Carmichael: Why Lib Dems back air strikes in Syria

Alistair Carmichael has set out reasons for the Liberal Democrat’s controversial support of air strikes in Syria.

The Isles MP insists the decision by his party to back today’s historic motion in the House of Commons to bomb Syria in an attempt to eliminate so-called Islamic State forces, otherwise known as Da’esh, has not been taken lightly.

He says the party reached its decision after “lengthy discussion and deliberation”. But he is, himself, in support of the motion.

Alistair Carmichael
Alistair Carmichael

“Decisions of this sort are never easy and this has been the most difficult one that I have ever known. I certainly do not share David Cameron’s reported view that those who oppose intervention are ‘terrorist sympathisers’,” Mr Carmichael said in a statement.

“This is an issue on which we have all had to come to our own conclusions and for many of us it has been an enormously difficult process. I know no one, inside parliament or not, who has approached this from anything other than a position of good faith and I respect completely those who have reached a different conclusion from mine.”

Mr Carmichael contrasted the move with the decision to oppose war in Iraq which, he said, was “simple by comparison”.

“It was clearly illegal and it was difficult to identify what the British interest in intervention was.

“Recognising that some of the problems we are dealing with today have their roots in that disastrous misadventure, we should be quite clear about why this is a different conflict with different issues.

“The intervention against ISIL/Da’esh in Iraq which we currently support is legal by virtue of the fact that we were invited to take part by the Iraqi government. The proposed extension of that to Syria is legal as it has the mandate of a United Nation Security Council Resolution 2249. The legality of the proposal is therefore clear.

We are already engaged in this through our participation in strikes against them in Iraq. Refusing to extend that to Syria will not remove the threat of an attack happening in this country. ALISTAIR CARMICHAEL

“The wording of that resolution, in fact, goes further than authorising action. It ‘calls on’ states that have the capacity to act.

“I also believe that there is a UK national interest that justifies acting here. Our neighbour and ally France has asked that we should. That same request has already received positive responses from Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark.”

He described Da’esh as “a brutal organisation that subjugates woman, tortures and executes gays and will kill or torture anyone in their own community that does not actively support them”.

He added: “They have a capacity to take their war to our own communities as recent atrocities in Beirut, Paris and Sharm Al Sheikh have demonstrated. They are a force that has to be confronted.

“We are already engaged in this through our participation in strikes against them in Iraq. Refusing to extend that to Syria will not remove the threat of an attack happening in this country.

“Of course, bombing alone is not going to be enough to resolve this. To beat ISIL/Da’esh militarily will require ground troops and those must come from within Syria and the surrounding countries.

“It will also require a concerted political and diplomatic effort. That means that the Vienna process must be supported and broadened as far as possible.

“Most importantly of all, if we are really to learn from the mistakes of Iraq and Libya we must be prepared to commit to engaging in post-conflict stabilisation and reconstruction and to commit the money to that.

“Whatever decision the Commons takes today will have consequences. Be in no doubt, however, that failing to act will also have consequences. The civil war that has killed thousands and which has seen unprecedented numbers of people displaced from their homes and come to Europe as refugees will continue.”

Mr Carmichael described the response of British people to the refugee crisis as “a compassionate one” which had at its heart a determination to help.

“We have an opportunity (this is only an opportunity – it comes with no guarantees) to be part of an international effort to bring that conflict to an end, to use international institutions to rebuild a broken state and to do so in a way that is legal.

“To shrug our shoulders and refuse that opportunity because it is too difficult or should be left to others is to cheapen the compassion of that response and determination to help.”


Add Your Comment
  • Johan Adamson

    • December 2nd, 2015 13:35

    I dont believe Isil are actually that organised, and this seems once again like taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Escalation like this can surely only make things worse. Withdrawing support from Isil would be the first thing – like sanctions – no money or support would surely stop them. I heard a Tory on the BBC this morning that we have thwarted many planned attacks on the UK – so this strategy is working then – do we need to be so reactionary? He was also still saying this is a religious conflict. It is not. So much for Liberal pacifists, where did they go?

