Tag Archives: Iraq

My speech to Parliament during Coalition against ISIL debate

Surely, humility and modesty should be our watchwords in this debate, if only because the reductions we have made to the size of our armed forces across the Army, Navy and, I am afraid, Air Force are so significant; yet we do not seem to have made the same reduction in our leading politicians’ desire to intervene across the world with the relatively modest armed forces that we still have.

I am pleased that there has been quite a strongly pro-American tone in this debate—both from the left and the right—and President Obama has found the words to describe very impressively what the Americans are trying to do. I wish them enormously well in that, but the size of their forces and their ability to intervene is one, if not two orders of magnitude bigger than ours.

We need to think about our record in previous debates. It is only a year ago that we were debating a Government motion to bomb the other side in Syria. It is only three years ago that 557 hon. Members from across the House voted for the intervention in Libya. It is very difficult to say whether anything is better in Libya as a result because it is so dangerous that people cannot tell us what is going there. That suggests the answer may not be the one that we would wish.

A week or two ago, I went to Calais and met a gentleman, Peter, who had come from Ethiopia through Sudan and Libya to Lampedusa and was then moved on by Italians and left at Bologna to get a train to Paris and then Calais. He is one of thousands of such people. One thing at least that Gaddafi did not do was encourage those boats. He had an agreement with Italy and defended their borders. The change that we have had has not helped us.

We talk of the legitimate, democratic Government in Iraq, but we have pretty much a sectarian Shi’a Government. A little less than perhaps half of the people vote for those parties. About a fifth of the country supports the Kurdish parties, which are happy to support the Shi’a regime, as long as they pretty much run things in Kurdistan. A fifth of the country is made up of the Sunnis who are disengaged, to put it at its mildest, from that process. The reason why we have this problem is that they prefer ISIL—or at least many of them do to one degree or another—to the Shi’a sectarian Government who were either persecuting them or not giving them a share of the spoils in that state.

Some people in the House—the right hon. Member for Neath (Mr Hain) is one; my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) is another—have said that they regret their votes on the Iraq war in 2003, but I do not understand what the Prime Minister’s position is. I would feel perhaps more prepared to support the Government if I knew whether he thinks that he made a mistake in 2003. Does he regret that vote, given what has happened, or is it something from which he does not resile? An answer to that would help, and we need to be modest and humble in our decision today.