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My Lords, in debating the Motion before your Lordships today, I will set out the Government’s position on developments in Iraq. The question before the
House of Commons today, and the debate for us to contribute to, is how we keep the British people safe from the threat posed by ISIL and, in particular, what role our Armed Forces should play in the international coalition to dismantle and ultimately destroy what President Obama has rightly called “this network of death”.
There is no more serious issue than asking our Armed Forces to put themselves in harm’s way to protect our country. I will set out today why the Government believe that that is necessary. If we are to do this, there is a series of questions that must be answered. Is this in our national interest? In particular, is there a direct threat to the British people? Is there a comprehensive plan for dealing with this threat? Is the military element necessary? Is it necessary for us to take part in military action? Is it legal for us to take part? Will we be doing so with the support of local partners? Will doing this add up to a moral justification for putting the lives of British service men and women on the line? Above all, do we have a clear idea of what a successful outcome will look like, and are we convinced that our strategy can take us there? I will address each of these questions head on.
First, on our national interest, is there a threat to the British people? The simple answer to that question is yes. ISIL has already murdered one British hostage and is threatening the lives of two more. The first ISIL-inspired terrorist acts in Europe have already taken place, with the attack on the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels. Security services have disrupted six other known plots in Europe, as well as foiling a terrorist attack in Australia aimed at civilians, including British and American tourists.
ISIL is a terrorist organisation unlike those with which we have dealt before. The brutality is staggering: beheadings, crucifixions, the gouging out of eyes, the use of rape as a weapon and the slaughter of children. All these things belong to the dark ages, but it is not just the brutality. ISIL is backed by billions of dollars and has captured an arsenal of the most modern weapons. In the space of a few months, ISIL has taken control of territory greater than the size of Britain, and is making millions selling oil to the Assad regime. It has already attacked Lebanon and boasts of its designs right up to the Turkish border. This is not a threat on the far side of the world. Left unchecked, we will face a terrorist caliphate on the shores of the Mediterranean and bordering a NATO member, with a declared and proven determination to attack our country and our people. This is not the stuff of fantasy. It is happening in front of us and we need to face up to it.
Is there a clear, comprehensive plan? The answer, again, is yes. It starts at home, with tough, uncompromising action to prevent attacks and hunt down those who are planning them. We are introducing new powers. These include strengthening our ability to seize passports and to stop suspects travelling, stripping British nationality from dual-nationals and ensuring that airlines comply with our no-fly list. In all this, we are being clear about the cause of the terrorist threat we face. As the Prime Minister has said, that means defeating the poisonous ideology of extremism by tackling all forms of extremism, not just non-violent extremism, so we are banning preachers of hate, proscribing organisations that incite terrorism and stopping people inciting hatred in our schools, universities and prisons.
Of course, some will say, “Any action you take will further radicalise young people”. That is a counsel of despair. The threat of radicalisation is already here. Young people are leaving our country to fight with these extremists. We must take action at home, but we must also have a comprehensive strategy to defeat these extremists abroad. This involves using all the resources at our disposal: humanitarian efforts, which Britain is already leading to help those displaced by ISIL’s onslaught; diplomatic efforts, to engage the widest possible coalition of countries in the region as part of this international effort; and, at the United Nations, leading the process of condemning ISIL, disputing the flows of finance to ISIL and forging a global consensus about preventing the movement of foreign fighters.
This strategy also involves political efforts to support the creation of a new and genuinely inclusive Government in Iraq and to bring about a transition of power in Syria that can lead to a new representative and accountable Government in Damascus who can take the fight to ISIL. Yes, there is one part in all this activity in which we believe our military has an indispensable role to play, so I will turn to the question of why.
Why is the military element necessary? A military conflict is already taking place. ISIL has taken territory and is butchering people in Iraq. Iraqi, including Kurdish, security forces, are already fighting ISIL. We have to decide whether we will support them. This Government believe that we should. If we are to beat these terrorists, it is vital that the international community does more to build the capability of the legitimate authorities fighting extremists. Along with our European partners, Britain has already been supplying equipment directly to Kurdish forces. We are strengthening the resilience of military forces in neighbouring Lebanon and Jordan, and our Tornado and surveillance aircraft have already been helping with intelligence-gathering and logistics to support American strikes on ISIL in Iraq. However, the Iraqi Government want more direct assistance. Earlier this week, the Iraqi Foreign Minister wrote to the United Nations Security Council requesting military assistance to support his own Government’s actions against ISIL. When the Prime Minister met Prime Minister Abadi in New York on Wednesday, he reiterated that request to him. In Iraq, the real work of destroying ISIL will be for Iraqi security forces, but they need our military help and it is in our interests, and theirs, to give it.
The next question is: does Britain, specifically, need to take part in this international action? Again, the answer is yes. The international coalition needs our help, in particular with the vital work being done in terms of air strikes. Britain has unique assets that no other coalition ally can contribute: the Brimstone precision missile system, which minimises the risk of civilian causalities and which the US does not have; our unique surveillance and intelligence capabilities; and our highly professional forces, which are well used to working with their US counterparts. Those are some of the reasons why President Obama has made it clear to the Prime Minister that America wants Britain to join the air action in Iraq, which has been under way for several weeks now. But it is also our duty to take part. This international operation is about protecting our people, too, and protecting the streets of Britain should not be a task that we are prepared to subcontract entirely to the air forces of our allies.
I turn now to the question of legality. The Attorney-General has given his advice on the action that we propose to take. There is a clear legal base for UK military action to help Iraq defend itself from ISIL. A summary of this legal position is being placed in the Library.
The Iraqi Government have requested our help and given their clear consent for UK military action. There is no question about this. We have the letter from the Iraqi Government to the UN Security Council, to which I have already referred. We have the public statements from Prime Minister Abadi and President Masoum. We have the personal request made to my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and the full UN Security Council by Prime Minister Abadi in New York on Wednesday. There is no question that we have the legal basis for action, founded on the request of the Iraqi Government.
The next question is whether we will be acting with the support of local partners. Again, this is clearly the case. We have a substantial international coalition in place, including Arab nations, committed to confronting and defeating ISIL. Sixty countries are acting in some way to help tackle ISIL. Of those, 10 are Arab states. Five have already taken part in air strikes with the Americans in Syria. Even regional powers such as Iran are publicly condemning the extremists. Yesterday in New York, President Rouhani said that parts of the Middle East are,
“burning in the fire of extremism and radicalism”, and expressed deep regret that terrorism has become globalised. Of course, our differences with Iran remain. Iran’s support for terrorist organisations, its nuclear programme and the treatment of its people all have to change, and we will not back down on those things. But if Iran’s political leaders are prepared to help secure a more stable and inclusive Iraq and Syria, we should welcome their engagement.
We have a comprehensive strategy for action, with the political, diplomatic, humanitarian and military components that it needs to succeed over time. We have a clear request from the Iraqi Government for assistance; a clear basis in international law for action; a substantial international coalition, including many Arab partners; and the need to act in our own national interest to protect our people. It is morally right that we now move to a new phase of action by asking our Armed Forces to take part in international air strikes against ISIL in Iraq, and we must do so now.
We are very clear about what success would look like. We would see a stable Iraq and, over time, a stable Syria as well; and ISIL will have been degraded and then destroyed as a serious terrorist force. However, we should not expect this to happen quickly. The hallmarks of this campaign will be patience and persistence, not shock and awe. We are not deploying British combat troops but providing air power in support of local forces on the ground. No British or western troops will occupy Iraq, and many other elements will be needed for long-term success: the need for an inclusive Iraqi Government and for the Sunni tribes to rise up against ISIL; and the need for a Syrian Government who represent all their people. Even after ISIL has been dealt with, we should be in no doubt that future Prime Ministers and future British Governments will stand at this Dispatch Box dealing with this issue of Islamist extremism in different forms and in different parts of the world.
ISIL has sprung up quickly, and around the world we see the mayhem caused by other groups: Boko Haram in Nigeria, al-Shabaab in Somalia and al-Qaeda in Yemen. We are dealing here with a generational struggle caused by the perversion of one of the world’s great religions—Islam—but I have no doubt that it is one that this country is more than equal to.
I will say a few words about Syria. Syria is where ISIL has its headquarters and large numbers of its fighters, and where it holds British hostages. People will rightly ask why we are taking military action against ISIL in Iraq but not in Syria. Let me be clear about the Government’s position on this: there is a strong case for the UK joining in international action against ISIL in Syria. ISIL must be defeated in both Iraq and Syria. We support the air strikes being conducted by the United States and five Arab nations against ISIL in Syria but today we are discussing only the action that the UK proposes to take in Iraq. The Government will return to the House of Commons for a separate decision if we propose to take military action against ISIL in Syria.
In this Government’s view, the legal position is clear: there is a legal case for action in Syria, as there is in Iraq. However, the whole House is aware that there are a number of additional complications with regard to Syria. There is no legitimate Government there, a civil war is under way and there are regional and international angles that do not apply in Iraq. So the Government will return to the House of Commons on this issue if they judge it necessary to do so.
To conclude, it is inevitable that the shadow of the United Kingdom’s previous military involvement in Iraq hangs heavy over both Houses of Parliament today. However, the situation we face today is very different. We are acting in response to a direct appeal from the sovereign Government of Iraq to help them deal with a mortal terrorist threat to Iraq and to Britain. We are not acting alone, but as part of an international coalition of 60 countries, many of them from the region and all of them committed to rolling back ISIL, however long and difficult the task may be. This is not 2003 and we must not use past mistakes as an excuse for indifference or inaction.
We will play our part in destroying these evil extremists. We will support our Muslim friends around the world as they reclaim their religion. Once again, our inspirational Armed Forces will put themselves in harm’s way to keep our people safe. I pay tribute to their extraordinary bravery and service. I commend the Motion to the House. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baronesses the Leader of the House and the Lord Speaker for readily agreeing to the recall of your Lordships’ House on such an important day. I also echo the thanks of the Chief Whip to the staff of the House and congratulate him on his appointment.
My right honourable friend the leader of the Opposition has made it clear that the Opposition will support the government Motion concerning military action against ISIL in Iraq. We do so on the basis that this is not about ground troops from the UK or UK military action elsewhere, as the noble Baroness has made clear. It is a mission aimed specifically at ISIL.
It is important we understand that ISIL is not simply another terrorist organisation. We have seen its hostage-taking, including innocent British and American citizens, the murder of David Haines and the holding of other British hostages. It is not just British citizens who are being threatened, but people from many different backgrounds, countries and creeds. The accounts we have heard of the actions of this organisation are chilling and are often taken against Muslims. As leading British Muslim scholars and imams wrote recently, ISIL is perpetuating,
“the worst crimes against humanity. This is not Jihad—it is a war against all humanity”.
ISIL’s ideology has nothing to do with the peaceful religion practised by people across the world and by many in our country.
It is always a heavy responsibility that falls to us as we decide whether to commit UK military forces, particularly when we are doing so in the absence of a threat to us by another state. When we have considered military action in previous debates in the House, the Opposition have set out criteria by which to assess the case for action. I return to those criteria today.
First, there is a need for just cause in any action we take. We believe that ISIL establishes this case on the humanitarian grounds I have already set out, and on the grounds of national interest. The international instability that will be created by the overthrow of the democratic Iraqi state would clearly have implications for the stability of the region and therefore for the United Kingdom. That includes the possibility that Iraq will become a haven and training ground for terrorism directed against the UK.
Secondly, military action must always be a last resort. Again, we believe this criterion has been met. ISIL has shown that it is not an organisation that could or should be negotiated with. However, any military action must be accompanied by political, diplomatic and humanitarian action against ISIL, including strengthening an increasingly inclusive and democratic Iraqi state. That work is under way. However, to make the political, diplomatic and humanitarian action possible, there must be military action to contain and help to counter the threat of ISIL in Iraq.
Thirdly, there must be a clear legal basis to provide legitimacy and legal force to our actions. As I have said, we support the Motion because we will be responding to the request of a democratic state in Iraq, fighting for its own survival. I believe that the legal case is clear and I echo the comments of the noble Baroness the Leader.
Fourthly, we must believe that there is a reasonable prospect of success before we take the grave step of committing our forces. Therefore, we need to be clear about the aim of the mission, which is to reinforce the democratic Government of Iraq, and to prevent the advance and help to roll back ISIL at the invitation of that democratic Government by using international military air power while the Iraqi army and the Kurdish Peshmerga conduct a ground campaign against ISIL. That is why it is right that the use of air power is accompanied by training and resources to support their efforts. Nobody should be in any doubt that this is a difficult mission and that it will take time, but there is already evidence that the US action is having the effect of holding back ISIL.
The fifth criterion is that there must be broad support in the region for reasons of both legitimacy, because this action must not be seen as a new form of imperialism, and effectiveness, because regional support is essential to the long-term success of the mission. At the end of August the Arab League made a statement calling for comprehensive measures to combat ISIL, and we now see a regional coalition of Jordan, the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as well as many other countries.
Finally, the proposed action must be proportionate. We must make sure that innocent civilians are protected. The Opposition welcome the assurances that we received in this regard, including concerning the need, as always, to do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties.
Having scrutinised these six conditions—just cause, last resort, legal basis, reasonable prospects, regional support and proportionality—we believe that they have been met. However, there are also a number of reasons why Britain should act and not stand by. We have been asked to help by the Iraqi Government. Our traditions of internationalism have always meant that we reach out and help others in need. A decision not to join would be a decision not to use our military capability to assist those in desperate need.
As the noble Baroness the Leader said, this is different from 2003. This case is about supporting a democratic state. There is no debate about the legal basis for action in Iraq. There is no argument about whether military action is a last resort, because surely nobody, whatever their view on the Motion being debated in the other place, can argue that there can be negotiation with ISIL. There is broad international support, with all 28 EU member states and the Arab League providing support in one way or another. This is multilateral action prompted by a legitimate democratic sovereign state.
There is no graver decision for our Parliament and our country, but protecting our national interests, security and the values for which we stand is why the Opposition will be supporting the action set out in the Motion being debated in the other place.
My Lords, I wish to identify myself with the appreciation expressed to the noble Baroness the Leader of the House, the noble Baroness the Lord Speaker and our staff in facilitating this important debate today.
The question that is being put to our colleagues in the other place is a very specific one about air strikes and military intervention in Iraq. Given the engagement that we have had in Iraq and the very specific request from the new Prime Minister of Iraq for assistance in defending his country against a brutal insurgency whose stated intention is the destruction of his country and other countries in the region, we have little alternative but to join the others in rendering such assistance as we can reasonably provide.
While it is the duty of Members of another place to vote on that specific question, it is the responsibility of your Lordships’ House to consider the wider questions and to proffer such constructive advice to Her Majesty’s Government as we can. The proposal being put to the House of Commons does not include engagement on Syrian territory, for obvious political and legal reasons, but this leaves a major lacuna in the military strategy, at least so far as the United Kingdom is concerned. Military means in Iraq—and indeed if extended to Syria, as our colleagues in the United States have done—may be able to contain ISIS’s rapid advance, and it would be a mistake to underestimate their importance. However, they will not be able to destroy or defeat ISIS, which President Obama appeared to claim in one of his earlier speeches. The defeat of ISIS will come about only when local Sunni populations, tribes and allied groups in ISIS-occupied territories turn against ISIS. That could be made more difficult if heavy air strikes alienate populations and create a common enemy. We must reflect on the enormous effort that was made against al-Qaeda, which did indeed reduce its capacity, but has created many other even more brutal organisations right across the region and much more widely.
As we think on these questions it seems to me that they point to wider questions about the strategy being adopted to the growing tragedy of the region and, indeed the wider region. I want my noble friend the Minister to give an assurance and a commitment to a much more thorough-going examination of our national strategy, which must involve not only the wider Middle East, but the implications in north Africa, where already there are groups identifying with the caliphate and, of course, in respect of Russia, whose influence in Syria and more widely, is critical. Our relationship with Iran is also part of the changing character of our engagement. In that regard, I understand that for political reasons the Prime Minister and other colleagues speak passionately in terms of good and evil. Very wicked things are happening and there are people of evil intent and acts.
We must beware of thinking about the conflict in entirely Manichean terms of good and evil. Everyone on our side on this does not share our democratic values and our commitment to human rights. That fact in itself has contributed to the tragedy of the region. Let us add to our understanding from the excellent academic work being done at places such as the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence at King’s College London. I declare an interest as a patron and as director of the Centre for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict at Harris Manchester College, Oxford.
We are in a very dangerous place. The whole of that region—and countries much more widely—are dissolving into chaos. This is not simply a war like in the past. It comes close to home because it affects many people here. It is inevitable that there will be those who will want to conduct atrocities in this country to prosecute the aims of ISIS and others. There is also the possibility—indeed, almost the inevitability—of a whole new generation of young people being drawn into the jihadist orbit, just like the Arab Afghans going to Afghanistan in the 1980s. This will preoccupy us for a long time.
Pope Francis indicated a fear on his part that we were falling piecemeal into a world war III. He is not a man who speaks lightly about these things. While there is a grave decision to be taken by our colleagues at the other end, it is made all the graver because we are slipping, at least in some parts of our world, into something of a dark age. We must pray that it does not last as long as the religious wars in our own continent some centuries ago.
My Lords, when the matter of Iraq was last debated on
“I very much hope that we, too, will respond positively if we are asked to help by the Iraqis or if the Americans indicate that they would welcome more help”.—[Official Report, 25/6,14; col. 1327.]
Both those conditions have now been met, so I support the Government’s intention to participate in the air strikes against ISIL as part of a wide-ranging coalition, including many of Iraq’s neighbours, having already carried out reconnaissance flights, having begun to supply arms to the Iraqi Kurds and having brought humanitarian relief to the Yazidis, the Christians and other religious minorities being persecuted and murdered by ISIL.
Of course, none of these are easy decisions to take, nor are the options facing the Government good ones. But the case for acting now seems to me compelling and the arguments against inaction, while close allies such as the US, France and a number of Arab countries with whom we have long-standing links of friendship and co-operation are fully engaged, seem to me overwhelming. On the legitimacy and legality of those actions, the position with respect to Iraq would, as the Attorney-General has advised, seem to be clear-cut. We have been invited to intervene by the legitimately constituted and recently democratically elected Government of that country, which has been attacked by elements based in its neighbour, Syria. The fact that that Government have recently been reconstituted on a more inclusive basis than their predecessor is clearly very welcome. Now that we are preparing to back up our support for them in deeds and not just in words, we are better placed to urge them to follow up with deeds what they have said about healing the sectarian divisions in Iraq, which helped to create the conditions that led to the present crisis. It cannot be said too often that Iraq will not achieve stability and security unless its Sunni and Kurdish populations are treated equitably and in an inclusive manner by the Shia majority.
So far as the legitimacy and legality of operations within the territorial limits of the state of Syria are concerned, the situation is less clear-cut. Indeed, it is decidedly murky, as are most policy options with respect to that country. The following considerations are, however, worth bearing in mind. First, military operations against Iraq are being launched by ISIL from the large area in the east of Syria which it controls. The Assad regime seems to be both unwilling and unable to do anything to prevent that, which is assuredly its duty under international law. Secondly, that regime has already made a mockery of its responsibility to protect its own citizens, and ISIL is riding roughshod over that responsibility in the areas it controls, as is evidenced by the recent flight of tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds over the border into Turkey. Indeed, ISIL is violating many of the commitments contained in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which all member states have subscribed, most brutally and sickeningly in its publicised executions of innocent civilian hostages, including one of our own compatriots.
All that adds up to a justification of the action already being taken by the US and a number of Arab states against targets in Syria, even without any explicit UN Security Council authorisation of such action. Are these circumstances in which the coalition against ISIL should concert its action with the Assad regime? That is neither necessary nor desirable. That regime has committed and is still committing terrible crimes against its own civilians. It is a regime which, despite its accession to the treaty banning chemical weapons, and in violation of it, is dropping canisters of chlorine on civilian targets. However, I hope that the Government will remain alert to any opportunity that may occur to revive the dormant UN negotiations for a political transition in Syria. In the longer term that is surely the only way forward. We should be trying to enlist Russian and Iranian support for the resumption of those negotiations, and I hope that the gradual improvement of our relations with Iran, characterised by the Prime Minister’s well timed meeting with President Rouhani in New York earlier this week, will facilitate that. Perhaps the Minister in replying to this debate can say whether the Prime Minister and President Rouhani discussed Syria, and if so, in what terms.
