Commons vote on ISIS: let’s clarify things

Only 43 people voted against the motion, but many throwaway statements have been made criticising intervention.

Only 43 people voted against the motion, but many throwaway statements have been made criticising intervention

The House of Commons consensus over the UK joining the air strikes from the international military coalition against the terrorist organisation Islamic State is welcome.

We are now at war legally, proportionately and necessarily to achieve the aims of degrading and destroying this vile medieval organisation, Islamic State (IS).

Only 43 people voted against the motion, but many throwaway statements have been made criticising intervention. Let’s clarify things.

‘Air strikes are ok in Iraq, but we shouldn’t put boots on the ground or fight IS in Syria’

IS have the capabilities to resist. With their finances, equipment, personnel and territory spanning two countries, they will fight us and it will take an awful lot of patience to defeat the group. But now we have decided to fight them, we should leave it to our military strategists to decide how.

Air strikes seem a good way to start, and judging by the propaganda response from IS they feel threatened by the combined air capabilities of over 40 countries. But boots on the ground may be required at some point too just like engagement in Syria – two things about which there was not consensus in the parliamentary debate on Friday. If the military aim is to destroy IS, ground troops will be required and a similar military coalition, with ground troops from Sunni Muslim-majority states too.

Forcing IS out of Iraq will likely push them into Syria, so more diplomatic work will be required to find a solution for tackling IS in a country where we will not be talking to the leadership, let alone invited in.

‘Let’s co-opt non-violent Islamists to tackle jihadists’

And it is an ideology that we must defeat rather than an organisation. An Islamist spectrum which shares a common ideology that is completely incompatible with universal values like human rights, equality for all minorities and international law. On the fringe of this spectrum is the jihadism that IS practises, and all the violence that is underpinned by this poisonous ideology.

We can engage in air strikes against IS, but the Islamist ideology needs other civil society based responses. We certainly must not co-opt those on this Islamist spectrum to defeat those on the jihadist fringe, for it grants ideological legitimacy to the very people we are trying to fight.

After all, jihadist organisations do not recruit from the ether; rather they recruit and aim to violently radicalise those who are already sympathetic or empathetic to Islamism, even if that is non-violent. We must engage this pool of non-violent extremists to integrate them into mainstream British life and to offer them an alternative set of values to Islamism, for if we do not, jihadists will work to push them to violence.

‘The RAF will kill British Muslims in Iraq’

The UK government maintains a responsibility for all British citizens, whether military, civilian, or jihadist. It has systematically urged Britons not to go to Iraq or Syria, and has made clear the legal framework that prevents them from going to fight alongside IS.

One reason is that they exacerbate the conflict and boost a terrorist group with which we are now at war; another reason is that it is an ungoverned space and that Britons will be exploited by IS; a third reason is that the RAF and others in the military coalition may soon be bombing areas where British jihadists are based. Just like the death of Ibrahim Kamara, the British-born Jabhat al-Nusra fighter killed earlier in the week, this would be a tragedy, precisely because it was avoidable and anticipated.

We must also anticipate that as British jihadists die, others may become sympathetic to their cause because group grievances will become personal for their friends, families and communities, and perhaps beyond that for fellow British Muslims.

‘Just like the Spanish civil war, British Muslims are justified in fighting for what they believe’

More must be done to stop Britons going out to the region to fight with terrorists and I am particularly pleased to see the unanimously-passed United Nations Security Council Resolution 2178 that implores member states to do more to prevent this phenomenon. British Muslims have long been told not to go to Iraq and Syria and the government has clearly established the legal framework that classes those that do fight with IS as terrorists.

Islamists may point to the inevitable British deaths caused by air strikes to apologise for the actions of jihadists; they may point to the overwhelming majority vote for the air strikes in the house of commons to point to the cause of their political disenfranchisement or even further ‘proof’ that the West is at war with Islam; they may even point to the failure to go to war against Assad for his genocidal chemical attacks as evidence of democratic hypocrisy and global conspiracy against Muslims.

These narratives only tell half the story.

