It is totally inappropriate for Members of Parliament to be whipped into how they vote on taking military action. These decisions have nothing to do with Party loyalty, threats from Party whips or decisions made by small party caucuses.
I am therefore announcing how I will vote in advance of today’s Parliamentary Labour Party meeting.
Like every other MP, I am accountable for my decisions, but I will not be swayed by pressure of any kind from the Party Whips. In my view, every MP needs to vote the way that they feel best looks after the British national interest.
I have visited Eastern Turkey, the Golan Heights, Lebanon and Syria. I was held at gunpoint by Hezbollah in Beirut and travelled through then Bekaa Valley (where Terry Waite was held) to Damascus in Syria where I met President Assad. This does not automatically mean that my judgement is good, but I do know about the region.
Before making up my mind on how I would vote I wanted to consult with the residents of Bassetlaw. 2000 people responded to the survey. The results are as follows:
Vote to take action now
Vote against taking action
Call for the UK to join forces with the Russians and other countries before taking action
I don’t know or I am unsure about what should be done
Further UN Resolution
On 20th November 2015 the United Nations Security Council called on all countries that can do so to take the war on terrorism to territory controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria and Iraq and destroy its safe haven.
It should however be possible to get a further, Chapter VII resolution on action in Syria. This would involve reaching an agreement with Russia. It is very obvious to me that we cannot stop ISIS if we, the French and the Americans do one thing in Syria whilst the Russians and Iran do another. There has to be one united effort to remove these murderers and a peace settlement for the rest of Syria alongside it.
If however it is not possible to get a further resolution that would by definition mean that there was not the consensus on Syria that is required. If a further resolution was vetoed by a permanent member of the UN Security Council that would demonstrate that a long-term plan for Syria had not been reached.
Role of Arab States
Any possibility of long-term peace and stability in Syria will require the continuing support of Arab States. Raids on ISIS have already taken place from bases in the UAE and Jordan, Saudi Arabia has responded to attacks by calling for ISIS to be eradicated, and Iran has joined with Russia in its operations. Wild accusations regarding funding are unlikely to help; a co-ordinated response with Arab States would provide an effective front against ISIS and any military action requires Arab States to be at the front.
Finance and weapons
There is a lot of nonsense being talked about how ISIS is financed. There are no banks functioning in their area. It is clear that they are using theft, including from captured banks, extortion from the local population and any cash or weapons that can be smuggled in.
The weapons they are using are not being supplied by countries, they are being bought on a thriving black market, which operates worldwide. They have also seized weapons from cities that they have captured.
There are actions that would help reduce the flow of weapons, but they are not going to work overnight and are more likely to be effective in halting weapons entering the United Kingdom. The strength of our gun laws is the most significant factor in this.
UK citizens fighting for ISIS
At home, we should properly deal with those who leave to fight for ISIS. Each and every one is committing an illegal act of war and should be arrested and jailed on their return. It is also illogical for those active in Syria to be allowed to retain a British passport.
Home civil defence
We need to ensure that Britain is ready for an attack and that includes the police knowing that they can shoot to kill a suicide bomber. MPs are protected by armed guards – if it is good enough for us, it should be good enough for the public. The Government should also reverse cuts to border staff to ensure that rigorous checks can take place on vehicles and people entering this country. Furthermore, our emergency services should be properly funded so that the UK can respond to an attack should one take place – including the police, ambulance and fire crews.
I found the briefing from Karwan Jamal Tahir, Kurdistan Regional Government High Representative to the UK, relevant and have attached it in full. The Kurds are a vital element in the equation, with their genocide attempted by Saddam Hussein and with Turkey and Syria hostile to any Kurdish state. As with the Yazidis, the international community has an obligation to protect them.
I have no problem with the ethics or morality of the UK being involved in military action to remove ISIS. They are a terrorist force that will continue their attempts to murder and enslave everyone who refuses to bow to their ideology and continue to attack the West.
However the proposal from David Cameron will fail.
A few extra planes attacking defined targets in Syria are neither a solution, nor are they much assistance. This approach is more of a gesture. Syria needs more than gestures.
What is needed is a UN mandate for unified military action, led by Arab nations, with the Russians and others. We should play our part in winning such a mandate and in then delivering it.
There should be an immediate ceasefire as part of this mandate for all of the non-ISIS controlled area of Syria - which means for most of the country including all of that controlled by the Syrian government. Obviously a long term peace plan and settlement must be negotiated using the security of a UN ceasefire.
That mandate should include the creation of safe zones, including a long term security for the Kurds and Yazidis and should also initiate a plan for the resettlement of the millions of Syrian refugees.
There are many other elements needed to curtail Islamic terrorism worldwide, but Cameron’s proposal does nothing whatsoever on them and makes such initiatives more unlikely.
I will therefore be voting against the Government’s current proposals.
