The vote by our democratic and accountable House of Commons on 2nd December to start dropping bombs on Syria was passed, in part because the Government conceded that a strategy for the action was needed, but the bombing was a matter of even greater urgency and there was a clear indication that a strategy would follow in due course. Some people including myself were not convinced that acting before a strategy was outlined made any sense and did not justify the decision to start dropping armaments on a foreign land. A full 6 months later we are still waiting for a strategy for the urgent action which began in December to be provided. Two of the strongest proponents for the bombing apart from the Prime Minister himself were Michael Fallon, Defence Secretary and Philip Hammond the Foreign Secretary. I believe that after 6 months we deserve to have an update from these accountable democrats on why we continue to bomb Syria and what the strategy for that action is. The winding up speech in the debate in December was by Philip Hammond and an excerpt of the speech is reproduced below. I have highlighted the last sentence in the excerpt (the speech extended beyond my short piece) because it is the closest that the Government got to outlining a strategy for the overall campaign, if not for the bombing of Syria. The bombs that we are dropping are paid for by the British people. The additional flows of traumatised Syrian refugees since December continue to be ignored wholly or partially by the same Government, despite the concerns of many of us. The number of dead and injured continues to mount. In the midst of a furore about a so called ‘undemocratic unelected’ EU would it be possible for our accountable elected Government to break off from their discussions about a referendum which is our business, not theirs, to explain what the new strategy is bearing in mind that their original plan for a transitional government to be in place by now has clearly failed.
“One of the key issues is the need to understand what the military plan is and who will deliver it. I have to say that there appears to be some confusion about that, so let me try to clarify it. We all agree that airstrikes alone will not finish ISIL, but they will deliver immediate benefit. They will reduce ISIL’s external attack planning capability, making Britain safer, and they will, over time, degrade ISIL and force a change in its behaviour. However, airstrikes alone will not create a vacuum……..The second issue that has arisen during the course of this debate is a question about the overall strategy. The Prime Minister was absolutely clear that military action is just one part of a comprehensive strategy. There has to be a political track and there has to be a humanitarian track. It is clear that we have to pursue the political track in parallel with the military. It is the only way to end the civil war in Syria and bring about the defeat of ISIL. Now we have an International Syria Support Group—the Vienna process. That is a major change in the context here, bringing together all the major international players behind a common vision of what is needed to end the war. It includes Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia, as well as the US, UK, France, Turkey and China. For the first time, all these countries have accepted the need for Syrian-led, Syrian-owned political transition based on the Geneva principles—a transition that will leave the institutions of the state intact, avoiding the mistakes that were made in Iraq. Of course differences remain between the parties, particularly about Assad how will transition out, but they have agreed together a timeframe for political negotiations, including transitional government within six months and a new constitution and free and fair elections within 18 months.”