The British Prime Minister was absolutely correct when he said in the Commons last week that the issue of Isil could no longer be dodged.Whether it was the aircraft bombing above Sinai, the massacre in Paris or the hotel hostage outrage in Mali, there is no doubt that Islamist terrorism must now be confronted, discredited and defeated. If determined and concerted action is not taken, then this pernicious infiltration will continue towards the fulfilment of the caliphate dream.
The British people are now realising the gravity of the threat we face, with opinion polling currently showing 60 per cent support for the British contribution to the Coalition air campaign being extended over Syria. This is a message that the Government must listen to and act on.
The eradication of the so-called Islamic State will come about only through a carefully co-ordinated international military campaign in pursuit of the immediate strategic objective – the defeat of Isil. Islamic State will not respond to diplomatic pressure or economic sanctions – defeat is the only option. The American-led Coalition already understands this strategic objective and it is clear from the recent intervention by Russia in Syria that this objective is shared by Vladimir Putin too. Iran would also appear to be moving towards the same conclusion.
Thus the first thing that needs to be done is to reach a multilateral agreement on how to achieve this objective. The UN Security Council is the right forum in which to reach a consensus. If the defeat of Isil is the highest international priority, then pragmatic decisions need to be taken to place other issues on the back burner. Decent people recognise that President Bashar al-Assad has forfeited the right to continue in office in Syria, but his support and his troops are needed now. His fate can be decided later. In the short term, the Syrian army has a key role to play against Isil.