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Syria: UK Military Action — Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:33 pm on 2nd December 2015.

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Photo of Lord Maginnis of Drumglass Lord Maginnis of Drumglass Independent Ulster Unionist 7:33 pm, 2nd December 2015

My Lords, while it may be unnecessary for me to inform the House of this, I want to make it clear that although I have a deep reservation about the Prime Minister’s fixation on bombing Syria, I am not a “terrorist sympathiser”. My reservations derive from my own experience of terrorism, from my belief that to win against terrorists, whether that be Daesh or the Provisional IRA, one has to dominate the ground not just from a military perspective but in terms of liaison, of communication and of administration.

I am concerned that where the United Kingdom was once the exemplar in co-ordinating allies with a common objective towards a common cause, we are relegating ourselves merely to “other” status. I have not heard a word from the Government about our relationship with the Peshmerga, for example, or about any efforts that we could make towards reconciling our friends among the Turks and the Kurds. Why not? When the Peshmerga drove Daesh out of Sinjar, was there any viableinitiativeto establish any sort of cordon sanitaire in that region, so that we might begin to restore even a modicum of order and administrative opportunity to day-to-day life in that area? When we invaded Iraq and then virtually abandoned it to Nouri al-Maliki, to manipulate under the direction of the Iranian mullahs’ regime, did we shoulder any of our assumed responsibilities?

Let me give an example regarding intelligence. I have been berating our Foreign Office for months on its ability to secure the safety of refugees in Camp Ashraf, and now Camp Liberty. On 12 October this year the Foreign Office wrote to me saying:

“I am pleased that certain positive steps are being taken by the Government of Iraq to improve … conditions at Camp Liberty. We continue to support the United Nations”,

and so on. This was supposed to reassure me. That was on 12 October and 18 days later, as noble Lords will know, a mortar attack on Camp Liberty—permitted by the Iraqi regime—killed 26 men, women and children. Need I say more?

More bombing, whatever its collateral damage may be, cannot be justified if we are merely sustaining dubious Administrations such as those of Assad and al-Abadi. Let us recognise that if we could round up every member of Daesh today, that organisation would be replaced by another within weeks. Do any of us remember al-Qaeda? I have not the time to even touch on the reality where the Russian bomber flying alongside ours would have totally different short-term and long-term objectives. When we know who our allies are, we can clearly envisage alternative Administrations in Syria and Iraq. Maybe then, but now is not the time to fly our planes into the diplomatic fog that we have appeared to develop.