    • Gordon Harmer

      • December 2nd, 2015 20:08

      Isil not organised? Seven of them murdered 127 innocent Europeans in Paris only a couple of weeks ago, if that’s not organised please Johan tell me what is. They took advantage of a weakness in airport security at Sharm Al Sheikh and took a Russian passenger plane out of the sky, and you say they are not organised. These are the same kind of people who blew up the twin towers by flying aircraft into them these people are so organised we do not have a clue where they will hit us next and you and others want to pussy foot around them with sanctions. Slapping the wrists of these low life’s is not going to stop them, and bombing Syria is maybe not the answer but they have to be hit ten times harder than they hit us, otherwise we will be watching atrocities like Paris every week on out TVs.

  • Jonathan Wills

    • December 2nd, 2015 13:40

    Full marks to Mr Carmichael for his prompt reply to concerned constituents. But…
    1 Who and where are the “ground troops” to whom he refers?
    2 What about the civilian casualties, whom he ignores?
    3 What has our bombing of Iraq actually achieved?
    4 And why does he suggest that the alternative to bombing is “to do nothing” when Jeremy Corbyn and the SNP MPs have suggested numerous practical alternatives?

  • Robin Stevenson

    • December 2nd, 2015 17:09

    “Carmichael: Why Lib Dems back air strikes in Syria”

    Is it because every other pro-union party does Alistair?
    Is it because you don’t DO thinking for yourself?
    Is it because the UK has such a good history of successful intervention in the middle East?
    Is it because 72% of Scots DON’T want to back strikes?

    Until the Lib/Dems re-discover their backbone and get rid of this present group of Tory poodles, they’ll be skirting round the political peripheral for decades to come.

    • laurence paton

      • December 2nd, 2015 23:33

      As a long term supporter of Nigel Farage , Today I take my hat off to Jeremy Corbyn and who agreed and fought his corner with him. What difference will the RAf’s 2 or 4 planes make to entering this fray ?
      There are already larger air forces from other countries laying the entire place to rubble.
      The next atrocity is as likely to be planned from Bradford , Glasgow (or any other disgruntled community)for that matter…. I understand over 1600 sorties have taken place over Iraq and SYria, dropping highly expensive high explosives from a safe distance on a country with no air force, no mechanised land army and a rag tag militia of misguided religious extremists…. All these highly expensive laser guided bombs are getting used up an there will be some very valuable contracts to replace them
      Profits for this will be up.. my opinion is that this is a key part in this whole disgusting affair. I would happily see all these religious extremists liquidated permanently., but the criminal element is here in our government just as it is amongst the fighters in Syria
      David Cameron & co… here’s hoping the next ones a hedgehog.

      • Robin Stevenson

        • December 3rd, 2015 18:50

        Sadly, [as I said from the start] Jeremy Corbyn’s days are numbered, 66 Labour MPs voted against him, and the in-house fighting among the party hasn’t been this bad since Michael Foot in the 80s. Jeremy is not part of the establishment, fairness and decency are alien to those that he’s up against, The tories are bad enough, but his own backbenchers will be his downfall.

        Once again Scotland has been dragged into another Middle Eastern conflict against the wishes of a majority of Scots, yet another example of how the will and the voice of our MPs who represent Scotland in our [supposed] “family of Nations”, are sidelined and forced to do the bidding of a Government who represent a mere 14.9% of Scottish voters.

        It would be interesting to perhaps hear the opinion of Tavish and the other 3 Lib/Dem MSPs who went against their leader – Willie Rennie – and were NOT in favour of the bombing campaign?…. Or are they told what to say in public by Alistair the Tory poodle?

      • Johan Adamson

        • December 4th, 2015 10:28

        Really Robin. Bi-election victory with unexpected majority due to Corbyn’s leadership today. It really is time you and the press took seriously the fact that the electorate are not stupid.

      • Robin Stevenson

        • December 4th, 2015 13:35


        With all due respect, just what on earth are you talking about?

        Like Laurence I admire Jeremy Corbyn, I may not agree with everything [politically speaking], but I admire his honesty and integrity, had you read my post properly, you’d have realised I wasn’t talking about the electorate I was [in fact] talking about his own backbenchers, the people are “for” Corbyn which I fully understand, and which is the reason he became leader with a massive majority win, but my point of his main problems [which you obviously missed] are within his own party, which [imo] will be his downfall.

        Therefore I agree with you, “the electorate are not stupid”.

      • Johan Adamson

        • December 4th, 2015 14:30

        Robin, I did misread your post, apologies.

