No easy answers on the challenges we as Parliament, country and international community must face in months and years to come…

Voting on the engagement of our armed forces is one of the most serious responsibilities that falls on MPs.

Just as I did last year, when we were asked to vote on military action in Syria (which I voted against), I thought deeply and carefully about the vote on Friday (September 26) – and I took into account the many views, both for and against action, that I received from constituents in Cardiff and Penarth before voting.

There are no easy answers on these issues and the situation of hostages and their families, civilians caught up in this conflict, and the risks our armed forces are put in weighed heavily on my mind – as well as my horror at the chaos and killing currently engulfing a number of countries across the Middle East.

As with last year I applied a series of clear principles, and on the basis of the motion before us I voted on Friday for the UK to join in with limited airstrikes in Iraq against ISIL and at the request of the Iraqi government; my main reasons being that:

1) there is a just cause – in the need to respond to the brutal attacks and ethnic cleansing ISIL are perpetrating against communities from the Yazidis to the Kurds, and to both Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, as well as the direct security threat to British civilians and hostages, and the threat of attacks and recruitment of our young people in the UK and Europe.

2) there is a clear legal basis under the UN charter – with a direct request for UK involvement from the legitimate Iraqi government.

3) this is a last resort – ISIL cannot be negotiated with, and previous attempts by Iraqi and Kurdish forces alone have struggled.

4) the response is proportional – there will be no UK ground combat troops deployed, and we will conduct airstrikes in support of Iraqi and Kurdish forces.

5) there are reasonable prospects of success – action to date by other nations has led to a halt in the ISIL advance.

6) we are working in coalition, including crucially with neighbours in the region – not taking unilateral action. This is a crucial point.

This is of course not a threat which we can deal with by military force alone.

I remain concerned about the lack of wider clarity on both our diplomatic, development and security strategy in the region and the failures of past policy; the need for much deeper and broader action to challenge the intellectual roots of ISIL, their barbarous ideology and perversion of the peaceful faith of Islam; and crucially, the need for a robust response to those with sympathies or direct links to ISIL seeking to recruit and groom young people in our own communities – including tragically in Cardiff and our local area.

These are all challenges we as Parliament, country and as an international community must face in the months and years to come.

For deeper long-term thinking you may be interested in an article I wrote recently for Policy Network on our international policies, which you can read here.


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