Foreign policy barely featured in the election apart from the Opposition Leader citing his veto of British action against Syrian President Assad in August 2013 as an example of leadership. Yet Labour suffered one of its most calamitous defeats and the Conservatives achieved their first solo victory for 23 years but with a slim majority. Key Conservative foreign policy players remained in office, including Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Middle East Minister Tobias Ellwood.
The government's defeat on Syria at the hands of Conservative and Labour MPs reflected deep public suspicion about military engagement in the Middle East and anything that smacks of the intervention of 2003. The decision to undertake airstrikes against Daesh last summer was not unpopular because it was sanctioned by the Iraqi and Kurdistani governments. Joining America and others in direct action in Syria is seen as a logical next step by the government.
Prime Minister Cameron is seeking to change the public mood and advocate a comprehensive strategy against Daesh which he says is 'a challenge for a generation.' British security officials also deem it highly likely that Daesh will undertake atrocities in Britain. Cameron seeks a genuine consensus in Parliament for joining airstrikes in Syria. That would not be endorsed by the new Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn and would require rebellion by Labour MPs.
This may be helped by the strong British public anger over a photo of lifeless Alan Kurdi on a Turkish beach and the exodus of many thousands of refugees from Syria to European countries. Cameron announced that Britain will take 20,000 Syrian refugees over nearly five years but such action is subsidiary to helping those who cannot leave the region and the need to end the Syrian war and defeat Daesh.
This should include increased support for the KRG whose population has increased by a third with Syrian refugees and internally displaced people. The new KRG High Representative in the UK, Karwan Jamal Tahir, has suggested that western military action may prove necessary in Iraq and campaigners are seeking no-fly zones and safe havens inside Syria to stop Assad's barrel bombs.
Influential and cross-party parliamentary committees on defence and on foreign affairs, the latter including the British-Kurdish Conservative MP Nadhim Zahawi, will also examine security and foreign policy options and make recommendations for UK policy on combatting Daesh.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group, now chaired by Conservative MP Jason McCartney, who himself served in Zakho as part of the no-fly zone over Kurdistan in the 1990s, is becoming more active. It will send a fact-finding parliamentary delegation to Kurdistan in the Autumn to examine the new security, political and humanitarian landscape. One of its priorities is reviewing the operation of the visa system for KRG citizens following an official revelation that 55% of applications to visit Britain were refused in the year to March 2015 and the fear that a high refusal rate will undermine British links with the Kurdistan Region.
How British foreign policy responds to such inquiries depends on the ability of the government to make a compelling case to a sceptical public about the mix of economic, political and military action needed to help Kurdistan and others, and begin to roll back Daesh. The Kurds are now much more respected by UK opinion-formers and should maintain their influence on this foreign policy debate as it moves from a passive to a more active phase.