Memorandum to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee

Prime Minister’s Response to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee’s Second
Report of Session 2015-16: The Extension of Offensive British Military
Operations to Syria


Whether or not to use military force is one of the most significant decisions
that any government takes. The need to do so most often arises because of a
government’s first duty: the responsibility to protect its citizens.

Decisions to use force are not to be taken lightly. lt is right that Parliament, on
behalf of the people, asks difficult questions and holds the Government to
account. For its part, it is important that the Government should listen and
learn. But it is also vital that the Government can act to keep this country safe.

Throughout Britain’s history, we have been called on time and again to make
the hardest of decisions in defence of our citizens and our country. Today one
of the greatest threats we face to our security is the threat from ISIL.

We need a comprehensive response which seeks to deal with the threat that
ISIL poses to us directly, not just through the measures we are taking at home,
but by dealing with ISIL on the ground in the territory that it controls. lt is in
Raqqa, Syria, that ISIL has its headquarters, and it is from Raqqa that some of
the main threats against this country are planned and orchestrated. We must
tackle ISIL in Syria, as we are doing in neighbouring Iraq, in order to deal with
the threat that ISIL poses to the region and to our security here at home. We
have to deny a safe haven for ISIL in Syria. The longer ISIL is allowed to grow in Syria, the greater the threat it will pose. lt is wrong for the United Kingdom to
sub-contract its security to other countries, and to expect the aircrews of other
nations to carry the burdens and the risks of striking ISIL in Syria to stop
terrorism here in Britain.

That is why I believe that we should now take the decision to extend British
airstrikes against ISIL into Syria, as an integral part of our comprehensive
strategy to degrade ISIL and reduce the threat it poses to us.

At the same time, we must close down the ungoverned space in Syria that ISIL
is exploiting, by working round the clock to bring about a political resolution to
the war there.

That means putting Britain’s full diplomatic weight, as a full member of an
international coalition, behind the new political talks- the Vienna process. lt
means working through these talks to secure a transition to an inclusive
Government in Syria that responds to the needs of all the Syrian people and
with which the international community could co-operate fully to help restore
peace and stability to the whole country. lt means continuing to support the
moderate opposition in Syria, so that there is a credible alternative to ISIL and
Assad. lt means using our aid budget to alleviate the immediate humanitarian
suffering. lt means insisting, with other countries, on the preparation of a
proper stabilisation and reconstruction effort in Syria once the conflict has
been brought to an end. And it means continuing, and stepping up, our effort
here at home to counter radicalisation.

We must pursue all these tracks in parallel. As the threat from ISIL to our
national security grows, we must take action- recognising that no course of
action is without risk, but that inaction- not dealing with ISIL at source- also
carries grave risk.

We have a comprehensive overall strategy in place to tackle the ISIL threat
globally. This document sets out how extending our military contribution to
Coalition operations in Syria would contribute both to our aim of reducing the
ISIL threat to the UK and to delivering our objectives in Syria.

The second part of this response to the Foreign Affairs Committee addresses
directly the seven questions and the risks which they identify.

The Threat from 15/L

The threat ISIL poses to Britain and to our citizens today is serious and

ISIL has been behind more than 40 successful terrorist attacks around the
world in just the last twelve months. The murder of 30 British citizens
holidaying in Tunisia in June was linked to ISIL. In October, ISIL murdered 102
people at a peace rally in Ankara and a Russian passenger plane was blown out
of the sky, killing 224 people flying home from Sharm-ei-Sheikh- a resort
visited by tens of thousands of British tourists each year. In November, ISIL
murdered 43 people in Beirut and at least 130 people in Paris, including one
Briton. ISIL terrorises and murders Iraqis and Syrians each and every day.

We know that ISIL has deadly intent to strike us at home too. In the last
12 months, Britain’s police and Security Services have disrupted no fewer than
7 terrorist plots to attack the UK. All 7 plots were either linked to ISIL, or were
inspired by ISIL’s propaganda. ISIL has a dedicated external operations
structure in Syria, which is planning mass casualty attacks around the world.

ISIL targets our young people, using sophisticated grooming techniques to lure
them to Syria- to fight; to blow themselves up as suicide bombers; or to
condemn themselves to lives of subjugation, oppression and cruelty. Around
800 British individuals of national security concern have travelled to Syria since
the conflict began. Many have joined ISIL and other terrorist groups. Of those
who are known to have travelled, about half have returned. Some of these,
and many of those who remain in Syria, pose a threat to our security.

ISIL targets our way of life, spreading fear and terror. They exploit the internet
both to radicalise and recruit the vulnerable, and to incite and direct
extremists to carry out attacks outside Syria. They wish to target our
infrastructure, and are seeking to orchestrate cyber attacks to do so.

There were 299 arrests in the UK in the year ending 31 March 2015 for
terrorism-related offences: an increase of 31% compared with the previous
year and the highest number since data collection began in 2001. We have
also seen the youngest ever convicted terrorist in the UK, when a 15 year old
boy was sentenced to life in prison last month, following his radicalisation over
the internet and contact with individuals based in Syria who had urged him to
plan acts of terror in the UK. In June, a 17 year-old from West Yorkshire
became the youngest ever UK suicide bomber, blowing himself up in Iraq. This
is further evidence of ISIL poisoning the minds of our young people to commit
the most terrible acts.

