Members of Parliament were recalled to the Commons this week to vote on whether UK armed forces should join United States-led air strikes against Islamic State (IS) in Iraq.
Carmarthenshire Member of Parliament Jonathan Edwards voted against intervention.
When Tony Blair led the UK to war in Iraq back in 2003, Plaid Cymru warned that regime change would create a power vacuum. Former Carmarthenshire Member of Parliament, Adam Price, led attempts to impeach Mr Blair, and was famously ejected from the House of Commons for branding the then Prime Minister a liar.
Carmarthenshire played a significant role in the anti-war movement back in 2003 when hundreds of country residents travelled by coach convey to join the one million people marching against the Iraq invasion.
The UK Government’s intention is to support the Iraqi government with air strikes. The motion passed in Parliament does not support intervention in Syria.
Jonathan Edwards said he had no confidence in UK and US foreign policy, and that he believed regional government efforts - supported by the United Nations and international community - would achieve long lasting stability in the region, as opposed to western intervention with inevitable civilian deaths which would progress the cause of Islamic State.
Speaking after the vote in the House of Commons, Jonathan Edwards MP said:
“Since the people of Carmarthen East and Dinefwr put their faith in me to represent them in Parliament, I have never underestimated the responsibility it brings – not least when it comes to deciding whether or not our armed forces are involved in military action.
“The horrific scenes we have seen on our televisions in recent weeks leaves me in no doubt that Islamic State is a force of pure evil. The barbarity of beheadings, atrocities and cruel oppression, inflicted not just on western civilians, but also on the hundreds of thousands of inhabitants of Iraq and Syria who have been unfortunate enough to fall under the rule of I.S. is testimony enough.
“Military intervention through airstrikes therefore appears on the face of it to be an obvious choice of action. But British invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and subsequent entanglements should have taught us that the obvious choice is not always the one to take.
“We know that I.S. does not recognise borders. Military action in Iraq which the UK Government proposes ignores the fact that the Islamic State controls large swathes of territory in Syria, and splinter groups are active across the Middle East and North Africa with a French tourist recently executed in Algeria.
“I not convinced the UK government has a robust strategy for intervention or exit. I could not, in all consciousness, vote to send our armed forces into a situation in which they are at the mercy of a foreign policy decision in which I have no confidence.
“The inevitable death of innocent people from UK air strikes will only serve to aid Islamic State in its long term propaganda efforts to recruit more to its cause. There needs to be a clear endorsement of approved action from the United Nations for defeating terrorism in the region.”
Setting out his position on what action could be taken instead of military air strikes, Jonathan Edwards MP said:
“The Iraqi government – supported by western governments - has alienated its Sunni population who have, in turn, welcomed the ‘victories’ of Islamic State. Iraq is in desperate need of a non-sectarian government that encompasses all faiths and beliefs in its society. The Western powers following the 2003 Iraqi invasion have been guilty of supporting a sectarian Shia led government which has alienated other religious and ethnic groups.
“Bombs will kill terrorists, but they will not stop terrorism. Air strikes will only serve to further polarise the people and lead to a situation whereby Iraqi and Syrian communities are left to face the successor of Islamic State. We need to work with the Sunni tribes in particular to uprise against the Islamic State. Civilian casualties amongst the Sunni community as a result of air strikes will only strengthen the political grip of the IS over the territories it holds in Iraq and Syria.
"The UK's response to this crisis must focus on humanitarian and diplomatic efforts. A lasting solution can only be achieved by a region-led approach backed by United Nations-led international support. We should concentrate on delivering aid, bringing moderate regional powers together, and offering to take refugees as the number fleeing their homes will inevitably rise at a rapid rate.
“If the United Nations was indeed to endorse a strategy for intervention and exit I would then, of course, consider my opposition very carefully. As things stand an open ended commitment to UK air strikes lasting years is not something I can support.”