Parliament will today vote for the motion authorising air strikes by the RAF against Islamic State in Iraq. The motion with its promise of a further vote before any action is taken in Syria and a commitment not to put troops on the ground has been designed to pass as easily as possible. Understandably, no one in Downing Street wants to risk a repeat of last year’s Syria vote.
But the reasons why the motion will pass are also the reason why it is not fit for purpose. Islamic State has succeeded in rendering the border between Syria and Iraq meaningless, it operates on both sides of it. But British planes will only hit Islamic State on one side of this line.
There are many arguments for striking Islamic State in Syria too. As the Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said in an interview with The Spectator this week, ‘Iraq is under attack not just from terrorists inside its own borders but… from terrorists in the north of Syria, and if Syria continues to be unwilling or unable to deal with ISIL, then at least the question arises as to whether we shouldn’t assist Iraq in doing so.’
If Islamic State is to be defeated rather than just contained, it will require attacks on both Iraq and Syria, and far more support to the forces on the ground that can defeat it.