ISIL poses a significant threat to the stability of the region, including to the
security of Jordan, one of the UK’s key allies. ISIL’s offshoots and affiliates are
spreading instability and conflict in Libya, Afghanistan, Yemen and Nigeria. In
the Middle East, they are seeking to establish their vision of a caliphate across
Iraq and Syria, forcing people in those areas to yield to their rule or face
torture or death. They have beheaded aid workers, organised systematic rape,
enslaved Yazidi women and thrown gay people off buildings. All these
atrocities belong to the dark ages.

The UK’s Strategy for Syria

We do not have the luxury of being able to wait until the Syrian conflict is
resolved before tackling ISIL. Nor should we wait until an attack takes place
here: we should act in advance, recognising that there are inherent risks in any
course. The threats we face are urgent. Equally, there will be no end to the
chaos in which ISIL thrives and which fuels migration, for as long as the conflict
in Syria endures.

This Government’s strategy for Syria therefore reflects our need
simultaneously to:
• Protect the UK here at home by maintaining robust counter-terrorism
• generate negotiations on a political settlement, while supporting and
preserving the moderate opposition;
• help deliver, through this process, a government in Syria that can
credibly represent all of the Syrian people;
• degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL, including through Coalition military
and wider action;
• continue our leading role in humanitarian support and forestall further
migratory flows towards Europe;
• support stabilisation already underway in Iraq and plan for post-conflict
reconstruction in Syria; and
• work in close partnership with our allies across the Middle East, to
mitigate the impact of ISIL and other violent extremist groups on the
stability of the region.

All these elements are linked- and all are important.

Some have argued that we should ally ourselves with Assad and his regime
against the greater threat posed by ISIL, as the ’lesser of two evils’. But this
misunderstands the causes of the problem; and would make matters worse.
By inflicting brutal attacks against his own people, Assad has in fact acted as
one of ISIL’s greatest recruiting sergeants. We therefore need a political
transition in Syria to a government that the international community can work
with against ISIL, as we already do with the Government of Iraq.

The combination of the Assad regime’s mass murder of its own people and,
more recently, ISIL’s bloodthirsty campaign has created a human catastrophe
that has now crossed the borders of Europe. Over a quarter of a million people
have been killed. Half the population of Syria have been forced to flee their
homes. There are over 4 million Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries,
particularly Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. A further 6.5 million people are
displaced inside the country.

Diplomatic Action

Since the start of the crisis the UK has worked for a political solution in Syria
and was one of the prime movers of the Geneva Process. [1] We have played a key role in diplomatic efforts; pressing for an agreed international approach through the Geneva conferences and providing funding and support to
successive UN Special Envoys.

There are now important signs of progress. The Foreign Secretary has played a
central role in the establishment of the newly created International Syria
Support Group (ISSG), which met for the second time in Vienna on 14

The ISSG has brought together, for the first time, all of the major international
players- including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the US, France and Turkey behind
a common vision of what is needed to end the war. While there are
still differences to resolve, they agreed on 14 November an ambitious time
frame for political negotiations to begin by the end of the year; a transitional
government in place within six months; and a new constitution and free and
fair elections within 18 months. The UK will support the UN Secretary General
and Special Envoy De Mistura in their efforts to bring together the Syrian
parties for these important discussions. I have no doubt that the increasing
threat that we all face from ISIL was a significant factor in bringing the
international community together in Vienna. We can now see, through the
Vienna process, involving all the key players, a possible pathway- however
rocky and uncertain- to a political resolution of the war in Syria.

So now is the time to scale up British diplomatic, defence and humanitarian
efforts to resolve the Syrian conflict and to defeat ISIL.

We will intensify our diplomatic engagement, to build trust between the
parties and to deliver an inclusive settlement for the people of Syria. That
includes working with Russia and Iran, in order to build the consensus that will
allow for a more effective and coordinated international campaign against ISIL.

Humanitarian Action

We will build further on our assistance to the Syrian people and their
neighbours, which is already the biggest ever UK response to a humanitarian
crisis. We have led the way in providing assistance to ease the suffering of the
Syrian people, donating over £1.1bn. This is by far the largest commitment of
any European country and is second only to the United States. By the end of
June 2015, Britain had provided almost 20 million food rations, each enough to
feed one person for a month; over 2.5 million medical consultations, and
enabled over 1.6 million people in Syria and a further 980,000 people in
neighbouring countries to access clean water. Meeting the immediate relief
and protection needs of the most vulnerable in Syria helps to support the
capacity of the Syrian people to cope with the conflict; to remain in their
homes wherever possible; and to lay the foundations for enduring stability and
Syrian-led development.

British aid has also provided education to over 251,000 children in Syria and
neighbouring countries. We have also pledged to resettle 20,000 of the most
vulnerable Syrians in the UK over the course of this Parliament.

So far, about half a million people have sought refuge in Europe. But that
number could increase significantly in 2016, if we cannot offer employment
and education opportunities in the region and a realistic hope for a safe return
home to Syria in the medium term.

That is why, in February 2016, I will co-host a Syria Conference in London with
Germany, Kuwait, Norway and the UN, to ensure that the international
community delivers a significant increase in the provision of immediate and
longer-term support to vulnerable Syrians in Syria, and to Syrian refugees and
their host communities, including a focus on education and jobs.

