The Department has conducted a number of lessons-learned exercises during and after military operations in Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq, in particular that military action needs to be set in the wider political context. In Syria, for example, the long-term solution to the current conflict, and to the presence of ISIL, has to be an acceptable political transition, and we continue to work to support this.
I welcome the commitment that any military action in Syria will be combined with efforts to rebuild the country. The Secretary of State said in an earlier answer that efforts are ongoing to build a consensus about taking military action in Syria. Can he give us some idea of the progress in building a consensus about rebuilding the country?
Yes. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and other leaders were recently in New York at the United Nations General Assembly pressing all their colleagues to search for a political solution that would enable the formation of a more comprehensive Government who would appeal to and attract from all parts of Syrian society, whether Kurdish, Shi’a, Sunni, Christian, Druze, or whatever. We have such a comprehensive Government in Iraq; it is time now to find one for Syria too.
There is certainly a cost to military operations, but there is a greater cost in our not dealing with the growth and spread of ISIL across the middle east. We are doing this in response to a request from the democratic, legitimate Government of Iraq to come to their aid. We are also doing it for the greater stability of the region and, ultimately, to keep our own streets safe.
It is not a view I hold, but it is at least an entirely rational view, to say that Britain should never get involved in any military operations in the middle east. It is also rational to say that Britain should get involved in military operations across the whole area that our enemy occupies. Surely what is irrational is to do that just for part of it, and to recognise a border that ISIL, in this case, simply does not recognise.
I agree with my hon. Friend. Not taking action when one has the ability to do so also has consequences. I respect the position of various Members of this House in the previous vote two years ago, but a large number of people have died in Syria at the hands of Assad since this House was asked before to take action to stop him slaughtering his own citizens.