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Iraq: Coalition Against ISIL

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 12:26 pm on 26th September 2014.

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Photo of Dai Havard Dai Havard Labour, Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney 12:26 pm, 26th September 2014

There is little time, so I will try to deal with just some of the issues. Clearly, we have needs, opportunities and tasks to complete. As I understand it, the plan, which has not been explained terribly well, is that we should just be part of a process to try to find, fix and then, as the Americans would describe it, finish the opposition. Our contribution to the process at the moment is, at best, to help to fix the enemy in the position it is in—and not allow it to advance and do any more harm—and perhaps to do more than that if we can.

That is part of a campaign. In many respects, the language is over-ambitious; it always is. It is about wars on terror and eliminating and destroying. That needs to be better calibrated but, as I understand it, our part is in what possibly is not yet a fully formed strategy; it is a developing campaign. We need to make whatever contribution we can to a long-term process. As a number of hon. Members have said, that involves diplomatic activity as much as military activity. We need to do a lot more on that. We also need to do a lot more on the financial activity and the ideology that is peddled. My right hon. Friend Hazel Blears made an important point, to which I will return. We need to invest in those processes; we have been disinvesting in them. Therefore, we have opportunities.

We need to understand that others have made progress. It is interesting to see a woman jet pilot from the UAE flying an F-16 in combat. Other nations are making progress. One should not deny the success that is being achieved. That does not solve everything but it shows that a different discussion is going on in the region.

Three years ago, in conjunction with the Royal United Services Institute, I set up a defence and diplomacy group in Parliament because it was clear that the strategic focus had moved and we were behind the game. Therefore, we must not make that mistake. There is an opportunity, no more than that, that we must develop and work on.

Some rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia may be possible. Diplomacy is a dirty business; it always is. Sometimes one has to speak to people one does not want to speak to in order to make progress. I did that for 25 years as a trade union official—get over it and get on with it is the answer. One must make progress and recognise success when one sees it.

There are those tasks but we must invest in the ability to do them. We must not only create space by fixing the enemy but enable the countries in the region to be helped to do things for themselves; we must do things for ourselves, too. We have dramatically disinvested. We do not have Jones the spy where we need to have Jones the spy because we have not been paying the money to have intelligence on the ground to understand the position. We have disinvested in our intelligence, at home and internationally. We need to understand that this is a long-term process, and that in doing all these things we need to make a long-term investment.