Military Action

I believe that the UK should now join Coalition airstrikes against ISIL in Syria.
Coalition air strikes in Iraq, in which we are participating, are having an effect.
With Coalition air support, Iraqi forces have halted ISIL’s advance and
recovered 30% of the territory it had captured in Iraq. Only this month, Sin jar
was liberated after last year’s ISIL rout and mass killing of Yazidis, with the help
of vital RAF and other partners’ air support for Kurdish Peshmerga forces on
the ground. Together with the RAF’s Reaper drones, RAF Tornadoes have flown
more than 1,600 missions over Iraq and carried out over 360 air strikes. RAF
aircraft have destroyed ISIL targets in Iraq, including: key positions holding up
Iraqi Security Forces on the ground (e.g. the last remaining strongpoint in
Rabiyah, which allowed the Kurdish Peshmerga to successfully liberate the
town); large stockpiles of ammunition and explosives; several underground
bunker and tunnel networks; and supply boats attempting to smuggle large
quantities of ammunition down the Euphrates to isolated ISIL terrorists in

Military action is only one element of what is needed to defeat this appalling
terrorist death cult. But it is a vital element: ISIL is not a threat that can be
negotiated away. This is as true in Syria as it is in Iraq.

On 20 November 2015, the UN Security Council unanimously called on
Member States to use all necessary measures to prevent and suppress terrorist
acts committed specifically by ISIL, and to deny them safe haven in Syria and
Iraq. The US and France are already acting on this appeal and have asked us to
join them, as have our partners in the region. ISIL poses a clear threat to our
own national security. We should not stand back and let others carry the
burden and the risks of protecting our country.

There is a credible military strategy to defeat ISIL in Syria, as well as in Iraq.
We should not expect this to happen quickly. lt will require patience and
persistence. But it is achievable.

We will use the full weight of our diplomatic engagement in the Vienna
process to bring about the proposed ceasefire between the regime and the
opposition. While the political track progresses, the Coalition’s military
strategy aims to stop ISIL’s advance through the air campaign, to strike them in
their heartland and to put them under pressure by continuing to degrade and
dismantle their economic and military capability. This military effort helps put
ISIL on the defensive, suppressing their ability to conduct external attacks
against the UK and our friends and allies. Military defeat will demonstrate
clearly ISIL’s inability to build and hold the ’caliphate’ they aspire to.
Military action against ISIL will also relieve the pressure on the moderate
opposition, whose survival is crucial for a successful transition to a more
inclusive Syrian government. Syria has not been, and should not be, reduced to
a choice between Assad or ISIL. Although the situation on the ground is
complex, our assessment is that there are about 70,000 Syrian opposition
fighters on the ground who do not belong to extremist groups.

As pressure on ISIL in Iraq has grown, and as we have learned more about the
threat that ISIL poses to Britain and our allies, we have increasingly been
confronted by a significant handicap in our ability to respond to that threat:
the fact that British Forces are currently restricted to taking direct military
action against ISIL only in Iraq.

This restriction has never made military sense. ISIL does not recognise the
border between Syria and Iraq; it operates in a single ungoverned space that
straddles both countries. Its practical and ideological headquarters are in
Raqqa in Eastern Syria from where it conducts its attack planning, operations
and recruitment. Hence the importance of the UK joining military action
against ISIL in Syria. To be clear: our objective is to degrade ISIL, and to disrupt the threat it poses to the UK. lt would not be to attack the Syrian regime.

Extending UK strikes to Syria would be a significant and welcome contribution
to Coalition operations, adding our extensive capabilities to a renewed effort
to defeat ISIL. The skill of RAF pilots and the particular capabilities of UK
aircraft mean that we are able to conduct the most complex and precise
strikes. Britain’s military have the experience and expertise to sustain our role
in the campaign for as long as required to get the job done; few other nations
can. lt is for these reasons that our allies want us as part of the campaign in
Syria, and why I am confident that our doing so would make a meaningful


Air strikes can degrade ISIL and arrest its advance, but they alone cannot
defeat ISIL. We need partners on the ground to do that and we need a political
solution to the Syrian conflict. That is why I have always been clear that
defeating ISIL, in Iraq but even more so in Syria, requires action on two fronts:
military and political.

There will be those who say that the UK might become more of a target by
taking a greater role in the international effort to counter ISIL. The reality is
that the threat posed by ISIL to the UK is already very high. ISIL already views
the UK, along with other Western countries, as a legitimate target for its
attacks. As part of the international Coalition, we are already carrying out air
strikes against ISIL in Iraq, and providing refuelling, intelligence, surveillance
and reconnaissance support to Coalition strikes in Syria.

These are complex foreign policy and security challenges. lt is tempting to see
the complexity of the Syria conflict as an excuse to avoid tackling ISIL there,
and it is equally tempting to see the threat posed by ISIL as an excuse to avoid
facing the realities of the Syria conflict. Neither approach is correct. I believe
that we must tackle both the threat from ISIL and the Syria conflict in parallel,
recognising the links but understanding the differences. On both, one thing is
clear: the threats to our interests and to our people are such that we cannot
afford to stand aside and not to act.

So with a political solution to the Syria conflict finally a realistic prospect; with
greater international consensus than ever before on the global threat posed by
ISIL; with the terrible cost of ISIL’s brutality increasingly being seen on the
streets of Paris, Beirut and elsewhere; and with the very real threat ISIL poses
to UK citizens, I believe that we should extend our military campaign against
ISIL into Syria.

