It will be a relief to Philip Hammond the Foreign Secretary that his policy regarding the Islamic State is being defended by his colleagues as it has been confirmed that many people are still not sure exactly what that policy is.
David Lidington was able to confirm that nothing had been ruled out which at one time appeared to be the position that was about to be overruled by David Cameron. It was because of this misunderstanding that John Baron table the urgent question and made the plea to make sure that all of parliament was involved in any decision that was made.
Mr Lidington made it clear that Nr Hammond had said “we have ruled nothing out, we will look carefully at our options” and so the news coming from Downing Street that there was a disagreement was untrue as the position was still the same and there could be air strikes, but it was also just as likely that there may not be actual strikes made.
There was a further explanation made and that was that the remarks Mr. Hammond had made were in relation to a vote that had been held last year and not to the current situation. A spokesman for Mr. Cameron continued “the point…..was that last year Parliament expressed its view with regard to taking action…..against the Assad regime.”
Mr. Baron who had called for the debate welcomed the idea that there would be Parliamentary involvement before air strikes commenced, but went on to say that there were concerns that IS would not be beaten just through air strikes and there needed to be other powers involved as “the symbolism of the west defeating this caliphate would be too profound.”
He also mentioned that the idea of air strikes could face a problem as Syria would be prepared to defend its air space and was bound to have equipment in place that would make the whole scheme difficult. It would also lead to the question as to who was in the wings waiting to take over when ISIS is defeated.
There were other questions that had to be fielded by Mr. Lidington included the opinion on Iran becoming involved and here he said that while there was optimism there was still the issue of the support Iran had previously shown for the Syrian regime.
Mr. Lidington ended by saying that at the time the questions were academic as no decision appeared to have been made by any country.