Labour will back Syria airstrikes… but only on these 4 conditions

Royal Air Force Tornado jet © David Moir
Labour delegates at the party’s annual conference have voted to support military action in Syria, but only if four strict conditions are met by the international community.

The emergency motion proposed by Britain’s biggest trade union, Unite, was carried without a vote on Tuesday, the last day of the conference in Brighton.

The motion – which is only advisory – sets out conditions that would be almost impossible to meet in the near future.

It stipulates the government must meet four criteria in order to garner Labour support: authorization from the United Nations, a plan for humanitarian assistance for refugees, assurances that bombing campaigns would strike Islamic State targets only, and that military action is subordinated to international diplomatic efforts to end the Syrian war.

While the motion does not bind the party to follow these conditions, it does apply pressure on Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn and others in the shadow cabinet not to support military action in Syria.

Unite member Ivan Monckton – who was among those who proposed the motion – said the party should not be seen uncritically backing “another illegal war.”

The repeated British interventions into the Middle East at the behest of the US have seen huge resources ploughed into conflicts – each of which has further destabilized the region, creating still more refugees and led to uncounted civilian deaths,” he said.

It is time to break this cycle of war, which is why this party must tell Cameron to pause for thought. Over the past year, there have been some 6,000 airstrikes on Iraq and Syria by the US and its allies. They have dropped over 20,000 bombs.

The outcome has been that ISIS [Islamic State] has expanded the territory that it controls still further. There is no evidence that more bombing will lead to a different outcome,” he added.

Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to ask parliament for permission to take military action in Syria next month.

Labour’s shadow cabinet is split over support for extending military action against Islamic State from Iraq into Syria. The cabinet is also divided over how to vote, with Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell suggesting MPs may be given a free vote.

We haven’t come to this conclusion yet about Syria,” McDonnell told Guardian editor Katherine Viner on Tuesday, adding he had seen Britain go to war five times since he entered parliament.

It just focuses your mind. You get a chill down your spine when you are making a decision to send people into war where there could be a possible loss of life … When you are sending people with a potential loss of life I think it is a conscience decision, I think it is a moral decision.”

McDonnell conceded there are a range of opinions over bombing Syria within the party, and that at some point MPs would have to agree to disagree.