Response to Questions in the Foreign Affairs Committee report on "Enabling the House to reach a decision"

In its report of 29 October, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee set out
7 points for the Government to answer "before asking the House of Commons
to approve a substantive motion authorising military action" in Syria. The
situation has evolved considerably since the Committee published its report:
an escalation of ISIL attacks outside Syria and Iraq, including in Paris on
13 November; the re-launch of a credible diplomatic process- the Vienna
Process- to resolve the Syrian conflict, through the International Syria Support
Group (which met on 30 October and 14 November); and the unanimous
adoption of UNSCR 2249 on 20 November, calling on Member States to take
all necessary measures to address the threat from ISIL.

On an international strategy:

i) How the proposal would improve the chances of success of the
international Coalition’s campaign against ISIL

The Global Coalition against ISIL comprises 63 countries (see annex). lt has a
coherent strategy of pressuring ISIL, especially in Syria and Iraq, through
military, political and diplomatic action. This has included adopting UN
Security Council Resolutions to: sanction ISIL and its affiliates (SCR 2170); to
inhibit the use of Foreign Fighters (SCR 2178) and to squeeze ISIL’s funding
sources (SCR 2199).

The Coalition’s military campaign is a key part of this strategy. Without it, ISIL
would continue to expand the territory under its control, develop more
terrorist affiliates across the Middle East and more widely, and encourage
more people to join its murderous endeavour. The Coalition’s military action
in Iraq- in which the UK is fully participating- is having some success. 30% of
ISIL’s territory has been regained. But Raqqa in Syria is ISIL’s capital and home
to a significant proportion of its thousands of hardened fighters, who move
freely between Syria and Iraq. ISIL uses the chaos in Syria to make the money
it needs from oil, and from taxing and extorting money from the Syrian people.
This reinforces the need for the Coalition to step up its military campaign in
Syria to: reduce ISIL’s capacity to take more territory; cut off its supply routes
and sources of finance; and degrade its command and control. Without such
action, the progress made by successful military operations in Iraq would be
lost. That is why the US, France, Turkey and our Arab allies are all committed
to expanding the campaign in Syria. They recognise that, as in Iraq, a greater
UK military contribution to the campaign in Syria would mean greater military
effect against ISIL. This is particularly the case for Turkey and Jordan, two of
Syria’s immediate neighbours who face the biggest threat from ISIL.

This greater military effect would not only help to reduce ISIL’s capacity to plan
attacks against the UK, it would speed progress towards a better future for the
Syrian people, and support security for Syria’s neighbours.

We have world-leading military capabilities to contribute, which many other
countries do not possess. These include the ability to carry out dynamic and
rapid air support to ground forces engaged in combat. The UK also has unique
precision missile capabilities, which allow for accurate air strikes with low
collateral damage (see response to question 7 for more detail). The Coalition
campaign is entering a new phase, as it increasingly focuses on ISIL’s command
and control, supply lines and financial support. These targets increasingly play
to the strengths of UK forces and our cutting-edge capabilities.

We would also bring political weight to the Coalition’s campaign. The Coalition
draws legitimacy from the broad number of nations that comprise it and
contribute to the military action. This demonstration of unity to defeat ISIL
sends a powerful message to ISIL, and those who might be drawn to its
poisonous ideology.

ISIL generates around $1.5m a day from oil- its largest source of revenue, and
derived primarily from oil fields in Northern Syria. Cutting this off remains a
high priority. As of last month, the Global Coalition had damaged or destroyed
260 oil infrastructure targets.

Following the adoption of UNSCR 2170 on terrorist financing in August 2014,
we have been engaging diplomatically with countries in the Gulf and elsewhere
to encourage compliance with sanctions regimes and ensure domestic regimes
also counter terrorist financing. The international financial sector has largely
been closed off to ISIL by measures taken through the Financial Action Task
Force (FATF) and Egmont Groups, and by action taken by states as a response
to UN sanctions regimes. Any involvement in financing terrorist activity is
illegal in the UK and, by law, the private sector must raise any suspicion of
terrorist financing to the National Crime Agency. We work closely with the
financial sector to monitor and disrupt terrorist financing activity.

The UK is already playing an important role in supporting the moderate Syrian
opposition, who are under pressure from both ISIL and the regime; in assisting
the Coalition with surveillance and intelligence assets; and in working with
Jordan to ensure its resilience against ISIL. lt makes little military sense for the
UK not to bring its military assets to bear to bolster the Coalition’s air strike

By staying out of the Coalition’s collective effort, we leave other nations,
including those less capable than us and with whom we have collective
defence arrangements, to meet our security needs for us. This can only have a
damaging effect on Britain’s standing in the world.

ii) How the proposed action would contribute to the formation and
agreement of a transition plan for Syria;

Degrading and defeating ISIL will help promote a political transition by
strengthening the moderate opposition forces who must be part of a
transition, and by strengthening the territorial integrity of the state of Syria,
which ISIL has sought to destroy.

