Alan Whitehead

Labour MP for Southampton Test

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Vote on air strikes against IS in Iraq

As you are no doubt aware, on Friday Parliament voted on whether to approve air strikes against IS militants in Iraq. 

Over the past few months we have seen what a brutal and murderous regime IS is. Despite their title they are neither Islamic nor a state. They are a group of international pirates, making claims about the justification for their actions through Islam that are repudiated by Muslims across the world.  Their campaign of atrocities against people of all religions and nationalities has shocked us all. They are a hated and barbarous group committing atrocities against Muslims, Christians and other faiths in equal measure and employing abduction and sale of women, mass executions and ethnic cleansing as routine elements of their military activity.

The threat from IS cannot be ignored because of their barbaric actions and because their inherent expansionist ideology represents a real threat, not just to the region, but to global security.

Following a request from the Iraqi Prime Minister, The Government of Iraq has formally asked the UK to join international efforts to strike IS sites and military strongholds to end the continuing attacks on Iraq, and to protect Iraqi citizens. It is therefore right that the UK now joins other nations in air strikes against ISIL extremists in Iraq.

In 2003 I opposed the Iraq war as I am of the view that military action against a sovereign state should always be used as a last resort and not unless all other means of action have been exhausted. On this occasion there is no sovereign state involved. On the contrary a sovereign state is at threat. And it is absolutely clear that negotiation with IS is not an option.

Therefore my support for the Government’s proposed military action is based on the same criteria that Labour has set out to Parliament in the past, including in 2011 over Libya: that proposed military action is a last resort; is proportional; has a reasonable prospect of success; a legal base; broad regional support; and is a just cause.

The motion passed today in the House of Commons severely limits the level of military action which can be undertaken by UK forces. The government is not proposing that any military action within Syria will be undertaken. If the Government was to subsequently propose UK Military action in Syria this would require the Government to seek endorsement from the House of Commons in a separate motion. I would also urge that before any military action takes place in Syria that a Resolution would have to be passed by the UN Security Council.

I also accept that air strikes in themselves are not solutions to the existence of IS. Air strikes have and may curtail the advancement of the group and provide the ability for regional organisations and bodies to both defend themselves and to recover territory from IS. Any long term solution depends on the actions of those organisations and adding troops on the ground to this mix would almost certainly make such solutions less achievable. 

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