In the wake of the Tunisia attack, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon have called for MPs to consider sending British warplanes to target Isis in Syria.
Cameron is not expected to call a vote in parliament on the issue quite yet. He wants to be sure he can win after Ed Miliband effectively blocked military strikes against the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria in 2013. MP’s did back British participation against Islamic State militants in Iraq a year later and the RAF has been carrying out strikes there since September, but have, so far, not targeted Syria.
But are strikes the answer? Cameron and Fallon argue that due to growing evidence that Isis is a threat to national security; yes. However, this method of targeting terrorist groups has already been tried and tested across the globe, and more often than not, it fails with disastrous implications. The existence of Isis is largely down to this- many people explain its existence by looking to the invasion of Iraq and the War on Terror. In-fact, the group was most likely actually formed in a notorious US run prison that was in operation during the Iraq War.
The 2003 US-led invasion into Iraq and subsequent war was however just another chapter in a long history of Western interventions that have laid the groundwork for groups like Isis. Britain has played a role throughout. It was heavily involved in Operation Desert storm in 1991 during which more bombs were dropped on Iraq than were used throughout World War 11. This was followed by the US-UK imposed UN sanctions regime- in 1999, UN figures projected that more than 1.7 million Iraqi civilians had died as a result of the sanctions that had forced them to a diet of “semi-starvation”.
In 2003, as part of another US-led coalition, Britain invaded Iraq. The invasion and protracted conflict that followed bred something many Iraqis say wasn’t a major issue before- secretariat hate. For example, Samarra, a mostly Sunni city, is home to two of the most sacred Shia shrines. Its Sunni clergy have been the custodians of the shrines for centuries. It was after the invasion that the serious sectarian and ethnic tensions in Iraq’s modern history began.
Britain is now involved in striking Isis targets in Iraq, an ill-conceived approach that is doing nothing to lessen the national security threat posed by the group. Now they are hoping to extend the use of this same broken tactic to Syria- a country that has already been decimated by fighting and Assad’s bombs.
The divisions that have allowed ISIS to flourish are now far too complex to be solved with airstrikes. We need to recover the diversity that once blossomed in both Iraq and Syria, not further obliterate it with bombs that will breed Isis’ successors.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.