In conclusion, clearly, the success of the operations against ISIL will depend crucially on the effectiveness of the coalition. I would be grateful if the Minister in winding up could say something about the structure of co-operation which is being put in place for that coalition. As he well knows, running coalitions is a labour-intensive business.
My Lords, the danger of this debate is that we speak only of Iraq and Syria, ISIL, and armed force. ISIL and its dreadful barbarity are only one example of a global phenomenon, as the noble Baroness the Leader of the House mentioned. We will not thus be able to deal with a global holistic danger if the only weapons we are capable of using are military and administrative, and if we focus only on one place. It is clear, as the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition set out so clearly, that we need to take this action now. However, it is also necessary over time that any response to ISIL and to this global danger be undertaken on an ideological and religious basis that sets out a more compelling vision, a greater challenge, and a more remarkable hope than that offered by ISIL. We must face the fact that for some young Muslims the attractions of jihadism outweigh the materialism of a consumer society. As the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, implied, if we struggle against a call to eternal values, however twisted and perverted they may be, without a better story we will fail in the long term.
The vision that we need to draw on is life-giving. It is rooted in the truths of the Judaeo-Christian tradition, relying heavily in the Middle Ages on the wealth of Islamic learning and that of the other Abrahamic faiths, not necessarily enemies, and enriched by others, such as Hinduism and Sikhism, in recent generations. Religious leaders must up their game, and the church is playing its part. It is the role of the church I serve to point beyond our imperfect responses and any material, national or political interest, to the message of Jesus Christ and the justice, healing and redemption that he offers.
But in the here and now there is justification for the use of armed force on humanitarian grounds to enable oppressed victims to find safe space. ISIL and, for that matter, Boko Haram and others, have as their strategy to change the facts on the ground so as to render completely absurd any chance of helping the targets of their cruelty. It is clear from talking this week with Christian and other leaders across the region that they want support. The solidarity in the region is added to by the important statement from the Grand Imam of al-Azhar on Wednesday. The action proposed today is right, but we must not rely on a short-term solution on a narrow front to a global, ideological, religious, holistic and transgenerational challenge. We must demonstrate that there is a positive vision far greater and more compelling than the evil of ISIL and its global clones. Such a vision offers us and the world hope and assurance of success in this struggle, not the endless threat of darkness.
My Lords, it is a rare privilege to follow the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, and I do so with great trepidation, which is only slightly mitigated by the fact that I agree with very much of what he said.
Many voices far more eloquent than mine have described the evil nature of ISIL and the threat that it poses. It has committed unspeakable acts of inhumanity on countless innocent civilians and undoubtedly poses a significant threat to the region and to us. I was horrified yesterday morning to hear on the radio my old friend Simon Jenkins dismissing the threat to us as no more than the risk of a few bombs going off on the streets of London. Those who are charged with the responsibility of protecting the citizens of this country cannot afford to take such a cavalier view.
The question before your Lordships is not how barbaric ISIL is or how grave is the threat that it poses; the question is what should be done to confront that threat and, in particular, what part this country should play in that endeavour. The United States has belatedly accepted that it needs to assume a leadership role. It has assembled a coalition that includes a number of states in the region. Other countries, including France and the Netherlands, have already taken action. Belgium will join them if its parliament votes in favour today. The Government of Iraq, who are most immediately at risk, have asked our Prime Minister—the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom—to make a contribution to that international effort. Is it seriously suggested that we should decline this request and that we should turn a deaf ear to that cry for help? What sort of a country would we have become if we had refused to play our part in this international endeavour to confront evil?
Of course it is true that air strikes alone will not definitively defeat or destroy ISIS. In due course it may well be necessary for action of a different kind to be taken, but the imperative now is to contain it, stop its advance and degrade its capability. That would give time—time for the Iraqi and Kurdish forces to improve their effectiveness; time for the Sunni tribes of Iraq to see that it is in their interests to oppose ISIL rather than to join it. They want to be on the winning side, and who can blame them after the treatment meted out by ISIL to those who have opposed it in vain? If the coalition can convince these tribes that it will be the winning side, that will do as much to win hearts and minds as anything else.
In my opinion, the case for supporting the action that the Government propose to take is overwhelming. It is a just cause. It is a moral cause. It is a practical cause. It is a lawful cause. It is a cause deserving of support from all quarters of your Lordships’ House.
My Lords, I have no hesitation in saying that I believe that Parliament will support the Government on this today. So I want to confine myself to two simple questions. The first is: what are the political objectives? Force has no utility unless it is used in pursuit of political objectives. In Iraq they are clear: the defeat and degradation of ISIL, and support for the democratically elected Government. In Syria it is essential that we have some inkling of where the Government are going because you can separate the issue in terms of Motions but you cannot separate it in reality. It is much more complicated and more conflicted. Put simply—I disagree with a colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, on this—it is not the wisest course to try to get rid of ISIL and Assad at the same time. Both may be devils but perhaps we ought to consider at least that the devil we know may be better, at least temporarily, than the one that we are only beginning to know. That is a hard decision to make but this is realpolitik.
My second question is this: what is the strategy? Or rather, where is the strategy? By that I do not mean military strategy but what militarists would call the overarching, grand strategy. While it is doubtless necessary to degrade ISIL at the moment, we need to be alert to the contagion that has resulted in, for instance, al-Qaeda rebranding itself and murdering French citizens in Algeria last week, and attacks in Mumbai, Yemen, Somalia and so on. That is not to mention Libya, which is now an ungovernable mess—a reservoir of terrorist ammunition for the rest of the country as a result of a “tactical intervention”. That is what worries me if, on this occasion, we are confining this to a tactical intervention. If all we do is limited military intervention, push on with tactical strikes and then look for the so-called exit strategy, we will achieve nothing. We will go round in the same circle again in another part of the world.
Surely, of all the lessons of Iraq—I disagree with a lot of what I think are superficial lessons—one is that it is quite possible to win a decisive military battle: the first six days were very successful, but it was the next six years that were the problem. Building the peace is an essential part of a grand strategy. If we do not have plans to build that peace on a wider scale then we will just go back to where we were before.
Let me conclude by saying what I believe a grand strategy is about. It is not grandiose but quite simple, and I would identify three elements. First and foremost, it does not confuse combat, or even decisive battles, with winning anything other than a short-lived, fragile peace or truce, during which we will actually win the longer term.
Secondly, grand strategies cannot be delivered successfully without a wide coalition. While I welcome the Arab states being involved, the wide coalition is answered by asking not just, “Who are our friends?”, but, “What are the interests of other people?”. Given some of the threats I have mentioned, Russia, China, Iran and others have the same interests as us against that primary threat. We should be talking to them. The decision this House made in Syria last year resulted in a realignment because we moved from getting rid of Assad to getting rid of chemical weapons with the support of Russia, Iran and so on. That is the second element.
The third is that such coalitions require capacity that goes well beyond military capability. If a strategy does not include public services such as education, health, sanitation, water supplies and so on—a real intervention to establish the winning of the peace—then, as I said earlier, we may well snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. This time when we act, let us work through not only the tactical and military interventions but the grand strategy to win the peace as well as the short-term battles.
My Lords, the question that this House, and more importantly the other place, have to address today is this: what is the question to which engaging in a fourth Iraq war is the answer for the United Kingdom? The noble Baroness the Leader of the House set out a clear and structured argument and I want to debate directly with her on the points she made. She said that one of the issues was the threat to the British people. I will be the first to commiserate with the families and friends of those who have been so brutally murdered, but the threat to the British people has certainly been ongoing since 2001. We have domestic measures in place and I welcome the fact that the noble Baroness has today outlined further domestic measures, but the threat to British people on the streets of the United Kingdom is not going to be ameliorated by entering into another war in Iraq.
The noble Baroness recognised in her speech that radicalisation is already here, but she felt that we need to take the battle to the Middle East. She mentioned beheadings and crucifixions, but she did not tell the House that these are acts which are the daily bread and butter of the Saudi judicial system. We are flying sorties with pilots we can make eye contact with whose judicial system crucifies and beheads on a regular basis. She talked about radicalisation. What are we doing to get the Saudis to tackle the perpetrators of hate against Shias, among others, in their Friday sermons week after week after week? I have raised this in the House more than once.
Why is the military element necessary? The noble Baroness put it to us that it is under way because it is happening; in other words, it is a fait accompli. We have a fait accompli and so we must engage. But US firepower is more than adequate to degrade ISIS. I do not think that it will destroy it—bombing from the air will not do so—but it is certainly adequate to degrade ISIS even without the Arab allies who are alongside and who have adequate weapons to do the job with the Americans.
The United States is currently engaged in six military wars. It is engaged in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq and now IS in Syria. The noble Baroness described what success will look like. She said that it would look like a stable Iraq and a stable Syria. The question I would ask is this: if she genuinely believes that that is achievable, when does she expect to see that happen? I am afraid that it is obvious that I do not think that engaging in air strikes is the answer for a stable Iraq and Syria. Does she expect to see it happen in a decade? Does she expect it in two decades, and after how many more are killed? We have seen 200,000 killed in Syria and we did not engage. When this is all over, will these countries be the same territorial states that we see today?
My preference would have been for us, as a P5 country, to have engaged in the Middle East in a regional conference that included all the P5 countries in order to bring about a sustainable end to the conflict in the Middle East. It would have involved a renewed effort in Israel-Palestine. It would have involved now, reluctantly, talking to Assad as part of the solution and certainly to keep Iran on form.
We are rushing into action which will inevitably have broader consequences than we can see today. The Motion before the other House does not provide the considered space that we should have to consider whether we can do anything in the Middle East and, if so, what?
My Lords, I strongly believe that we should join in the military intervention in Iraq but with our eyes wide open. The Iraqi Government have asked for our support, so intervention would be legal. We have excellent Armed Forces to provide that support. We would be joining a coalition with Iraq and, crucially, with others from the region. We know what our aim is: namely, to degrade and weaken ISIS so that properly trained Kurdish and Iraqi forces can regain control of those parts of northern Iraq now under ISIS control and thus remove the prospect of a vicious and maverick fundamentalist state in the Middle East threatening our and others’ interests. But it is in the achievement of those aims that the problems may lie. The only certain thing about war is that it never turns out as you expect. When the difficulties arise, the arguments for involvement in the first place can start to look, with the benefit of hindsight, distinctly shaky. Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya all show that.
Therefore, let us look beyond today. It is not clear that airstrikes will be enough. Nor is it clear that the Iraqi and Kurdish fighters, even when trained, will be able to defeat ISIS on the ground, even an ISIS that has been weakened by airstrikes. So our trainers may edge ever closer to a combat role, with all the risks to them and to opinion at home that that will bring. On the political level, I suspect that Iran will continue its shift from enemy to ally—an uncomfortable but, I suspect, necessary process that was inevitable from the day that a Sunni-led Government were replaced in Baghdad by a Shia-led Government.
Finally, the logic of not intervening in Syria, while in my view correct today, will look increasingly uncertain as it becomes clear that the Syria-Iraq border is no more than a line on a map. The question of the legality of an intervention in Syria, even if there is no UN Security Council resolution because, for example, of a Russian veto, will become paramount. I believe that it will not be an insoluble problem—Kosovo is a precedent—and I note what the Minister has said. None the less, it would be a difficult issue.
These are not questions that need or can be answered now. But if we agree to a military intervention in Iraq now, as I believe that we should, we should do so in full recognition of the probability, and I would say certainty, that some or all of these questions—British troops on the ground, intervention in Syria, perhaps in semi-alliance with Bashar Assad, and closer alliance with Iran—will arise in, say, two or three years’ time. We cannot afford ourselves the luxury then of saying that if we had appreciated the difficulties now we would not have voted for intervention today. As I have said, I am strongly in favour of that intervention today but with our eyes wide open.
My Lords, just over a year ago, our House, alongside the other House, was asked to take a decision about military action in Syria. At that time, on the arguments before us, I was critical of that idea because there was too much fuzziness about the account given of our objectives, our allies and, indeed, our enemies. But, as a result of the time that has passed, a terrible clarity has now taken the stage.
ISIS is comparable to a plague. We have all seen the black flags on its troop carriers and tanks and increasingly we see it as a new sort of black death sweeping across the region. We are right to do that. We are right also to welcome the fact that there is now less uncertainty about our allies. In particular, a considerable number of Middle Eastern states are taking part in the action in which we will now join.
I want to make two points. One is that we have in a way—I believe rightly—changed our constitution without anybody noticing. I think that it is now inconceivable that this country would go into a war or into substantial military action without the approval of, at any rate, the House of Commons. That is a big advance constitutionally, in my view, and I hope that it will stick. But we should not go beyond that into thinking that we sitting here or they sitting down the Corridor are in some way equipped to run a war and to decide who is worth supporting and who is not worth supporting. This is going to be a struggle. It will take a long time and go through many twists and turns, as it already has done and will continue to do. We have to put a certain trust in those who are in charge of our affairs. It would be a mistake for us to rush up and down about the minutiae of each decision. I hope, therefore, that we will show a certain mastery of restraint as this action continues.
I wanted also to say a word about Syria. We all know why the Government’s Motion does not include Syria, but I repeat a point that I have already made. It is hard to foresee the future—I agree with what the noble Lord who preceded me said about this—and we must not prevent the Government coming to this House and the other House with a case for action in Syria, if need be. I agree that it is hard to see how, when ISIS has abolished structures as far as it is concerned and is ranging across the whole region, we can confine our intervention to one part of the region.
Those are the two points that I wanted to make, but I do so in support of the Government. I think that they have taken the wise course and the safe course for this country.
My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, whose authority and insight were evident in his remarks, with which I wholeheartedly agree.
I support the Government’s proposal to contribute to the air strikes within Iraq against ISIL in aid of the Iraqi Government’s defence of Iraq and its citizens. The question of whether further intervention is required, including in Syria, is for another day. Nothing should be ruled out. We should stand up to ISIL by using force to help those who are in the front line against it. There is no other sensible or just option.
I would not support the use of force by Her Majesty’s Government unless it was lawful under public international law. I have no doubt that it is and I will address this issue briefly. The use of force by one state in the territory of another state is lawful if authorised by the UN under Article 42, or in self-defence, or pursuant to the responsibility of nations to protect the citizens of another country who are the subject of mass human rights abuses from which their own Government cannot or will not protect them, or also when there is an immediate humanitarian emergency that is likely to be averted by the use of force. The precise parameters of this last possible basis for the use of force under international law are uncertain, but it exists and was the basis for intervention by Her Majesty’s Government in northern Iraq in 1991 and following, and in Kosovo in 1999. It does not require a UN resolution.
In this case, there is no Article 42 resolution. Self-defence requires no UN resolution. It includes collective self-defence. Where one country, at the request of another, comes to the aid of the requesting country in defending itself, the use of force by that other country—in this case our own—is lawful, provided that the force used is proportionate and is in response to an immediate threat to the country defending itself. Iraq has requested assistance, as the noble Baroness the Leader of the House has described. There is no doubt that there is a threat to the territorial integrity of Iraq and the lives of its citizens. That threat is real and immediate.
The force used in self-defence must be proportionate. That must be a judgment made on the ground, with which we should be extremely slow to interfere, as the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, indicated. We offer six Tornado aircraft, as well as continued surveillance, targeting ISIL’s military capacity in Iraq. It seems extremely unlikely, in the light of that contribution, that issues of proportionality will arise.
Collective self-defence—a basis for the use of force expressly preserved by Article 51 of the UN charter—provides clear legal authority in this case. This legal justification is uncontroversial and while, no doubt, there will be some who will seek to controvert it, it is not significantly in doubt. As for the “responsibility to protect” doctrine, I can see a very strong case for it being invoked. There are many who think it cannot be invoked without a UN resolution. But Iraq, in seeking the support of other nations in self-defence, is responding appropriately to the threat to itself and its citizens.
The right of countries to intervene with force in another country, under the “responsibility to protect” doctrine, arises where that country’s Government will not or cannot protect their own citizens. Where, as in this case, the Government genuinely seek the assistance of other countries to protect their citizens and the assistance obtained is likely to be a sufficient and proportionate response to the threat, and while the “responsibility to protect” doctrine may also justify intervention, the detail of that need not be examined because of the clear collective self-defence case. Similarly, that is also the case in respect of the immediate humanitarian emergency basis.
I have one final point. The constitutional course adopted by the Government in this case, in making and seeking Commons support for the decision, is right. The decision on whether to use force resides constitutionally with the Executive. There is, however, a constitutional convention that, under normal circumstances, the Government should seek the support of the Commons in their decision to use force, in advance of its use. Where that support is not forthcoming, force should not be used. That convention is not formalised in the sense of appearing in legislation or standing orders. To reduce it into writing would reduce its flexibility. But it exists and it should be given effect to. I congratulate the Government on giving effect to it. It is right that we are also recalled to give our views, but it is not us who have to endorse the right to go to war: it is the other place.
My Lords, I am privileged to follow the noble and learned Lord’s reassurance on the international legal issues, with which I wholeheartedly agree. I, too, support the decision to obtain a parliamentary mandate for air strikes against ISIL in Iraq. The holocaust that ISIL has started has shocked the world.
What I want to say has not yet been said in this debate: it is incumbent on this House and the other place to support the service chiefs who will now have to conduct the military campaign. What has been started is a military campaign and they must be allowed to conduct it with the usual military control techniques and to the highest military standards.
In doing so, they and we are entitled to expect regional allies to put in ground troops, for aerial might alone can cause severe damage but will not totally destroy. For example, aerial strikes will not take survivors as prisoners to render them ineffective or bring war criminals to justice. That means that we must be prepared to train ground forces—those of Iraq and possibly other allied countries—and avoid the debacle of the weakness of the forces of Mr Maliki’s discredited Government as they collapsed under the approach of ISIL. Somebody’s boots on the ground will be a requirement for success and there will have to be boots in both Iraq and Syria.
However, in allying with other countries, we must be careful about some. The influence of Iran, particularly its Quds forces, on the Maliki Government has been extensive and has diminished the protection of minorities in Iraq. I suggest to the Minister that if we sup with Iran, there should be a long spoon at the table.
In addition to air power, can we be assured by the Government that we will also deploy our own Special Forces, who have skills beyond those of any other country in the world; that we will deploy our own intelligence services’ formidable capability alongside those of, especially, the United States and France; and that the effective use of military command and control will be able to function with as little unnecessary political and juridical inhibition as possible? We must recognise, too—must we not?— that the borders between Iraq and Syria are long and, in many places, arbitrary and artificial. Hot pursuit should be recognised as an appropriate measure, whether from land or air. If there is a large-scale transfer of assets by ISIL from Iraq to Syria, we must be able to consider immediately whether today’s decision should be varied. I have seen the limited legal advice issued by the Government this morning and I regret very much that it does not deal with or anticipate those issues.
Finally, I turn very briefly to terrorism within the UK. It is self-evident that there is a real threat that a violent jihadist supporting ISIL, if he has safety and the means, will make as sophisticated an attack in the United Kingdom as he can muster and that, in the medium term at least, this threat will endure. The waging of an aerial war abroad will raise the potential for a terrorist reaction at home. I therefore urge the Government to listen to those of us who call for the public to be protected, in the short-term at least, by strengthened but proportionate counterterrorism measures. I also urge an increased focus on the Prevent strand of counterterrorism policy in terms of both funding and deployment. Partnership with Muslim communities to make Prevent more effective can make a substantial contribution to the safety of our citizens—including, of course, British Muslims.
