I have spent a very enjoyable Easter recess from Parliament, visiting dozens of organisations around High Peak.
But as an MP, I am also responsible for scrutinising the Government’s foreign policy which affects countries around the world, and our military action which can have a devastating and far-reaching impact.
In Syria, western nations have largely stood back, whilst neighbouring countries have taken sides because of Syria’s strategic position and concerns about the balance of power in the region.
We have seen Russia and Iran provide huge support in arms and funding to help President Assad wage war – largely on his own people. And we have seen Saudi Arabia, Qatar and many Arab states funding the Free Syrian Army and opposition groups, whilst Turkey intervenes on its own border against the Kurdish people who live there.
More recently, Israel has been attacking Syrian government forces to prevent President Assad’s Iranian allies from gaining a military presence close to Israel’s own border.
The west has intervened to combat ISIL/Daesh and provide ‘non-lethal’ aid and training to the Free Syrian Army and other opposition militias.
It’s an incredibly complicated situation with a highly fractured opposition, and conflicting national interests. Peace talks continually break down, and whilst Assad is gaining control of most areas, there is little sign of the conflict ending.
Civilians in Syria have suffered 7 years of war, with over 100,000 civilian deaths, more than a million people injured, and a staggering 12 million displaced from their homes.
None of us could have seen the footage of the effect of chemical weapons on families and children in Syria without feeling utter horror at the use of such weapons. My overwhelming concern is for the civilians of Syria who have already suffered so much. Any escalation or prolonging the war in Syria will harm even more innocent lives, especially if it heightens conflict between the USA and Russia.
From a UK perspective, I am very concerned that the Government have taken military action without Parliamentary approval. Theresa May could have recalled Parliament last week but chose not to, and instead pressed the USA for speedy action before Parliament returned. This not only avoided democratic scrutiny, but looked foolhardy when the US did not appear to have clear aims or limits on their military action.
The long-term consequences need to be fully considered before a government commits our forces and resources to intervention.
That’s why I voted for our government to be required to consult Parliament before any planned military intervention, where our people are not at immediate risk. Local people who have contacted me generally appear to agree with this approach. Such a requirement would not rule out military interventions but a democratic government has to be sure it has a clear mandate before taking such action.