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Extension of offensive British military operations to Syria report published

3 November 2015

Foreign Affairs Committee publish report saying there should be no British airstrikes in Syria without a coherent international strategy to both defeat ISIL and end the Syrian civil war.

The Foreign Affairs Select Committee has published a report on the possible extension of UK airstrikes against ISIL into Syria. 

The report raises key questions for Government in anticipation of any motion asking the House of Commons to approve an extension of offensive British military operations to Syria.

The Committee finds that the benefits of extending British involvement in Coalition airstrikes in Syria are more than outweighed by the risks of legal ambiguity, political chaos on the ground in Syria, military irrelevance, and diplomatic costs. 

The Committee is not persuaded by the Government's efforts to treat ISIL and the Syrian civil war as separate issues, and considers that the focus on the extension of airstrikes against ISIL in Syria is a distraction from the much bigger and more important task of finding a resolution to conflict in Syria, which is itself a main cause of ISIL's rise.

Chair's comments

The Chairman of the Committee, Crispin Blunt MP, said:

"We are concerned that the Government is focusing on extending airstrikes to Syria, responding to the powerful sense that something must be done to tackle ISIL in Syria, without any expectation that its action will be militarily decisive, and without a coherent and long-term plan for defeating ISIL and ending the civil war.

There is now a miscellany of uncoordinated military engagements by an alarming range of international actors in Iraq and Syria, all of whom share an interest in defeating ISIL and who between them possess an overwhelming capability to do so. These forces desperately need coordinating into a coherent strategy and that is where our efforts should be focused. Making the military picture yet more complex is a distraction from the key task to help end the suffering and reverse the spread of this dangerous, barbaric and regressive ideology.

Just as we need a coordinated military strategy to defeat ISIL, we urgently need a complementary political strategy to end the civil war in Syria. By becoming a full combatant in the US led campaign at this stage, the UK risks needlessly compromising its independent diplomatic ability to support an international political solution to the crisis. Right now, the Government should be focussing all its energies supporting the efforts at international diplomacy in Vienna.

In this report, we set out seven points on which the Government should provide further explanation before asking the Commons to approve a motion authorising military action. Success in Vienna would produce an international strategy. There would still be military questions to answer. Until all these points are satisfied, the Government should not try to obtain Parliamentary approval to extend British military action to Syria."

This report addresses the narrow issue of the extension of British military action into Syria. The evidence taken will also inform the Committee's wider inquiry, The fight against ISIL: the UK's role launched on 11 September 2015.

Further information

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