      • Ali Inkster

        • December 4th, 2015 21:01

        So when you claim a majority of scots are against airstrikes Wrobin, do you mean the electorate or the elected, because every poll I’ve seen except the snp own has a majority of scots backing airstrikes than opposing them?

      • Robin Stevenson

        • December 5th, 2015 12:11

        I mean the Electorate and the elected Wali.

        57 out of 59 Scottish MPs and 72% of Scots voted against bombing, I haven’t seen one poll indicating Scottish voters in favour of the UK bombing campaign? Perhaps you’d like to link it?

      • iantinkler

        • December 6th, 2015 0:11

        Which elected walis, Robin, the SNP MP walis in Westminster (apart from those under police investigation, whoops), or the ones in Edinburg? or perhaps Alex, there you have a true elected wali. Mind you he spends as much time admiring himself in paitings as he does in Westminster, a truly magnificent example of an elected wali

      • Ali Inkster

        • December 6th, 2015 16:49

        So in a self selecting poll run by the herald it managed 72% against bombing, but in all other polls where the selection was random the vote for bombing came out ahead.

      • Robin Stevenson

        • December 7th, 2015 0:11

        LOL…Brilliant Ian….”Wali” is a term I decided to use, simply because Ali likes to reply/refer to me as “Wrobin”, Meaning “wrong Robin”, Because poor Ali doesn’t get too much right, I thought I’d share his infantile gesture, ie: “Wali”. meaning “Wrong Ali”,..You’ve just emphasised and agreed with my decision Ian….And for that, you have my gratitude. 🙂

        Ali, you STILL haven’t linked a source where most Scots agree with bombing Syria?…Is it a case of there are none?…

    • Gordon Harmer

      • December 3rd, 2015 20:46

      Robin, why? Is it because every other pro-union party does Alistair? Maybe just maybe, joining a 60 country coalition to defeat the establishment of a murderous caliphate is not about independence.
      Seeing as you have brought independence into this debate you should have a read at this link before you spout your diatribe.

      • Robin Stevenson

        • December 4th, 2015 14:05


        I’m afraid I must disagree with you, it has everything to do with independence. Which of these 60 other countries [that you talk about] have absolutely “No” choice of whether they’re taken into a war or not? 72% of Scots chose “Not” to bomb Syria, and yet here we are?

        Your 2 year old link, courtesy of the “Hootsman”, is just the usual vacuous nonsense, may I suggest you find another source, perhaps with a tad of credibility? Perhaps even one that “Quotes” Alex Salmond?

        Much appreciated

      • ian tinkler

        • December 4th, 2015 16:22

        Robin Stevenson , 55% of Scots decided they wished to be part of the UK, that is their democratic choice. To claim Scotland has absolutely “No” choice of whether they’re taken into a war or not is utter rubbish. 72% of Scots chose “Not” to bomb Syria is again vacuous rubbish. You are drawing a single statistic which was not even a formal pole, just an internet trawl of opinions, hardly 72% of all Scotland. SNP disinformation yet again.

      • Robin Stevenson

        • December 5th, 2015 12:26

        That point that you fail to address Ian, is the fact that we are a [supposed] “family of Nations”, remember? Each one an equal member, each one deciding what’s in the best interests of their electorate, the 72% of Scots that [could be bothered] to vent their opinion, voted unanimously against extending the bombing campaign, out of over 2,300 people a mere 28% were for it, what does this say?

        I take it that you’re so “in favour” of bombing all these strategic oil refineries, that they [spookly] managed to miss after over 5,000 sorties, that you were part of the 28% then Ian?

      • iantinkler

        • December 6th, 2015 0:23

        Robin, just a tiny point a unanimous vote by definition cannot be 72%. I took no part in such an unscientific pseudo poll/vote as the result by definition would be meaningless. The 55% vote was the one of consequence, the 60% Nicola wants is nowhere near, so actually the Westminster vote is Law here, the rest is not of consequence, in any case. Sorry but that is a matter of indisputable fact.

      • Robin Stevenson

        • December 6th, 2015 23:54

        What is an”indisputable fact” Ian is that that 55/45 is last years history, we have at the moment 50/50, since the bombing campaign has now been extended into Syria that figure has increased, I look very much forward to the next [official] poll.

