Labour Party Conference Resolution on Bombing of Syria

Not actually that easy to find, below is the full text of the Labour Party Conference 2015 resolution regarding the extension of bombing from Iraq to Syria.

The Conference is formally the supreme policy making body for Labour, although obviously some Labour MPs intend to ignore its decision in this matter.

Syria Emergency Motion at Labour Party Conference

Conference notes the evidence of an increased Russian military build-up in Syria; the announcement of talks between US and Russian military leaders aimed at avoiding the risk of clashes in Syria on Friday, 18th September; the meeting between the Israeli PM and Russian President in Moscow on Monday, 21st September, focused on preventing accidental conflict between their forces in Syria; and the growing international diplomatic effort to achieve a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Syria.

Conference also notes the likelihood that David Cameron will seek House of Commons support to extend UK participation in the bombing of Iraq to Syria in the near future.

Conference believes the Parliamentary Labour Party should oppose any such extension unless the following conditions are met:

1. Clear and unambiguous authorisation for such a bombing campaign from the United Nations.

2. A comprehensive European Union-wide plan is in place to provide humanitarian assistance to the increased number of refugees that even more widespread bombing can be expected to lead to.

3. Such bombing is exclusively directed at military targets directly associated with ‘Islamic State’ noting that if the bombing campaign advocated by the British government in 2013 had not been blocked by the PLP under Ed Miliband’s leadership, ‘Islamic State’ forces might now be in control of far more Syrian territory, including Damascus.

4. Any military action is subordinated to international diplomatic efforts, including the main regional powers, to bring the Syrian civil war to an end, since only a broadly based and sovereign Syrian government can ultimately retake territory currently controlled by ‘Islamic State’.

Conference believes that only military action which meets all these objectives, and thus avoids the risk of repeating the disastrous consequences of the 2003 war in Iraq and the 2011 air campaign intervention in Libya, can secure the assent of the British people.

(Our emphasis)

Second source

Regarding these points

Point number 1 has not been met as a UN Chapter 7 resolution is required to authorize military force.

Point number 2 has not been met as Europe is split on a refugee deal

Point number 3 is not met as in his proposal for action Cameron explicitly says one objective is to “degrade and dismantle their economic and military capability.”

Point number 4 has not been met as Cameron seems to be suggesting a force of 70,000 moderate rebels will be able to retake ISIL territory and he does not appear to have even consulted with regional powers such as Russia and Iran.

Since it fails to meet any of the objectives set by the Labour Party Conference, it seems clear, to use the resolutions words, that the proposed action risks “repeating the disastrous consequences of the 2003 war in Iraq and the 2011 air campaign intervention in Libya.”

(Post updated to include the first two paragraphs of notes 6 January 2016)

4 replies on “Labour Party Conference Resolution on Bombing of Syria”

On the contrary: every single one of the conditions laid down in the Labour party conference resolution of 2014 is now (December 2015) fully satisfied. In particular it is simply untrue that only a Chapter VII resolution by the Security Council may authorise the use of force and there is absolutely nothing in the UN Charter to suggest that this is so. What is unique to Chapter VII resolutions is that they are mandatory: if they impose obligations on UN member states, they are legally bound to comply with them. SC Resolution 2249 does not impose obligations, so there’s no need for it to be mandatory. It is permissive: it authorises “all necessary measures” (UN language for “including force if necessary”) against Daesh and “calls on” (i.e. appeals to but does not oblige) all states with the capacity for doing so to stop terrorism in Iraq and Syria and to eradicate the safe havens established by Daesh in those two countries — and since Britain is a country with that capacity, as well as being a permanent member of the Council which voted in the Council for the resolution, we have a clear duty to respond to the Council’s call. And that means taking part in the existing air campaign against Daesh targets in Syria, as well as in Iraq (where we have been bombing Daesh for nearly 15 months without any mass protests at home that I’m aware of).
The other three Labour conference conditions are clearly satisfied by UK participation in the Vienna peace process whose stated aims constitute precisely the strategy and planning required to satisfy those conditions (it’s naive to suggest that the UK can draw up a meaningful ‘strategy’ for Syria on its own).

Hi Brian – thanks for your comment. The very well respected legal scholars I refer to in my previous post have a very different interpretation. Any further discussion of the legal justifications is welcome on that blog post.

I can’t agree with your opinion that the other three conditions are met by UK participation in the Vienna peace process.

If we take the second condition, it says a plan should be in place before bombing starts, not that a plan can perhaps be developed by an international conference some weeks or month later.

If we take the third condition it says bombing should be exclusively directed at ISIL military targets. Cameron has made it clear he intends to go after economic targets and that his strategy is based on supporting 70,000 Syrian rebels who we know are allied to the sectarian, genocidal jihadists of Jabhat al Nusrah.

On the fourth condition, what evidence is there that Cameron’s efforts are “subordinated to international diplomatic efforts”, as required? It seems to me the framers of the resolution intended to leave the option free for the UK to participate in airstrikes, but only as long as these came as part of an agreed joint effort, including the main regional powers, to bring the Syrian civil war to an end.

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