Over 100 people have contacted me by email over the last few days regarding the government’s proposal to extend and expand British airstrikes from Northern Iraq across the border to Syria.
The most important thing to remember is this is an expanded operation not a new one. We have been carrying out airstrikes in Northern Iraq for over 14 months after a vote in Parliament last year. In those months we have carried out hundreds of missions and I am hugely relieved that during those sorties the RAF has not been responsible for a single civilian casualty. Of course that may not be the case in future operations but I sincerely hope that it is.
This proposed additional action is different from other United Kingdom interventions in the Middle East in a number of ways.
Firstly, this is without doubt legal.
Secondly we have a United Nations Security Council Resolution. The resolution determines that ISIL constitutes an ‘unprecedented threat to international peace and security’ and calls on states to take ‘all necessary measures’ to prevent terrorist acts by ISIL and to ‘eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Iraq and Syria’. It further notes the clear legal basis to defend the UK and our allies in accordance with the UN Charter.
Thirdly and equally important, we are acting on intelligence and advice from our military and security services, M15 and the Joint Intelligence Committee.
I have read and responded to all the representations I have received so far and continue to do so. Do I have doubts and concerns? Yes I do. We know in recent times our intervention in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya have not ended in the way we would have liked. But we also know this is different. We know ISIL/DAESH want to bomb us. We know they have already murdered UK citizens on a beach in Tunisia, bombed Ankarra and Beirut and brought down a Russian Airliner. And most recently we witnessed the horror on our television screens of dozens of French people being gunned down in an act planned and directed by ISIL in all likelihood from Raqqah.
Doing nothing will not keep us safe. We must eradicate this murderous death cult that wants to kill and maim our people and destroy our way of life.
Finally, our allies across the Middle East as well as our closest allies by history and geography have asked for our help. We cannot walk on by on the other side of the street when our friends are under attack and look to us for assistance.
It is with a huge sense of responsibility and a heavy heart, having not yet seen any evidence that may change my mind, I will be voting with the government to protect our citizens tomorrow.