Dan Jarvis – 2015 Speech on Syrian Air Strikes

Below is the text of the speech made by Dan Jarvis in the House of Commons on 2 December 2015.

It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for South West Wiltshire (Dr Murrison).

These are always the most difficult judgments—there is never a perfect solution. I have reflected with the utmost care on the case for extending our airstrikes to target Daesh’s stronghold in Syria, conscious of what I heard at the National Security Council, and mindful of what is best for my constituents and our country. I support the motion, but before I set out why, let me say something about the way in which the debate has been conducted outside the Chamber. Let us be clear: there is principle in opposing military action, as there is principle in supporting it. Everyone must have freedom, either in the House or outside, to say what they believe to be right without fear of recrimination.

The question before us is not whether our country enters into a new conflict—it is whether we extend our existing commitment in a conflict that we cannot hide from. We are already engaged in a struggle with Daesh. Just over a year ago, the House voted overwhelmingly to support airstrikes against Daesh in Iraq. We did so because of the direct threat that it posed to our safety and to global security. Any idea that these fanatical terrorists will leave us alone if we leave them alone is simply misguided. The action that is taking place in Iraq is working.

There is no logic in opposing Daesh only in that country, as it does not recognise any border between its bases in Iraq and its stronghold in Syria. We must confront it over the same territory from which it is plotting attacks against us. The dangers projected from Daesh’s stronghold in Syria have multiplied, and we will not overcome it with piecemeal interventions. That is why I have made it clear that I would only support the extension of military action against Daesh if it was framed in a wider strategy that leveraged all the tools at our disposal.

There is agreement across the House that diplomacy to broker an end to the Syrian civil war must play an essential role. In an ideal world, we would perhaps wait for the transition timetable agreed at the Vienna conference to be concluded, but I do not believe the scale of the threat that we face affords us that luxury. I understand the voices cautioning against our broader engagement, but the test for all of us must be hastening the defeat of Daesh. There is no realistic strategy for bringing about Daesh’s defeat without degrading its command and control structures in Raqqa.

When will we begin that task, if not now? We have a firm legal basis in the UN resolution, and our allies have asked for our help and the capabilities that our brave Royal Air Force pilots can offer in precision targeting. In the words of the French socialist Defence Minister,

“The use of these capabilities over Syria would put additional and extreme pressure on the ISIS terror network.”

If we ignore those calls today, when will we answer them in the future?

I understand hon. Members who have listened to the case for extending airstrikes but who are reluctant to proceed without greater assurances from the Prime Minister about the strategy he is pursuing. In this sense I agree with them. The proposals before us are constructive and, in my view, meet the basic test for extending our action, but they need to be developed if we are ultimately to succeed in overcoming Daesh and restoring peace for the Syrian people. Let me say this to the Government Front Bench: on post-conflict reconstruction, the guarantee of a further £1 billion in humanitarian relief is significant, but we need to hold the international community to its responsibilities to Syria and refugees at the upcoming donors conference in London.

In conclusion, my party, the Labour party, has a long and proud tradition of standing up for the national interest when our country is under threat. When the War Cabinet met in 1940, it was the Labour Ministers Clement Attlee and Arthur Greenwood who tipped the balance in favour of resisting Nazism. Daesh are the fascists of our time. I believe there is still a dignity in uniting with our allies in common cause against a common enemy in defence of our common humanity. That is what I hope we will do.