My Lords, like the noble Lord whom I have the privilege of following, I, too, support the Motion that the Government has placed before Parliament, but I do so very much with my eyes wide open, as we have been encouraged to do. Last month in Istanbul, I was present when Hadi al-Bahra, the president of the Syrian opposition coalition, tried to persuade members of the US Congress to supply heavy weapons and equipment to the Free Syrian Army and to support US air strikes there. The humanitarian case was compelling, as indeed it is today, but the war-weary US politicians could see no vital US interests and were not persuaded by his answers to the famous question: what then? Today, there is a humanitarian imperative justifying intervention against the threat that ISIL poses to Iraq, and there is a sound legal basis, as we have heard, for intervention in Iraq.
However, the least persuasive argument is that if we do not deal with ISIL in the streets of Iraq, we will have to deal with it in the streets of the UK. The Prime Minister told the United Nations that the United Kingdom has exported 500 jihadists to fight in Syria and Iraq. This problem is already on our streets and, indeed, in our homes. Already we have a serious problem that cannot be dealt by with air strikes anywhere in the Middle East.
I am not given to counsels of despair, but air strikes in Iraq will play into the narrative of ISIL’s propaganda. It will use it to recruit more of our young people to its cause, and air strikes will increase the risk of retaliatory action here. Civilian casualties are inevitable. There are significant downsides to air strikes, and we should agree to them only if we are convinced that they will be effective in achieving the strategic objectives of degrading and eventually destroying ISIL. Recent history of bombing does not suggest that such an objective can be achieved by military means alone, far less by air strikes. They must be part of a coherent political strategy. We must be able to answer the question: what then?
At the root of this problem is a challenge of political legitimacy in both Iraq and Syria. To all intents and purposes, these are two failed states. If we see this challenge otherwise—for example, as only a counterterrorism operation—we will be at it indefinitely. Without legitimate Governments in both states, even if ISIL is killed and buried, it will not stay dead but will rise again. If Nouri al-Maliki was still Prime Minister in Iraq, we would not be having this debate today. It is only the prospect of an inclusive, legitimate Iraqi Government that permits consideration of any military intervention there at all. As long as the Assad regime exists, it will spawn jihadists and other criminals capable of the barbarism that ISIL perpetrates daily. If we have learnt anything from the past, it is surely that we cannot deal with an enemy on one side of a porous border while leaving a safe haven on the other.
As my noble friend Lord Reid said so eloquently, there must be a viable political, military and diplomatic coalition with sufficient traction on the ground to take advantage of any opportunities that we create. The necessary complementary element requires partners who are able and willing to put boots on the ground and who are given all the assistance they need—lethal, non-lethal and humanitarian—as necessary. If we really believe that we have a dog in this fight, we must ensure that that dog is on the winning side. We need to appreciate the long-term nature of our commitment and the requirement to ensure that the new Iraqi Government deliver, and that we have no prospect of success if Syria continues in a state of partition, with the Islamic State on one side and the Assad regime and its Iranian and Hezbollah allies dominating the other, and if we do not effectively lean on the funders of ISIL to cut off their financial support.
We should learn from the mistakes of the past, including the mistake of our intervention in Libya, which suggested that we had no responsibility for the consequences. We will own the consequences of our actions then and this time in Iraq, as we own the consequences of our previous interventions. This is my definition of keeping my eyes wide open.
My Lords, I believe we all recognise that today we are somewhere that we would rather not be, but the situation that has presented itself in Iraq and Syria since June as a result of the barbaric atrocities and ambitions of the so-called Islamic State and ISIL fighters leaves no option but to take some action. I therefore join many Members of your Lordships’ House and the other place in supporting the Prime Minister’s proposed use of Royal Air Force aircraft in conducting offensive operations in Iraqi airspace.
After the bruising experience of the vote in August 2013, albeit on a related but totally different premise, I believe the Prime Minister has done the right thing in carefully building support for his proposed course of action, including securing proper legal cover and that invitation to act from the Iraqi Government. Moreover, the UK will be joining a coalition that includes many Arab, Muslim and Gulf states, and that is absolutely right.
However, we have come to this moment very late and today’s vote authorising offensive action is just the beginning of something; it is definitely not the end. The Secretary of State for Defence’s comments that this matter could take years are realistic and right. But it is an issue not just of timescale but of intent, determination and open-mindedness. A few weeks ago, the President of the United States said that the US did not have a strategy, which, in the face of the ISIL onslaught, was a worrying omission. But a strategy has now emerged, at least in part due to the energy of the King of Jordan, whose country sits absolutely in the eye of this storm.
Any strategy involves first the identification of the grand strategic objective to be achieved: in this case, removal of the threat posed by ISIL and its Islamic State and caliphate ambitions. This removal will entail not just the containment or neutralisation of ISIL but almost certainly its destruction—perhaps not necessarily its complete physical destruction but its destruction in the minds of those who would otherwise have chosen to support its objectives; and they may be in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon or in London.
With a clearly identified strategic objective, we have to be open-minded about how to achieve that objective. It may be that joining an air campaign above Iraq will be enough. It may be that providing some support and training for the Iraqi Government and the Peshmerga will be enough. But if it is not enough, our schemes of manoeuvre to achieve our objective will have to be reviewed and revised.
There are three facts that we have to face. ISIL recognises no international borders. It wants to impose its self-determined caliphate. If our enemy does not recognise borders but we do, we are constraining our response. Attacking ISIL from the air just above Iraq is dealing with half a problem and not a whole problem. Of course, operating in Syrian airspace is a major problem—not a legal problem but a practical one. That is why last month I ventured to suggest that we might have to have some form of dialogue with the Assad regime to enable us to do that. However, if there is no appetite for that, air strikes in Syrian airspace may have to be confined to the use of unmanned aerial vehicles. The US has correctly concluded that carrying the fight against ISIL into Syrian airspace is right; we may yet come to the same conclusion.
Secondly, issues such as the ones that we are currently facing are ultimately settled on the ground. That is the environment in which we live: we live neither in the air nor on the sea. Therefore, within a proper political framework that addresses the legitimate needs of both the Iraqi and the Syrian people, ISIL must be defeated on the ground, albeit supported from the air. I have no wish to see British or American ground combat units committed to this operation but I am quite clear that ISIL must be defeated on the ground. For now, we must fully support those who are fighting on the ground: the Iraqi army, the Peshmerga and probably the Free Syrian Army—an opposition group in which we can now have greater confidence, given that ISIL has broken away and revealed its true colours. To do this, we may need to send more equipment and training teams to the region and possibly demonstrate our mutual support to threatened states such as Jordan while deploying units there for exercises or training, if invited.
Finally, time is not on our side in this conflict. We have been slow to take action; momentum is still with ISIL. On the diplomatic, political and military fronts, we must catch up and we must overtake, making it quite clear around the world that this kind of barbaric activity has no place in the 21st century, whether in the name of religion, politics or economic gain.
My Lords, I have reservations about what is being proposed today. Of course, ISIS is the epitome of total evil and barbarity but the question today is whether the timing and nature of what is being proposed is right. The Prime Minister rightly tells us not to be “frozen with fear” by previous experiences in Iraq but there is a vast gulf between being frozen with fear and learning the “lessons of the past”. The main lesson is that this time the relevant questions must be answered before and not after action has commenced, and my reservations arise because I believe, with great respect to the Leader of the House, that many of the crucial questions have not yet adequately been answered.
The Prime Minister stressed the importance of a clear plan: a strategy to degrade and ultimately to destroy ISIS. Will bombing achieve this and will our involvement in that bombing enhance that strategy? Both past experience and senior military voices today suggest not. What, then, is our real objective? Is it containment? Possibly it is, but the lesson of past conflicts is that containment works only as long as the pressure is applied and, when that pressure is removed, the containment ends.
Can, in fact, ISIS be degraded and destroyed? Its armed capability probably can, but the Wahhabist philosophy behind it and from which it draws its inspiration and indeed much of its finance will persist. If bombing does not achieve that main strategic objective, what then? Will we admit failure and walk away? I doubt it. Or will we more likely apply more and more military pressure—the classic mission creep—ending up with British boots on the ground? How long will our involvement continue? The answer that we will be given is, “Until the job is done”. That is the same answer that was given in Afghanistan, in Iraq previously and in Libya, on each occasion with a studied failure to define what the job was.
Have we actually considered what we will leave behind? In the past, it has tended to be chaos and violence. Today, even if ISIS were successfully degraded, the fundamentalism would continue, as would the underlying conflict between Sunni and Shia. How would our intervention have affected these broader and potentially even more dangerous geopolitical issues and the very real terrorist threat that ISIS poses to us here in the United Kingdom through returning jihadis? What will be the effect of our involvement in bombing ISIS on potential jihadists here? We know already that so-called lone-wolf terrorists operate and pose a real and present threat in this country at this time. How much greater might that threat be if we are perceived as bombing fellow jihadis from a great height, and would the military degradation of ISIS in Iraq diminish the threat here? Again, I have to say that I doubt that.
These are some of the questions to which the lessons of the past effectively demand satisfactory answers before we embark on another military intervention in the Arab world. Until they are answered, we should at least hold our fire.
My Lords, like so many of your Lordships who have spoken already, I support this proposed action on the basis that we cannot refuse the request that has been made to this country by the legitimate Government of Iraq. It has been put eloquently, including by the noble Lord, Lord Howard, with whom I entirely agree, and it is lawful. I put the lawfulness of this proposed action very simply. Any legitimate Government have the right to deal proportionately, but if necessary with force, with armed and murderous insurrectionists on their own territory. That is what Iraq seeks to do. It is entitled to turn to the international community to ask for support. So long as that support is also proportionate and complies with the laws of international humanitarian law, there is no need to go any further into the reasons for the legitimacy. The case for why it is lawful is clear.
There are two lacunae, both of which have been mentioned in the course of the debate, on which I will spend a moment or two. One of them was mentioned by the noble Baroness the Leader of the House when she opened this debate, when she referred to the other things that we need to do to deal with the threat to the British people. I support the need to deal with preachers of hate, and support what the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, said about the need to look at our Prevent strategy. We will not protect people in this country simply by air strikes, even though they may be essential. We must not forget that, and I hope that this House will come back to those questions as the Government come back to them.
The second lacuna that has been mentioned is what will happen in Syria. It is inevitable that the Government at some stage—whichever Government that may be—will come back and say, “We need now to deal with ISIL in Syria because of the porous border, because it can simply retreat to its bases there”. Indeed, it is operating from its bases there. The legal basis for air strikes in Syria will be more difficult, but there may well be reasons and justifications for them which we need to study now. The first is the right of self-defence and collective self-defence, which is recognised under the United Nations charter. This House debated the extent of the right of self-defence in international law on
“It must be right that states are able to act in self-defence in circumstances where there is evidence of further imminent attacks by terrorist groups, even if there is no specific evidence of where such an attack will take place or of the precise nature of the attack”.—[Hansard, 21/4/04; col. 370.]
It was because of that use of self-defence that we originally took action in Afghanistan. The second basis is the ability to take action to prevent humanitarian catastrophes. The evidence for that will need very carefully to be considered if the Government take the view that that is a justification in place.
These are not easy questions, whether they are murky or unclear, but they will need a very careful analysis. I hope too, as other noble Lords have said and as the Prime Minister has said, that we will not be paralysed by what has happened before or by fear of what will happen again and not take the right action. I say that with respect to the Government, and with respect to my own Front Bench and to those in the other place, so that they will also be prepared to take the action that is right for us and for the rest of the world.
My Lords, I start by declaring an interest. I have been part of a project for the past five years that is financed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Conflict Pool to assist with capacity building in the high council of representatives in the Iraqi Parliament in Baghdad. On the basis of that experience I will spend a few moments underscoring a point that was made by, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Ladyton, about the significance of the challenges faced by the new Administration in Iraq.
Before I turn to that, I should say that entirely support the recall. It is correct that Governments should test parliamentary opinion by recalling both Houses. Even if they lose occasionally, it is still the right thing to do. I also concur that it is right to support and join the coalition, military and otherwise, that has been created by President Obama and the Prime Minister. The work of that coalition should be continued not merely through the difficulties of a military campaign but on a wider basis as well.
I first remind the House, and I am sure that there are colleagues with more foreign affairs experience than I have, of the significance of the British influence in the region, thanks to our history and the quality of our diplomats. In particular, I cannot help but recognise and acknowledge the excellent work of Ambassador Simon Collis in representing Her Majesty’s Government in very difficult circumstances. The Arabist perspectives that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has been able to promote are now paying dividends in using our influence to good effect. I hope that we will do that.
However, the international coalition needs to be quite clear—the noble Lord, Lord Reid of Cardowan, made this point earlier—that when you get down to it, for the communities that are subject to this insurgency it is as much about education, water and public utilities as it is about bombing with smart weapons from 10,000 feet. I absolutely subscribe to that. The new Prime Minister of Iraq is an excellent man—British trained, of course—who understands very well what his country is able to offer, and I am very pleased that our Prime Minister responded positively to his request for help.
The Iraqis face immense difficulties, domestically and politically. They have an embedded system of corruption, which they are trying to deal with. They are facing failures of public utility in water quality, desertification and electricity supply. In addition, they have an overall lack of capacity to deliver because those of the professional classes who have families and have been able to leave have been under pressure since 2003 and have left. They are now in other countries. So even if the policy is right and the money is there, the capacity to implement change in a positive way to benefit the population is not always open to them. We can help with that.
I understand perfectly well why DfID does not consider Iraq a country in need of support because of the oil resource, but in these new circumstances, particularly when we are trying to support communities that are subject to this insurgency, DfID should be able to provide the expertise necessary to undermine the insurgency from within. I conclude by reminding the House of an apposite Arab proverb:
“My son and I against my cousin, my cousin and I against the stranger”.
We can help to undermine that insurgency through our unique relationship with the country and by deploying professional as well as military support. I hope that we will do so in tandem with the international coalition that has been put together as soon as we possibly can.
My Lords, I came back last night from an Inter-Parliamentary Union visit to the United Arab Emirates. I thank our hosts. I am glad that the Emirates have joined other Arab states to resist ISIL. We are all right to help Iraq, the Kurdish Regional Government and the Kurds of Syria to defend themselves. We should, however, beware unforeseen harm. Each civilian killed and each house destroyed will turn hearts and minds against the coalition for peace.
We should learn from the failures of Israel in its wars in Lebanon and in Gaza. Nearly all agree that it is right to rescue Iraq, the KRG, and the refugees and displaced people. The Syrian Kurds had attacked no one. They now face ISIL’s heavier weapons. I have already argued that the Syrian Kurds should have arms for self-defence and our air support. Legal niceties should not stop their having real protection, as several noble Lords have already indicated.
Containment of ISIL is the first point and will almost certainly need support from the land forces of neighbour states. Armed might alone will not defeat ISIL. Better ideas will be far more important than bombs. Here I agree very strongly with the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury. In the Emirates, my colleagues and I saw creative ideas being put into practice: ideas for what to do when oil stops polluting the world; plans for sustainable cities, using new and old technologies; ideas for training the unemployed youth of the Middle East.
Europe and America should use extreme care when speaking about Islam in general and about acts of terror in particular. ISIL must be defeated in people’s imagination. In the Emirates we saw signs that the Arab world can regain its self-confidence. If these bear fruit, a new Arab civilisation could rise. Wahhabi ideology and Shia sectarian behaviour are both probably bankrupt. Personal dignity and human development for the common good are the kinds of ideas that will—
I beg the noble Lord’s pardon, but it might be in everyone’s interest if we were sure that the loudspeaker had stopped so that we can hear the noble Lord’s contribution. I wonder whether it has stopped; I cannot hear it at moment. We are safe to continue.
Well, my Lords, I conclude by saying that positive ideas will be crucial during the containment phase to rebuild Iraq, Syria and Palestine anew. Corruption and old-style dictatorships have no answers to those problems.
My Lords, this debate is to decide whether to use hard power to destroy an utterly ruthless and evil regime, the like of which has hardly ever been known before. We cannot wait. Every day this evil grows and comes closer and becomes more threatening and ever stronger. It goes without saying that such an ideology will not be destroyed overnight, so containment must be the first objective. We must ensure that the United Nations’ vote to restrain various forms of support for this evil regime does not sink back to being just a lot of hot air. Countries and organisations that renege on these undertakings must be heavily sanctioned and publicly shamed. We must be ruthless in how we handle such events.
ISIS is a spreading malignant cancer. Treating just part of the body may be the result of a politically acceptable compromise on strike options, tidily restricted to Iraq, but we should not forget how this will be viewed by our wider-thinking, stronger partner, the United States of America. Like cancer treatment, military options need to be militarily coherent, not globalised.
Once Parliament has made its decision, the Executive and our highly able Armed Forces must be allowed to get on with the job. We are most fortunate in having highly professional and enlightened commanders at the helm and a Secretary of State for Defence with a strong reputation for common sense and political courage. The public are ready to support action, although they must be prepared for civilian casualties. The people over there have no hesitation whatever to embed with civilians, and under air attacks I am afraid there will be many, many casualties.
Sadly, last year, and most recently over Scotland, the United Kingdom has lost some of its influence and standing on the international scene, but I believe that the Prime Minister is rapidly regaining that ground. It is essential that it is remembered that this country’s history has always been about the creation and protection of world trade and the freedom that that brings. Our present long-term foreign policy is unchanged. In my view, an announcement by the Prime Minister that very substantial moneys a year will be made available to enhance our military fire power in defence of the realm will unquestionably make the strong international statement as to the long-term role of this country in playing its part towards peace.
My Lords, I strongly support the actions that have been proposed by Her Majesty’s Government to deal with the growing security crisis in Iraq, and I am delighted that my Front Bench has today issued its unequivocal support for that policy.
The growing crisis in Iraq certainly has a direct material effect on our own security here in the UK; it certainly affects the security of our regional friends and allies. In fact, it affects the security of our growing coalition of international partners who are mobilising to deal with this serious threat. Of course, the principal responsibility for restoring the territorial integrity of Iraq rests with the Iraqi Government, but we know that Iraqi ground forces and their allies the Kurds will take time to regroup and to regather their strength to push back the so-called Islamic State. If we are today considering simply the issue of air power, it is worth bearing in mind—and all of us should remember—that the Iraqis do not have an air force. If the key thing is now for us to find time to build that resilience to deal with Islamic State, the use of air power is a perfectly reasonable, proportionate and—above all else—legal response to the crisis that our friends and allies in the region face. I have absolutely no doubt about the legal basis for this action. I have heard my noble and learned friend Lord Goldsmith, and others, talk about this, and I am completely satisfied. I am also completely willing to trust the decisions that our military commanders will make in deploying the formidable weapon that the Tornado represents. I have seen at first hand, as have all my noble friends who have occupied the role of Defence Secretary, the care and diligence that our commanders exercise when identifying targets and deploying military force to deal with them.
We have had some great speeches today and I do not want to go over the points that many others have made. I just want to make two final points. First, our concern today has been with the use of air power. It is inevitable, however, that in future, concern will be about the ground campaign. If we succeed in pushing back ISIS—I very much hope that we will—it will be incredibly important that the space that will then be liberated is not occupied by the Shia battalions and Shia regiments that the Iraqi Government have been raising in Iraq. We have to find a way together to rebuild the relationship between the Sunni and Shia community in Iraq. Maliki recklessly and criminally squandered the enormous gains that the Sunni awakening created in 2006-07. He frittered that away in pursuit of a sectarian agenda in Iraq and we are rueing the consequences of that today. We must work with the Iraqis and all of those people of good will in the region to re-establish that broad base.
Secondly, it is inevitable if we take this action—I have no doubt that later today we will be involved—we will have to rethink our position on Syria. I say that with a lot of trepidation and concern. Operating in Syrian airspace presents a unique and dangerous hazard for coalition aircraft. We should never lose sight of the fact that the Syrian air defence system is manned and operated by Russians. It would mean coalition aircraft coming into direct conflict with Russian military forces on the ground; we should not forget that. However, we should also do what we need to do to win this campaign. There is precious little point in starting this if we are not as a nation and as a coalition prepared to take whatever steps are necessary to win.