Briefing by Karwan Jamal Tahir, Kurdistan Regional Government High Representative to the UK
“The Kurds of Iraq used to say we have no friends but the mountains but over the last 25 years our friendship with Britain and the wider West has changed that for the better.
Your decision to institute a no-fly zone in 1991 helped bring back hundreds of thousands of Kurds who were freezing and dying in the mountains where they had fled from Saddam Hussein's helicopter gunships.
Your RAF jets gave us a safe haven for the next decade and we began to build our democracy, education and economy. Your decision to help overthrow the vile dictatorship of Saddam Hussein in 2003 allowed a new Iraq to emerge. Our autonomous region was recognised in the Iraqi constitution and flourished. We started to explore and produce our long neglected energy supplies and overcame decades of enmity with Turkey. Our gas could soon supply Europe.
But the mindset of some in the government in Baghdad sadly reverted to its old model of centralised and sectarian rule after American forces left. This marginalised many Sunnis who had helped defeat the Al Qaeda/Baathist insurgency but who then combined with those in Syria to form the so-called Islamic State, which we dub Daesh.
Last June, Daesh captured one third of Iraq overnight and a few months later attacked the Kurdistan Region. Swift airstrikes by Britain, America and France and the actions of our own Peshmerga saved us again. We could have been overrun by Daesh without these airstrikes. We thanks British service personnel who put their lives on the line and who are training our Peshmerga.
We now have a border of 650 miles with Daesh. We have pushed them back and recently captured Sinjar - the scene a year ago of medieval rape, sexual enslavement and genocide against the Yezedis. Again Western airstrikes were vital.
But the old border between Iraq and Syria does not exist. Daesh fighters come and go across this fictional boundary. Our liberation of Sinjar may have cut off the main supply road between the Daesh 'capital,' Raqqa and Mosul but there are other roads.
The British government argues that it is illogical to respect that border and its jets should join others from the international coalition in targetting Daesh fighters, trucks and supplies. The House of Commons will decide on this.
Some observers are confused about what this might mean. Airstrikes against Daesh are not the same as carpet bombing. We are sure that our allies will do their utmost to avoid civilian casualties. Sooner or later, ground troops will be needed to defeat Daesh in direct combat. We know that many British people are wary of further such intervention in Iraq or Syria but we have to say, as your allies, that some British troops could be absolutely vital for ground operations to succeed. And then we will need concerted international efforts to rebuild shattered towns and villages in Iraq and Syria.
We should also do more to undermine Daesh economically and politically. Their oil trade should be stopped, and their external sources of funding severed. Their ghastly pretensions of representing all Muslims should be attacked on social media and in humour by Muslims. Our own moderate Muslim country, which is secular, seeks to be democratic, and increase and improve women's rights, could become an even more powerful example to other Muslims.
But military means are also necessary to the package of measures that can defeat Daesh and help prevent another version of this virus appearing in the Middle East. That will be a long cultural struggle.
The decision to join the coalition attacking Daesh in Syria is clearly controversial for many MPs and for public opinion. It is a sovereign choice and not one for your friends to make. We have a view, however, which is that Daesh represents a mortal threat to the Kurds, who share Western and democratic values.
That threat to the Kurdistan Region is not primarily military now but largely economic. The Syrian war and then the collapse of Sunni areas and Mosul into Daesh control have pushed nearly two million refugees and internally displaced people into the Kurdistan Region. Our population is normally five million but we now have an extra 30% of people to feed and clothe.
Even if Daesh were defeated tomorrow and the Syrian civil war were ended, the problem would persist. Our guests want to go home but they either have no homes to go back to or cannot trust their neighbours who collaborated with Daesh in rape, murder and genocide.
Furthermore, we are being sabotaged by often sectarian and influential leaders of our own country in Baghdad. They are reliant on their support from the Shia majority and do not have to consider the votes of either Kurdistani or Sunni peoples.
The previous government of Nouri al Maliki entirely cut our budget entitlements and his successor PM Haider al Abadi has reduced our budget payments to about a third of our needs. Our civil servants and even Peshmerga have not been paid for months. Our economy has suffered with increased unemployment and poverty while about 6,000 vital infrastructure projects such as schools and hospitals have been frozen.
We also have to fund our defence costs to the tune of about 10% of our budget, which is now financed by our independent oil exports but whose revenues have been slashed by dramatic falls in world oil prices.
We ask the international community to help in agreeing a political settlement in Iraq on the basis of implementing the federal, democratic and pluralist provisions of the Iraqi constitution. We seek to work with Baghdad to defeat Daesh and give our people better living standards as the only way to unite Iraq if the leaders in Baghdad desire. Even if one day we opt for independence, which would have to be an amicable divorce, we need to work with Baghdad for our common good.
The British Parliament must make its own decisions. We certainly need your help on many fronts and ask that you consider our urgent needs in making your decisions. British airstrikes in Syria as well as Iraq are, however, welcomed by us as part of a wider strategy to defeat Daesh.”