Dr Alan Mendoza, executive director of The Henry Jackson Society, says Yes
There is a strategic imperative for greater British involvement in Syria at this juncture. Our failure to confront President Bashar al-Assad two years ago, when he used chemical weapons in breach of international norms, has encouraged him to keep murdering civilians.
Islamic State (IS) has been able to capitalise on this to recruit more jihadists to its cause.
Millions of Syrians have fled the country, with a large number now heading to our doorstep.
For the killing to stop, the refugee flow to cease and Syria to have a chance for peace, both IS and Assad need to be removed. But that is not Russia’s goal.
Putin’s policy has more to do with keeping his puppet Assad in power than defeating IS. So we must respond by developing a Western plan for protected safe havens, administered by moderate rebels, that can be the basis for a new Syria, free of the twin destabilising forces of Assad and IS.
Dr Neil Quilliam, the acting head of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Programme at Chatham House, says No
Britain should not engage militarily in Syria unless there is an agreed international strategy that a) backs a political process in Syria – without Bashar al-Assad – and brings together members of local opposition groups and the regime; and b) aligns with international efforts to displace Islamic State (IS) in Iraq through a co-ordinated political and military campaign.
Without these conditions, Britain wading into the quagmire and carrying out air strikes against IS risks further strengthening the Assad regime, which will only push armed and unarmed Syrians deeper into the hands of IS.
Faced with the choice of IS or Assad, most Syrians will choose IS – it has killed far fewer Syrian than Assad’s barrel bombs.
Furthermore, intensifying the air campaign will necessarily increase the flow of refugees towards the EU and carries the significant risk of aerial confrontation between the UK and Russia.
Given Russia’s aggressive moves in Syria (and Turkish airspace), an “incident” looks likely, and would certainly test the Prime Minister’s mettle.