Our MPs Voted To Drop Bombs On Syria, So Here's Your Need-To-Know
The Debrief: Here's your need-to-know on the airstrikes that the House of Commons voted to drop over Syria in an attempt to defeat Isis/Daesh...
Last night, the House of Commons voted 397 to 223 to begin air strikes against Daesh in Syria. You might have a load of questions about it all, so we’re going to answer them.
Who is Daesh?
Daesh is a name that’s meant to strike fear into the hearts of Isis/Isil. The issue people have had with calling Isis/Isil by those names, or the BBC’s preferred ‘Islamic State’, is that they imply that there’s a legitimacy to the 50,000 or so soldiers of Daesh, as we’ll now call it. It’s not a state – it’s a death cult, a group of fanatics.
But the thing about Daesh (pronounced Da-ash) is that it’s an acronym for a set of Arabic words that literally translate as ‘Islamic State of Iraq and Syria/the Levant [an area covering the entire Middle East, including Israel, the Jewish state]’.
OK, and Daesh/Isis/Isil/whatever is totally awful and need destroying. Aren’t we already fighting against them?
We’ve already bombed Daesh in Iraq, where we have a special deal with the government, and acting against Daesh is something they want, and we can trust that they want.
But across the border in Syria, we’re loathe to join forces with President Assad. Even though Daesh see no line between Syria and Iraq, we’ve had to acknowledge it before carrying out air strikes.
As for those air strikes in Syria, the UK dislikes Assad so much (he’s tortured and used chemical weapons on his own citizens) that, in 2013, there was a vote in the House of Commons to bomb him and his forces – whom Daesh is sort of fighting against, as well as the West. We voted no then.
The Paris attacks were a direct attack against Western culture and its youth – something we share with France – and so it’s up to us to protect that, say some MPs.
So it’s Assad versus Daesh and we’re taking Assad’s side?
Nope, well, not intentionally. While Russia, who is on Assad’s side, approve of our involvement in Syria, our MPs have voted to say we’re vehemently not on Assad’s side. We’re on France’s side – our neighbour who started dropping bombs on Iraq before the Daesh attacks on Paris and then stepped up air strikes in Syria after the said attacks.
Solidarity with our closest allies (OK, well, second closest, after Ireland) was one of the major reasons MPs cited when announcing they’d vote in favour of the air strikes.
Are there any other people who’re going to fight Daesh?
As well as co-ordinated air strikes by the US and France, there are many different factions on the ground who’ll be fighting against Daesh, but also fighting against Assad, and also fighting against each other.
This is a particularly messy civil war, but it’s worth considering that Daesh has perpetrated mass kidnap, rape and genocide of the Yazidis, a small religious sect who have very few but committed forces – including all-women battalions – fighting against their oppressors.
And the Kurds, who inhabit the north of Syria and Iraq, are also pledging to fight against Daesh. They seem to be appreciative of the prospect of air strikes.
What about the migrant crisis?
David Cameron says the best way to sort out the migrant crisis is to go to the heart of the problem. While the UK is taking fewer Syrian refugees than any other EU country, we’re giving more financial aid to resolve things in Syria.
But we’re also bombing Syria?
Yes, yes, we are. The Government insists that our military will be tipped off exactly as to where Daesh strongholds are, but the issue is that Daesh infiltrates and keeps people prisoners in their own homes. It’s tricky to say that the bombs won’t cause ‘collateral damage’. Which is a polite way of saying ‘dead innocent civilians’.
Has the UK killed innocent civilians before?
Yep, in the Iraq War, which Tony Blair launched in 2003 in the fear there were weapons of mass destruction in the country (there weren’t). The result was near to 500,000 civilians being killed from 2003-2011. Coalition forces were to blame for 35% of these deaths.
As well as deaths of these innocents, the tension caused by the deaths and the displacement of 1.1 million people within Iraq gave rise to many different militias, and fostered exactly the anti-Western sentiment that Daesh has instilled in them.
Are people cross about the air strikes, then?
Certainly. While major UK press is very happy about the air strikes – bar the Daily Mail, which bears a cover headline asking: ‘So after the bombs, what comes next?’ – a lot of other people aren’t so happy. Most Syrians the BBC have interviewed aren’t happy that the symptom – Daesh – is being taken out, instead of the cause – Assad.
Every single Conservative voted in favour of the war. But there are fights going on over in the Labour camp after their MPs were split and 66 voted in favour of the air strikes.
What’s the split in Labour about?
There’s been tension in the Labour party for quite some while, with more centrist MPs falling foul of new leftie leader Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘newer, kinder’ politics, which strangely comes with a side of pro-Corbyn online misogyny and threats. And the vote has inflamed this once more.
Corbyn – a pacifist – voted against the air strike. He didn’t exercise the whip, though, which is one way of telling his party to vote the way he does.
Part of the reason he didn’t do this is because if a shadow cabinet member votes against the whip, they have to resign their post. And as it turns out, 11 out of his 28-strong shadow cabinet voted for the air strikes and against Corbyn.
What’s the reaction to Labour MPs voting for air strikes?
A group called Left Unity and pro-Corbyn group Momentum are now aiming to see the 66 Labour MPs who voted for the air strikes deselected, prompting by-elections that will see them replaced.
Opposers have been trolling Hilary Benn, the MP who made an impassioned speech to launch the air strikes (his father was a known pacifist), Walthamstow backbencher Stella Creasy (saying she’s a ‘sket’ and that she’s ‘cold’ because she’s not had children) and also sending pictures of beheaded children to various MPs via various social media.
Andy Burnham, the shadow home secretary has now called for Labour to clamp down on this bullying as it’s ‘in danger of poisoning our politics’.
Jeremy Corbyn has previously speaken out against bullying, saying: ‘Over recent days I have received a number of reports that there have been some incidents where Labour Party members and MPs have been abused. Unfortunately, the prime minister took part in this himself by downgrading this debate by calling those who vote against extending airstrikes “terrorist sympathisers”.
‘I want to be very clear – there is no place in the Labour Party or from those that support us – for bullying of any sort, from any side of the debate. It flies in the face of everything I believe and everything I stand for. ‘
And as for the air strikes?
Yep, they went ahead. And no amount of trolling will change that. Launching from Cyprus, the first lot of air strikes were set to hit the oil fields in eastern Syria. These oil fields have been previously hijacked by Daesh, which is making money from selling it on the black market to… well, we’ll have to try and find that one out.
Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, says the air strikes will take time to be successful.
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