MPs sitting on the Foreign Affairs Committee have said today that aerial bombardment should only follow a coherent international strategy to defeat both ISIL and bring an end to the Syrian civil war,
The group described the Middle Eastern nation as host to a “miscellany of unco-ordinated” military actions but Britain becoming fully combatant risked its diplomatic credibility.
The committee’s reticence for strikes muddies the waters ahead of any anticipated motion brought to the House of Commons by David Cameron on British military operations to Syria.
The chairman of the committee, Crispin Blunt MP, said explicitly that ‘the Government should not try to obtain Parliamentary approval to extend British military action to Syria’.
He said: “We are concerned that the Government is focusing on extending air strikes to Syria, responding to the powerful sense that something must be done to tackle ISIL in Syria, without any expectation that its action will be militarily decisive, and without a coherent and long-term plan for defeating ISIL and ending the civil war.
“There is now a miscellany of uncoordinated military engagements by an alarming range of international actors in Iraq and Syria, all of whom share an interest in defeating ISIL and who between them possess an overwhelming capability to do so.
“These forces desperately need coordinating into a coherent strategy and that is where our efforts should be focused.
“Making the military picture yet more complex is a distraction from the key task to help end the suffering and reverse the spread of this dangerous, barbaric and regressive ideology.”
The committee has found that the benefits of extending British involvement in coalition air strikes in Syria are more than outweighed by the risks of legal ambiguity, political chaos on the ground in Syria, military irrelevance, and diplomatic costs.
Air strikes against ISIL in Syria are also a distraction from the much bigger and more important task of finding a resolution to conflict in Syria, which is itself a main cause of ISIL’s rise, according to the report.
MPs who heard the evidence during sittings of the select committee were not swayed by Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, who told them that to relent in its pressure on the Assad regime would act as a “recruiting sergeant” for ISIL.
The report said: “We are not persuaded that talks involving all parties would be any more of an incentive for people to join ISIL than allowing the continuation of the chaos and conflict.”
Mr Blunt added: “By becoming a full combatant in the US led campaign at this stage, the UK risks needlessly compromising its independent diplomatic ability to support an international political solution to the crisis.
“Right now, the Government should be focusing all its energies supporting the efforts at international diplomacy in Vienna.”
The committee has unveiled seven points on which the Government should provide further explanation before asking the Commons to approve a motion authorising military action.
Among those are how air strikes would improve the chances of success of the international coalition’s campaign against ISIL and how action would contribute to a transition plan for Syria.