The so-called Islamic State presents a mortal hazard to our civilization, its values and humanity; so we should keep all the options open; that means all of the options. It is important that we go into this with our eyes open, as many have said, including my noble friend Lord Browne, who echoed the concerns. We should not rule out the deployment, if necessary, of UK ground forces to support our allies in the region. I hope that it does not come to that but it would be a great mistake to signal to our enemy in advance the limits that we are prepared to place now on the sort of support that we might be prepared to give to our allies in the region. We have to win this campaign and do whatever is necessary to destroy the evil that the so-called Islamic State represents.
My Lords, it was against a background of extraordinary danger and profound crisis in the Middle East that it was heartening to see one important diplomatic breakthrough this week: the meeting in New York on Wednesday in the margins of the UN between the Prime Minister David Cameron and President Rouhani of Iran—the first high-level meeting involving heads of government of our two countries since the revolution of 1979, some 35 years ago. The Prime Minister is to be applauded for that initiative. Any enduring solution to the conflicts in Syria and Iraq will be impossible without Iran’s involvement. More urgently, we must explore what assistance Iran can lend in the battle ahead of us with ISIS, and in the long run in finding a solution to Syria’s bitter civil war, now in its fourth year. I should be grateful if the Minister could shed any further light on the Prime Minister’s meeting in New York. We need more diplomacy, not less diplomacy.
The Motion under debate in the other House—preparing for possible military action against ISIS—is certainly one that I can support. However, it specifically does not endorse air strikes in Syria, even though the threat from ISIS ignores national boundaries, and the United States and six Arab countries have already been engaged in military action in both Iraq and Syria for several days. Moreover, it is above all in Syria where ISIS poses the most immediate danger. It was in Syria that a British hostage, as well as two US hostages, were murdered.
In truth of course it is impossible to separate the actions of ISIS in Syria and Iraq. This debate is entitled, “The developments in Iraq”. In truth, it should be, “The developments with regard to ISIS”, wherever ISIS exists. While the actions of Gulf countries in supporting military action are to be commended, it is equally true, as President Obama suggested in his speech in New York on Wednesday, that the funding supporting ISIS needs to be cut off. Ironically, as he hinted, much of that funding is coming from the very same countries now involved in military action. Difficult though it is, they must be encouraged through very active diplomacy by the UK, the US and others to take drastic action if we are to eliminate ISIS.
We also need to recognise that much of the alienation of the Sunnis of Iraq stems from their treatment by the highly sectarian regime of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. I know that there is now a new Government but I think that Sunni Arabs are keeping a judgment on that Government. In Syria and Iraq, ruthless dictatorships have given way to a new tyranny which does not recognise national borders and which, through its active recruitment among some British Muslims, poses a direct threat to the security of this country. Given that this is unlikely to dissipate in the near future, can the Minister—here I echo the noble Lord, Lord Carlile—indicate where this leaves the Government’s Prevent strategy?
For today, the issue before us is military action with regard to Iraq, but for the future of the Middle East, and indeed our country, we must be looking more and more to diplomatic and political actions which will complement the military action that will be before us.
“I hope this doesn’t become a moment when we turn our back on all of the world’s problems”.
I think that Parliament was right in the decision it took in August last year, but taking that decision did not in any way negate our responsibility to play a full and constructive role in securing a more tolerant and peaceful world; nor did it mean that Britain had made the decision to turn her back and simply ignore what was happening elsewhere. So it is that we find ourselves recalled on another Friday to address a situation in the Middle East which is truly shocking in its proportion and horrifying in its brutality and from which no corner of our world is safe.
I declare my interests as set out in the register, especially as chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council, CMEC. Last week, a small CMEC delegation went to Erbil to analyse the realities on the ground. Its conclusion, published in a short pamphlet, Towards a New Iraq?, is that a political solution to Iraq’s current crisis must dictate the terms of any military engagement and that ISIS can be defeated in Iraq only by a local Sunni force. However, that force needs a clear incentive, otherwise it will fail. Such an incentive would include guarantees about the status of the Sunni population in Iraq and would likely involve devolving powers to the Sunni areas along the same lines as Kurdish regional autonomy. It would also have to be fully implemented and agreed by Erbil and Baghdad.
The role of the Arab nations is crucial in the defeat of ISIS, and I applaud their resolution and commitment in doing so. While the West may have the world’s most overwhelming firepower, in this conflict it must lead from behind and allow Arab states to lead the region’s Islamic community in rejecting the grotesque perversions of the so-called Islamic State.
However, where the West should lead from the front, supported by the wealthier Arab states, is in shouldering the burden of humanitarian relief. The consequences of hundreds of thousands of refugees from this conflict and the troubles in Syria are in themselves a gravely destabilising factor in the neighbouring countries—I think in particular of Jordan—which so selflessly open their borders to the frightened and dispossessed.
We must also ensure that young Muslims in this country have no excuse to rally to the flag of the extremists because they perceive the West to have double standards. Our message has to be clear: this is not a war with Islam; this is a fight for the dignity, freedom and identity of Iraq and her people.
I had the pleasure of visiting Iraqi Kurdistan exactly two years ago. I found it to be a haven of tolerance and tranquillity in a region that was reeling from political turmoil. Before the bloody regime of Saddam Hussein smashed up Kurdish villages and slaughtered the inhabitants, there had peacefully coexisted in this region mosques, churches and synagogues. There are too few places in this troubled world of ours where people can feel comfortable with their own identity while accepting the differences of others. Those places, those people and those values are worth fighting for.
My Lords, I, too, support the Government’s position. I do so, first, because I believe that there is a real threat to the United Kingdom, to our people here in this country, and to the many innocent British citizens overseas, as we have witnessed all too graphically in the hideously cruel murders that have been committed. Secondly, I support the Government because of the humanitarian threat that ISIS poses in the Middle East region. There is of course the direct threat to Muslims in the region who do not share the repellent views of ISIS, and we have evidence of that in the recent massacres of peaceful villagers in Iraq. We have also seen that evidence in the murders of Christians who are at risk in every area where this group operates. We have seen men and boys abducted and killed without any mercy, and we have seen women being sold as sex slaves, subject to rape and other forms of sexual violation, including mutilation. The attitude of this group towards women is breathtakingly brutal and degrading. Thirdly, I offer my support because we have been asked to do so by the democratic and legitimate Government of Iraq and because, as has been so clearly set out by my noble and learned friends Lord Falconer and Lord Goldsmith, such action is legal.
But any Government seeking to take action to deploy our Armed Forces have the responsibility to do so where there is a reasonable chance of success, so we have a responsibility to ask ourselves this: will the proposed action work? First, will it work without ground troops? Yes, of course we can degrade ISIS to a certain extent, but as my noble friend Lord Reid asked, will bombing alone win us the peace? Secondly, will it work without engagement in Syria? Will not the murderous ISIS group in Iraq simply regroup in Syria, consolidate and carry on, as suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Baglan?
In opening this debate, the Leader of the House said that the House of Commons would meet again to discuss any proposed action in Syria, so will the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, undertake to assure us that the House of Lords will also have the opportunity for such a debate before finalising any decision to intervene in Syria. Further, can he tell us what happened at the UN as regards forming a wider coalition? What is the position of China, India and Russia, and probably most crucially of all, what does he anticipate the position of Turkey will be? Turkey has the second largest military forces in NATO and has lengthy borders with Iraq and Syria. Its position on this issue is crucial.
I, too, will raise the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Baglan. ISIS has commanded huge resources. Yes, it certainly robbed banks in northern Iraq and diverted oil funding, and it also possibly secured funding from elsewhere. Can the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, tell the House what the international community is doing to choke off any future funding for this group?
Finally, I wish we had a different way of referring to this group. ISIS is neither Islamic nor is it a state. By implication we justify its existence when using its own terminology, and I hope that we will find a different way to refer to this murderous group.
My Lords, I strongly support the Government’s decision to join the air strikes against the IS in response to Iraq’s request for military help and the logistical help that we are giving to the forces of the Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq. I would like to see that extended and expanded, particularly in view of the threat against the Kurdish Regional Government in the area bordering on Turkey, to which the noble Baroness has just referred. I also support the longer term objective of working closely with our allies to drive back, dismantle and, ultimately, destroy ISIL and “what it stands for”, to quote the Prime Minister. If we do not eradicate ISIL, or the ISIL “cancer”, as the noble Lord, Lord Sterling, described it, it will metastasize across the world. The fact that 500 young men are reported to have travelled from the UK alone to join the terrorists should be a wake-up call to those who believe that the problems can be solved by limited military action against the so-called caliphate.
ISIL is committed to extending its particular brand of 7th-century fundamentalism across the whole world. Its agenda is to eliminate the Shia and other varieties of Islam, as well as the kafirs, or unbelievers, from the face of the earth. The Government need to spell out how they consider that the international community should fight this criminal ideology. Air strikes, as I think it is agreed by your Lordships, are not sufficient in themselves to remove a determined enemy from control of territory. Infantry and armour are needed to occupy the ground. In the case of Syria, that has to mean the Syrian Armed Forces, which are well equipped and trained by the Russians. Have there been any discussions with Russia about joining in the coalition against ISIL? Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, has said that they have no intention of joining in the air strikes, but he also said that they had warned the West about terrorists and extremists in Syria—so perhaps they are prepared to take some other action in support of the coalition’s work in eliminating ISIL from Syria itself.
It would also be useful to hear more about the discussion that the Prime Minister had with President Rouhani of Iran in New York earlier this month. Apparently, they agreed that ISIL posed a threat to the whole region and that more should be done to cut off support for the terrorists, but what specific role would Iran be prepared to play in eliminating ISIL? It is a rabidly Sunni organisation and, when it captured Mosul, it murdered 670 Shia prisoners, as well as hundreds of Shia Yazidis in Nineveh, according to the UN Human Rights Commissioner, Navi Pillay.
Turkey has a different reason for joining the coalition. If the ISIL forces take the city of Kobane, there might be an influx of several hundred thousand more Kurdish refugees into Turkey and, of course, a large extension of the frontier between Turkey and the terrorists. That would be an intolerable situation, allowing the terrorists access through Turkey to Europe, and it must be prevented.
My Lords, I follow the conclusions of the noble Lord, Lord Jay—to support the resolution but to do so with one’s eyes open. I also try to follow the application of just war principles, spoken of by my noble friend Lord Hunt, to the problems before us, including adopting his position on just cause. Again, is military intervention the last resort when all other means have been exhausted? There is no doubt about the evil nature of ISIL. I submit that there is no doubt that there is no negotiating with them; they are so confident in their principles that they will not seriously negotiate. But not all their fighters are extremists—and here come the diplomatic means. Think of the success of the United States among the Sunni tribes in the “Anbar Awakening”. Those same Sunni tribal leaders were marginalised by the al-Maliki leadership and turned into opponents. They must be won back. Thus, in my judgment, the test of last resort has been satisfied. Similarly, the coalition has sought to minimise civilian casualties and to use proportionate means. The problem is that ISIL has embedded itself among the civil population.
Is there a good chance of success? Everyone recognises that air power alone is insufficient; it can degrade the military and communication infrastructure but defeat implies a winning of hearts and minds. Here we need to examine very carefully the wise words of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury: religion must be met with religion, and religious leaders should get together so that we can counter the young men with a cause who are ready to die for that cause and who also have much sympathy in the Arab world, as we saw in recent public opinion polls in Saudi Arabia and even Iraq. The question arises: what can we expect from regional players such as Saudi Arabia? Of course, those Wahhabist doctrines have inspired much of ISIL. How committed will Turkey become?
Finally, on the just war criteria, intervention must be based on international law. We have had the weighty opinions of my noble and learned friends Lord Falconer and Lord Goldsmith. There is no question about the legality of intervention in Iraq. Syria is a very different problem. I found the reasoning in yesterday’s Financial Times editorial wholly unconvincing. It asserted that:
“The strong Arab presence confers a legitimacy on the operation”.
It is surely absurd to argue that if a number of neighbours support intervention, that is sufficient legal justification. It is unrealistic to separate Syria from Iraq, as the noble Lord, Lord Williams, argued. After all, the jihadists have their bases in Syria; they have erased the frontiers. What about the responsibility to protect? That is a new doctrine, embryonic but worth examining.
In conclusion, my judgment is that, yes, we are in a very turbulent period. A year ago we were considering bombing Assad. Now, cui bono, we propose to bomb Assad’s enemies and help him and, indeed, Iran. Turkey allowed jihadists through its long and porous frontier. Now it receives an increasing number of refugees from Syria. If ISIL is to be defeated, surely Iran cannot for long be excluded from the discussions.
Above all, the questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Jay, argue for caution. But if we ask, “What if?”, we should also ask, “What if not?”. What if we do not join in the bombing? We would certainly lose credibility with our friends in the Gulf. We would certainly diminish ourselves in the eyes of our NATO allies and reduce our role in the world. But if the intervention escalates incrementally, will the Government give an assurance that at each stage both Houses of Parliament will be consulted?
My Lords, 100 years ago those who responded to the appeal for help from Belgium did so quite rightly but embarked this country on a future with unknown global consequences. I feel that today, in quite rightly responding to the request from Iraq, the Government are again launching the country towards more or less unknown global consequences. But we can do something to condition those. I am very glad that the phrase “keeping your eyes open” has been used by so many people in their distinguished contributions to this debate. I particularly single out my noble friend Lord Williams of Baglan for his applause for the Prime Minister’s meeting with the Iranian President.
Thinking around my general agreement with what is being proposed, I would just like to share two observations and one plea. I am one of those—as a soldier, your Lordships would expect me to be—who are concerned about the automatic suggestion that air power is the answer to all these things. Air power is a means and not an end. We do not think of using air power, for example, to counter ISIL in England. We think of all the other organisations. I regret the use of the phrase “boots on the ground” because “boots” implies military boots. In fact, as the most reverend Primate mentioned, we need not just military but also ideological, diplomatic, educational, social, humanitarian and other boots on the ground if we are to counter anything like ISIS or ISIL or whatever it is called. In relation to where this combat is being fought, those who abolished the Iraqi army and police must be regretting their decision.
Secondly, like the noble Lord, Lord Reid, I appeal for a grand strategy. I hope that the Government will produce one in time to condition next year’s strategic defence review, which must include the ability of our Armed Forces to continue not only whatever campaign is mounted against ISIL but also whatever is intended in the future if we are again to come to the help of our friends who ask for help.
My one plea relates to a body which I was very privileged to be invited to join by Kofi Annan, then the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, in 1993. Following the first coalition in the first Iraq war, which consisted of Egypt, Syria, Pakistan and the mujaheddin from Afghanistan, among 51 others, he assembled a group of six force commanders from recent United Nations operations and an American general. We were asked to write down what improvements could be made to the management of chapter 7 peacekeeping operations under United Nations auspices. The first and obvious thing was that there must be a nominated force commander. Without a force commander who can determine such things as what intelligence is required, what forces are required, what programme of operations should be conducted, relationships with non-governmental organisations and so on, you do not get anywhere. While people talk about a coalition—I absolutely applaud the idea of that, particularly if it contains Arab countries—you cannot launch a military coalition to do anything like that without putting someone very firmly in its command.
My Lords, I am glad that the Government are proposing to strengthen our homeland security. There is much that can be done. Indeed, I have been urging certain actions, which have become much more relevant now, on the Government for many years. Part of today’s problem stems from western naivety to the Arab spring and, as has been mentioned, the longstanding hypocrisy to the cruel Wahhabi theocracy in Saudi Arabia. I believe that we have been on the wrong side over Syria from the start. A number of noble Lords have questioned whether it is sensible for the new military strategy—I can see why at the moment it has to be so—to be confined to Iraq.
Egypt, the largest Arab nation, is central to the problem we face and perhaps is a key to its resolution. In February and in June, I was part of two all-party groups to Egypt and we met President el-Sisi, as he now is, on both occasions. We met him for two and a half hours on the first occasion and for an hour and a half on the second. Two days ago, President el-Sisi, in a notable speech to the UN, said:
“Our aim is to build a ‘New Egypt’ … A state that respects and enforces the rule of law, guarantees freedom of opinion for all and ensures freedom of belief and worship to its people. A state that is determined to achieve growth, prosperity, and a promising future that meets the aspirations of its people”.
That is a notable aim for a secular state with democratic characteristics—a noble aim, but one that is hard to achieve.
I understand that President el-Sisi had a productive meeting with Prime Minister Cameron in New York this week. We need to follow that up. I suggest that arrangements be made for President el-Sisi to visit London with some of his colleagues at an early date for detailed discussions with Prime Minister Cameron and other British leaders and experts on how the UK can help to build the new Egypt.
The Egyptian economy is crucial and it needs massive restructuring. Egypt needs technical help on how to do this, particularly on reducing the distorting subsidies and on producing an equitable tax system on which the Egyptian business community must support President el-Sisi. Egypt has shown that the first priority should be to replace theocracy with secular government. Let us hope that President el-Sisi turns out to be an Ataturk for his country. Theocracy is not only the antithesis of democracy but, when based on political Islam, can lead to the cruel and uncompromising dictatorship represented by ISIS.
My Lords, it is with an enormous sense of déjà-vu that I speak yet again in this House about taking military action involving Iraq. Iraq first came into my life in 1990 with the invasion of Kuwait when I was in government service. It took over every waking moment of my life for more than a year. I learnt more about the horrific regime of Saddam than I ever wanted to know, before, during and after what has become known as the first Gulf War. I know, as did many others at the time, that we stopped at least 48 hours too early in that war. It was the soldiers’ decision of Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf, which was left to them by George Bush senior; we did not need to go to Baghdad but just stay in the south and let the Shia, rising already at our encouragement, get rid of Saddam. Because of that, the agony and slaughter of the Shia and the Marsh Arabs that followed was awful and leaves us all with bloodstained hands. To this day, it is why the Shia of Iraq will never trust the British or the Americans.
Our next military intervention was in 1998. Yet again, we missed an opportunity to depose Saddam. Then came 2003. I said then, many times, that military action against Saddam was politically, legally and morally the right thing to do and I do not resile from one word that I said in this House and elsewhere. I will not rehearse the reasons for all of those things now because there is not time and they are all in Hansard anyway. But I want to make one point: ISIL is not a result of anything that happened in 2003. It is the harvest that we are reaping for not having armed the secular rebels in Syria at the beginning of the troubles there.
I have two points to make about action against ISIL now. First, there is talk about needing to have a UN Security Council resolution if we expand our activities outside of Iraq. I say only this to the Government, as a lifelong supporter and enthusiast for the UN: please do not get too hung up on getting another UN Security Council resolution. They are not brought down a mountain like holy writ: there is nothing holy about the UN Security Council if you think about its composition.
No one now questions Tony Blair’s actions in Sierra Leone and in Kosovo, both of which were taken without a UN Security Council resolution. In 2003, we had 16 UN Security Council resolutions, all under Chapter VII, which enable you to use military force to achieve them, and then we could not get the 17th. Everyone screamed that it was bad to be illegal and then called the 17th the second, which confused everything.
If I sound less than enthusiastic about what the Government are proposing, that is because, I have to say, I am a bit underwhelmed: it is not as much as I would have wanted, it is later than I would have wanted and it does not have the scope I would have wanted. Having said that, it is better than nothing.
My Lords, since March 2011 more than 150,000 people have died in Syria, 6.2 million people have been displaced and there are currently more than 1 million children who are refugees. Thanks to the depredations of ISIL, added to that number are 1.8 million people who have been displaced in Iraq. That clearly cannot be left unchecked. However, it would be hard to imagine that a campaign of aerial bombardment alone would make that dire situation any better. That is why this House is right to caution that we must proceed with our eyes wide open and that we need a comprehensive strategy.
We must be particularly wary of the law of unintended consequences, especially by providing cover for the Assad regime to consolidate its position. Only yesterday it boasted that it had seized back a number of villages, while our eyes were on ISIL. There can be little doubt, as we attack ISIL command centres, that its insurgents will hide in civilian settings. Every time a cruise or Brimstone missile hits the wrong target and kills non-combatants, yet more fighters will be radicalised and recruited to its cause.
