Former DPP Keir Starmer is no pacifist – but he won’t support air strikes in Syria

Keir Starmer.

Keir Starmer.

Here’s former Director of Public Prosecutions, now Labour MP for Holborn and St Pancras.

I am not a pacifist and I would back a lawful, coherent and compelling case for the use of military force by the UK against Isis. But, having deliberated carefully on the issue, I am driven to the conclusion that the strategy outlined by the prime minister is flawed.

In my view, airstrikes without an effective ground force are unlikely to make any meaningful contribution to defeating Isis. And there is no effective ground force. If, through international collaboration, a ground force can be agreed, the situation would be different. But the prime minister’s reliance on what he calls “around 70,000 Syrian opposition fighters on the ground who do not belong to extremist groups” to retake the ground from Isis is wholly unrealistic. These fighters are from a disparate number of groups with varying motivations and capabilities. They are also, by definition, opposition fighters and it is difficult to see how the UK and its allies could protect them in retaking ground from Isis without getting drawn into conflict with Russia.

When pushed on this issue in the House of Commons last week, the prime minister retreated to a suggestion that “the best troops” would be the Syrian army after a political transition in Syria. But that only underscores the central weakness in the prime minister’s case and reinforces my view that the defeat of Isis and the ending of the civil war in Syria are inextricably linked.

In the circumstances, I do not intend to vote in support of the prime minister’s current strategy. I accept that Isis must be defeated and I would be happy to consider a revised strategy. But the current plan is flawed.

Source: Airstrikes in Syria are lawful, but I’ll be voting against them

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