        Incidentally, that figure has now [finally] ended with 73% against bombing, based on a poll of 3,350 people, which is generally three times more than the average number of most other polls.

        Tick Tock…Ian 🙂

      • iantinkler

        • December 7th, 2015 11:52

        Incidentally, that figure has now [finally] ended with 73%
        Whoop Whoop, another unanimous (lol)73% poll taken from the Robin Stevenson fantasy spin land. The only one that is real Robin was the 55% referendum, democratically decided by all Scotland. I would not Tick Tock too much if I were you, someone may put a demolition charge on you thinking you were about to bomb, easy mistake. lol. (sorry bad joke)

  • iantinkler

    • December 2nd, 2015 18:34

    “Until the Lib/Dems re-discover their backbone and get rid of this present group of Tory poodles, they’ll be skirting round the political peripheral for decades to come.” So speaks Robin of the SNP. Now what would the SNP do about “Jihadist John? , that is if a bomb had not taken him out in Syria. I wonder just who is short of backbone here? Now “when Jeremy Corbyn and the SNP MPs have suggested numerous practical alternatives? Just what alternatives, Johnathon? and just how would they have stopped the slaughter in Paris?

    • Rachel Buchan

      • December 6th, 2015 21:17

      Who knows if a bomb took him out, or not? All countries practice propaganda during wars. Who is to say whether our government is telling the truth or not?

      • iantinkler

        • December 7th, 2015 11:56

        SAS targeted apparently, I would have thought a bullet would have been cheaper but may have blown their cover. He has not featured on any videos cutting any heads of recently, so perhaps he is now in paradise with his 12 virgins. I hope they are not child slaves, in the glorious Isis tradition!!

  • Leslie Lowes

    • December 2nd, 2015 20:19

    Thank you Alistair for giving us your full reasoning as to why you will be voting for an air offensive against Daesh in Iraq. It is a hugely complicated issue and one which causes confusion for many people and we all know too well that there are casualties in war, some of them innocently killed. Daesh though cannot be allowed to continue to grow and carve more and more territory and prestige for itself to attract yet more disillusioned young people to its unholy cause. We have to take a stand with our allies to degrade, damage and eventually illiminate Daesh and the threat it poses to humanity worldwide. It makes sense to attack Daesh in its “capital” Raqqa in Syria and help the process of degradation by doing so just as we have done successfully in Iraq, aided by the Iraqi Kurdish army, with British officers advising them. We also need the coalition to plan how Syria is to rebuild itself once the civil war is concluded, but I know that is an issue you will be watching out for in the months to come.

  • iantinkler

    • December 3rd, 2015 11:40

    We know that in August the 82-year-old guardian of the antiquities of Palmyra, Professor Khaled al-Assad, was beheaded and his headless body was hung from a traffic light. And we know that in recent weeks there has been the discovery of mass graves in Sinjar, one said to contain the bodies of older Yazidi women murdered by Daesh because they were judged too old to be sold for sex. We know they have killed 30 British tourists in Tunisia, 224 Russian holidaymakers on a plane, 178 people in suicide bombings in Beirut , Ankara and Suruc, 130 people in Paris – including those young people in the Bataclan, , whom Daesh, in trying to justify their bloody slaughter, called them apostates engaged in prostitution and vice. And we are here faced by fascists. Not just their calculated brutality, but their belief that they are superior to every single one of us here tonight, and all of the people that we represent. They hold us in contempt. They hold our values in contempt. They hold our belief in tolerance and decency in contempt. They hold our democracy, the means by which we will make our decision, in contempt. (Hilary Benn Westminster) It is not about Cameron or the Tories, it is about Isis and their rapes, murders and vile inhumanity. I am truly sorry for these whom turn this political. I think it is self evident who those people are!!

  • Robin Mouatt

    • December 4th, 2015 15:26

    Robin Stevenson, you do realise that 72% you keep quoting is a figure taken from a self-selecting web poll and in nobodies eyes can be seen to be a representative figure. Yougov have a small but valid poll conducted 23/24th Nov that shows 51% of their Scottish Sample approved of airstrikes, granted a small poll but much more valid than the votescotland poll which is not weighted therefore not a poll.

    • Robin Stevenson

      • December 7th, 2015 14:44

      As you say Robin, “a small” poll of a mere 145 Scots. Here is the latest YouGov poll conducted on the 2nd – 3rd Dec 2015, the results are as follows:

      Would you approve or disapprove of the RAF taking part in air strike operations against Islamic State/ISIS in Syria?