Combating ISIL and resolving the broader Syrian conflict must be pursued in
parallel. ISIL has grown and thrived in the chaos in Syria; filling the vacuum,
and exploiting the fear and anger that the Assad regime has created. Both ISIL
and the regime have focused their battlefield efforts against moderate Syrian
opposition forces, who are brave enough to stand up against both of them.
Intelligence also indicates that senior figures in the Assad regime are aware of
and complicit in ongoing trading of resources with ISIL, including oil, wheat and
cotton. This collaboration has taken place over many months. Reporting
indicates that it continues, at least as recently as two months ago. The EU has
introduced sanctions against those involved in the trade of oil between the
Assad regime and ISIL.

An orderly political transition in Syria would preserve Syrian state structures
but deliver a new Syrian government, which is able to meet the needs of the
Syrian people, and with which the international community could cooperate
fully against ISIL, as we do with the Government of Iraq. But that is not
possible for as long as Assad remains in power without any timetable for his
departure, and for as long as his security forces murder, torture, gas and bomb
his own people.

Diplomacy must be at the heart of this, through the newly created
International Syria Support Group (ISSG). The ISSG includes all the key
international players, including the United States, France, Russia, Iran, Saudi
Arabia and Turkey. Recognition of the shared and urgent threat we all face
from ISIL is now drawing the international community together around a
political process.

But all members of the ISSG recognise that ISIL must be defeated militarily.

The threat that ISIL poses cannot be negotiated away. Without degrading its
military capabilities, we risk allowing ISIL to continue expanding its territorial
control over Syria, which would reduce the chances of a peaceful settlement.
ISIL has sought to destroy Syria’s territorial integrity in its efforts to build a
brutal caliphate across the borders of Syria and Iraq.

Alongside efforts to secure a political transition, together with our allies we are
putting diplomatic pressure on Russia to end its attacks on moderate Syrian
forces and instead coordinate its military efforts with the Coalition against ISIL.
This it is beginning to do, following the ISIL bombing of Metrojet 9268 in Sharm
El Sheikh, although Russian forces have continued to strike at moderate
opposition forces in parallel.

ISIL presents a serious military threat to the tens of thousands of moderate
Syrian fighters who are opposed to both the Assad regime and to ISIL, and who
are under attack from both. These groups were at the heart of the peaceful
protests that sprung up in 2011, when thousands of Syrians took to the streets
to demand their freedom and dignity. They have fought on through four years
of the regime’s brutal campaign to extinguish them. They remain critical to
Syria’s future and represent a moderate vision for Syria, free from the
oppression by the Assad regime. The opposition has repeatedly reaffirmed this
commitment, including at the Geneva 11 talks last year.

Coalition military action against ISIL will help to relieve some of the military
pressure on those groups, enabling them to better protect Syrian civilians and
to focus on their true objective- political transition in Syria. If extremists like
ISIL are seen as the only realistic alternative to Assad, as Assad himself
continues to claim, then there is much less incentive on the part of countries
such as Russia and Iran to engage seriously on the necessary political
transition. The survival of a credible third force, based around the moderate
opposition, is therefore critical to the Coalition’s overall political strategy.

iii) In the absence of a UN Security Council Resolution, how the
Government would address the political, legal, and military risks
arising from not having such a resolution;

There is now a UN Security Council Resolution. Resolution 2249 (of 20
November 2015) has now made a clear and unanimous determination that ISIL
11Constitutes a global and unprecedented threat to international peace and
security", and called upon Member States to take uall necessary measures ... to
prevent and suppress terrorist acts committed specifically by ISIL. .. and to
eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Iraq
and Syria."

There is a clear legal basis for military action against ISIL in Syria. The legality
of UK strikes against ISIL in Syria is founded on the right of self-defence as it is
recognised in Article 51 of the UN Charter. The right to self-defence may be
exercised individually where it is necessary to the UK’s own defence, and
collectively in the defence of our friends and allies.

This reflects the multi-faceted and evolving threat that ISIL poses, and the
response that is required to bring that threat to an effective end.

Collective Self Defence of Iraq

On 20 September 2014 the Government of Iraq wrote to the President of the
UN Security Council seeking international assistance to strike ISIL sites and
military strongholds, in order to end the constant threat to Iraq, protect Iraq’s
citizens and, ultimately, arm Iraqi forces and enable them to regain control of
Iraq’s borders. The main basis of the Global Coalition’s actions against ISIL in
Syria is the collective self-defence of Iraq.

The UK is already supporting the Coalition’s efforts to degrade ISIL in Syria as a
necessary aspect of effectively bringing an end to ISIL’s armed attack on Iraq.

On 21 October 2014, the Defence Secretary announced to Parliament that he
was authorising flights of manned and unmanned surveillance aircraft over
Syria to gather intelligence against ISIL. There is a solid basis of evidence on
which to conclude, firstly, that there is a direct link between the presence and
activities of ISIL in Syria and their ongoing attack on Iraq and, secondly, that
the Assad regime is unwilling and/or unable to take action necessary to
prevent ISIL’s continuing attack on Iraq.

In light of these considerations and the scale of the threat posed by ISIL,
military action that is necessary and proportionate to bring an end to ISIL’s
attack on Iraq is justified in accordance with the right of collective self-defence
that is preserved in Article 51 of the UN Charter. The Coalition has relied on
this legal basis for military action in Syria. Numerous States, including the USA,
Australia, Canada and France have written to the UN Security Council
explaining that they are taking action on the basis of the right of collective selfdefence.

