Comparing policies 2015: Where do the parties stand on ISIS?

Part of a series which compares how the main Westminster parties approach particular issues ahead of May’s election.

ISIS, or ISIL, is a monstrosity. First emerging after the Iraq War, the terrorist group and self-described Islamic Caliphate shares nothing in common with the peaceful teachings of the Qu’ran, and its crimes are too numerous to list. ISIS believes in sex slavery, the death penalty for homosexuality, gender segregation, and banning ‘Western’ subjects like philosophy and art history in schools. Its forces have taken over an enormous amount of territory in Iraq and Syria, prompting many Western nations to take part in air-strikes to weaken their forces. While these air-strikes have damaged the momentum of ISIS, the civilian casualties that come from them are untold.

The Conservative Party: This year, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond warned that there is a “very significant” risk of an attack on UK soil, either directly by ISIS militants or inspired by their goals. The Conservative-led government has launched air-strikes against ISIS militants, with mixed results. [Source]

From the manifesto:

  • “The rise of ISIL in Syria and Iraq has created new havens for terrorists from which attacks against Britain can be planned, financed and directed” (pg. 61)
  • “[We will] work for peace, stability and an inclusive settlement in Syria and Iraq; and pursue a comprehensive political and military strategy to defeat ISIL” (pg. 77)

Progressive-o-meter rating: 3.

The Labour Party: In 2014, Ed Miliband voiced support for U.S. and UK airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq, but also called for a UN Security Council Resolution which would rally international opposition to ISIS and tackle the group by political means, alongside military means. [Source]

From the manifesto:

  • “We will work with our allies to counter and confront terrorism. ISIL’s barbarism and expansionist ideology, alongside terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and Al-Shabaab, represent a particular threat to global security. Following a request from the Iraqi Prime Minister, it was right that the UK joined other nations in air strikes against ISIL targets in Iraq. But military action alone will not defeat ISIL. A long-term multinational political strategy, with regional actors playing a central role, is essential for tackling the rise of extremism across the region” (pg. 75)

Progressive-o-meter rating: 5.

The Liberal Democrats: The Lib Dem’s manifesto is the key to understanding their policy on ISIS:

  • “[We will] continue to work with international partners – Western, African and Arab – to tackle Islamic fanaticism embodied by organisations like the so-called Islamic State (IS) […] Extremist organisations pervert Islam and carry out appalling atrocities against Muslims as well as non-Muslims” (pg. 144)
  • “This is a generational challenge that will take time and patience. We favour broadening the international Coalition against IS. Recognising that airstrikes alone will not defeat IS, we will continue a comprehensive approach, in compliance with international law, to supporting the Iraqi government in standing against IS, including: Assistance in strengthening its democratic institutions. Training the Iraqi Security Forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters. Humanitarian relief to help alleviate the suffering of displaced Syrians and Iraqis” (pg. 145)

Progressive-o-meter rating: 6.

The UK Independence Party: This year, Parliamentary candidate Keith Fraser suggested that British teenagers who wish to join ISIS should be given a free one-way flight to Syria and have their passports revoked. Fraser also suggested that money would be wasted if spent on trying to combat ISIS in Syria and Iraq [Source]

From the manifesto:

  • “Parliament [recently] approved air strikes over Iraq on Islamic State […] These interventions have stretched the UK’s Armed Forces to the limit and damaged our reputation in the international community. They have caused social problems here at home and jaded the British public’s attitude towards involvement in future conflicts. Iraq is a much more dangerous place today […] The fight [against groups like ISIS] is not best fought on a battlefield 3,000 miles away, but at home” (pg. 67)

Progressive-o-meter rating: 4.

The Green Party: Natalie Bennett does not believe that sympathizing with groups like ISIS should be a criminal offence, as it would be an affront to free speech and would not solve the problems of extremism. Bennett maintained that anybody who takes part in violence should be prosecuted, but maintains that free thought should not be criminalized [Source]

From the manifesto:

  • “[We will] oppose all future interventions that lack a sufficient moral, legal and democratic mandate or when military action risks being counter-productive, for example by providing fertile recruitment, fundraising and propaganda opportunities. Instead we will advocate for regional solutions to conflicts and the UK to take a lead in advancing diplomatic, economic and political solutions to the threats posed by terrorist groups such as ISIS” (pg. 69)

Progressive-o-meter rating: 8.

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