ISIL in Syria

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 6:35 pm on 2nd December 2015.

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Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Shadow Minister (Energy and Climate Change) 6:35 pm, 2nd December 2015

I pay tribute to John Glen, who spoke with great integrity.

The Prime Minister has been plausible in public, but graceless in private. I and other colleagues who will vote against his motion tonight are not “terrorist sympathisers”. He was wrong to say that we are. The Prime Minister wants us to take action, but he is not prepared to take action that, in my view, is adequate to the task. The House is being presented with a false choice. The Prime Minister wants us to believe that the choice is between taking the inadequate action proposed by the Government and taking no action. That is vacuous. I want effective, comprehensive action that will ensure an adequate ground force, under United Nations authority, made up not of western countries, whose presence can only inflame the situation, but of predominantly Islamic countries, particularly Sunni countries.

The Prime Minister’s statement and the Government response to the Foreign Affairs Committee talked repeatedly of the moderate opposition, but the opposition in Syria is neither unitary nor moderate. It is wrong of the Government to try to present it as being otherwise.

The Prime Minister knows that the United States had a programme to train and equip Syrian rebels to fight against Daesh. It was so unsuccessful in identifying any capable, trustworthy allies in action against Daesh that it was abandoned in September. Every single expert witness to the Select Committee said that there are “thousands” of disparate groups; allegiances are like shifting sands, and there are few moderates left.

In September the US announced that, instead of training people, it would focus on distributing weapons and ammunition to existing groups. The House may consider that distributing arms to groups whose members are increasingly radicalised and defecting to Daesh is a very foolish strategy indeed that risks doing more to strengthen Daesh than to eradicate it.