Francis Maude: deeply disturbing scenes in Iraq

Horsham MP Francis Maude
Horsham MP Francis Maude

For the last two weeks I wrote about Gatwick. This week I’m writing about the Middle East, and especially the situation in Northern Iraq.

It is deeply disturbing that so many people have been murdered or displaced, apparently simply on the basis of their religious beliefs and practices. There is a massive humanitarian crisis from which we cannot simply stand aside.

So the Government is working with international partners to establish how best to provide aid to those areas and to plan ahead for the winter. So far, the UK is providing £13 million in humanitarian aid to Iraq and is working with international and regional partners to support Iraq.

The Government’s response to the crisis has been focused on three objectives:

- Alleviating the humanitarian suffering of Iraqis targeted by ISIL terrorists;

- Promoting an inclusive, sovereign and democratic Iraq that can push back ISIL’s advances and restore stability and security across the country; and

- Working with like-minded countries to tackle the broader threat that ISIL poses to the region and other countries around the world.

We’re supporting the Prime Minister-designate, Dr Al-Abadi, in his efforts to form a unity government in Baghdad, and to ensure that Kurdish forces are able to counter ISIL forces, including through the transportation of military supplies. The Government remains open to supplying equipment directly, and work is underway to identify what it could usefully provide.

We’re working hard with allies to make the most of the UK’s diplomatic, political, aid and military expertise. However, as the Prime Minister has made clear, this is not about getting dragged into a war in Iraq - there is no intention to put combat forces on the ground. That’s why Britain is planning further aid deliveries to the region, with UK military assets remaining in the region to help with those efforts if needed.

This time last year I voted to support some limited intervention in the Syrian civil war. Sadly the tide of public and Parliamentary opinion was against the Prime Minister’s honourable desire to try to bring to an end the appalling chemical attacks on Syrian citizens by the discredited Assad regime.

There is an argument that our failure, with our allies, to intervene then and support the moderate opposition, left a vacuum that the jihadist terrorists of ISIL were quick to fill. It is the innocent civilians of Iraq, Syria and Kurdistan who are paying the price.

But there’s a potential price that we will pay as well. Every week we see evidence of young British citizens being drawn in to the conflict, radicalised, militarised, and set against the tolerant and inclusive values which at our best are the hallmarks of our society.