However brave and better armed the Kurdish Peshmerga and Free Syrian Army may be—we had better hope, this time, the arms we provide do not fall into the hands of ISIL—endless airstrikes and drone warfare will not achieve our objectives. We must be wary of the danger of assuming that the old proverb, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” is true, especially in the case of countries such as Iran.
By definition, military action cannot kill ideas or beliefs. As the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury intimated in his remarks earlier, our central task must be to convince Muslim-majority societies that their own interests demand toleration of minorities and the equality and freedom of people of other faiths.
In the immediate situation in which we find ourselves, we should recall the successful initiative of Sir John Major in 1991 of creating a United Nations safe haven and no-fly zone, which safeguarded the Kurds. We again need to protect them, the Yazidis, Christians and other minorities who now, as refugees, face another enemy: the fast-approaching winter. As the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, said, we must urgently dry up the sources of ISIL revenue, which, from the sale of oil, antiquities and hostage ransoms, has acquired reserves of more than $1 billion—some of which, paradoxically, are derived from sources in Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
We must deal more effectively with those insurgents entering the region, hundreds of whom are from the United Kingdom. In the debate we had in February I mentioned the story of a young man who studied mechanical engineering at the University of Liverpool, went out to fight alongside jihadists and was killed in action there. Sadly, there are hundreds more like him who have gone to Syria. In that same debate, I asked that those leading and fighting for ISIL, and others committing crimes against humanity in the region, be referred to the International Criminal Court or a specially established regional court to hold to account all those charged with what the Prime Minister described on Wednesday as crimes “literally medieval in character”. I hope the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, will address that point specifically in his reply.
Upholding the rule of law may not bring the dramatic results of aerial bombardment, but it is a surer way to demonstrate the nature of a civilised society. It was Einstein who defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. In dealing with ISIL, we risk doing the same things all over again and getting the same chaotic results.
My Lords, this country has a long-standing tradition of support for the United Nations, which we helped to create in San Francisco in 1945. The only aberration was the Suez fiasco. Unfortunately, the founding fathers never contemplated that, because of the power of the veto, the charter could become unworkable. Article 2.4 prohibits the intentional use of force except for self-defence or with the authority of the UN Security Council. Self-defence is an elastic proposition, and we are told that the Attorney-General has given his opinion that the prohibition on the use of force by one state in the territory of another does not apply if the territorial state so requests or consents. That, in my view, is beyond argument.
Apart from the practical considerations of one country in the alliance carrying out attacks at the same time on another country—Syria, which has not consented—are there any limitations on the doctrine? How far do we go, and for how long? Is it to be the two or three years being contemplated by the Defence Secretary? Did the Attorney-General qualify his opinion at all? We have seen only a summary of his legal opinion. Given that so much is at stake, there is in my view a case for breaking with precedent and being taken into the Government’s confidence, particularly if the Attorney-General has indicated any limits to our actions.
In his article in the Daily Telegraph, the Prime Minister wrote that we should send our armies “to fight or occupy”. Perhaps I may say that they were not very well considered remarks, and neither was the reference to the use of all our resources, including “military prowess”, although he may well have rethought that one. I am glad that for now we are not considering Syria. The legal considerations might well be different. It would hardly be self-defence and would certainly not be an intervention at the invitation of a host country. It would more likely be intervention to avoid “an overwhelming humanitarian disaster”, or unless we obtain an appropriate UN Security Council resolution, which seems very unlikely.
At Attorney-General, I had the responsibility at the time of Kosovo to provide a legal basis for participation in bombing raids by NATO countries. For more than 60 days I ensured on a daily basis—or usually nightly—that on this country’s part we had to consider and agree that each raid was carried out in accordance with the Geneva conventions. I hope very much that, in this present matter of attacks in Iraq, the Attorney-General will play an equally important and constant role to ensure that the Geneva conventions are adhered to. For our actions in Kosovo, which were to avert what I believed, and what was generally agreed by the United Nations, to be an overwhelming humanitarian disaster, I set out particularly detailed considerations. I shall summarise them. First, there was convincing evidence of need. Secondly, there was no practical alternative. Thirdly, it was necessary and proportionate, which means that it was the minimum necessary.
In his opinion on Syria last year, Mr Dominic Grieve QC MP agreed word for word with my particular considerations, and I am grateful. However, we did not see the whole opinion, we saw only the summary, and I wonder whether he suggested to the Cabinet that this particular doctrine was still developing and capable of challenge. I was challenged. I was taken to the International Court of Justice along with nine other countries, and I led for the United Kingdom. At the time Yugoslavia, which was suing, fortunately failed for other reasons. All I am saying is that this particular route would not be without difficulties, and very different considerations would apply to what we are now considering as regards Iraq.
My Lords, I invite us to think for a moment about the role of government in the wider strategy. A number of noble Lords have pointed out that this is not just a military issue; it is about religious and political matters. We might just note that some of us in a liberal society are in danger of separating religious and political issues. These are mixed up, but we need to look at them together.
With regard to ISIS, we have to be very careful about using wild language, as we have been reminded. Politicians in America talk about eradication as though it is some kind of disease that a scientific approach can get rid of. As my colleague the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury said, it is a very complex international issue. It will not be eradicated; it is about a difference of views about what the good life is.
At least 20, probably more, people from Derby, where I work, are fighting in this conflict. However, your Lordships may or may not be aware that besides fighters, there is also an appeal from ISIS for medics, teachers and people to help build what they think is a good society that might challenge the decadence that they see in our society. Besides the current military need, we have to engage with the debate about what a good society is from the ingredients of politics and religion. We have to contribute to that together if we are to stem this tide and create a safer world to live in. That is why, as has already been said in this debate, the Prevent strategy is so limited. It is negative about chasing problems. We need to be much more proactive about facilitating a discussion about, and exploration of, the good life among people of different faiths and different political persuasions.
In Derby this weekend there is an event called Getting Our Minds Right. It is for young Muslims to explore what truth means within Islam. There will be conversations between faith leaders and between faith leaders and political leaders in our city. Of course we have to confront the aggression and probably use force to control it, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. As the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury said so eloquently, the real question is: how are we going to engage with this debate between religions and between political perspectives about what a good life looks like? How can we explore that with people of different perspectives, and how can we give a message here and internationally through our contacts that that is not just possible but vital and not put all our eggs in the basket of military aggression?
My Lords, like almost all who have spoken today, apart from, I think, the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, and the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, I support the Government in this. However, I hope that I can be excused if I also say how glad I am that we embark upon this mission as a United Kingdom. I am sure I am not the only one here who is relieved that we can do this without the preoccupation and problems of breaking up this United Kingdom. Instead, we are proceeding together to tackle an ideology that threatens our common values and our way of life both north and south of the border.
I do, however, want to raise two specific concerns. First, while I absolutely accept the necessity of this action as part of our strategy, it is not sufficient, for at the heart of ISIS’s recent success is the understandable anger of a Sunni population excluded for so long by a largely Shia Administration. Such oppression has helped ISIS both to hold the majority of the areas that it holds and to attract new recruits. As a result, our objective of defeating ISIS will be hampered by its ability to hide among, and in some instances have the explicit backing of, a Sunni population that understandably feels little incentive to side with a Government whom it perceives as hostile, especially when the other option is to defy a group known for its brutal treatment of civilian populations. Therefore, it is clear that it is an essential complement to military action that the Iraqi Government work to regain this lost trust, as others have said.
That brings me to my second concern, which is the potential of our actions in Iraq inadvertently to strengthen al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch, Jabhat al-Nusra. If ISIS is notably weakened, both money and recruits are likely to be diverted to al-Qaeda, one of the group’s territorial rivals in Syria and of course its main rival in global jihad. This, in turn, will increase the threat posed to the UK by domestic terrorism, for the uncomfortable reality is that al-Qaeda is more able and more focused on attacking the West even than ISIS.
That brings me to my conclusion. Military action cannot be avoided, but, as so many other people have said, we go into this with our eyes open, and that should make us realise that escalation, if not inevitable, is pretty likely. The road ahead is difficult and very dangerous. We are putting young men and women once again in great danger, and it would be wrong if we as a House did not say that we wished them well and looked forward to their safe return.
My Lords, the decision of a Member of Parliament to support a government Motion to send those young men and women just mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, into harm’s way is probably the most difficult decision that any Member of Parliament will ever make. I see people in the Chamber today who, like me, have had to make that decision and have had to vote accordingly. Although I have no doubt at all that today’s vote in another place will support the government Motion, it is quite right that we not only explore the bare bones of what we are asking of our Armed Forces in the government Motion today but, as many noble Lords have mentioned, look into the future as to where that is leading us, what we hope to obtain from it and what the outcome is likely to be. So I very much support the views that have been clearly made today to the Front Bench and the Government that this is not just a discrete decision but the beginning of something that will clearly last much longer and become more complicated. It will almost certainly involve Syria, and I am sure that before too long the Government will return with another Motion that will involve Syria.
I heard the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, say that he does not like the term, “boots on the ground”. I am not quite sure what term to use. But whether it is to involve the Army being deployed in a more traditional way or our special forces—and I must say to the Government that if it is to involve our special forces, I really do not want to read about it in the newspaper; it is bizarre that such stories appear—whatever is needed, the Government need to carry the confidence not only of Members of Parliament for future action but, of course, of the general public. The general public’s mood seems to be very supportive of what is being debated today. However, as a Member of Parliament I have seen that mood change. There will be casualties. One of the saddest events that I have attended is the funeral of a 19 year-old man killed in Iraq in the last war, buried with full military honours in a Devon cemetery. It concentrates the minds of Members of Parliament when they have to attend at those occasions. That is when they realise that it is their vote and their decision.
Although I agree that once the decision is made it is not for Members of Parliament to have a say in the minutiae—we do, of course, have to leave that in the Government’s hands and those of the military—I want to give some wider thoughts to my noble friends on the Front Bench. I hope that we use all efforts at diplomacy to prepare for what is to come in future, not just what is before us today. There are countries with whom our relationships are more than strained, but that diplomacy has to reach out now to find out what the parameters of co-operation are. If that has to be with a long spoon, so be it. I refer particularly to countries such as Iran and Russia. I hope that that work is under way and will continue.
As for our security here at home, I hope that the Government will be robust. There is a very clear British interest to our homeland in what we are proposing today. Therefore it requires additional activity, particularly in the area of intelligence. I thoroughly support a review of Prevent and, I hope, the intelligence support that goes with it.
My Lords, in the previous three debates we have had on Middle Eastern issues, I have urged intervention every time. I also said that the question was not whether we should intervene but when, and that the more we delayed the decision the more difficult it would be when we did intervene. Here we are on the fourth go at the debate: we are going to intervene.
As many noble Lords have said, let us also be quite sure that what we are debating today is only the first step of a long process in getting there. There is absolutely no reason to expect a quick solution to such a difficult problem. Again, as we have discussed in the past, the Middle East has been in this crisis since roughly the middle of the 1970s—the past 40 years have been bloody in terms of wars between Iran and Iraq and various other conflicts. We were in Iraq in 1991 and again in 2003, and in the past three years Syria has exploded and all sorts of problems have happened.
Wars last a long time; they may have ebbs and flows. In the 17th century, wars of religion in Europe lasted 30 years. Our Civil War lasted for at least 25 years. Therefore, we should not expect a quick resolution but we should be clear that what we want to do in this particular phase of this war is to save Muslim lives. I very much want to say that there is a deep crisis in Muslim society as it is faced with modernity, and there has been for a long time. Right now, the most killing of Muslims by Muslims is taking place. Our first duty is humanitarian intervention to save those lives. Yes, there are dangers to us, and we are very much aware of them. However, we should convey clearly that we are there to save Muslim lives. Unless we do that, we will be thought once again to be intervening from above and to be going away after our task is done. We should not do that. Let us have some patience this time. As the right reverend Prelate said, the young men and women who go over there from here are idealists. We have to remember that they go there because they feel that the life they have here does not satisfy their deeper urges. After all, young men and women went to fight in the Spanish Civil War; they were doing a similar thing.
We have to understand the dynamics of what these young men and women are doing and not just say immediately, “They are all terrorists and when they come back we will put them all in jail”. Let us understand where they come from and what they are tying to do. If we extend our understanding to both Muslim society at home and Muslim society in the Middle East, we shall be much more successful than we have been in the past.
My Lords, it seems to me that barbarism is not necessarily unsophisticated or uncalculated. Can we be sure that what so appals us is not in part calculated to provoke a response so that we can be accused of escalating the crisis? Our military intervention may be laser-like and surgical—like others, I am not wholly confident of this—but it may be that the brutality is both more sophisticated in its psychology and more carefully targeted than we have given it credit for.
My reason for speaking is, like others, to urge at least as much focus on something more positive, and to focus not just on the military response but on encouraging those who might be tempted to fight for idealistic reasons not to do so. I deliberately put that as a positive, not a negative, like the right reverend Prelate. I also urge that we should encourage those who have joined in jihadism back from that path, and welcome them back.
Of course, I am aware of the dangers in our own country. I am not, I hope, completely naive. I think I can confidently say that, since the Home Secretary on Wednesday attended a Making a Stand event with Muslim women. No one would suggest that she is naive. Idealism is indeed a powerful motivator. My parents had a friend who went to Spain and died there. However, there must be as many young men and women in the Middle East who are very much regretting their decision. I heard it put that many must be thinking, “Sod this for lark, I want to get back to uni and study botany”. I mention the laser-like application of air strikes—that is the aspiration—but some young Muslims complain of feeling targeted in a discriminatory way by the Prevent strategy. We cannot say too often that we know that “not in my name” applies to all but a very few Muslims. As they are very targeted indeed, I instinctively support the one-to-one programmes to challenge and mentor, which I understand the Channel strand of Prevent aims to do.
I come back to my theme. Air strikes in Iraq may be surgical but I hope that we can apply the healing aspects of surgery at home in the UK.
My Lords, a year ago we were recalled and virtually every one of us who spoke in the debate said that we should not intervene in Syria. Today it is exactly the opposite way around, in that just about everybody is saying that we should intervene this time, and we have had the legal justification.
The question that I ask is: why are we doing this so late? Why are we doing this half-cocked? Sixty nations are already there, including 10 Arab nations. Five Arab nations have already taken part in the air attacks, and we are late to the party. We have had one of our citizens—as have the Americans—brutally murdered by ISIL. The whole world has watched while the innocent Yazidis were terrorised and fleeing for their lives. Why have we taken so long? As we have heard time and again, why are we restricting this to Iraq? The polls from the public have overwhelmingly supported intervention in Iraq, but they also show that the public would support us if we intervened in Syria right now, as the Americans are doing. After all, ISIL has completely erased the Sykes-Picot line. Will the Minister assure us that as soon as is required—not, as one noble Lord said, in three years’ time; I fear that it will be in a few months’ time, or even a few weeks’ time—we will consider intervening in Syria? We will probably need to.
Will the Government clarify that action will involve not just six Tornados from Cyprus but also the use of drones, ship-launched attacks, submarine-launched attacks and our best-of-the-best Special Forces? On the other hand, as I said last year, we have a Government who, in the 2010 SDSR, cut our defence capabilities. We still do not have aircraft carriers. We have a British Army that will not even fill Wembley Stadium. We are relying on reserves. Here we are, as we have been so many times since 2010, once again in a situation in which we need our brilliant Armed Forces—and we have been cutting them. Will the Minister confirm that the Government will stick to their commitment of a 2% of GDP spend on defence and nothing less, because we desperately need it?
The noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, and others spoke of the necessity to win this battle on the ground. Is it not sad that at the Battle of Mosul in June an Iraqi army of 20,000 was forced to flee by an ISIL force of 3,000? It was left to the Kurdish Peshmerga to hold the line. But we were there for so many years, supposedly training the Iraqi army. What went wrong? Did we not train it properly? My father was in the Indian army. I remember that when he was serving, the Indian army had a training team in Iraq for years, headed by a lieutenant-general. If we want to train, let us put our might behind training the Iraqis and the Peshmerga as well.
We need to invest in that capability because the ideology is dangerous. As the most reverend Primate said, it is deep. As His Holiness Pope Francis has said, we might be in the midst of a World War III. This is not going to go away. This is very serious. If we are going to do this, we need to be with our allies. We need to be completely effective; we need to push forward, because we cannot rely on the UN. Once again, the UN has shown itself to be completely ineffective. Will the Government use this as another reason for a desperately needed reform of the UN?
In conclusion, we may have been late to the party but after today we will be at the table and we must go out there with full force, with a mission and very clear strategy to liberate the ISIL-controlled areas of Iraq and Syria from the evil of ISIL. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, that ISIL is not Islamic; it is not a state. It is a group of medieval, barbaric monsters.
Some people have said in this debate that we must learn the lessons of the Iraq war of 2003. I agree. We have to make the correct analysis and provide the correct decisions. I am not at all ashamed to say that I supported the Iraq war of 2003. I thought it was right then and I still think it is right. The failure was not the intervention itself but the belief that once the yoke of Saddam had been lifted, the yearning for democracy would solve all the problems without any difficulty.
Of course, Iraq is not alone in this. With the collapse of the former Yugoslavia, the long-suppressed enmities suddenly erupted and people started to kill each other as though nothing had happened in the past. Of course, the same thing happened elsewhere, although perhaps not to such an extent. In Libya, where the West—if I can use the phrase “the West”—encouraged and, I might even say, connived in the downfall of Gaddafi, we were left with a fractured state. So it is not the interventions that cause the problem, it is the failure to decide what happens afterwards.
My noble friend Lord Reid of Cardowan asked a very important question: what is the strategy? I would pose two other questions: what will the strategy be and who will it involve? We all speak about Syria. Of course, defeating ISIL in Iraq is important. Defeating ISIL in Syria is important, but what will happen? Are we going in to support Assad? Thankfully, the rhetoric has mellowed, at least in this debate. You no longer hear the simple slogan in the gravelly voice of Mr Hague: “It is unacceptable that Assad remains head of Syria. Assad must go before there can be any solution”. We have to think beyond that. It is going to be very difficult because the ravenous media that we have want instant solutions. There needs to be alot of thought on this. We do not want to repeat the mistake of defeating ISIL but what do we do then? Do we support a new rebel group against Assad? Will that lead to any greater peace? I think not.
These decisions are not easy to take. I am certainly not one who believes that military intervention by itself will solve anything. This has proved not to be the case. There has been a failure so far from the Government and elsewhere to say what happens next. I fear that what will happen next is that boots will be required on the ground. Air strikes will not do. If the Americans decide they are going into Syria, will we go in there as well?
I accept that there are more questions than answers, but unless we ask the questions we will never get to the answers. We live in extremely dangerous times in which we cannot sit back and let ISIL and others commit the atrocities that they are committing and say, “It’s all right, it’s somebody else’s problem”.
My Lords, it has been interesting to listen to the voices of experience today after having listened to the speculation coming from the Government over the last two or three weeks. It really is pathetic that we are using terms—I go straight to the head of the Government—such as “no feet on the ground”, on which comment has been made already. If we go in and bomb these dreadful terrorists who will use civilians as cover, we will kill civilians. Whether it be in Afghanistan or anywhere else, when you bomb, the people you kill turn out to be civilians. That is the propaganda war lost for a start—lost at home and lost abroad. The one thing that I should like to see very clearly enunciated today is that, if we are going to do our duty, as we did not do in the past, we should do it fully with our military involved at every stage. You cannot have Special Forces without supply and resupply or Special Forces holding ground reinforcing the rule of law.
It has been hurtful for many of us to hear the problems that we left in Iraq. Let me be blunt: our Foreign Office did not do itself a great favour in terms of being able to monitor what was happening in Iraq that got us to the stage we are at today. What has it been doing in all those years? We have been supporting Nouri al-Maliki, who was unapologetically anti-Sunni and unapologetically enthralled to the Iranian regime. Of course, we are all enthralled partly to the Iranian regime now.
