Momentum, the pressure group founded out of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign, is urging its supporters to send this letter to Labour MPs.
I am writing to you as a Labour voter to urge you to oppose Tory proposals for the UK to join military action in Syria against ISIL/Daesh.
I am sure we would both like to see the defeat of both ISIL and the Assad regime – but it is not clear that this is an achievable aim. The military forces of the US, France and Russia (among others) have already been bombing ISIL targets in Syria for some time – there is no shortage of bombs. But the case for UK military involvement has not been made.
What is lacking is a comprehensive strategic plan that will make life better for the Syrian people (not to mention safer for people in Britain). David Cameron would send British forces into a region in which our supposed allies have very different objectives and are, in some cases, in conflict with each other. It could make matters even worse and a political solution to the Syrian civil war more remote.
In Brighton two months ago our party conference agreed four conditions that would have to be satisfied before military action could be supported. None of them are yet satisfied:
– Clear and unambiguous authorisation from the United Nations – but resolution 2249 carried last week does not invoke Chapter VII of the UN charter authorising the use of force and does not provide a legal basis for military action by the UK.
– A comprehensive EU-wide plan to provide humanitarian assistance to the consequent increase in the number of refugees – but in fact, the EU refugee plan is unravelling and the approach to refugees is increasingly fragmented.
– That bombing is exclusively directed at military targets directly associated with ISIL – but there is no guarantee that the population of areas currently controlled by ISIL would be protected.
– That any military action is subordinated to international diplomatic efforts, including the main regional powers, to end the Syrian civil war – but unfortunately the shooting down of a Russian plane by Turkey on top of differing approaches to the Assad regime and continuing ethno-religious conflict make a broadly-based, sovereign Syrian government that could retake territory currently controlled by ISIL a diminishing prospect.
In that light, I’d urge you instead to argue for measures to cut off the flow of funds and arms to ISIL and for action against those that trade with them.