As the Foreign Affairs Committee warns against air strikes, would UK military action in Syria simply be irrelevant?

Bombing Syria will not significantly alter the balance of power (Source: Getty)

Professor Michael Kerr, the director of the Middle East & Mediterranean studies programme and the Centre for the Study of Divided Societies at King’s, says Yes

There is no obvious benefit to UK military intervention at this time; bombing Syria will not significantly alter the balance of power between its warring factions.


In the absence of a coherent political strategy to end the civil war, UK air strikes in support of a flagging US campaign will be viewed as an irrelevant gesture in the fight against Islamic State (IS).

No Western power is committed to ending the conflict militarily. Since 2011, rather than seeking to tip the balance of power decisively between regime and opposition forces, the US has avoided getting bogged down militarily in Syria.

Following Russia’s recent military intervention, it is not obvious how bombing IS would widen the UK’s political traction in any future negotiations over Syria.

So instead of bombing Syria, the UK should lend its considerable diplomatic weight to formulating a coherent EU policy to end Syria’s civil war, manage the humanitarian catastrophe it has provoked, and support Syria’s neighbours.


Dr Alan Mendoza, executive director of the Henry Jackson Society, says No

Far from being “irrelevant”, UK involvement in Syria would be extremely beneficial for the cause of peace. Doing nothing means leaving Syria’s future to Russia, Iran, President Assad and Islamic State (IS).

This is a recipe for further bloodshed and refugee flows to Europe’s shores. If we are not engaged in combating IS militarily, other protagonists will not take our involvement in peace negotiations seriously.

A viable Syrian peace can only occur if both Assad and IS are driven out. Our sitting on the sidelines will hinder, not help this. We are already engaged in airstrikes against IS in Iraq. IS doesn’t believe in borders, operating with impunity in both countries, so it is baffling for us to make this artificial distinction.

If IS is a threat to our national security – which it clearly is, given attempts to radicalise our youth and inspire terrorist attacks – then it is incumbent on Britain to seek to destroy it wherever it holds sway.

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