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Civilians will pay the price in Syria

Within an hour of Wednesday night's Westminster vote in favour of air strikes, RAF Tornado jets were in the air heading for the Islamic State-held oilfields in Syria.

While this was a swift response no one is under any illusions that the campaign to eradicate the IS threat will be either quick or certain.

Britain has committed itself to a course of military action with no end in sight and no clear vision as to what the strategy will be if the air strikes - as expected - fail to defeat this evil organisation.

What we do know is that regardless of how sophisticated and precise the latest weaponry, innocent civilians, already caught between the twin pillars of IS and the Assad regime, will lose their lives as a result of aerial bombardment.

There is no doubt pressure on the British government has intensified since the Paris attacks and there is a wider sense of being seen to do something in the face of a barbaric enemy striking at ordinary people simply getting on with their lives.

Western leaders are feeling particularly vulnerable and doing nothing, in military terms at least, is often interpreted as weakness.

However, recent history in Iraq and Afghanistan should caution Britain against any rush towards intervention in a complex conflict in a volatile region.

Air strikes alone are not the answer and there is scepticism over David Cameron's claim that 70,000 moderate fighters are ready to take on IS in Syria.

The prime minister won a clear majority but the vote has deepened divisions in the Labour Party with shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn being hailed for his impassioned speech in favour of air strikes.

Beleaguered leader Jeremy Corbyn, who completely mishandled this issue within his party, should have been the one rallying support against military action and making a persuasive and convincing case but he faltered in this key test of his leadership.

It is a failure he may come to regret.

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