      Don’t know..16%

      While you may argue that the “web poll” does not reflect what Scots think on this matter, I think it has to be said that this poll was open to anyone and everyone, regardless of their political party of choice, and regardless of whether they were “for” or “against” the bombing campaign. 3,500+ people took part, with a clear indication that 73% were against. The YouGov poll indicates that the trend appears to be that air strikes opposition still continues to grow.

      • iantinkler

        • December 7th, 2015 16:09

        Robin, the only poll that matters is the 55% that Scottish folk decided on. Also the Westminster divisions. Moan, pleat distort and propagandise as much as you want. Even now the Scots still want to remain in the UK at the latest snap Poll. The burning question here is, with all the SNP ovine bleating, how long will the UK want the Scots to be part of the UK? It is no coincidence Wir Shetland already has more Shetland members than Shetland branch SNP. I feel your personal interventions, alongside a few others, have contributed greatly to that. That is my personal view, not Wir Shetland’s. Whoop, whoop, whoop . Perhaps, “Yes Shetland’s” feline mascot, Buster the cat rampant is highly appropriate, he is castrated and may also whine a bit, Meowww!!!lol.

    • iantinkler

      • December 7th, 2015 18:19

      Extraordinary turnaround. Robin Stevenson (December 6th, 2015 23:54). Scotland, 73% against bombing, based on a poll of 3,350 people. Robin Stevenson (December 7th, 2015 14:44) . Scotland , 45%, against bombing. Quite a change in less than 24 hours, from 73% to 45%. SNP propaganda need a more intelligent mouthpiece perhaps! Danus where are you when needed? With supporters like Robin Stevenson, you have a real problem.

  • Gordon Harmer

    • December 4th, 2015 20:49

    Danus asked this question on his Facebook page, “Very apt phrase on Question Time just now…… Why are deaths in Syria collateral damage while deaths in Paris are victims”.
    Danus, the Paris victims are victims because they were targeted by isis and targets do not become collateral damage. Deaths in Syria are collateral damage because isis were the target but civilians were not the target therefore become collateral damage.
    I would have thought someone who had the kind of education you have would know this, but hey why let facts get in the way of a good piece of SNP propaganda.

  • Gordon Harmer

    • December 5th, 2015 6:30

    Before anyone has a go of course the Syrian civilians who are collateral damage are also victims, it goes without saying.

  • Oliver Burdekin

    • December 5th, 2015 11:51

    This map shows how MPs voted on airstrikes in Syria.

  • David Spence

    • December 5th, 2015 12:21

    I find it rather unsettling that the west (we are fighting on behalf of the USA) are playing the same game they have played for over 30 years, where we (the west) create a monster to fight our battles, and now that this monster has managed to free itself, it is now creating havoc and is turning against its master (mainly the USA) as a result of our intervention to aid another country’s agenda of economic expansion.

    The so-called terrorist group Daesh, was, partly, created by the west to act on its behalf to rid the country of Syria of Bashar al-Assad, and as we all know, the present situation is now beyond our control, and plan B, like Iraq/Afghanistan, has been put on hold.

    I agree, if you are to believe the government controlled media, such a group should be eliminated as quickly as is possible, but I hope it is not a case of killing 100 civilians for the sake of 1 terrorist by carpet bombing Syria until there is nothing left but a mound of rumble.

    I suspect, like Iraq and Afghanistan, is the west (USA) already sowing the seeds for the creation of another monster?

  • paul barlow

    • December 5th, 2015 13:06

    no it needs saying a dead person in paris or london is no more a victim of mans cruelty than an innocent victim of our brave peace loving bombers. a dead child woman or even a man is a source of sorrow. bombing syria is no more moral than isis terrorist blowing themselves up in paris. a needless death is a disgrace no matter who. instead lets stop the flow of money and weapons to all combatants. and send a un force in.

    • iantinkler

      • December 5th, 2015 23:37

      An un force! Which un force Paul Barlow? So when the un force fights and has to kill Isis or be killed that is moral and OK? The UN if that’s what you mean has unanimously approved military action against Isis! SIMPLE ENOUGH FOR YOU TO UNDERSTAND?


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