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ISIL in Syria

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02 December 2015
House of Commons Tonight in the House of Commons, I voted for UK involvement in targeted coalition airstrikes against ISIL/Daesh operations in Syria. 

This was not an easy decision. Many hundreds of my constituents contacted me about the matter and I realise that there are powerful arguments on both sides. 

I have set out the reasons for my vote in a letter to constituents, the text of which you will find below. This letter will be sent by email tonight to all those who wrote to me.


Thank you for contacting me regarding tonight’s vote in the House of Commons, which authorised UK involvement in targeted coalition airstrikes against ISIL/Daesh operations in Syria.
I am sorry not to have responded sooner. The Government's motion was only published on Tuesday and I did not form a fully settled view until that stage. 
I had however discussed my broad views on this subject with the Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, at the beginning of September. 
To be more specific, when Jeremy asked me to join his Shadow Cabinet, I was explicit with him that should the Prime Minister come forward with a limited proposal to extend UK airstrikes to ISIL/Daesh targets in Syria, I would be minded to support such action. 
It was therefore right in my view that Labour MPs were allowed a vote of conscience on this issue.
Decisions about military action are incredibly difficult. I was wholly unconvinced by the proposals put forward by Government in 2013 to take action against the Assad regime but the current proposition and context is very different. 
The threat posed to the UK by ISIL/Daesh is real and significant. There is no doubt that the attacks on Paris could have happened in any city in the UK. I am appalled by the brutality of ISIL/Daesh in the region and do not believe there should be any safe haven for their fighters, their supporters or their perverted use of Islam to justify ethnic cleansing and mass slaughter.
I believe IS control of territory in North East Syria glamourises and solidifies their poisonous ideology and I am deeply concerned by the way in which it acts as a magnet for brainwashed (and often vulnerable) young people from the UK. Terrorist cells in Europe are controlled from Raqqa and this is a direct threat to our security.
The UK has been participating in airstrikes against ISIL/Daesh targets in Iraq for the last year. I voted for this action (as did an overwhelming majority of MPs from all major parties) and I believe there is a strong case for helping to deal with the problem at its main regional source, namely in Syria. 
I am aware that the UK has precision missile technology not possessed by other counties currently conducting airstrikes in Syria. As we have these capabilities and as we have been asked to help by our allies, I believe we have a responsibility to do so. 
I appreciate that airstrikes will not destroy ISIL/Daesh but I think they may help degrade them. I also think airstrikes will support the forces on the ground which are currently engaged in fighting IS. I understand concerns about the size and nature of these forces, but I believe any moderate forces which do exist will be further depleted as time passes and I believe we should use our targeted military capabilities now to support our allies, as we are already doing in Iraq.
Unlike two years ago, I am also persuaded that significant international consensus exists about the legality of action. The UN Security Council Resolution 2249 of 20 November 2015 clearly calls upon member states to take all necessary measures to tackle terrorist acts performed by IS, with a specific reference to the territory controlled by them. I believe that if we are full partners in the military alliance taking action against IS, our influence in the essential diplomatic and political negotiations about the future of Syria will also be enhanced. The Vienna process, which is underway to bring about political transition in Syria, must not be dominated by a power struggle between the US and Russia. There must be other voices around the table. British diplomacy is respected worldwide and I believe we can be an important civilising and moderating influence in these discussions.
I recognise that the plan put forward by the Prime Minister is imperfect but we live in an imperfect world. I completely agree that more must be done to tackle the financing of ISIL/Daesh which allows it to continue its campaign of violence and I believe we must do all we can to build momentum and consensus in the political discussions which will ultimately be the only way to bring peace to the Middle East. I do not think these actions are mutually exclusive from airstrikes and that is why I voted for them in Iraq last year and in Syria tonight.
I realise that you may not share my views but having listened carefully to sincere arguments on both sides, I also had to listen to my own conscience. If I hadn't voted for extending our action in the region, I would not have felt that I was acting to protect the security and safety of British citizens. 
Once again, my apologies for not responding sooner. I hope this email has, at the very least, helped you to understand my thinking. 

Yours sincerely 

Heidi Alexander MP 
Member of Parliament for Lewisham East

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