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Syria: UK Military Action — Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:05 pm on 2nd December 2015.

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Photo of Lord Naseby Lord Naseby Conservative 8:05 pm, 2nd December 2015

My Lords, I want to make clear that I broadly support the Government’s motion in another place. I commend the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Baglan. I think that the Government would be very wise to reflect on what he has said. It has taken five years for the diplomatic dimension to get started. As has already been made clear by many noble Lords, it is starting but is pretty slow. Somehow or other, the UK has to put real energy into making it move forward considerably faster.

I suspect that I am the only former RAF pilot in this House who had anything to do with Suez. I can remember flying at weekends to catch up, in preparation for the continuation of the Suez exercise. However, it collapsed so quickly that I did not see active service. I hope and pray that the mission of our own RAF today will be much more successful than that one was.

To my noble friend on the Front Bench from the Ministry of Defence, I say: will he make sure that those crew members and support staff who are going to be rushed out to Akrotiri and other places, are remembered this Christmas, and that we do not have complaints that this, that and the other have not happened, and the families at home have been neglected? Can we make a special effort to make sure that they are looked after properly?

Of course, as a former RAF pilot, I recognise above all that, despite developments in bombing techniques and so on, bombing is not enough. I do not need to repeat the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, earlier today. Again, I think the Government would be well advised to reflect on it.

I have been chairman of the All-Party British-Sri Lanka Group, and draw a parallel with the Tamil Tiger war. There, they had 28 years of war; we have had five so far. I do not want to see any war of that length here. The House needs to recognise, though, why the Tigers were so successful. They were single-minded and well trained, with plenty of resources and money flowing in from the diaspora all over the world. They were putting child soldiers on the front line, with soldiers being dressed as civilians. The same will happen with ISIS. We have to find a way to stop the money flowing, which is flowing from this country and the whole of Europe, into ISIS. We have to stop the ammunition getting there—we can talk to our Belgian friends, who are usually a very good source of ammunition.

Somehow, we have to get to a situation where we have a strong, well-organised, committed, enthusiastic ground force. Frankly, I do not see how that is going to come from the 70,000 that we are being told about. We have to be realistic: is it not time for Her Majesty’s Government to show some realism and recognise, as the French appear to be doing now, that Assad’s army, with his allies in Hezbollah and Iran, have the conviction to deal with ISIS? That is the primary target that has to be dealt with. If they are successful—and I believe that they will be—that will be the end of the fourth Sunni-Shia war. How long will it take? Perhaps 18 months, from the day that we actually start in a co-ordinated fashion.

Finally, we need never to forget that wars often have strange results. After the Second World War, Churchill, our hero, was thrown out by the electorate. After the Sri Lankan war, Mahinda Rajapaksa, hero of the Sri Lankans, was thrown out at the next election. Who knows? Perhaps, if we ensure that Assad’s forces do win the war, he might be thrown out as well.