When in this House, again and again, I and others warned about what was happening and what Nouri al-Maliki was up to, we were ignored. It is only one year since his forces went into Camp Ashraf and slaughtered 52 unarmed refugees. What did our Government do? They made excuses and said, “It was not al-Maliki’s forces that did it”. I am afraid that we know different. If noble Lords will excuse any repetition, in terms of getting our terminology right, let us have a proper evaluation as to what we are going to do to restore law and order. We have managed to get rid of al-Maliki now. Even the Government admit that he was rubbish, to put it mildly.
However, it is too late. Have we got any guarantees from al-Abadi as we rearm him in terms of his attitude to the Sunni tribes? Have we looked as we rearm the Peshmerga? Have we looked at our relationship with Turkey? Let us remember that that is the erstwhile PKK. What are we doing internationally to ensure that our friends for many years—almost 100 years in Turkey’s case—are protected, are part of and are aware of what we are up to or is this going to be another flash in the pan? Is this going to be another waste of young men’s lives? I hope not. I lived through 28 years of terrorism. I know what terrorism is. I know how our forces operate and how they should be supported. It has not happened in the past. Let us hope that we will have a guarantee today that it will happen in the future.
My Lords, the basic question in my mind is exactly that posed by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby. To summarise it, unless we are to have a war of all against all, as in Hobbes, what is the basis on which there can be a new paradigm between the religions? It is very difficult, but at the moment it could not be more startlingly obvious, with the Saudis playing it both ways as always, with Danegeld being distributed quite widely. I hope that the revolutionary idea of the caliphate, or Boko Haram, or what is going on in parts of Indonesia, and so on, is not one that we simply think can be dealt with in the way that we have, haplessly, to do now.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Browning, said, charity begins at home. I suspect that there is massive support for this in Britain because it involves British citizens and because of the absolutely medieval beheadings that are more or less on our TV sets. We have more urgently to look at why part of our youth feel so radicalised in a revolutionary way that they think that British society has nothing to do with them.
I was interested in the comment made by my noble friend Lord Desai about the comparison with the Spanish Civil War. Only two weeks ago, I had a conversation with two friends, who happen to be in the Labour Party. I said, “We really can’t have people going backwards and forwards to Iraq to carry out these atrocities”. The question came back to me: “Why did you think it was such a good idea that we allowed this in the Spanish Civil War?”. I did not give a very good answer at that time. The answer is to do with the legitimacy of the Spanish Republican Government and so on, but it is more to do with what you might call the tradition of western philosophy and all its offshoots, which meant that the Spanish Civil War was an issue that we could understand in our terms. The caliphate is not like that. It is different from the Spanish Civil War in legitimising people going there.
I have two questions. First, has Qatar, which is part of the alliance, changed its mind about financing ISIL? Otherwise, how on earth is it part of the alliance? Secondly, did I hear the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, who is not now in his place, say that unmanned aerial vehicles in Syria are a different legal category from manned aerial vehicles? Am I the only one who has not heard that doctrine before? Is it accepted by international law?
In conclusion, we have to bear in mind the principle that has been hinted at by many noble Lords: we must not allow this to become a successful provocation. I am quite sure that the strategists, not of al-Qaeda but of ISIL, want this to be a successful provocation, but how do we prevent it from being to them a successful provocation?
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Hurd, in a very perceptive speech, contrasted today’s debate with the one that we had in August last year, when both he and I, and almost every other Member of your Lordships’ House, voiced grave concern at the prospect of going into Syria without a clearly defined objective or outcome. Today is very different. It is a sobering thought, incidentally, that had we decided differently last year, we might have boosted these wretched ISIL people into a position of even greater power in Syria.
We are now setting our hands to an extraordinary task. In the words of that great prayer by Sir Walter Raleigh, we have to see this thing “until it be throughly finished”. This is not a case of sending just a few sorties; we are in for the long haul. Although I risk the rebuke of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, we will need boots on the ground, be they Arab boots or other military boots—
No, I cannot give way in this short debate. We will need boots on the ground—military boots and, as the noble Lord rightly pointed out, other boots.
Briefly, if we are to win the hearts and minds of people in the Middle East, those who are suffering desperate privation and those who will be bereaved or maimed as a result of air strikes—that is bound to happen—we must have great emphasis on humanitarian aid. I point up a little contrast. Yesterday, I stood on the East Green of Lincoln Cathedral, where there was a dedication of a plot that, next year, is to bring forth a wonderful garden of bulbs to commemorate Operation Manna. At the end of the Second World War, the people of Holland were in desperate plight. They were starving. Queen Wilhelmina said, “We shall merely be liberating corpses if something is not done”. Although we had to negotiate with the Germans—the war was still on—so that the low-flying aircraft were not shot down, the relief supplies were delivered and the people survived. Yesterday, in a very moving ceremony, we had the Netherlands ambassador paying tribute to the Germans in the presence of their military attaché, saying, “Even though then we were at war, those with whom we had nothing in common and who had inflicted terrible disaster upon us, at that particular point, held back”.
I make that comment and give that illustration merely to point up a moral and to adorn a tale. I hold no brief for the Assad regime—I do not think that there can be any Member of your Lordships’ House who does —but, without repeating the Arab proverb cited by the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, all I would say is that we must have unrestrained conflict against these barbarians if we are to bring them to heel and we must ensure that, as the wasteland is liberated, we help those who seek to survive on it as much as we conceivably can.
My Lords, the coalition is certainly not an unadulterated embodiment of good against evil. There are disturbing contradictions within it:
human rights abuses, torture, ruthless oppression, political prisoners, extrajudicial imprisonment and executions, and corruption. Against that background, we must ask: why does ISIS win new recruits? We must be open and honest about this and confront our partners in the coalition, whoever they are. The real battle, as the most reverend Primate the Archbishop suggested earlier, is about values, about ethics, decency, human rights and democracy. There are no short cuts. It is the battle for hearts and minds that should be central to it all. No matter what the new dangers and provocations, our consistency in that battle here in the UK is crucial to victory, and it is vital in the administration of justice and in every walk of life, not least in the operation or culture of our police and immigration services. It is a huge challenge, but we must not dodge it or be swayed from it.
This is an alliance of necessity to confront the absolute unacceptability of the conduct of ISIS and the terrifying nightmare of extremism, but it is not an untarnished crusade, and it will aid the recruiters of extremists if we drift into pretending that it is. How far is ISIS a product of the conduct of some of those practices that I have described in the coalition itself? The survival of oppressive feudalism and autocratic systems is not in the end viable, and nor should it be. Yes—emphatically yes—we cannot stand idly by, not least because of the contribution to instability that we may well have made by our own interventions in recent decades. But it is essential to be clear about key issues. Will not the so-called mission creep, action in Syria and our services in combat on the ground prove to be inevitable? Therefore, what preparations are the Government making for that? Are the essential hardware and resources being assembled? Do we have an exit strategy? How do we avoid disastrous collateral damage, with all its negative and dangerous consequences? People feel every bit as passionate about women and children being blown to pieces as we do about abhorrent beheadings. Collateral damage too easily plays into the hands of the extremist recruiters. How will we effectively distinguish between ISIS and other militant groups, which may still be winnable to a shared solution? How do we avoid driving those groups into the embrace of ISIS?
In the end, there has to be a political solution. Wide inclusiveness in the process will be essential, as indeed we discovered in our own experiences in Northern Ireland. As we commit ourselves to respond to the request from Iraq, are we certain that it is committed to such a political solution and has a convincing plan to move towards it? If it dos not, we will be sucked into a black hole.
My Lords, the Minister and many other noble Lords have made a very compelling case for the just cause that would be represented by this intervention. The jus ad bellum criterion for this being an acceptable war has been fully satisfied in this debate and elsewhere. There is a strong case that it is both moral and lawful to intervene, but that is not a sufficient account of what it takes for a war to be just. The way in which one intervenes has also to be just; one has to satisfy the jus in bello clause. Is this going to be just conduct in war? Well, I think that it will be proportionate; I think that we are well used to judging that.
The question then remains of whether it will be effective. As the debate has gone on, many noble Lords have concentrated on the likely effectiveness of this intervention. “Effective for what?” would be my question. “Effective where?” would be a second question, and “Effective with whom?” a third. We are told that it will be effective for the degradation of ISIL, which is taken to mean the degradation of its weapons, supplies and infrastructure at present in Iraq, and not beyond. However, ultimately, as many noble Lords have said, this is about hearts and minds. Bombing looks very different, depending on the position that one is in. My late brother, who served in the Parachute Regiment, once said to me that he thought there was a great difference between European and North American views of bombing, because when North Americans talked about bombing they were mainly thinking about being up there doing it, but when Europeans thought about bombing they were mainly thinking about being down here as it happened. That is a disjunction of perspectives that we need to take very seriously.
Bombing looks different depending on where you sit, and that has been acknowledged by many, but it is vanishingly unlikely that there will be no—as it is politely put—collateral damage. What effect does collateral damage have? Well, it is then open to interpretation by those who suffer, or who sympathise with the sufferers, as to whose fault it is. A couple of years ago I went to Kaliningrad, formerly Königsberg, on the Baltic, part of Russia but of course separated from the rest of it. In 1944, when the Red Army was advancing and the RAF gave air support, Königsberg was devastatingly damaged. When I was there in 2012, many people said, “Ah yes, the RAF destroyed the city and the Red Army liberated us”. History had forgotten that the RAF acted in support of the Red Army. They were on the same side, and it was the Nazi occupiers who were being attacked. We have to think very carefully about this perspective. Who will get the blame when hard things happen—as they will?
There is one note of hope. This country, and this coalition Government, have taken a very determined stand—I declare an interest as chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission—on doing something about violence against women and girls. Let us note that ISIL has a real specialism in doing dire things to women and girls. Let us hope that the Government will think about mobilising the many different groups in civil society in our country which are committed to ending that so that they will add and extend that commitment to think about the women and girls in Iraq, Nigeria and elsewhere who are so often and disproportionately the victims of this war.
My Lords, I start by reinforcing the final point made by the noble Baroness; that is a hugely important issue, which I hope we will be able to follow up. One of the pleasures of speaking so late in a debate is that so much has already been said that I can just tick off who I agree with, and I have a little list to go through in that respect.
I thank the Minister for her opening speech; it was cool and comprehensive, and I found myself completely in agreement with it. The only snag was that there was a little hole in the speech called Syria and what we do when inevitably the actions that are going to be taken in Iraq, if they have any success, involve having to go to the source of the problem, which, as far as ISIL or ISIS is concerned, is in Syria. Inevitably that issue will have to come.
On that point, I agree with what my noble friend Lord Hurd has said about House of Commons votes. It will be ridiculous if the tactical situation on the ground is that we are getting close to the Syrian border but we then have to stop in order to have a meeting of Parliament at which to pass a resolution on the matter. We are getting to the point where tactics, not strategy, may be interfered with by politicians, which is not a good idea—the noble Lord again made that point. We must trust the military and leave it to it. In that respect, we need to step back a bit.
I find myself also in complete agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, in his excellent speech. I particularly enjoyed his comment at the end about ensuring that, with regard to the operation of our forces, there is a limit to political and juridical interference. I thought that that struck a particular nail on the head. I wish that I had heard similar sentiments from other members of our coalition partners, but maybe towards the end of this debate something else sensible will come from the Benches to my right.
A lot of the discussion concerned who we will deal with, talk to and make alliances with. This issue and the related issue of what to do with bodies that are involved in terrorist activity are questions not of whether we should talk, but of what the context is in which we talk, and whether we talk as part of a coherent political strategy, with a cold eye as to what the possibilities are and what the characters of the people we are talking to are.
I heard people suggest that we should turn to Russia. What on earth makes people think that Russia under Putin, subject to the sanctions we manage to impose upon it, will suddenly come and help us? I do not think there is much prospect of that happening. Iran has at least two faces. Rouhani presents a slightly reasonable face and looks as though he might be helpful in some respects, but the Revolutionary Guard bears a heavy responsibility for the present situation. To say it largely controls the situation may be overstating it, but it certainly had a very strong influence over Maliki. Although Maliki has gone, the militia groups that the Revolutionary Guard runs are still there and will still be a huge problem. We need to be careful about that.
Regarding cosying up to Assad, I noted what my noble friend Lord Howard said about what kind of a country we would be if we did not step up to the plate on this. What sort of country would we be if we started getting close to a person like that? We have to draw some limits.
Finally, I will mention two things. Turkey and Egypt are hugely important, especially Turkey. I hope we can get a view from the Front Bench this evening as to what Turkey is likely to do: it cannot stay on the sidelines much longer. We should also remember, when we discuss what should or might happen in the future, that unfortunately the enemy also has a vote.
My Lords, I am reluctant that we should join the air strikes over Iraq because history tells us that it is pointless in the medium term. It is pointless because, as one terrorist organisation is weakened or destroyed in the Middle East, another takes its place, often more radical than the last. After the PLO left Lebanon we got Hezbollah, al-Qaeda spawned ISIS, Gaddafi was replaced by a failed state. Perhaps it is better to try containment and not have ISIS replaced by something worse.
Promoting religion through violence is a terrifying and terrible phenomenon—and yes, we helped create the anarchy that enabled ISIS to commit its atrocities. Ignoring this would also be an atrocity. Perhaps that is the human reason why we should help. I agree with the Prime Minister that we should not be frozen by fear, but neither should we ignore recent history. Will bombing work? Recent history says it will not. Will the limited and clear objective of degrading ISIS, as laid out by the Leader of the House in her speech, prevent it from becoming something even more terrible? Recent history says that it will not. Only a few weeks ago we were tempted to put so-called moderate rebels in power in Syria.
Is it worth while putting our Armed Forces at risk? The threat is real, but it is coming not only from Iraq. ISIS has supporters throughout the Middle East, supporters who are shadowy and mobile. Some are our fellow citizens. It is no use bombing its communication centres; it shares ours. Its equipment is not stored in army camps; it is in civilian homes and institutions. Will bombing stop its funding and trading in oil? With its main bases outside Iraq, probably not, so it is easy to imagine another successor organisation taking over where ISIS leaves off. Thanks to its social and economic efforts, supplying food and medical care, paying salaries and generous pay to fighters, ISIS has dependent supporters. They are reluctant perhaps, but saying that we are coming to their rescue makes us sound a little like President Putin, and all this aid will have to be replaced when ISIS goes, as other noble Lords have said.
Again, as many noble Lords have said, success is not just military destruction; success is also creating the political will on the ground to confront ISIS—to dismantle it and to ensure that there is no successor by having a better story, as the most reverend Primate put it. Despite the Leader’s assurances, I am not convinced that our mission can achieve this. Recent history tells us that, until now, it has been impossible to separate the military and the political objectives without being dragged in further and without creating an even worse successor. This is why I remain sceptical but resigned.
My Lords, the strength of feeling across our nation in response to the kidnapping of, and murder threat to, aid worker Alan Henning and the brutal methods adopted by the ISIL militants have been nowhere more evident than in the actions of hundreds of imams and Muslim community leaders and ordinary British Muslim citizens over the last week, who have come together in print and on social networks to express their disgust and condemnation at the brutality of ISIL. The Not In Our Name campaign has pointedly denounced the horror and revulsion felt by most to the senseless murder of hostages, saying that the lunatics should not be allowed to hijack our faith. I share the view that the brutal actions of the zealots and fundamentalist militants within the so-called Islamic State, which has nothing to do with Islam or a state, must be condemned and resisted, but it has to be co-ordinated by universal consensus if we must take any action, especially given that military action is mandated. The drumbeat of war has been far too quickly accelerated over the last few weeks without thorough reference to the aftermath, made the more urgent due to concerns over the impending fate of hostages, including our own Alan Henning.
I should particularly like to caution my noble friends about the dangers of, as former MI6 chief Richard Barrett put it, over-exaggerating the threat, and, to echo the sentiments of the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, the dangers of alienating swathes of the Muslim community within our country by the thoughtless use of jingoistic rhetoric promoting the defence of western values, combined with the proposed regressive introduction of knee-jerk counterterrorism legislation and raids. Before we adopt the “You’re either with us or against us” rhetoric of the former US President, we should recognise that more often than not it is Muslim blood that is being spilt on the ground in this brutal field of conflict and that Muslims have as much as, if not more of, a stake in protecting the rich values of liberty, equality, fraternity and freedom, which some would like to argue are values exclusive to us here in the West. The values that we must protect are universal ones. We should not allow the fundamentalist zealots to divide us on either side of this debate.
I find it worrying that our Government are so easily able to find the harsh language of condemnation on this occasion and yet have felt unable to condemn the brutal killings that took place at the hands of the Israeli military only last month and which cost the lives of 2,000 Muslim women, children and men. The Government were unable to utter even the word “disproportionate” when describing the meaningless slaughter and devastation, despite unequivocal condemnation and accusations of war crimes from the United Nations. I am mindful of the heartfelt concerns expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, as she took the bold step of resigning from the Government, stating that the Government’s position on the crisis in Gaza was morally indefensible.
I was at a meeting with a number of my parliamentary colleagues yesterday with about 700, or maybe even 1,000, young men and women, mostly Muslim, who were there to encourage participation in public life. The overwhelming consensus, apart from three or four individuals, was that the military strikes in Iraq are a rehash of failed tactics. Lest we forget, the result of the 2003 Iraq conflict was 500,000 mostly innocent lives lost. A country devastated and divided was the result of our decision to take action with the US and other allies of the time. No matter how much we choose to ignore these facts, the sectarianism and regional division now prevails is without doubt, at least in part, the result of our actions back then, which we pursued in spite of the opposition shown by millions of ordinary British citizens. The question therefore arises whether we are now making the same error of judgment, just as our troops have barely left the conflict area of Afghanistan.
I urge noble Lords and our Government to ensure that what we are about to embark upon includes a comprehensive package of engagement. A long-term commitment is required to protect our values, and that protection can come only if we commence dialogue with other parties and ensure that my noble friend Lord Reid’s suggestions of a long-term grand plan of peace is enforced.
My Lords, one feature emerges throughout today’s debate: that nobody lightly entertains the prospect of going to war, especially in a potentially open-ended conflict of the sort that may now conceivably be before us. Nobody can be relaxed when the enemy is less a conventional state, whose dimensions and contours we know, than a complex, fast-moving and hydra-headed “network of death”. President Obama described ISIS in those words at the UN General Assembly last week—operating, as ISIS does, in the deserts of the Middle East, far away from these shores.
Many in this country—and no fewer in the White House and throughout the West—have grown tried of the foreign wars and engagements. In the United States, President Obama was elected in part to disengage America and shift it away from a “perpetual war footing”, as he put it. Now the White House has issued an unequivocal call to arms. How should we respond as a nation and as a still-united kingdom? How should we respond as a European nation, a Commonwealth nation, with our allies and partners on the continent?
Let us not, by the way, underestimate the importance of the referendum north of the border a few days ago, reaffirming decisively the United Kingdom for what it is: a reconciliation of the blue and white flag and the red and white flag, with the benevolence of the Welsh red dragon. The union jack represents the United Kingdom and has a wider representation around the world: it is to be found for example in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, British Columbia and Nova Scotia. I emphasise the importance of how we should respond as a nation—a still-united kingdom—but how should we respond as a European nation as well as a Commonwealth nation with our allies and partners on the continent?
Several of us on these Benches and in other parts of the House had serious reservations about the previous deployment of allied troops in Iraq to displace Saddam
Hussein and about whether it made sense to intervene in Syria last year. Now, however, the President of the United States, after a long period of reflection, has concluded that the collective interests of the West lie in confronting ISIS decisively and early on, and in seeking to build a broadly based coalition to do so, including partners in the region itself. I therefore have no difficulty in supporting the position both of the United States Administration and of Her Majesty’s Government, while fully acknowledging the risk that this struggle will be neither easy nor short.
