James Forsyth

Our policy towards Islamic State makes no sense

Our policy towards Islamic State makes no sense
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If Islamic State is a threat to Britain that requires a military response, then surely we should be attacking it on both sides of the Syrian/Iraqi border? Our current policy of only hitting it in Iraq, when its operation there is directed from Syria and resupplied from there, makes neither strategic nor moral sense.

So, why is Britain not hitting Islamic State in Syria too? Well, that goes back to the legacy of 2013 and the Commons refusal to back bombing Syria then. But the truth is that bombing Islamic State in Syria is not the same as ‘bombing Syria’; it is hitting a terrorist group in a part of the country where Assad’s writ has not run for quite some time.

But, as I say in the magazine this week, we also cannot avoid the fact that the Labour party now is essentially a non-interventionist party. During the Labour leadership election, Corbyn said he couldn’t think of a circumstance in which he would deploy British forces abroad. This makes it very hard to see how Labour, with him in charge, could ever back a parliamentary motion approving the use of force.

It is not just on the Labour side that there is an anti-interventionist mood abroad. There is a chunk of opinion on the Tory benches that thinks Western action in the Middle East does more harm than good and is best left alone. This combination of factors means that any British intervention in the Middle East in the near future, will be limited.