“ISIS actions should be declared as genocide against Yazidis and Christians. Aerial bombardment is not enough. Government challenged to say where the 70,000 ground troops to follow through the air campaign will come from. Britain should support the Kurdish-Assyrian Alliance wo have been fighting ISIS.”
See full speech:
Syria: UK Military Action: Debate in the House of Lords – December 2nd 2015
Motion to Take Note
Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB):
My Lords, the just war tradition insists that war must always be a last resort—a necessary evil in an imperfect world. Measured against the just war criteria, the Government’s case is undoubtedly strong but there are legitimate questions to ask. Let us take two of the criteria: a just cause and prospects of success. Is the cause just? Self-evidently, ISIS’s barbaric ideology is the antithesis of everything that a free society upholds and stands for. We will need a full-spectrum strategy to deal with it, and I welcome the references in the Commons Motion to non-military action.
But how can we entrench in the popular imagination the justice of military action and the justice of the cause?
For months in your Lordships’ House I have pressed the Government to formally declare the actions of ISIS in Syria as genocide. Our obligations are set out in the preamble to the sixth recital of the 1998 Rome statute of the International Criminal Court, which recalls that,
“it is the duty of every State to exercise its criminal jurisdiction over those responsible for international crimes”,
while the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide states that the obligation each state thus has to prevent and to punish the crime of genocide is not territorially limited by the convention.
I recently chaired a meeting in Parliament attended by Syrians and the Archbishop of Aleppo. We were told how, in a village outside Aleppo, ISIS cut the tops off the fingers of a 14 year-old boy because his Christian father refused to convert. They then crucified the boy and killed the father. At the weekend, a mass grave of Yazidis was uncovered near Sinjar. Months ago, a former Yazidi MP, speaking here, said that she could not understand why the West had not declared these events a genocide.
In the battle of ideas, the rule of law is the best antidote to ISIS. Capturing and holding those responsible for these atrocities—whether in Syria, Paris, Tunisia, the Sinai or elsewhere—would underline the justice of our actions, and the declaration of genocide should have preceded further military action. We should name this for what it is.
My other question concerns the probability of success.
Drones and Tornados have never captured anyone. I regret the phrase in the Government Motion in the Commons ruling out the use of ground forces.
Without a commitment to an international ground force, as in Kuwait or the Balkans, I remain unconvinced about the probability of success and disturbed that Parliament is being asked to believe a Panglossian figure of 70,000 so-called moderate fighters in Syria.
This is no army: it represents a kaleidoscope of opinions, objectives and capability; they are split into a hundred factions and are geographically spread across Syria. Unlike the Peshmerga and SDF alliance, made up of Kurds, Arabs and Syriacs, which has taken 1,300 square kilometres from ISIS and which I have repeatedly pressed the Government to support—and do so again today—this dodgy figure of 70,000 will not provide a ground force capable of ensuring success. When the Minister comes to reply, I hope that he will tell us what additional support will be given to the SDF.
Western air strikes in Syria cannot succeed without ground forces.
In a Question that I tabled yesterday, I asked the Minister to give us his assessment of the statement by General Sir Richard Shirreff that even a force of that size—of 70,000—would be incapable of liberating a city of 350,000 people such as Raqqa. On this question hangs the just war principle of “probability of success.” It also begs the post-Iraq question which hangs over the debate: what plan is in place for the aftermath once the bombing is over? What is the end game? I ask the Minister to address these specific questions.
To express doubt or scepticism is not to be confused with either appeasement or an unwillingness to fight.