Now we will destroy Islamic State, says France
A broad alliance including the US, France, Britain and even Russia believes war is the only way to deal with Islamic State. But others passionately argue this will only make matters worse.
‘Anybody who attacks the Republic, the Republic will fight back. It is not they who will destroy the Republic. The Republic will destroy them,’ declared French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve.
‘France is at war,’ said his country’s president, Francois Hollande.
They spoke hours after French warplanes launched their largest airstrikes so far in the fight against Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq on Sunday and Monday. They targeted Raqqa, which IS claims as its capital, with the aim of destroying command and recruitment centres, an ammunition storage base and jihadist training camps. An anti-IS group in Raqqa said 24 bombs were dropped in Monday’s raids.
The French government believes last Friday’s attacks in Paris were organised from Syria and says IS is making further plans to launch attacks in Europe. Hollande, who says Syria has become ‘the largest factory of terrorists the world has ever known’, has pledged to ‘wage a war that will be pitiless’.
France is currently part of the international coalition against IS which includes countries from both far afield and the Middle East. It is led by the USA, which has now attacked more than 2,600 IS targets in Syria and Iraq since 2014.
The coalition faces a multi-dimensional civil war in Syria. IS is only the most powerful of numerous jihadist groups with training camps in the country. The situation is also complicated by international opposition to IS’s main adversary, the government of Bashar al-Assad, and Russian military action in support of him.
British planes are currently bombing IS targets in Iraq but not in Syria. This position is now under increased scrutiny; according to reports, the French ambassador to the UK has asked for British support in Syria. But the government faces significant political hurdles as it tries to win support for action, particularly with Labour expressing reservations.
Commentators such as Charles Moore of the Telegraph say the West must respond decisively to the attacks. The attacks show it is impossible to negotiate with Islamists. They are implacably opposed to non-negotiable aspects of a free, democratic way of life, and their jihadists are willing to kill indiscriminately. Only firm action — including a strong military response — can tackle them.
But Peter Hitchens of the Mail on Sunday says intervention will make things worse. Since 2001 Western nations have taken military action against Islamists in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Mali, expeditions which have displayed only incompetence and failure to understand the Muslim world and the Middle East. More bombing will achieve nothing but more death, more destruction and more hatred.
- Would you ever be willing to go to war?
- Should the UK launch bombing raids against so-called ‘Islamic State’ in Syria?
- List as many wars from history as you can think of in one minute. Then choose the one you know best and write down any key facts that you know about it. Do you think it needed to be fought?
- Write a letter to David Cameron, explaining why you think the UK government should or should not bomb IS targets in Syria.
Some People Say...
“You cannot beat violence with violence.”
What do you think?
Q & A
- Would stepping up the military action against IS — ‘going to war’ — protect me?
- Nothing can guarantee the safety of people in western countries, but France and some of the other countries involved judge it will help because it will kill those who planned the attacks on Paris, destroy their infrastructure and help to stop more militants from coming to Europe. But opponents of bombing argue it will encourage people to hate those of us who live in the countries doing the bombing.
- What about the people of Syria?
- The situation in Syria since 2011 has been shocking. With so many dead and the situation so dangerous, many are fleeing, creating a refugee crisis which some neighbouring states and Europe are still trying to deal with, and which looms large in the discussion over bombing Syria.
- Far afield
- Australia is involved although Canada is now not.
- Middle East
- The raids were launched from bases in the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.
- Over 200,000 people have been killed in Syria’s civil war since 2011. Last year it was reported that Assad’s government had killed 100,000 of its own people in that time.
- Russian military action
- Russia began bombing in Syria last month, with the stated intention of attacking IS. But US Defence Secretary Ash Carter is among those to accuse Russia of targeting other groups which are opposed to Assad in their bid to prop him up.
- The British government failed to get a motion passed in parliament supporting military action in Syria in 2013 after Assad used chemical weapons on his own people. They then pledged not to take action there unless a new motion were passed.
- Diane Abbott, the Shadow International Development Secretary and a close ally of Jeremy Corbyn, said on Sunday Labour would only support action ‘if there is a UN resolution and a plan to deal with the refugees that will result from further military action’.