Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): Is not the truth that ISIL will not be beaten without air strikes in Syria as well, and that means engaging with the Assad regime and Iran—however unpalatable—as well as with the Saudis? Perhaps that is also a route to resolving the bitter and dangerous Shi’a-Sunni conflicts in the region, because ultimately ISIS poses a bigger threat to nations in the region than it does to us.
The Prime Minister: I will make two points to the right hon. Gentleman, whose views on this matter I respect. First, I would argue that Assad’s brutality has been one of the things that has helped generate the appalling regime that ISIS represents. Secondly, what we want to see—we are consistent across the piece on this—is democratic Governments that are pluralistic and represent all their people. We want to see that in Iraq, which is why we support Prime Minister al-Abadi in his attempts to build an inclusive Government, and we should support attempts in Syria to have a democratic transition to a regime that can represent everyone in Syria.
Speaking in a packed Commons chamber on the eve of the Nato summit in Wales, the Neath Labour MP suggested that such concerted action could help address the deadly divisions between Sunni and Shia Muslims in the region.
He challenged the prime minister: “Isn’t the truth that Isil won’t be beaten without air strikes in Syria as well? And that that means engaging – however unpalatable – with the Assad regime and Iran as well as of course the Saudis – perhaps also a route to resolving the bitter and dangerous Shia/Sunni conflict in the region.
“Because, ultimately, Isis poses a bigger threat to the nations in the region than it does to us.”
Read the full article here and click here to read the Parliamentary exchanges
Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): I support air strikes on ISIS to stop its genocidal attacks in the region, particularly against Shi’a Muslims and Kurds and minorities, but there should be no question of British troops on the ground. However, we do need to support the Kurds particularly, in providing the equipment they need. In addition, neighbouring nations need to take ownership of this fight and the solution to it. Could the Prime Minister, therefore, press our close ally, the Saudis, to stop funding mediaeval barbarism by ISIS, and could he get Iran and Turkey to engage as well? Finally, could he schedule a full day’s debate in prime Government time on foreign policy? The world is a very dangerous place at the moment, including between Russia and Ukraine, and we need to have a proper debate, welcome though statements are.
The Prime Minister: On the right hon. Gentleman’s point about a fuller debate, we are looking at that: the House authorities are looking at it and I think it would be extremely worth while if time can be found. I very much agree with the tenor of what he says, which is that we should be looking to ask how we can best help those on the ground—the Iraqi Government, the Kurdish forces—who are doing their best to prevent humanitarian catastrophes and to make sure that Islamic State is properly addressed in Iraq? We should be asking how we can help, rather than thinking the west can somehow lead and overtake an intervention, but I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that there should be no question of British combat troops on the ground.
Former Labour Cabinet and Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain has backed action by the British military to prevent Islamic State genocide against Iraq minorities and protect the Kurds.
Mr Hain, who last year helped lead parliamentary opposition to British military strikes in Syria said:
“The genocidal attacks by Islamic State are in the same category as Kosovo 1999 and Sierra Leone 2000. Quite different to being propelled into the quagmire of a Syrian civil war.”
“Although I do not support British soldiers fighting on the ground, we have to do everything else we can to provide the Kurds with the equipment they need to repel attacks and to stop ISIS and its medieval barbarism.”
“I believe the British public will support such an essentially humanitarian mission and if the Prime Minister consults other Party leaders there will be no need to recall Parliament. We need urgent commonsense action not Parliamentary grandstanding.”
Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): Does the Minister agree that the terrible carnage in Gaza means that the prospects for the two-state solution we all want are vanishing? It was still very possible back in 2000; I recall that when I was middle east Minister I had discussions with Prime Minister Barak and Yasser Arafat in Palestine, but that all collapsed and Hamas was elected. Now, Israel’s refusal to negotiate seriously with Hamas, coupled with its merciless assault on Gaza, risks inviting in something even worse and more extreme—ISIS. Surely we should learn from Northern Ireland that to end wars people have to negotiate with their enemies or the terror simply gets worse.
Mr Ellwood: I pay tribute to the right hon. Gentleman for his interest and experience in this area. He is right to point out that we face very difficult challenges. On a positive note, we welcome the announcement of the formation of a new interim technocratic Government for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, reuniting Gaza and the west bank under a Government committed to peace, which is a necessary condition for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.