In November, Leeds NW Labour Party passed a motion on military action in Syria.

That motion was sent to various people. The only full reply we received came from Maria Eagle.
We apologise to her, and to our readers, for not publishing this before – which was entirely due to oversight on our part.

Her letter is below.

Thank you for contacting me on the proposed military action in Syria.

The first duty of any Government is to defend the UK, its people and its way of life and democracy from attack by those who would destroy us. The first test of HM Opposition is the seriousness with which it scrutinises and deals with any such proposition brought forward by the Government of the day.

A vote on whether to commit our armed services to action is the most important any MP ever casts and all MPs know this. MPs on all sides of the House, from all political parties will have weighed up the vote they cast on Wednesday with the utmost seriousness and will have come to the conclusion they do only after the most careful consideration. No-one can know in advance what the full consequences of action – or inaction – will be. We can only do our best to make the right decision having weighed up all the circumstances and the evidence.

After careful consideration, I have decided to vote in favour of the extension of UK military action into Syria.

I am satisfied that this Country is under an imminent and growing threat of attack by ISIL/Daesh, of the kind recently unleashed in Paris, Ankara, Beirut and on the Russian civil airliner destroyed over Sinai – orchestrated, planned and directed from Raqqa in North East Syria. We have already suffered the indiscriminate killing of UK tourists holidaying on beaches in Tunisia. Our security services have already foiled 7 attacks inspired or directed by ISIL/Daesh in the last year.

Labour are a proudly internationalist party. We helped to establish the system of international law upon which the world relies to keep order, the United Nations. The United Nations Security Council, of which we are a Permanent member, voted unanimously (15-0) for Resolution 2249. This calls for “member states that have the capacity to do so to take all necessary measures…on the territory under the control of ISIL also known as Daesh in Syria and Iraq, to redouble and coordinate their efforts to prevent and suppress terrorist acts committed specifically by ISIL also known as Daesh…and to eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Iraq and Syria.”

This resolution, using the Chapter 7 language of “all necessary measures”, in addition to the rights of collective self-defence under Article 51, leave me in no doubt whatsoever of our obligations to help our allies and of the lawfulness of the proposed action.

President Hollande of France has explicitly sought the aid of the UK in dealing with ISIL/Daesh in Syria as well as in Iraq following the appalling attacks in Paris. He leads our sister Socialist Party, currently in Government in France.

One of the reasons he has asked for our help is because of the particular military capabilities we have. UK forces are already operating in Iraq, bombing ISIL/Daesh at the invitation of the Iraqi Government and ensuring that Iraqi Government forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga forces on the ground have been able to shrink the territory they control there by 30%. This action was authorised by Parliament in a vote in September 2014. On that occasion, I voted in favour of the military action we have been taking since.

Our Brimstone precision missile is better than anything even the US forces have. It enables the RAF to strike targets more accurately, creating very little shrapnel and collateral damage in the process and has enabled British action taken in Iraq so far to be accomplished without any reports of civilian casualties arising out of it.

In Syria, our forces are already providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance by flying over Syria and are refuelling the coalition planes that are bombing ISIL/Daesh there.
At Labour Party Conference in September, there was an emergency resolution carried that sets out our current policy on this matter. It set four tests which have to be met prior to Labour supporting extending Parliamentary authority to bomb ISIL/Daesh in Syria.

I believe these tests have been met. There is unambiguous UN authorisation for military action in Syria. Diplomatic efforts are underway in Vienna brokered by the International Syria Support Group to find a solution to the Syrian civil war, which will be a necessary part of solving the problem once and for all. This process includes all of the major international players, the UN, the Arab League, China, Egypt, the EU, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, UAE, Russia, Saudi Arabia, US UK, France, Italy, Germany and Turkey. A political process with a timetable for negotiations, an interim Government and elections within 18 months has been set. It is ambitious but achievable.

Of course, military action alone will not deal with the threat of ISIL/Daesh. We must also support refugees who have fled Syria with humanitarian aid and we must ensure that the reconstruction of Syria after the end of the civil war will enable them to return to their Country in due course.

Yours sincerely,

Maria Eagle

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