‘More blowback and more radicalisation will be the consequence of our involvement’

Following previous conflicts in Iraq, the words on everyone’s lips now are blowback and radicalisation. It is right to be aware of this, but we should make it clear that the question is not whether there will be blowback but when. The presence of 500 Britons fighting with IS, not to mention the 100 who have already returned, means we have already had significant radicalisation without British military intervention, and that there is an ongoing threat of radicalisation and the terrorism it causes on the streets of the United Kingdom.

Not going to war will not stop this. Defeating IS militarily will not stop this. Only preventative counter-extremism work and targeted deradicalisation work has any hope of success, and must be coupled with robust counterspeech to offer people alternatives to the Islamist ideology and the narrow worldview that they have been sold.

While their workload will invariably increase, the security services, police and criminal justice system have the tools available to protect our national security against IS sympathisers, returning British jihadists and extremists intent on doing us harm.

Alongside this crucial work and the military strategy to take the fight to IS, we must turn the ideological tide by improving integration and showing the compatibility between British and Muslim identity.

As John Kerry has identified, it will take several years to fight IS. It will take even longer to defeat their ideas.

Jonathan Russell is political liaison officer for Quilliam

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18 Responses to “Commons vote on ISIS: let’s clarify things”

  1. David Lindsay

    ‘Just like the Spanish civil war, British Muslims are justified in fighting for what they believe’

    The position of this site last year. After the Commons vote on Syria, you wanted an International Brigade. You got one.

  2. Guest

    Keep demanding everyone agrees with your position, which is what you’re talking about. You stand with your fellow extremists. You.

  3. GhostofJimMorrison

    Can we please drop the prefix ‘British’ when referring to those formerly residents of these shores who have gone to fight for ISIL. They abrogated their right to be British the minute they boarded the plane. They detest Britain and all it stands for.

  4. David Lindsay

    They did exactly as David Cameron wanted them to to do (when he couldn’t persuade Parliament to send our official Armed Forces to do it), and exactly as this site and the rest of the interventionist machine told them explicitly to do. It was only just over a year ago, so you cannot have forgotten.

  5. Guest

    So no different from you, then. Well, thanks for the plan.

  6. Paul J

    Absolutely right. The entire establishment, the MSM, the big blogs, everyone was hell-bent on bombing jihadis into power in Syria. Fortunately 80% of the country disagreed with them, and were weren’t buying their bullsh*t. Anyone with a brain could see the blowback potential.

    The poor bloody excuse for a leftist james bloodworth is still trying to convince everyone ISIS and Assad are on the same side.

    Frankly, people who have been paying attention to Syria have known that jihadis have been the vast majority in the armed Syrian opposition for years. We’ve been fed an endless diet of lies about the “moderate” opposition, but it hasn’t worked.

    Which is actually quite a heartening thing when you think about it. Perhaps the single biggest propaganda campaign of the century, to try to get people to back strikes against the Syrian government, has utterly failed.

  7. David Lindsay

    Based on his performance on Newsnight, the greying John Woodcock, who chairs Progress of which I am a member, needs to grow up and get out of the student union.

    The mighty Patrick Cockburn pointed out that we were not actually allied to those who were already fighting IS on the ground, including Assad, and that we were in fact pretending that Assad was somehow not the President of Syria while classifying everyone else in the field against IS as a range of terrorist organisations.

    Woodcock spluttered that there could never be an alliance with “this murderous dictator”. Quite what he would have done in either World War, heaven alone can begin to speculate.

    Clare Short was also on hand to point out that, as is set out at great length his Cockburn’s latest book, it is our paper tiger associates, the Gulf monarchies, who are both the ideological and the financial originators and backers of that against which we are now affecting that they are joining us in battle.

    Beyond a single stylised photograph of a female Emirati “fighter pilot”, no evidence has been produced that “the Five Arab States” are doing anything at all, even by the standards of our own meagre deployment due this Government’s having sacked, scrapped and cancelled everyone and everything else.

