Intervention in Syria
Until Wednesday, it looked like Parliament was to be asked to approve military intervention in Syria. I very strongly oppose such action, and believe that our involvement would not only not improve the situation in Syria, it would likely make matters very much worse.
I made my position known to the Prime Minister some months ago when I signed a letter demanding a vote in Parliament before any decision is taken to intervene. I made my position known again in the days running up to this motion that I would oppose military intervention of any sort if it came to a vote.
Following intense pressure from myself and other backbenchers, the Government re-wrote its Motion so that it was no longer anything resembling a declaration of War. The full text is below for reference. I remain absolutely opposed to intervention of course, but the Motion as it became was not something I could oppose, as it is effectively a condemnation and a call to the International community to act together. It doesn’t take us closer to war, and in any case it includes a commitment to hold a vote should that change.
Before the vote took place, I spoke directly to the Prime Minister and told him that while I could support the revised Motion, I would strongly oppose any intervention. He told me that the clear lack of appetite for action among the backbenches meant that intervention was in any case no longer even an option.
Parliament, and in particular backbenchers can take credit for averting what seemed a certain path to war, and can be proud that it effectively held the Executive to account. Although I do not celebrate the fact that the Government lost a symbolically important vote, and although I believe the motion was so watered down that it no longer merited rejection by those opposed to war, the net result in my view is undoubtedly good.
That this House:
· Deplores the use of chemical weapons in Syria on 21 August 2013 by the Assad regime, which caused hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries of Syrian civilians;
· Recalls the importance of upholding the worldwide prohibition on the use of chemical weapons under international law;
· Agrees that a strong humanitarian response is required from the international community and that this may, if necessary, require military action that is legal, proportionate and focused on saving lives by preventing and deterring further use of Syria’s chemical weapons;
· Notes the failure of the United Nations Security Council over the last two years to take united action in response to the Syrian crisis;
· Notes that the use of chemical weapons is a war crime under customary law and a crime against humanity, and that the principle of humanitarian intervention provides a sound legal basis for taking action;
· Notes the wide international support for such a response, including the statement from the United Nations Security Council, to “overcome internal disagreements and take action against those who committed this crime, for which the Syrian regime is responsible”;
· Believes, in spite of the difficulties at the United Nations, that a United Nations process must be followed as far as possible to ensure the maximum legitimacy for any such action;
· Therefore welcomes the work of the United Nations investigating team currently in Damascus, and whilst noting that the team’s mandate is to confirm whether chemical weapons were used and not to apportion blame, agrees that the United Nations Secretary General should ensure a briefing to the United Nations Security Council immediately upon the completion of the team’s initial mission;
· Believes that the United Nations Security Council must have the opportunity immediately to consider that briefing and that every effort should be made to secure a Security Council Resolution backing military action before any such action is taken, and that before any direct British involvement in such action a further vote of the House of Commons will take place; and
· notes that this Resolution relates solely to efforts to alleviate humanitarian suffering by deterring use of chemical weapons and does not sanction any action in Syria with wider objectives.
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