FOREIGN AFFAIRS – IRAQ: COALITION AGAINST ISIL – 26 September 2014

Dr Julian Lewis: I am glad that the Prime Minister seems to accept that air strikes alone cannot hope to be successful unless they are in close co-ordination with credible ground forces. The only ground forces he has mentioned so far are those of the Kurds and the Iraqis. What are the other Arab states proposing to do, because surely those ground forces have to be Sunni-Muslim ground forces and we need other Arab countries to supply them?

[The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend makes an important point but we should tread carefully here. We are proposing to act at the request of the legitimate Iraqi Government. That Government are supposed to represent all their country – Shi’a, Sunni and Kurd. That country should be doing that, rather than relying on other countries to provide Sunni forces in order to deliver that effect. It is important that we keep up the pressure, because it is the Iraqi Government who should be representing all their people, rather than getting proxies to do it for them.]

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[Mr Andrew Mitchell: ... We need to ensure that there is massive regional support, and the Prime Minister deserves credit for having tried to secure the widest possible coalition. It has been a good start and I was pleased to see the successful meeting with Iran in New York, for which the Government deserve credit. Along with many others in this House, I have concluded that the relationship with Iran needs to be rebased and that much more work needs to be done to try to bring Iran into the comity of nations. Let us not be too pious in this House about British policy towards Iran. It was a British coup d’état in 1953 that removed Mosaddegh, the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, so we should bear that in mind as we consider the policy.]

Dr Lewis: Just to illustrate some of the complications of the situation, if indeed we do bring Iran back in, is it not the case that Iran will make it absolutely certain that our other professed wish to bring down President Assad never happens? The relationships are very complex.

[Mr Mitchell: My hon. Friend is right that the relationships are very complex, but that argument must not be an argument against trying. We are not trying to do this on any terms, but we must do everything that we can to achieve it.]

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[Mr Khalid Mahmood: ... A number of hon. Members today have said that the issue can be resolved only if we put more money and resources into the freedom fighters. Which of those freedom fighters will we support? The Muslim Brotherhood? Al Nusra? Will we support other extremist organisations that already exist? Will we support the un-Islamic State in the region? I deliberately call it not ISIL, not ISIS nor IS; I call it, and Brummies predominantly tend to call it, the un-Islamic State. That is what it is. It has no place in the religion of Islam of which I am a part. It has no place in any teachings of Islam. Those people who rape, murder and torture are carrying out things that are banned in Islam. They kill people because they might be Sunni; they kill people who are Shi’a, Christian, Yazidi and Kurds. They kill anybody who does not submit to their warped ideology. We have to be aware of what we are trying to do. The previous Foreign Secretary went to Europe and said that we needed to lift the arms embargo against the Assad Government so we could supply those so-called moderate fighters. When he came back having made the great achievement of lifting the arms embargo, he sat down with the security people and they said, “Secretary of State, who are you going to supply these weapons to?” Very soon he decided that there was no option of supplying weapons and decided that we would provide communication aid to those people. We create these types of vacuum. Senator McCain has been an advocate of a neo-Con policy in Syria, which is to make sure that we put in as much money and arms as we can. What we have not realised is that, as part of that effort over the past three years or so, we have created the vacuum that has allowed the un-Islamic State to be formed in those regions, taking people from all the various extremist organisations there and making them even more extreme, more grotesque and more violent than any other organisation – ]

Dr Lewis: I am anxious to give the hon. Gentleman an extra minute, because I want to hear what he thinks we should and should not do in the situation we face today. He is in danger of getting to the end of his speech without telling us.

[Mr Mahmood: I thank the hon. Gentleman for doing that. I am very keen to get on to the question of the situation today. I will vote later today in favour of providing support to the Iraqi Government, because they have rightly asked us to do so. I will go further: there will be a need for us to provide support on the ground in order to finish the job. The job needs to be finished off properly; if it is not – if we allow significant groupings to remain in Iraq – there will be greater problems for us to go back to resolve. In order to do that, we need not only air strikes but the surrounding Arab countries to put their money where their mouth is, by and large, and to get people on the ground to deal with the situation.]

[For Julian's speech in this debate click here.]