    But where is the Sixth Arab State? Where is Kuwait, like Saudi Arabia and Qatar up to her eyeballs in both preaching and financing the Caliphate? The country for which we fought the first of the three Gulf Wars to date is very conspicuous by her absence. Very, very, very conspicuous, indeed.

    As is NATO Turkey, with an enormous Army to match Saudi Arabia’s enormous Air Force. And with a likewise matching Islamist Government heavily implicated in the Islamist insurrection in, and invasion of, Syria.

    You know, the insurrection and invasion that David Cameron wanted to back last year. The insurrection and invasion that the cheerleaders for this war wanted to aid by means of an International Brigade. They got what they wanted there.

    As Cockburn very importantly mentioned, there is no Third Force. There never has been. There never will be. Anyone who thinks that elderly émigrés sipping coffee in Paris amount to a row of beans, coffee or otherwise, in Syria needs to get out of not even the student union, but the primary school playground.

  8. David Lindsay

    Jack Straw abstained. The actual Jack Straw.

    The consumate Labour machine politician, who was Foreign Secretary at the time of the last intervention in Iraq, did not vote for this one. Gosh.

  9. TN

    Hi Leon Wolfson. Twat.

  10. Leon Wolfeson

    Hi LordBlagger. Anti-Pensions maniac.

  11. Guest

    Yada yada people must not be allowed to hold views other than yours, as you scream we must support a WMD-using maniac – because you have no problem whatsoever with his views.

    This is not WWII, we don’t need Assad. You define the refugees as Islamist, you personally.

    And yes, the Gulf monarchies acted when we did not uphold our values. You want us to, again, not uphold our values and make things worse. Because you don’t share those values.

  12. Guest

    Right, the blowback potential of upholding our values.
    So we got the rise of the IS.

    YOU are trying to argue, David, that IS and Assad are on the same side with a pathetic two-side narrative, as you scream that the refugees are Islamist, that you must murder those who didn’t line up to be shot by Assad.

    Your propaganda for holding hands with Assad, a mass murderer who uses MWD’s is what’s failed. Keep promoting your close alliance with his values, though.

  13. Gary Scott

    What I have found most shocking is the lack of dissent on this. When comparing the reasons given for this intervention and comparing the to the ‘dodgy dossier’ and last years attempt to have a war against Syria, the evidence looks decidedly weak. Bear in mind that the government has been softening public opinion for many months whilst seeming to do nothing but all the while monitoring their progress by polling public opinion. They’ve said little and kept this under wraps, would the Scots have voted to stay in the union if they’d known there would be a war the following week? Special forces in Cyprus, from where the bombers will launch attacks, logistics in Saudi Arabia and other bases in and around the region. All these were put in place some weeks/months ago but it was rumoured to be for an operation in Somalia. Disingenuous, deceitful, costly and counter productive. So why the silence?

  14. Dave Roberts

    Pretty much everything written below is irrelevant. A year ago Parliament voted against what yesterday, with a massive majority, they voted for. In 2003 millions marched around the world against the invasion of Iraq. About a hundred could be mustered by what is left of the loony left at the gates of Downing Street. StW gave rise to Respect and for a moment it seemed, at least for those who were expecting the moment, the arrival of a mass based movement to the left of Labour.

    In a decade and a year the world as been turned upside down and the left cannot understand why. It’s easy. The world is sick of Islamic terrorism and wants something done about it. It doesn’t matter who backed whom and armed them, what matters is now. Bomb ISIS back into the stone age, get boots on the ground and give Israel everything it needs, for it is The Gates of Vienna. Jan Sobieski, where are you in our hour of need?

  15. Leon Wolfeson

    “Pretty much everything written below is irrelevant.”

    So why did you post it then?

    And why are you talking about Israel? The boots on the ground are Kurdish.

  16. Dave Roberts

    Keep taking the medicine Leon.

  17. Dave Roberts

    Grand gestures, he’s finished.

  18. Leon Wolfeson

    So you spew more content-free spam because I dared read your post, accusing me (again) of your issues. It’s both tired, creepy and shows your complete intolerance of other views.

    Either that or it was a threat to poison me, which I don’t rule out, as it’s you.

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