U.K. Shouldn't Bomb Syria Without Clear Strategy, Panel Says

  • Parliamentary committee says risk of strikes outweigh benefits
  • Joining coalition would compromise British diplomatic efforts

The U.K. should only join air strikes on Islamic State in Syria if there is a “coherent international strategy” and a “realistic chance” of defeating the extremist group and ending the beleaguered country’s civil war, a cross-party panel of lawmakers said.

Britain would also lose its ability to help find a political solution to the four-year-old conflict if it joins the coalition attacking targets in Syria, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee said in a report published in London on Tuesday. Royal Air Force bombers have been involved in attacks on positions in Iraq held by Islamic State, also known as ISIL, but Prime Minister David Cameron does not have permission from Parliament to take action in Syria as well.

“We are concerned that the government is focusing on extending air strikes to Syria, responding to the powerful sense that something must be done to tackle ISIL in Syria, without any expectation that its action will be militarily decisive, and without a coherent and long-term plan for defeating ISIL and ending the civil war,” the committee chairman, Crispin Blunt, a member of Cameron’s Conservative Party, said in a statement. “By becoming a full combatant in the U.S. led campaign at this stage, the U.K. risks needlessly compromising its independent diplomatic ability to support an international political solution to the crisis.”

‘Substantial Impact’

Any benefits of U.K. involvement in strikes on Syria would be outweighed by the risks of doubts over their legality, chaos on the ground and the military irrelevance of Britain’s contribution to the 65-nation coalition alongside the diplomatic costs, the panel found.

“There is now a miscellany of uncoordinated military engagements by an alarming range of international actors in Iraq and Syria, all of whom share an interest in defeating ISIL and who between them possess an overwhelming capability to do so,” Blunt said. “These forces desperately need coordinating into a coherent strategy and that is where our efforts should be focused. Making the military picture yet more complex is a distraction from the key task to help end the suffering and reverse the spread of this dangerous, barbaric and regressive ideology.”

“RAF airstrikes against ISIL are not the sole solution but military action, in co-ordination with our Coalition allies, is having a substantial impact in degrading ISIL in Iraq and its ability to operate further afield,” Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said in a statement responding to the report. “In the last year, ISIL has lost 30 percent of its territory in Iraq. It is right that we continue to use military force against ISIL while we use diplomatic power to work towards a political solution in the Syrian civil war.”

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