British politicians are obsessed with bombing the Middle East, says Afghanistan veteran MP

Clive Lewis says launching airstrikes in Syria is a 'knee-jerk reaction'

Jon Stone
Tuesday 22 September 2015 12:59 BST
Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 fighter jets prepare to take off
Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 fighter jets prepare to take off

Politicians would think twice about sending troops to war if more had experienced its consequences first hand, an MP who served in Afghanistan has said.

Clive Lewis, a recently elected Labour MP and former infantryman, criticised a Government push to bomb militant groups in Syria, arguing that a diplomatic solution would be more likely to succeed.

“I’m tired of it. As someone who, to be quite frank, has had my fill on my short tour of Afghanistan of death and mayhem, I sometimes think if we had a few more MPs in there seeing the direct consequences of their lust for war, maybe they’d think twice about it,” he told parliament’s The House magazine.

Mr Lewis argued that a guerrilla force like Isis would require the deployment of ground troops to effectively defeat and that airstrikes would be futile.

He endorsed new leader Jeremy Corbyn’s approach to the situation in Syria and said the UK should be working with regional allies like Iran and Turkey to strangle the militant group and cut its supply lines.

Clive Lewis is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan

“Bombing hasn’t been thought through. If we’re talking about no fly zones and safe havens for refugees, how are we going to stop Isis from infiltrating no fly zones? That to my mind means boots on the ground,” he said.

“Most military experts say you cannot comprehensively defeat Isis, an asymmetrical guerrilla force, from the air. It needs boots on the ground. So has this been thought through?

“Let’s go for the diplomatic options first and exhaust them rather than this knee-jerk reaction that we see in this House time after time, which is ‘we’ve got a problem in the Middle East, bomb it’,” he said.

Iraq’s ambassador to Britain Faik Nerweyi made similar comments about the militant group last year, telling a meeting in Parliament that foreign military would have difficulty beating the because they were “integrated” into the local population and not “an army somewhere aloof”.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon wants to extend airstrikes to Syria

The Government was defeated by Conservative rebels and Labour MPs in 2013 when it tried to gain parliamentary approval to launch airstrikes against Syria’s Assad regime in Syria.

This month the Government said it would go back to MPs to ask them for permission to bomb Syria again – this time intervening to attack Isis, who are fighting the Assad regime.

Asked specifically whether the Government wanted permission to launch attacks on Syria, Mr Fallon replied: “Yes, but to get parliamentary approval we’d have to be absolutely sure that we’d win the vote and establish a sufficient majority for it.

“The circumstances have moved on. That was a motion about tackling Assad. The issue now is whether or not we’re prepared to deal with ISIL.”

Mr Corbyn said last weekend that bombing Syria would not help refugees fleeting the region and could in fact create more.

Mr Lewis was elected to the Norwich South constituency with an 8,000 majority, defeating an incumbent Liberal Democrat.

The former army infantry reservist and television reporter sits on the Public Accounts Committee.

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