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PM Speech: Munich Security Conference
The Prime Minister, having attended a NATO ministerial in Brussels previously, attended the 2016 Munich Security Conference, where she spoke at a session focused on the ongoing situation in the Middle East - namely the campaign against Daesh and the Syrian crisis.
Thank you, ambassador, for organising this event. And thank you all for being here.
Throughout history we’ve thought of the Munich Security Conference as a “transatlantic family meeting”. Indeed, in past decades we devoted much time at this forum to discussing the state of the transatlantic alliance, the burning questions facing NATO – be it Balkan interventions or expansion of the alliance into central and eastern Europe. The topics of the transatlantic relationship are still critical – now more so than ever in light of Russian aggression in Ukraine. However, we’re now in a forum to discuss not just threats limited to a Europe whole and free, but rather to the whole of the international community.
The greatest threat that we, as a community, face today is the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. ISIL. Daesh.
Over a year ago the United Kingdom launched an air campaign designed to support Iraqi forces and degrade the ability of Daesh to continue their campaign of aggression and genocide in Iraq. In this effort we were joined by the United States and France in a trio of operations that led to a slowing of Daesh’s advance towards Baghdad.
Slowed, but not stopped. Degraded, but not defeated. While we can take solace in the fact that Baghdad has not fallen, the reality on the ground is that, without significant intervention by an allied coalition, Baghdad will fall. And that is unacceptable. That will throw the entirety of the Middle East into a greater degree of chaos than previous. And every day this chaos is only exacerbated by Daesh’s expansion in Syria. That expansion endangers the security of not just the region, but the world, with Daesh ready to extend their campaign of terror on the doorstep of Europe and NATO allies.
We must prevent that from occurring. A policy focused on degrading and delaying Daesh is no longer acceptable. We can only accept a total, lasting defeat of these barbarians.
The campaign against Daesh is not simple a transatlantic matter. It is a global matter. It goes beyond the reach of the European Union, which is forced to confront the refugee fallout from the Syrian Civil War and the expansion of Daesh. It goes beyond the reach of NATO, a defence alliance with a posture shifting back towards confronting major power conflict – and rightfully so. It is a global crisis with global implications. An established Islamic State in the Middle East would be able to fuel terrorism in North Africa and the Horn of Africa, in South and Southeast Asia, in Europe and North America. That is a crisis of global proportions.
It is a crisis amplified by the fact that there is no legitimate, sovereign government in Syria. When Iraq sought aid in countering Daesh, we were able to support an sovereign state’s invitation to operate in their territory. No such option exists in Syria. Thus this requires nontraditional responses – identifying groups like the Syrian Democratic Forces that we are able to work with, that control territory, and can deliver a credible fight against Daesh.
And we will support these critical allies on the ground. The coalition is united in the believe that we will dominate the skies in our campaign against Daesh. We will provide critical air support and coverage for the forces that ally with us to fight Daesh. We will work with them to provide logistical and operational support. Our commitment to building a credible force against Daesh in Syria is ironclad – and it represents the greatest departure from the Iraq-only strategy that is not working.
This is one underpinning of the conventional military strategy element. I won’t, for reasons related to operational security, delve too much into the broad military movements that the allies will be undertaking. However, we are making critical changes. Typhoons are being deployed to forward operating bases in the Middle East in order to accelerate the campaign against Daesh – an increase in presence when compared to our current use of unmanned aerial vehicles. A British naval task force, alongside American and French groups in the eastern Mediterranean, will be able to provide support for allied operations. This is, as we can all see, a significant increase in efforts.
However, a military strategy is insufficient alone. Providing training for army units is insufficient alone. We must move into further steps. Providing the best form of humanitarian assistance possible is going to be critical to preventing the crisis in the Middle East from further deteriorating. Promoting responsible security sector reform is going to be critical. We look forward, with our allies, on assessing how security sector reform can best be delivered and how it can be made effective. This will likely mean rethinking how we organise delivery and if the Department for International Development is the best lead agency in this regard.
Of course, returning to the idea of a humanitarian focus, improving the capacity of states to maintain a secure environment is not worth anything in the event that the state is nonfunctional or, even worse, the adversary. The question of Syria, which I alluded to earlier, remains near the forefront in our minds.
Unspeakable things are happening in Syria. Some are willing to place the blame solely on Daesh and their genocidal campaign. This is not the case. There are a broad range of perpetrators. And those perpetrators, particularly government-sponsored ones, are strengthening Daesh. They fuel radicalisation that drives the impoverished, the dislocated, the huddled masses seeking a better life towards Daesh. To those forced into refugee camps by the Syrian Civil War, a critical aim of the allied plan involves an investment in humanitarian aid in Syria, aid that is away from the main fronts against Daesh and the civil war. Keeping refugees away from the front lines is both a moral obligation and a strategic necessity. We will work, in concert with the United Nations, non-governmental organisations, and the international community to see this done.
Part of providing humanitarian aid means ensuring the security of those receiving aid. There must be a clear statement that any attempt to target refugees fleeing war, with either conventional weapons or weapons of mass destruction, will be met with force. Any attempt to target coalition forces carrying out this strategy to defeat Daesh and protect refugee populations will be treated as a hostile act and responded to accordingly. That is a firm line.
The current situation in the Middle East is absolutely challenging. It represents a humanitarian and security catastrophe of astronomical proportions. However, we, the coalition, established clear goals in initiating an intervention. First, we will accept nothing less than a lasting defeat of Daesh in the region, eliminating their capacity to operate, recruit, and conduct their campaign of genocide. Second, securing the refugee population is critical from both humanitarian and security perspectives – we ensure that any usage of chemical or conventional weapons against refugee populations in the area of coalition operations is deterred, defeated, or responded to. Third, we will work with both governmental and non-state actors in the region to promote a vibrant and responsible security sector that prevents Daesh and other like forces from gaining a further foothold in communities in the region. Fourth, we will provide the necessary humanitarian assistance to support displaced persons in the region and will provide further assistance to allow them to return to their communities after Daesh is removed.
The campaign against Daesh and the resolution of the conflict in the Middle East is a critical responsibility of the global community and pressing security concern for Europe. We are committed to achieving the goals of building a secure society in the Middle East, of protecting those that are most in need of protection. For the allies, it will be critical not to isolate the campaign against Daesh into a purely military box – and we will not. The new cornerstone of security policy in the Middle East will be one of considered intervention against terrorist forces and capable protection of peoples in need. That is a strategy for building a safer, more prosperous world.
MP for Hammersmith
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*Permission from Rick.
MP for Hammersmith
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Blakesley presents herself as a Foreign Policy guru, which is incredibly successful. Her plan is well-presented and sound.
Rick the Admin - The Resident Psephologist
Admin for Cabinet, PM's Office, DPM's Office, Defence, Energy, Regions, Environment, Transport, Communities, Elections, and Advisor to Labour and the Lib Dems