The extreme ambitions and actions of ISIS are clearly deeply hostile both to our interests and to the notions of democracy and the rule of law on which our systems are based. The ISIS philosophy also contradicts any reasonable understanding of Islam. It is designed to sharpen divisions and exacerbate conflicts, to eliminate moderation and to undermine all those working for mutual understanding between peoples and nations. The ISIS philosophy is an absolutist and expansionist creed that, unchallenged, breeds, first, tremendous regional instability, then regional chaos, and then leads possibly to regional domination. A much bigger confrontation might easily follow.
Perhaps I may refer back further for a moment. Rather like in the debates about appeasement in the 1930s, it is better to talk about the problem clearly and honestly now, and face up to some difficult questions and decisions while one can still do something about them, than to wait so long that the enemy concludes that we are weak, divided and unwilling to react. The President of the United States and our own Prime Minister have both countenanced the possibility of a generational struggle, one that will not only occupy this generation but shape the world of the next generation too. We should reflect on these words very carefully. It is therefore with very little joy but with strong conviction that I conclude that we should support the Government and their many allies in the difficult and important task that lies ahead.
My Lords, 75 years ago, Britain faced up to an evil that was threatening to dominate Europe. Now we are facing an evil of a similar dimension that is afflicting the Middle East. We are reluctant to face up to it, but we must do so. I am sure that, together with our allies, we will have the power to defeat this evil. If it becomes necessary or even advantageous to commit troops to the region, I believe that we should not hesitate to do so. Our forces would need to engage the enemy wherever they might be found.
Seventy-five years ago, the threat was an external one. Those who had sympathised with the fascist ideology had been effectively sidelined and neutralised. Today, the circumstances are different. The jihadist movement has attracted a substantial number of British citizens. At least 500 have joined the movement in Syria and Iraq, and there may be three times that number. It is vital that we should understand the attractions of the ideology and that we should find ways of neutralising it. However, some of the measures that have been proposed of late would surely exacerbate the problem.
It has been proposed by the Prime Minister that British citizens who have travelled to Iraq and Syria to support the jihadist cause should be prevented from returning to this country and that their passports should be confiscated, thereby rendering them stateless. An obvious objection to such a measure is that it would conflict with international law. There are other objections that ought to be considered. There would be a danger of creating a body of stateless persons who would be bound to sustain themselves by acts of terrorism. They would become a global menace. There is also a domestic danger. Many of the jihadists have British relatives who strongly oppose their brutal and alien cause. Nevertheless, these people would also become alienated from our culture if their relatives were summarily deprived of their rights of citizenship.
What should be done to the returning jihadists? The answer is that we should handle them carefully and with discrimination. We should endeavour to distinguish between those who are dangerous to us and those who have been temporarily misled. To achieve that, we need to deploy adequate and appropriate resources within the border agency and elsewhere. The returning jihadists would be thoroughly vetted and debriefed. If they have been only weakly complicit in the activities of insurgents, they should be exonerated. However, if they have committed atrocities, they should be charged with war crimes. In short, they should be treated in much the same manner as the citizens of the defeated German nation were treated at the end of the Second World War.
My Lords, when I was the police spokesman following the bombings on
Yes, action needs to be taken against so-called ISIL, but let us not be lulled into a false sense of security because we are contemplating only air strikes and not military “boots on the ground”. Our brave men and women in the armed services may be safer as a consequence, but the threat to the UK and its citizens from so-called ISIL as a result of the decision this Parliament will take today will vary little, whether the military boots are on the ground or the action is restricted to the air. As the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, and other noble Lords have said, this is a very serious issue with very serious consequences. As my noble friend Lord Alderdice said, there is a real danger of unintended negative consequences of military intervention, both in the Middle East and here in the UK. That we are not simply part of bilateral action with the Americans is reassuring, but we need to do more. We need to explain in the clearest possible terms that we would engage with any barbaric, murderous regime of this nature, no matter what religion it hijacked and distorted in a perverted attempt to justify its actions.
In my professional experience as a police officer, the overwhelming majority of Muslims in this country are law-abiding and peace-loving. Britain is a better and safer place for having strong Muslim communities. The overwhelming majority of Muslims in this country want nothing more than to live in peace and harmony with those who do not share their faith, as well as with those who do. We must do everything we can to ensure that the barbaric actions of a foreign terrorist organisation, foreign to us and to Islam, do not taint the reputation of Muslims in this country. As my noble friends Lord Carlile of Berriew and Lady Hamwee have said, by supporting and working with the Muslim communities in this country we will prevent this barbaric organisation carrying out atrocities here.
My Lords, I wonder whether we are inflating ISIS a little in this erudite debate. I suspect that most MPs today are voting in the dark, because the enemy remains obscure. On the published maps, ISIS is mainly represented in long lines and blotches rather than in territorial space. Its success reminds me more of the conjuror impressing an audience than of a power capable of covering wide frontiers. But I do not doubt that we are dealing with a murderous operation, which has to be confronted. There has to be an international response and we must welcome the unanimity of UNSC Resolution 2178 on violent extremism and prohibition on foreign fighters. Even so, we must all have some doubts about the effectiveness of an intervention in the long run. The noble Lord, Lord Browne, referred to owning the consequences.
Air strikes can have only limited impact—the one-off destruction of known enemy targets such as arms dumps and command centres. They have to be away from populations but there will always be civilian casualties. There will be a lot of civilians who, while unsympathetic to ISIS, will not see the US on any mercy mission either. Air strikes may contain and punish but, as has been said repeatedly, they cannot solve the problems of hearts and minds and will harden the feelings of many ordinary citizens. Here I warmly endorse the wise words of the right reverent Prelate the Bishop of Derby. In the long run, only troops from Iraq itself, Shia and Sunni and the hard-pressed Kurdish Peshmerga, reinforced by Arab or other neighbours, can influence their own people and push back the terrorists occupying their land.
We all remember the short-term success of allied strikes in Libya. We can all recall the excitement of air power over Kabul. But those days seem far behind us and we are still learning the lessons. We forget that so often we are dealing on the ground with family clans and tribal leaders, and so-called non-state actors, as well as with an often divided and ineffectual central government, such as we still have in Iraq. Bargains have to be made—in this case, with the Sunni leaders. Many of the Sunnis behind this present outrage surely must be remembering the dismantling of their world by Mr Bush and our own Government a decade ago. I heard what the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay, said, but we should admit that that was a strategic mistake for which we are all paying a price. There is no point now in just preaching the rule of law and democracy in a vacuum occupied by criminals and dressed up as Sharia. Islam condemns the so-called Islamic State and anyone associated with it.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Williams, that the UN could be doing more to attract international support on a wider front and it should provide a platform for other countries, such as Iran. We should not expect any thaw in US-Iranian relations, but there will be more opportunities for diplomatic dialogue and the UK may be better placed to take them up than the US. “Let the time mature” was the phrase used by President Rouhani on CBS this week. Syria is a different issue, but clearly President Assad has had a new smile on his face this week, anticipating some quiet understanding, if not practical co-operation, with the United States.
Finally, we must applaud again the hospitality shown by Turkey and others to the thousands of refugees still within their borders. We commend the aid agencies—Christian Aid and others—which are actively helping families. Like the late David Haines, the lives of many aid workers are also threatened by ISIS. Their courage must be applauded and rewarded where possible with proper protection. This will be another long campaign.
My Lords, I support the Government. I have heard every speech in your Lordships’ House today and have had the advantage of listening to and watching the whole of the Prime Minister’s speech. I have to say that he has shown exemplary parliamentary and national leadership on this issue. Unlike in 2003, it is crystal clear for all to see that there is a problem that has to be dealt with by the use of force. We are right, even at a late stage, to join other nations, and the more the better.
It looks like a regional problem and these problems are best dealt with by regional nations, but in reality it is international. Because of that, force cannot be the only ingredient to a solution. Different nations have different agendas for the future, but the threat to all is so great that we should use our best endeavours to work together at this time. It seems to me crucial that Iran, and indeed Russia, should be welcomed to play a major role and not be shunted to the sidelines, as Secretary of State Kerry indicated a few weeks ago in the case of Iran. Yes, there is a need to talk to the Syrian Government. Some may not think that they are a legal Government, but they are still there.
The burden on the neighbouring countries of the millions of refugees cannot begin to be comprehended as we sit and watch events unfold from the comfort of our homes. The opportunities for IS of destabilising more nations grows daily as the refugee flow continues. This is in no nation’s interest.
There has to be an end plan. It is now clearer than ever that having no plan post 2003 was a major error of leadership and judgment by the then war leaders. I was a member of the Government at the time and I supported the Government at the time. The Iraqi Army—where is it? Can we be convinced that it can be rebuilt again so that it is sustainable to defend the country?
I do not think that we have to defend existing borders at this time. This is about defending peoples. As such, if we are to reach a settlement, some boundaries may need to be redrawn by the nations themselves and we should support them. The Kurds are playing a very substantial role and it is the case—or I hope that it is the case—that Turkey, Iran and Iraq may see the benefit to themselves of having a more unified area for the Kurds.
There will, of course, be problems in this enterprise and very serious issues, especially relating to hostages, now and in the future. There is heavy weaponry in the hands of ISIS. It might down aircraft. We have to think about that. This brings me to my final point, where in some ways I part with the leadership on my side. It is never too late to avoid making a bad decision. I believe that we put our own pilots at greater risk in the efforts that they will be undertaking by stopping at the Iraq-Syrian border. There is legal opinion, and reference to that has been made in the House today, that a UN resolution is not required to go after ISIS in Syria. In any event, the veto will be used if it looks like a step too far. We should not, therefore, hide behind the Russian veto. Russia clearly feels badly let down about the misuse of the UN resolution in the case of Libya. Surely we can accommodate Russia on this issue. The governance positions of Iraq and Syria are different, but ISIS is in both countries.
I support the Government, as I said. I wish our service men and women every success as they enter battle and I ask those involved to think hard about the end plan, which unfortunately appears to exclude Syria.
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, referred your Lordships’ House a few moments ago to the parallel in the 1930s and 1940s in Europe. I should like to draw on one figure from that period which I found helpful in thinking about the matters before us. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that when a madman came down the street swinging an axe it was our duty to not just apply plasters to the injured but to stop the madman with whatever means were expedient.
The Government are seeking to join with others to stop the madman swinging the axe of cruelty, and we agree that stopped he must be. The question is: what are the expedient means for doing so? In facing that dilemma, I have four areas of questions for the Government, which reinforce some of those that have already been asked. First, is the Government’s objective of crushing and destroying ISIS and its ideology a reasonable one? Will we be any more successful in destroying ISIS than we have been in crushing al-Qaeda? Can an ideology ever be wiped out? I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, that we should seek a more achievable military objective. It should be focused on binding the madman’s arms so that his powers may be disarmed by dismantling the ideology by which he thrives and by the more powerful weapons of truth, justice and compassion, to which those more senior than me have referred. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, made it clear that one cannot bomb an ideology.
Secondly, as other noble Lords have noted—most clearly the noble Baroness, Lady Morris—one of the weapons that will degrade the ideology of ISIS is the building of an inclusive and functional Iraqi Government. As the United Nations Secretary-General said earlier this week:
“Missiles may kill terrorists, but good governance kills terrorism”.
Thirdly, if the Prime Minister is right that this is a generational struggle, how can we ensure that the mission does not creep beyond that which is right? In trying to stop the madman, how are we to stop ourselves from being caught up in the sort of escalation of violence that causes us to be seen, as we have been seen all too often in the past, as madmen swinging our own axes for our own ends rather than seeking to save lives, most of them Muslim, as the noble Lord, Lord Desai, said? How, in the heat of a long battle, will we assess whether our cause and intention remain justifiable, our objectives limited, and our means legal and proportionate, and that they do not destroy the lives of non-combatants? How do we ensure that we do not defeat cruelty with cruelty?
Fourthly, given the transnational character of ISIS, its stronghold in Syria and the complexities of military involvement in Syria, what is the Government’s assessment of the present convergence of interests against ISIS? Does the Minister agree that we may have a temporary window of opportunity to reinvigorate international efforts for a political resolution of the underlying crisis in Syria?
I end with a comment from Coventry’s history; a city that another madman slashed to the ground with terrifying force in 1940. A voice from the wilderness of Coventry’s devastated cathedral cried, “Father forgive!”—not just forgive them but forgive us all. It was a shocking confession of the complicity that we all bear in the history of the alienation and anger between peoples and nations that give the madman the energy that fuels his violence. If our Government believe that they are justified in using violence to stop violence, let them never, and let us never, put our trust in chariots and horses to resolve the deep problems that the world faces today. If they have a part to play, it is simply to position us to work for the things that make for peace.
My Lords, I agree with the cautionary words that we just heard.
I support the Government’s proposal that the UK should join other allies in taking direct military action from the air against the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Iraq. This is not a state in any accepted sense of the word, but a group of murderous thugs terrorising the area they control. They are enemies of the inhabitants of Iraq, a threat to the authority and stability of countries in the region and a terrorist threat to this country and many of our allies.
Today, we are not discussing the possible action in Syrian airspace. The presence in Iraq of ISIL, however, clearly demonstrates that the threat to Iraqi security from the uncontrolled situation in Syria, from whence these people come, is a factor in the situation. I do not think that there are serious legal obstacles in the way of legitimate military action in the air over Syria without a UN resolution. That is not necessary and I agree with those who argue that to compartmentalise our assistance to only part of the problem, and not reach its core, does not make total sense.
In our history in the UK, we have normally sought to respond to action against so clear a threat to our country. We have not outsourced the defence of our interests to third countries and we should not do so now. The urgent task is obviously to contain and then reduce the area to which the terrorists lay claim and then degrade their control over it so that local forces can retake the ground. We have the capability, both in aircraft and in Special Forces, that is needed to make the air campaign a success. We can assist, including with training and lethal weaponry, the local forces on the ground.
The legal base for action exists in the clear request of the Government in Baghdad for assistance. Their spokesmen have made clear that this includes the UK. I understand why the Government have not taken action until now but they should delay no longer. The strictly military risk to our Armed Forces looks acceptable. The potentially increased security risk to this country must be factored into the measures taken by the Government to protect us.
I welcome the increasingly clear and unambiguous rejection by the vast majority of British Muslims of the perverted ideology of ISIL. More effort and resource devoted to Prevent is part of what the Government should do, and they need to accompany this action with the strategy being pursued abroad. The noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, who is no longer in his seat, made some important points about the management of jihadists when they attempt to return to this country. However, although removing passports is a sensible measure, it does not render people stateless.
It has been well pointed out that humanitarian action has to accompany the strategy, as does a proper political position on our part. It needs to be regional as well as related to Iraq. We are fully engaged in the humanitarian effort. As to the political situation, much hangs on the future inclusivity and performance of the Government in Baghdad. A political settlement between the people of that country is an indispensable component of success. Wider regional stability also depends on the willingness of countries such as Saudi Arabia to pursue policies that unambiguously increase rather than undermine the social and political stability of their neighbours. Western allies can help and I welcome the Prime Minister’s discussion with President Rouhani three days ago, which I hope will be a first step towards a successful strategic stability in the Middle East.
My Lords, in medicine, as the noble Lord, Lord Sterling, pointed out, removing a localised, potentially lethal growth surgically will be good for the body only if, alongside that, the whole organism is nourished and cared for with love so that it recovers after the operation. We know from our own history that vicious tyranny in our own darker times was ended over a long period, not by interference from outside but the will of the people in the region.
My point is that surgical air strikes from outside alone will not work in the long term for the people we wish to help in the region. There needs to be, alongside the military strategy, a political, economic and social plan for the region, creating jobs and extending education, involving the key players and listening mindfully to all the people in that whole region. What do they want? By the whole region I mean both in the south, including north Africa and the Middle East, and all the way up to the north, including Syria and Iraq.
We know that within this region the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran have huge influence and, were they each to play a positive role for the people there, this would make a huge difference. So here, in three minutes, I will suggest two grand initiatives, alongside the proposed intervention, to settle the whole region within a year. The first in the south is an example of what happens after air strikes. I have been privileged to be in discussions over these past few months while I have been in Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Egypt. They have been developing a regional plan to end the war there in talks involving Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Palestine and Israel, whereby the first four of those—the local Arab countries—agree to demilitarise Gaza, with the promise of, say, $50 billion from donors to reconstruct and heal the strip for the benefit of all the people there, and to link this with projects in the West Bank. Israel then feels safe, and Gaza is therefore able to have a sea port, airport and open access. Then the Arab peace initiative, first proposed by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, becomes a real basis for Israel to be recognised by 22 Arab countries, including Palestine; and for Israel to recognise Palestine.
Egypt is key in all this, as the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, described so well. President el-Sisi’s positive statement to the UN Security Council this week shows that it has an appetite to play a bigger role. Saudi Arabia is having a donor conference at which it hopes to raise $100 billion for Egypt. If it can follow it through a safe and secure mechanism, perhaps the Middle East Centre for Civic Involvement, MECCI—which I have earlier described in your Lordships’ House—could ensure that the funds for Egypt go into projects that will help its people. In the short and medium term, they could gain employment and training while, in the long term, they form institutions and infrastructure for the benefit of all Egyptian people.
The second project I suggest is focused on the north of the region and is about Iran. Yes, we must be firm with Iran on the nuclear question, but being firm does not mean ostracising it. America, France, Germany and others, at the same time as talking tough and negotiating hard, are now discussing and planning in Iran the type of constructive business and trade that could be done were Iran to comply with the requests made of its nuclear programme. Again, with the wise counsel of the noble Lord, Lord Alliance, together with a senior Iranian Ayatollah, we are in discussions with great, skilful, innovative companies here in the UK, which could be doing business with Iran and helping its people to be involved in the long-term growth and development of their own country and the region. I propose that we at least make a scoping trade visit to Iran this year, and work with it as partners in trade so that it can also help resolve the ISIL issue.
On the first proposal, about Saudi Arabia and the regional solutions for the Middle East and north Africa, we should support the World Economic Forum and its MENA team, as we did with its Breaking the Impasse project on Israel and Palestine. They will be discussing this plan next month, and taking it forward in their annual event soon. On the second proposal, about Iran and trade, I am asking Her Majesty’s Government to help facilitate, without breaking any sanctions, an exploratory trade visit to Iran this year.
My Lords, Sikhism teaches that we should resort to the use of arms only when there is no other option to stop the killing of the weak and innocent. This situation has now been reached and we must give military support to the Iraqi Government in their fight against the brutal behaviour of the Islamic State.
However, we must be clear about our objectives, both short and long-term, and, importantly, make these clear not just to the Government but to the people of Iraq and adjoining countries. Yes, there must be targeted air strikes, but air strikes alone are not enough. Parallel support for action on the ground will be needed to destroy ISIS.
However, at best this can only bring us back to the instability that followed the defeat of Saddam Hussein. The Middle East has for decades been one of the most unstable and fractured regions of the world, with national boundaries that split communities carved into countries by the West following the demise of the Ottoman Empire. For too long, initially Britain and France and more recently the United States and Russia, have propped up one dubious dictator after another, turning a blind eye to brutal repression in return for trade and political advantage. It was not too long ago that I was invited to a reception at No. 10 for President Assad, who was being heralded as a torchbearer for peace and religious freedom in the Middle East. Today, the situation has been made worse by new players such as China looking for trade and strategic interest before human rights.
A paradigm shift to new criteria is needed, which must be honoured by those seeking our military support. They must pledge themselves to uphold freedom of religion and belief, gender equality and protection of minorities as a condition of our support. These rights must trump all considerations of trade and supposed strategic advantage in the cradle of civilisation and in the rest of the world.
My Lords, I refer you to a short debate I held in Grand Committee on
We are now met to consider military action against the self-styled Islamic State, which has surfaced since that debate, and I support such action; but I fear that military action alone—and even victorious boots on the ground—will not be able to contain the resurgence of jihadist Islam on our planet. I suggest that we have to look deeper and accept that there are many verses in the later Koran and in the later actions and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, which Muslims are instructed to follow, which justify acts of violence.