In accordance with the requirements of Article 51 of the UN Charter,
the UK notified the UN Security Council that it was taking military action as
part of the Coalition’s efforts in the collective self-defence of Iraq by a letter of
25 November 2014.

The underlying considerations which justified collective self-defence of Iraq for
UK activity in Syria in 2014 remain today. The collective self-defence of Iraq
provides a clear legal basis for the UK to increase its contribution to the
Coalition’s efforts against ISIL in Syria by taking direct military action itself,
provided such activity meets the ongoing requirements of necessity and

ISlL threat to the UK and its attack on our Allies and partners

The threat from ISIL continues to evolve and now goes far beyond Iraq and
Syria, as is all too clear from the external attack planning disrupted by the
precision UK strike of 21 August (as I reported to the House on 7 September)
and the tragic events of 13 November in Paris. For several months now, UK
security agencies have been monitoring the development of ISIL’s external
attack planning capacity, which seeks to target both the UK and our allies and
partners around the world. Resolution 2249 (2015) both condemns the ISIL’s
horrendous attacks that have taken place and notes ISIL’s intent and capability
to carry out further attacks. lt then calls upon States to take lawful action to
prevent such attacks.

lt is clear that ISIL’s campaign against the UK and our allies has reached the
level of an uarmed attack" such that force may lawfully be used in self-defence
to prevent further atrocities being committed by ISIL. As well as the collective
self-defence of Iraq, there is therefore an additional legal basis to take action
in our own self-defence and that of other allies and partners as well, where
they request our assistance. The use of force in self-defence is of course
limited to what is necessary and proportionate and we have made clear that
we will act at all times in accordance with the law.

iv) Whether the proposed action has the agreement of the key regional
players (Turkey; Iran; Saudi Arabia; Iraq); if not, whether the
Government will seek this before any intervention;

Countries from across the Middle East and North Africa are at the heart of the
Coalition’s action against ISIL in Syria and Iraq. Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iraq,
Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Kuwait, Qatar, Egypt, Oman,
Bahrain and Morocco are all members of the Coalition. Many are providing
logistical and direct military support to the Coalition’s action against ISIL.
Others are playing a leading role across the different lines of effort, including:
cutting off ISIL’s finances; stopping its recruitment of foreign fighters; and
countering ISIL’s propaganda and its perversion of Islam. Syria’s neighbours
are also shouldering the enormous burden of hosting over 4 million refugees
from the conflict.

Both Turkey (which faces an acute threat from ISIL in Northern Syria) and
Jordan (which faces particular threats from ISIL in Southern Syria and from
Western Iraq) have made clear that they would welcome the UK joining the
Coalition’s strikes against ISIL in Syria.

Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Russia are all members of the International
Syria Support Group and are engaging in the political strategy to end the Syrian

Russia is taking direct military action against ISIL in Syria and supported
UNSCR 2249. UK aircraft on Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR)
missions over Syria already operate in accordance with the terms of the air
safety arrangements for the Coalition, agreed with Russia by the US. These are
applied to all Coalition aircraft operating over Syria and the Coalition will
continue to take whatever action is necessary to ensure air safety for its
aircraft. Iran has made clear through its actions that its objectives in Syria
have, until now, been very different from our own. But we are now engaged in
diplomacy with Iran and hope that it will now use its influence to help to bring
about a peaceful resolution to the crisis, but we will not allow Iran a veto over
our vital security interests.

v) Which ground forces will take, hold, and administer territories
captured from ISIL in Syria.

The model that is starting to work in Iraq involves Coalition air support
enabling Iraqis- from both the Iraqi Security Forces and the Kurdish
Peshmerga- to take back, hold and administer territory regained from ISIL.
This is more difficult in Syria, because Assad’s forces are still fighting directly
against the moderate opposition and there is no prospect of intervention by an
external ground force. Any large-scale external force, even of Arab or other
Muslim troops, could risk inflaming the conflict further, rather than
contributing to a political settlement.

But, whilst political talks on a settlement for Syria take place, both the Kurds
and other moderate armed groups have shown themselves capable of both
taking territory from ISIL, and holding and administering it. Although the
situation on the ground is complex, our assessment is that there are around
70,000 Syrian opposition fighters on the ground who do not belong to
extremist groups.

Where they have retaken ground, they have relieved the suffering that the
civilian population previously endured under ISIL control.

The Syrian Kurds have successfully defended Kurdish areas in Northern Syria
from sustained ISIL attack and retaken territory from ISIL, such as around the
city of Kobane. The territories under their control are stable. They are an
important element of any counter ISIL effort in Syria. The Kurds will also play
an important role in a political settlement for Syria which respects Syria’s
territorial integrity and the parameters set out in the 2012 Geneva

But only moderate Sunni Arabs can retake traditionally Sunni Arab areas such
as Raqqa. Such moderate armed groups in Northern Syria have shown
themselves capable of defending territory north of Aleppo from sustained ISIL
assault. They have stopped ISIL’s attempts to capture the main humanitarian
border crossing with Turkey and sweep into ldlib province. Supported by
Coalition airpower, the opposition have held their ground, protecting a vital
supply route into Aleppo. In Southern Syria, the Southern Front of the Free
Syrian Army has consolidated its control over significant areas and has worked
to prevent terrorists such as ISIL and Jab hat AI Nusra from operating.
Since the beginning of the conflict, communities in Syria have taken control of
their own administration, even while under daily attack by the Assad regime.

