmark, Lebanon, Turkey and Kuwait as well as the ongoing violence in Syria and Iraq where men are thrown off buildings just for being homosexual, beheadings are the norm and there is systematic rape of women and girls. If there was an ISIL attack on UK soil, or if more UK citizens were killed by a terrorist attack, it would be on my conscience for life if I did not authorise our armed forces to take whatever measures they needed to keep us safe. Having been utterly torn on this issue and after a huge amount of deep thought, it is for that reason that I have taken the decision to support the Government’s plans to extend our airstrikes against ISIL militants into Syria.

I appreciate that many constituents will disagree with my point of view and the conclusions I have drawn as a result of my discussions with the military, Ministers, the Prime Minister, colleagues in Parliament and the security services, but it is my decision to make, based on what I believe to be in the national security of the UK and for the sake of innocent people in Syria.”