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SNP MPs go against Commons majority and vote against IS air strikes in Iraq

SNP MPs have voted against armed intervention against IS extremists in Iraq after a Commons debate which led to the UK Parliament backing British participation in air strikes.

The SNP voted against the plan for air-strikes because, it said, the UK Government strategy lacked a coherent post-conflict peace plan and it warned of “mission creep” towards a third Iraq war.

Angus Robertson, the Nationalists’ foreign affairs spokesman, made clear how there was widespread opposition to the brutality and inhumanity of IS.

“We do need to support the Iraqi government, a government hopefully not pursuing sectarian politics. We need to support the Kurdish government; we need to stop equivocating just because that maybe a government that pursues self-determination in the future. We need to support regional responsibility, stability, economic development, a stand against extremism from the neighbouring countries.”

Noting how it would be much better if there were an express UN motion covering action against the IS threat, Mr Robertson stressed how there was also a case to contain and degrade the extremists in terms of where they got their money and arms.

However, the Moray MP said while there was widespread revulsion at IS there was also “deep scepticism for the potential of mission creep and a green light for a third Iraq war”.

People were right to be sceptical, he argued, because they had heard strong justifications in recent years for intervention in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya but very little about the longer term outcomes.

What happened after the bombing started, insisted Mr Robertson, was a very important issue.

“The motion,” he declared, “does support bombing but there is not a single mention in it anywhere about a strategy or plan to win the peace. The motion asks for a green light for military action which could last for years(but) there is no commitment in the motion for post-conflict resolution.”

For that reason, he explained, the SNP would not support the Government motion.

The strikes are expected to be conducted by the six Tornado GR4s which have been based at RAF Akrotiri on Cyprus since last month where they have been deployed in a reconnaissance role.

Opening the debate, Mr Cameron told MPs Britain should not entirely “subcontract” to other countries’ air forces the task of defeating an organisation which had murdered a British hostage and plotted terror attacks against the UK.

“This is not a threat on the far side of the world,” he said.

“Left unchecked, we will face a terrorist caliphate on the shores of the Mediterranean, bordering a Nato member, with a declared and proven determination to attack our country and our people.

“This is not the stuff of fantasy – it is happening in front of us and we need to face up to it.” Warning of a lengthy engagement, he said it would be a mission that would take “not just months but years”.

“The hallmarks of this campaign will be patience and persistence, not shock and awe,” he said.

Labour leader Ed Miliband, who lost frontbencher Rushanara Ali who resigned in order to abstain in the vote, agreed that the UK “cannot simply stand by” but reiterated his view that any move to extend air strikes into Syria should be supported by a United Nations Security Council resolution.

“In my view, when we are not talking about being invited in by a democratic state it would be better – I put it no higher than that – it would be better to seek a UN Security Council resolution,” he said.

However he was criticised by some Labour MPs. Former minister Pat McFadden said: “Why is it right to come to the aid of the victims of Isis who are living under a democracy in Iraq but not those who are living under a dictatorship in Syria?”

In the Lords, Labour former defence secretary Lord Hutton of Furness said the Government would inevitably have to re-think its position of Syria, and do “whatever is necessary” to destroy IS.

“We shouldn’t rule out the deployment, if necessary, of UK ground forces to support our allies in the region,” he said.

“I hope it doesn’t come to that. But I think it would be a very great mistake to signal to our enemy in advance the limits we are prepared to place now on the sort of support we might be prepared to give to our allies.”

Tory rebel John Baron, who voted against the motion, warned that air strikes alone would not defeat IS and could prove counter-productive.

“We should have learned from previous interventions that just kicking the door down and walking away is not the right policy,” he said. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the lives of British hostages were already at “extreme risk” from IS and the decision to back air strikes would not increase the jeopardy they were in.

He told BBC Radio 4’s PM: “The honest answer is that they were already at extreme risk. We know this is an organisation we cannot reason with, that shows no compassion, no mercy from the way they have acted in the past.

“I don’t believe the hostages will be at any more risk today as a result of this decision than they were yesterday. “I’m afraid, because of the nature of the organisation we are dealing with, the hostages are in extreme danger.”

Setting out the next steps, he said work would begin to identify targets for Tornado jets and “other assets in the region” to strike.

He said: “We have already got assets in the region, Tornados have been flying reconnaissance missions out of Cyprus over Iraq for some time now, they can of course deliver air strikes.

“So we will now be looking at the intelligence picture, talking with allies, identifying appropriate targets for the first British strikes.

“But we are not going to give, for obvious security reasons, a running commentary on the identification of those targets. Once the first strikes have been carried out we will make an announcement to that effect.” Mr Hammond said he did not expect the RAF to face significant resistance from IS forces on the ground.

“We would not expect our aircraft to encounter any significant resistance from Isil but there are always risks in any combat mission,” he said. He denied a suggestion by former Cabinet minister Ken Clarke that the UK’s contribution was “almost symbolic”. Mr Hammond said:

“We have high-precision weapons on those Tornado aircraft but we also have other assets in the region.” The precisely-targeted weapons would help avoid civilian casualties although that was “not always achievable”, he added.

“The objective is zero civilian casualties and zero collateral damage. That’s not always achievable but I would say this: if there’s an air force in the world that can get as close to that target as possible it’s the RAF.”

Report By Herald Scotland (Source Link)