Moderate armed groups have also been able to hand over ground taken in
fighting to civilian councils, with many previous public servants remaining in
place. Civilian councils have overseen the delivery of water, electricity, phone
lines, and waste management, while the armed groups have focussed on

Key achievements have included:
• Local councils and emerging local governance structures have become
stronger, enabling them to deliver basic services to a population of over
1.1 million people. This helps preserve space for the moderate
opposition in advance of a higher-level political settlement.
• The Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Syrian Civil Defence teams (or "White
Helmets") provide search and rescue services and basic first aid to
victims of the conflict. There are now over 2, 700 civil defenders across
eight governorates; who have saved over 30,000 lives since 2013.
Over 2,500 Free Syrian Police (FSP) officers serve some 900,000 Syrians
living across ldlib and Aleppo.
• Community resilience has been strengthened by reopening schools,
repairing roads and sanitation systems, and re-establishing water
• Local authorities and Syrian experts have helped maintain agricultural
services, ensuring that farmers can keep up local wheat and vegetable

UK non-lethal support and advice to these moderate armed groups and civilian
groups has helped them achieve these important goals. These are amongst
the range of tools that the UK has established under the ’Conflict, Stability and
Security Fund’ to assist moderate Syrian groups with establishing effective
governance in areas wrested from ISIL or regime control, rather than letting
them fall into the hands of extremist groups. This is vital support, whilst we
work towards a full transition for Syria, which can integrate these vital actors
into new state structures.

In the medium-term, we will work through the political negotiations towards a
ceasefire between the Syrian armed forces and moderate opposition, which
would create the conditions to allow both sides to focus their military efforts
on ISIL. In such circumstances, ground taken from ISIL in Syria could be
administered effectively by one or other of those forces. While Assad’s forces
as currently constituted and led would be unlikely to make an intense effort to
take on ISIL, a political transition in Syrian would allow new leadership and
reform of the Syrian Arab Army to enable it to tackle terrorist groups in
defence of the Syrian Nation. Without transition, it will continue to be difficult
to generate a Sunni force able to fight ISIL and hold ground in Eastern Syria.

Post-Conflict Planning

The success of our strategy over the long term will rest on the ability of the
international community to deliver a stabilisation and reconstruction effort in
Syria. The UK will play a central role in this work, but we cannot do so alone. lt
will require a sustained and coordinated investment from the international
community over many years. Preserving the institutions of the Syrian state
through transition will be vital: de-Baathification after the Iraq war was a
significant mistake, which we must avoid repeating.

The relationships we have developed through our existing support to
moderate opposition actors across the country provide a good framework on
which stabilisation activity would be based, and from which UK support could
be scaled up as required. The support we provide to over 2,500 Free Syrian
Police helps them serve over 900,000 people in ldlib and Aleppo, and our
support to local councils and other local structures helps provide essential
services in at least 27 communities across the country, reaching over
1.1 million people. The UK is already helping to coordinate international
planning efforts, working closely with US, Turkish and Jordanian counterparts
on the ground, and as part of the International Stabilisation Working Group
bringing together Coalition governments under the leadership of Germany and
the UAE.

Internationally, the UK is a contributor to the Syria Recovery Trust Fund, which
distributes much needed resources through local governance structures. To
augment and complement international efforts, we have established an
Emergency Stabilisation Response Mechanism with the aim of getting
governance, public security and service delivery up and running in Syria
following military successes. In the South of the country, in concert with the
US, we have pre-positioned equipment (ambulances, vehicles, medical
supplies, and operational funds) during our "support surge" ahead of the
opposition’s offensive on Dera’a City. Elsewhere we are looking to begin
training in areas such as unexploded ordnance clearance, to enable clearance
activity to begin quickly when the situation allows.

Rebuilding Syria as ISIL is pushed back and after the broader conflict comes to
an end will be a much more significant challenge requiring a properly
resourced and coordinated response from the international community and
Syria’s neighbours. Building on lessons from previous conflicts, planning and
preparation for helping to stabilise post-ISIL Syria is a priority. Stabilisation is
one of the core lines of effort for the Coalition. The UK can play a leading role
in ensuring cohesion between civilian and military efforts, for example by
embedding further civilian planners in military headquarters and joint planning
for combined military-civilian stabilisation responses. The UK is engaging with
the Coalition and with EU partners to identify areas in which more can be
done. The Syria Conference in February 2016 in London will also be an
opportunity to focus international attention on these challenges.

On the military imperative:

vi) What the overall objective is of the military campaign; whether it
expects that it will be a "war-winning" campaign; if so, who would
provide war-winning capabilities for the forces; and what the
Government expects will be the result of extending airstrikes to Syria.

The objective of our counter-ISIL campaign is to degrade ISIL’s capabilities so
that it no longer presents a significant terrorist threat to the UK or an
existential threat to Iraq, Syria or other states. We are working alongside our
partners, including in the Coalition, to deny ISIL safe havens from which to
operate, to prevent ISIL from obtaining the resources to mount attacks, and to
counter its poisonous ideology.

The UK’s strategy for Syria reflects our need simultaneously to: maintain
robust counter-terrorism capabilities to protect the UK; generate negotiations
on a political settlement, while preserving the moderate opposition; suppress
and degrade ISIL through Coalition military and wider action; continue our
leading role in humanitarian support and forestall further migratory flows
towards Europe; and work in close partnership with our allies across the
Middle East, mitigate the impact of ISIL and other violent extremist groups on
the stability of the region.