Islam has the problem of the Muslim tenet of abrogation, which holds that where there is contradiction in the Koran, the later texts outweigh the earlier. I cited two of those verses on
“Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture—[fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled”.
That means a tax on non-Muslims.
It does not help to point out that the Bible and other ancient religious texts have similarly violent passages. Jehovah did indeed smite the uncircumcised quite a bit in the Old Testament, but there is nothing of that in the New Testament, from which Christianity takes its inspiration. Jesus said:
“Love thy neighbour as thyself”, and, “Do unto others as you would they should do unto you”. His instruction was universal. He was not talking just about relations between Christians, whereas I understand that the verses of peace in the Koran may refer largely to relations between Muslims. Of course, modern Jews do not act out the gruesome instructions of Leviticus and Exodus, so the comparison with the Old Testament does not help.
As I said on
I repeat a question I put to the Government on
Independent newspaper on
Perhaps such a new explanation of Islam might also help to meet the point made by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury—that our young Muslims need a much better vision for their lives—with which, I am sure, all your Lordships agree.
I look forward to the Government’s reply.
My Lords, I am not sure whether I am supposed to sum up the Tory view or just be tail-end Charlie; I suspect, the latter. It is fairly obvious that there is broad, cautious support in your Lordships’ House—with reservations and one or two voices of dissent—for the Government’s contribution to this challenge and for the efforts of President Obama, the Prime Minister and other leaders to build up a colossal coalition. I would add, right at the end, one additional thought, which has been echoed by some of your Lordships: it is essential that this operation should not be seen as yet another western intervention in the labyrinth and quagmire of the Middle East. The revolting and vile ISIL is in fact a challenge to all responsible states throughout the planet—certainly all the great Muslim states and states with big Muslim minorities.
My central plea would be that this is seen not just as western but as regional, obviously very much with the support of the Iraqis who have asked us in; the Kurds; Jordan; the Saudis, who have a major role to play, and perhaps should be more forward; the GCC states that are already involved, such as the UAE; and Turkey, which must decide how to develop its support. The Middle East is bristling with the best and most advanced weapons and vast manpower resources all around. Those countries are threatened even more directly than we are, and they should now show commitment. My noble friend Lord Marlesford also mentioned Egypt, with its colossal army—one-quarter of the entire Arab world. It should clearly play a part. Iran, as we know, is bound to be two-faced, but nevertheless it must reckon where its interests are, and if it has a part to play then it should play it.
Beyond that, the issue is not just regional. As I think the noble Lords, Lord Rooker and Lord Reid, both said, this is a global issue. The Prime Minister rightly said that all should be united, and all should mean all. What about the great states of the world that now claim to be leading as the centre of gravity shifts from west to east? What about India, with 2 million men under arms and the highest degree of equipment? What about the Chinese, who claim that they want to be a leading nation in the world? They have a responsibility; they have a huge Muslim minority and a direct interest in seeing that the doctrines, murders and mayhem of ISIL do not prevail. What about
Japan? Shinzo Abe says that he wants Japan to be a responsible nation, organising and supporting world stability. Where is its voice in this? The Japanese should come forward. How nice it would be if even Russia, which has plenty to lose with the dangers of ISIL, were involved, but obviously for the moment, until it comes to its senses on Ukraine, it cannot. Pakistan is already involved in defending Saudi Arabia’s borders.
ISIL is a threat to all of us. It is a threat to the borders and the stability of the entire responsible world. Air strikes are of course limited, as noble Lords have rightly said, but there is a whole range of measures against communications, finances and oil that can all be devastating in crushing these murderous gangs. My plea would be: not just the West, with no more assumption that the West is the hegemony and the world’s policeman. It is not any more, and the continued belief that it is will be very misguided and lead to much grief.
My Lords, the contributions to this debate have done justice to the seriousness of the matters before the House today. On behalf of the Opposition, I thank all noble Lords on all sides who have spoken. The House has benefited very much from speeches reflecting the enormous experience and knowledge, and of course the concern, that noble Lords bring to this debate. If one were to count the number of former Defence Secretaries, Foreign Secretaries, Lords Chancellor, Attorneys-General, other senior Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, ambassadors and other experts, it would add up to a very large number indeed. Last, but certainly not least, to have heard from the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury and his three colleagues on the Bishops’ Benches has also helped us immeasurably.
Given the very limited time available, I am sure that the House will forgive me if I do not acknowledge individually the contributions that we have heard today. I start with a word about ISIL itself. I agree very much with my noble friend Lady Symons that the expression “Islamic State” is completely unsatisfactory; indeed, the Secretary-General of the United Nations rightly observed earlier this week that it should more fittingly be called “Un-Islamic Non-State”. No religion on earth and no secular ideology can justify its barbarism.
We are not, and never will be, in conflict with Islam as a religion. Islam teaches peace and I know that many noble Lords feel proud, as I do, to live in a country where millions of our fellow British citizens of Muslim faith live their lives and play their part in our national life at all levels. We should never forget that there is a constant need to win hearts and minds. That has been a significant feature of this debate, which I am sure we will come back to. Comments have been made by many noble Lords about the Prevent programme. Indeed, to counter what the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, said just a few minutes ago, it is worth reminding the House what the British Muslim scholars and imams said about ISIL just a few days ago:
“They are perpetrating the worst crimes against humanity. This is not jihad—it is a war against all humanity”.
No, I am not going to take the intervention.
ISIL’s modus operandi has been to attack minority groups—Christians, Yazidis, Turkmens, Shias, Kurds—on either side of the Syrian-Iraqi frontier. We heard today about the Kurds in northern Syria close to the Turkish border who have been made refugees. These are minorities that clearly cannot defend themselves and are often faced with a choice that is actually no choice—convert or die. Just to say it shows how completely unacceptable ISIL’s behaviour is and how it cannot remain unanswered.
However, even limited military intervention brings unforeseen and uncertain circumstances. If in a short while the other place supports the Motion before it, it will be supporting action to prevent at least the foreseeable and certain killings of Sunni, Shia, Kurdish, Christian and Yazidi Iraqis by ISIL, and this country will be supporting action that has broad support in the region and follows, as we have heard, a direct request from the democratically elected Government of Iraq.
I will repeat what the Opposition need to be satisfied of before supporting the Government’s proposal in another place: just cause; proposed action is a last resort; proportionality; a reasonable prospect of success; a legal base, of course; and broad regional support. On all those bases, we are happy to support the Government today but of course it is a mark of our freedoms and our democracy that the Opposition can and will continue to question, probe and scrutinise. We believe the Government have a duty in these circumstances to act in the national interest and it is the duty of the Opposition to support them when they are acting in the national interest, as they are in this case. I hope that in the time ahead—and I am sure that the Minister will be able to agree to this—the Government will ensure that the House is brought up to date at all times and that debates will be held where and when necessary.
The House will be united in its wholehearted support for the men and women of the Armed Forces who will take part in the perilous action with skill, courage and their characteristic devotion to duty—and, of course, our hearts should be with the families who they leave behind. As for ground troops, our view is that the Government are right to resist putting substantial combat forces back into Iraq. There does not seem to be much public or parliamentary support for such action. But, as importantly, it would undermine an essential point that needs to be made again and again to the Iraqi Government and their Sunni Arab neighbours—that this has to be their fight, if it is to be successful.
The fight against ISIL is, at its core, a struggle for the future of the Sunni world, so it is crucial that Sunni Governments have not only offered support but are participating in the multilateral mission. ISIL is too entrenched, well equipped and wealthy to be defeated by air power alone, and it cannot be defeated on the ground with someone to replace it on the ground. Notwithstanding the very impressive capabilities of the Peshmerga, that will take time, given the current condition of the Iraqi army. Air strikes are essential to stem ISIL’s advance and degrade and destroy its operations and, at the very least, to contain them. However, we should be clear that these objectives of containment and disrupting and weakening ISIL must be in the service of creating the conditions for the new form of governance in Sunni Iraq. There must be an underpinning by a clear political strategy. The ultimate answer lies in local politics, not in external intervention.
The commencement to military action should not be a signal that the time for diplomacy is over. We have a duty to devise a comprehensive and effective political and diplomatic strategy for eliminating the threat of ISIL throughout the Middle East. So while today we have a clear legal, moral and political mandate to act to help to defeat ISIL in Iraq, we must also acknowledge that this mission brings with it unforeseen consequences and acknowledge that military action alone will not defeat ISIL. That is why the international community’s military response to the threat that ISIL poses is just one element of a long-term multinational political strategy in the region. As my noble friend Lord Foulkes said, it is necessary but not sufficient.
ISIL is a real and present danger, not just to the Middle East but to all of us. The world is too small for Britain to be able to just look the other way and say, “Well, this is really nothing to do with us”. This appalling mixture of medieval barbarism and state-of-the-art modern technology and finance has to be stood up to. Britain has to play its part in that enterprise. Force is not enough but, without it, does anyone seriously believe that ISIL can be contained, let alone defeated?
My Lords, I start by associating myself with the noble Lord, Lord Bach, in thanking all noble Lords who have taken part in this important debate. There is probably nothing more serious than inviting Parliament and your Lordships’ House to consider issues of substantial military action. The benefit of your Lordships’ House is that a huge reservoir of expertise can be brought to bear in debates such as these, as well as political, military and diplomatic and a wide range of community and civic knowledge and experience. It has been a very serious debate, and I am very grateful to all those who have taken part. As my noble friend Lord Alderdice said at the beginning, while the other place will take the actual decision on a Motion, your Lordships’ House can consider the wider questions and proffer constructive advice to Her Majesty’s Government. That is very much what we have seen.
I welcome the fact that, with only a few exceptions, there has been widespread support for the proposal that the Government are putting in their Motion in the House of Commons. That is very welcome, particularly if it is passed on to those who will go into operation, so that they know they do so with widespread backing from Parliament.
I do not want to elaborate on the sheer abhorrence and barbarity of ISIL because that has been said by many who have contributed to the debate. While in no way minimising or detracting from other expressions of that barbarity, important points were made by the noble Baronesses, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean and Lady O’Neill of Bengarve, about the particular venom and violence directed towards women. That puts very graphically the nature of those with whom we are dealing.
My noble friend Lord Alton asked about the International Criminal Court. My understanding is that any decision to refer those who perpetrate such barbarity to the International Criminal Court must be made on the basis of what would be the most effective means to bring the perpetrators of such atrocities to account. Iraq is not party to the ICC so any referral would need to be through the UN Security Council. However, I can assure the noble Lord that we will continue to look at every available option to ensure accountability and to work with our international partners on what can best be done to assist victims and bring those responsible to justice.
A number of noble Lords said that ISIL is not an enemy that can be negotiated with. While diplomacy has a major role to play in strengthening the regional alliances that are essential for the stability of the Middle East, no diplomatic deal can be done with ISIL. Left unchecked, it will continue its advances in the region and continue to intensify its fight against the West, including with attacks on European soil. We reach for military action not as the first port of call, but as a last resort. It is important to recognise, as the noble Lord, Lord Jay of Ewelme, said, that we do this with our eyes open. That was reflected by many who contributed to the debate. As the noble Lord, Lord Desai, said, this will take time. It would be very naive to assume, if there were to be air strikes this weekend, that it would all be finished by Christmas. We have to be realistic about this.
We also recognise that we are engaging in this not in isolation, but as part of a broader coalition, including the Arab states. It is a coalition that is in the service of the Iraqi Government. The targets of our air strikes will be carefully selected and with a clear aim: to help the legitimate authorities in Iraq to destroy ISIL. I cannot agree with the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, that we are somewhat late to the party. The United Kingdom Government have taken other actions. We have been very much at the fore of getting United Nations resolutions to try to cut off streams of funding to ISIL. During the recent NATO summit in Wales we were very much leading the discussions and considerations as to how we could build up coalitions.
The coalition is involved not only in military strikes, but in providing arms to Iraq and the KRG. It includes a wide range of countries—for time, I will not list them all. There are those that give other assistance, including humanitarian aid, or take action to tackle ISIL’s financing and foreign fighters. It is a coalition of 60 nations. Looking very specifically at how this is working, I am advised by my noble friend Lord Astor that one of the planes the UAE contributed to the military strike in Syria earlier this week had a female pilot. It is interesting that there are things that might have been thought unthinkable in how different interests and countries bring what they can to bear against ISIL.
The noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, asked about China. There was a UN Security Council resolution this week, which was not in any way opposed by China, that recognised the threat of terrorism from organisations, including ISIL.
The noble Lord, Lord Reid of Cardowan, was absolutely right when he said that we require a strategy that goes beyond military capability. If all we were bringing to the debate today was military action in the form of air strikes, I think we would be on weak ground. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, in opening for the Opposition, made a measured and constructive speech. He talked about the need not only for a military action but for one that is supported as part of a wider diplomatic and political humanitarian approach. That is very much what we believe is necessary here. The noble Lord, Lord Browne of Ladyton, said that military action must be part of a wider political strategy. And of course, as I have mentioned, diplomatic efforts are being made. I have already mentioned specifically what would be done in the United Nations to try to ensure that effective action will be taken to stem the financial flow to ISIL, but the political context in this case is very important as well.
A number of noble Lords mentioned the change of Government in Iraq from Mr al-Maliki’s Administration to the one with Mr al-Abadi. It is important to recognise that the new Government include appointments from the country’s main Shia, Sunni and Kurdish communities. My understanding is that when my right honourable friend the Prime Minister saw Mr al-Abadi in New York on Wednesday, he urged him to reach out to all communities, and notably to Iraqi Sunnis and Kurds. He has committed to reforms, including decentralising power, reforming and restructuring the security forces and improving relations with Iraq’s neighbours. He has announced a series of measures to reach out to the Sunni communities, including reform of the judiciary and security forces, and has already brought back into government some who opposed Mr al-Maliki’s divisiveness. That is an encouraging start, but I think everyone recognises that it is just that: a start. We must look to the new Iraqi Government as they deliver change and build trust so that they can unite against the threat they face. It would also be fair to say that no amount of military equipment or training can assist a military force that does not have political cohesion, a clear direction and a common purpose. I therefore believe strongly that a political settlement is a key part of the solution to this crisis.
Closely linked to that is a point that was expressed very well by my noble friend Lord Kirkwood of Kirkhope, who has experience, having been to the region. Part of this is building up an infrastructure. It is about water supplies, electricity supplies, health provision and education. It is important to recognise that the initial humanitarian response that was requested by the Iraqi Government earlier in the summer has resulted in an important contribution of life-saving aid being made. I take the point made by my noble friend about looking again at more specific humanitarian aid being directed towards Iraq, and I will ensure that it is brought to the attention of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development.
For the wider area and Syria, the United Kingdom Government have allocated £329 million to partners providing humanitarian assistance. We have provided support to Lebanon and Jordan. One of the specific initiatives that I would like to draw to noble Lords’ attention is that more than 6.6 million children across Syria and the wider region are in need because more than half of them are out of school. There is a fear about a lost generation of Syrian children who have experienced trauma and displacement. We have seen the No Lost Generation initiative to increase support for education, psychosocial support and protection for Syrian children. The United Kingdom is supporting organisations in Syria and the region in this. That is the kind of initiative that is important and must be seen as part of the effort. None of this alone is the solution; it must be part of an overall diplomatic, political and humanitarian approach.
The question of Syria came up on a number of occasions. Perhaps I may reiterate what my noble friend the Leader of the House said in opening the debate. The Government’s position is that we believe that there is a strong case for the United Kingdom to join in international action against ISIL in Syria, because ISIL must be defeated in both Iraq and Syria. We expressed our support for the air strikes conducted by the United States and five Arab nations against ISIL in Syria.
However, the proposal and Motion before the House of Commons today relates to the action that we as a country propose to take in Iraq. I reiterate that the Government will return to the House of Commons for a separate decision if we propose to take military action against ISIL and Syria. The noble Baroness, Lady Symons, and others, including the noble Lords, Lord Anderson and Lord Bach, asked about your Lordships’ House. Having recently discussed this on the Bench with my noble friend, I think it is inconceivable that, after a decision of that magnitude has been taken in the House of Commons, this House would not also have an opportunity to express a view similar to the way that we have done today. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Bach, indicated, this is different inasmuch as we have been recalled, and I am sure that if there are events when we are sitting, there will be an opportunity for the Government to be held to account, as well as opportunities for the Government to keep the House informed of developments.
Some things have been said about co-operating with the Syrian authorities. As I think the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said, President Assad is part of the problem and not part of the solution. His actions in Syria have driven many people into the arms of organisations such as ISIL. However, we believe that there is a role for us. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, also asked about the Geneva initiative. We believe that an inclusive political settlement in Syria is very pressing to bring together all Syria’s communities. A lasting political settlement has been our aim. The new United Nations special envoy, Staffan de Mistura, recently made his first visit to the region and we certainly support his efforts to bring about a political solution. We believe that the Geneva II talks failed because President Assad indicated that he was not willing to negotiate seriously with the Syrian opposition, but I assure the House that we will give such support as we can to the efforts being made by the new UN special envoy.
I was asked about Iran. The statement that we issued after the Prime Minister met President Rouhani on Wednesday this week was that the Prime Minister and the President noted the threat posed to the whole region by ISIL and agreed that all states in the region must do more to cut off support for all terrorist groups, including financial support. The Prime Minister welcomes the support that the Iranian Government have given the new Government of Iraq and their efforts to promote more inclusive governance for all Iraqis. He argued that a similar approach was needed in Syria to promote a transition to a new Government capable of representing all Syrians.
With regard to Turkey, it is a great tribute to the Turkish authorities that 847,000 refugees have entered Turkey, including 130,000 in the last week alone. This Government very much welcome Turkey’s generosity and the challenge it has taken on in hosting refugees, and we would certainly urge Turkey to keep its borders open.
Finally, one of your Lordships said that if we do not take action in the streets of Iraq, we will deal with the problem on the streets of the United Kingdom. My noble friend the Leader of the House indicated in her opening speech a number of the actions and initiatives that the Government are pursuing and intend to pursue to improve our homeland security. For example, we will obviously want to give serious consideration to observations, recommendations and advice from the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson QC. However, a number of those who contributed to the debate—not least the noble Lord, Lord Bach—drew attention to the fact that many Muslim people hold many positions in, and contribute widely to, our community and to what is strong and good in the United Kingdom. We must make sure that when we undertake any actions, we recognise that there are indeed many British Muslims who have spoken out against ISIL. That is exemplified by the Not In My Name initiative—a campaign which has been pursued very widely. As my noble friend Lord Paddick said, Islamic terrorism is a contradiction in terms.
These are very difficult times for the Muslim community in Britain. One can readily understand why people get angered and dismayed by the way in which their religion has been perverted by violent extremists and by the way the word “Islam” can be heard every night on the TV in the context of brutal atrocities. It would be unacceptable to see any rise in Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. However, that is what organisations such as al-Qaeda and ISIL want to foment. They are determined to engineer hatred and division between people of different faiths and none. Let us be very clear. Islam is a religion of peace, it is welcome in Britain, and it is entirely compatible with the British way of life and our values. It is important that we make that abundantly clear.
Finally, there is the question of ideas, which the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury raised in his contribution, and which was echoed by other noble Lords in our debate such as the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby, and others. They said that we must have a competing vision to that offered by ISIL. That is not just a matter for government; it goes much wider than that, to the religious faiths and to our community at large, and we will not solve it in a four or five-hour debate on a Friday afternoon. However, it is fundamental that we offer something that is seen to be much more compelling, which people feel that they can adhere to and want to champion, rather than the barbarity and the distorted and depraved values that people are so regrettably going to Syria and Iraq to champion. That is a challenge to all of us.
Again, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed. I apologise that in a relatively short time I did not have the opportunity to pick up on every point. I will say in closing only that while it may be presumptuous to anticipate the result of the Division at the other end of our Palace in just over half an hour’s time, the expectation is that the Motion before the House of Commons will be carried. With that in mind, we wish our service men and women, who will be acting in operations as a result of that, every success. They go with our best wishes.