My speech on Syria

Here is my speech in the debate

If you want to watch it begins 6hours and 15 minutes into the recordiing please click below

8.49 pm

Mike Gapes (Ilford South) (Lab/Co-op):

The options in Syria have never been easy or risk free, and today all options are bad ones. The reality is that in the past two and a half years, the international community has betrayed those secular, enthusiastic people who tried to get democratic change in their country. Because of our hang-ups about our past, because President Obama was not interested, and because of Russian and Chinese vetoes in the Security Council, we have not given support, and that has led to the brutality, radicalisation and extremism that we confront today.

This debate has not made me proud. I am sad and I believe it tells me something about our country today when I hear people saying, “It’s none of our business” and “We shouldn’t get involved” when 100,000 people are dead and 4 million displaced from their homes. Today, increasing numbers of Kurds are fleeing Syria to go to the Kurdish region of Iraq where Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons to kill the Kurds in the Anfal campaign in 1988, yet nobody seems to realise the significance of that.

I have reservations about both the Government motion and the Opposition amendment because I believe they are inadequate. They both talk about deterring the future use of chemical weapons, but I do not think one can deter the use of chemical weapons simply by firing missiles symbolically—a “shot across the bow”, or whatever phrase President Obama used. I think the strategy the United States is about to launch is doomed to fail in its objectives.

Lady Hermon (North Down) (Ind):

The hon. Gentleman is extremely knowledgeable about Syria and I am extremely concerned about the implications for the wider region if we launch military action—heaven forbid that we agree to do so. Will he outline to the House his assessment of the implications of military action for the wider region?

Mike Gapes:

If military action is simply based on the kind of inadequate gesture politics that we seem to have coming from across the Atlantic, it will be a disaster and will inflame the people in the region. I believe, however, that non-involvement and non-intervention also has consequences, the most serious of which is that simply saying we will deter the future use of chemical weapons assumes that only the Assad regime will possess such weapons. What happens when areas of the country where chemical weapons are stored are overrun by elements of the jihadist-linked opposition who get them and pass them to al-Qaeda? What happens when, to try to secure some of those weapons and not let them get into the hands of the opposition, Assad gives them to his ally, Hezbollah, which tries to take them for potential use against Israel or elsewhere?

We must talk not only about deterrence but about the removal and ultimately the destruction of those chemical weapon stockpiles that date back to when the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia provided them to Assad’s father and his regime. I believe that these issues will be with us, however we vote today, next week and next year. In three or four years’ time we will still be confronting the issue of chemical weapons and we must get real about that. I will be supporting the Opposition amendment today, but I think we must go further.

8.54 pm

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