Acting together, the Coalition has the most advanced military capabilities in
the world. But the business of "war-winning" is about more than those
military capabilities alone. The Coalition’s military campaign is just one- albeit
key- strand of its strategy to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL. That requires
a comprehensive response, including: squeezing ISIL’s finances; cutting off its
flow of foreign fighters; challenging its poisonous ideology; providing
humanitarian assistance to those in need; and working for a settlement to the
Syria conflict and greater political inclusion in Iraq. The UK is centrally involved
in all these activities, including action in the UN Security Council and in the
establishment of a counter-ISIL communications centre in London, which I
announced at the UN General Assembly in September.

This communications centre will coordinate and drive the Coalition’s strategic
communications to counter ISIL’s violent extremism, to help ensure that no
information or media space is left uncontested. lt will strengthen our
collective response to ISIL’s propaganda, helping countries that have previously
lacked the means or knowledge necessary to deliver effective communications
against ISIL. Its target audiences will be the same as those targeted by ISIL’s
propaganda, focusing on Iraq and Syria, but including global audiences at risk
of influence from ISIL’s propaganda.

Military action seeks to degrade ISIL’s capabilities, so that Iraqi security forces
can effectively secure Iraq and moderate forces in Syria can defend territory
they control. Coalition support in pushing ISIL back will help these forces take
the fight back to ISIL, recognising that this work can only be completed with an
inclusive political solution in Syria. Such action also reduces ISIL’s ability to
threaten Syria and Iraq’s neighbours, who are so important to maintaining
stability in a precarious region, and who have done so much to absorb and
shelter millions of refugees.

Our Syria strategy aims to enable a ceasefire to be established between the
regime and the opposition. lt aims to isolate ISIL’s heartland in north East Syria
through coordinated military action and help create the space for a political
settlement in parallel. The suppression of ISIL in Raqqa is crucial to disrupting,
at source, the direct threat ISIL poses to the UK and other countries.
Increasing action against ISIL in Syria will bolster Iraq’s ability to defend itself:
by degrading both ISIL’s economic and oil infrastructure and its cross-border
communication and supply routes.

vii) What extra capacity the UK would contribute to the Coalition’s actions
in Syria.

The UK has advanced military capabilities that bring a qualitative edge above
those deployed by most other Coalition partners. In Iraq, for example, the RAF
is able to carry out "dynamic targeting" where our pilots are able to provide
rapid support to other units engaged in combat and in need of immediate air
support. We also have the Brimstone missile which enables us to strike
accurately with low collateral damage, therefore increasing the scope for
strikes against specific ISIL targets- even the US do not possess this capability.
The UK currently contributes airborne Intelligence, Surveillance and
Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities, refuelling support and command and control
to the Coalition in Syria. Our ISR capability is second to none. The RAPTOR
pod on our Tornado aircraft has no rival. lt enables the Tornado to gather 60%
of the Coalition’s tactical reconnaissance in Iraq, while also being equipped for
strikes. Currently, therefore, it is illogical that our aircraft are deployed to
carry out the important task of finding and tracking high value targets but
cannot complete the task of launching the strikes against them.

Our capabilities give us an important and distinct role to play in Coalition
efforts to target the upper tiers of the ISIL leadership, its economic and oil
infrastructure and its communication and supply routes. Oil revenues matter
to ISIL, as does its freedom of movement between Iraq and Syria. A greater UK
role would help the Coalition more effectively to disrupt ISIL’s internal lines of
communication, including making it more difficult for them to move south and
threaten Jordan. UK action would put pressure on ISIL where they feel most
secure and help erode the myth of ISIL’s caliphate.

Annex - Members of the Global Coalition to counter-ISIL- at 23 November 2015

Albania Finland Lebanon Qatar
Arab League France Lithuania Romania
Australia Georgia Luxembourg Saudi Arabia
Austria Germany Macedonia Serbia
Kingdom of Bahrain Greece Malaysia Singapore
Kingdom of Belgium Hungary Moldova Slovakia
Bosnia and Iceland Montenegro Slovenia
Herzegovina Republic of Iraq Morocco Somalia
Bulgaria Ireland Netherlands Spain
Canada Italy New Zealand Sweden
Croatia Japan Nigeria Taiwan
Cyprus Jordan Norway Tunisia
Czech Republic Republic of Korea Oman Turkey
Denmark Kosovo Panama Ukraine
Arab Republic of Kuwait Poland United Arab
Egypt Latvia Portugal Emirates
Estonia United Kingdom
European Union United States

• 63 States and 2 International Organisations

titre documents joints

[1Geneva process: On 30 June 2012, the Foreign Ministers of nine States (including Russia), the
Secretaries-General of the UN and the Arab league, as well as the European Union High
Representative, came together as an Action Group for Syria to issue a Communique
setting out a plan for resolving the conflict in Syria. Further, from 22 January until15 February 2014,
the Syrian regime and the Syrian Opposition met in Montreux and Geneva in an attempt to
negotiate a settlement to the conflict. The Geneva process did not make further progress until a
larger Ministerial meeting in Vienna convened by US Secretary of State John Kerry, on 30 October
2015, which became the new International Syria Support Group.