Cross-party Commons motion welcomes oil deal on Kirkuk between Baghdad and Erbil

DEAL ON KIRKUK OIL BETWEEN IRAQ AND THE KURDISTAN REGION

Session: 2017-19
Date tabled: 19.11.2018
Primary sponsor: Glindon, Mary
Sponsors: Blackman, Bob Halfon, Robert

That this House warmly welcomes an initial deal between the federal Government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), as urged by the UK and others, that will allow 50-100,000 barrels per day of stranded oil in Kirkuk to be exported via the KRG pipeline to Turkey and the wider market; considers that this will restore billions of dollars of lost revenue to Iraq and that the KRG’s success in expanding the capacity of its pipeline can be used to export more oil in the future; further considers that this powerfully symbolises the desire of Iraq and the KRG to normalise their relations for mutual benefit; and hopes that this prefigures a wider settlement of all outstanding issues between Baghdad and Erbil based on the full implementation of the federal constitution.

Posted in General | Comments Off

UK soft power, foreign policy and the Kurds

How Britain can wave the rules and help the Kurds

What a difference a year makes. This was the theme of my contribution to the APPG discussion in the Commons on our delegation to the Kurdistan Region and Baghdad in May.

Just a year ago the joy of the referendum was rapidly replaced by Baghdad’s illegal blockade, economic bleakness, and an opportunist and violent attempt to invade Kurdistan. The principal proponents of a punitive approach to Kurdistan have now been sidelined and the new Iraqi Prime Minister may be a man who once fought alongside the Peshmerga and resigned on principle when his efforts to do a deal on oil between Baghdad and Erbil were obstructed.

The referendum would not have taken place if federal rules had been honoured and, if it they this time, then independence will be kicked down the road and the referendum will be seen as an inflection point at which things started to get better.

I understand why some are sceptical, promises have been made before, but it’s worth a try. If Baghdad fails this time to get the point that the Kurds cannot be kicked around and are vital to the stability and prosperity of Iraq, with or without independence, then it is at least arguable that a future bid for statehood will become more feasible.

Likewise, Britain is reaching an inflection point of its own as we near the moment of destiny about Brexit. Either way, the UK needs to rethink its relations with its European neighbours and the rest of the world, and there are opportunities for the Kurds in this.

One of the most original and influential thinkers in this is the active Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Tugendhat MP, who recently outlined his vision of UK foreign policy in the context of an international order that is breaking down.

He says that this is because the West, which he defines as “that group of nations stretching from San Francisco in the West to Seoul in the East, who value the rule of law, economic liberty, and human rights, seem to be losing interest in the rules-based international order that has done so much to keep us safe since the end of the Second World War.”

At root, he says “there is, perhaps, something more human going on – a collective amnesia. The terror and unrest of previous eras has drifted far from people’s minds, and the events that shaped the lives of past generations have become distant memories. Today, too few have looked the devil in the face, too few have seen what can happen when the rules collapse and anarchy reigns. Too many see peace as the ordinary state of affairs, when a cursory glance at history makes clear, peace is painstakingly constructed and easily lost. Peace is the exception, not the rule.”

In searching for “ideas for a new Conservative internationalism,” although his thinking can be applied more widely, he asks fundamental questions about the importance of the nation-state in fostering multilateralism and cites how the EU’s centralising, supranational instinct is out of kilter with the temper of our times. He quotes a senior European prime minister who told him that “it’s a real shame about the European Commission. If we’d just been a group of nation states in Europe, we could have made this work.”

Because, he says, Britain’s history should not make us curators of a crumbling international order he asks “an urgent question of British foreign policy: how can we help design what is needed – an international system for today’s world?”

Dismissing what he calls the Davos view that that ever greater economic interconnectedness would melt borders away and make old national frontiers disappear he insists that “in an uncertain world we need to remember that the rock breaching the choppy waters is the state.”

Tugendhat lists the elements of the British state’s strong position as a heavyweight in foreign policy: the penetrating insight of its diplomatic and intelligence networks, its soft power from its trusted media and a generous aid programme that helps project influence, political stability, financial markets, and reputation that attract investment and enable trade, membership of many global clubs, and the capacity, as a last resort, to project power through the convincing threat of force.

He concludes by stressing that a chief British asset is the rule of law “because these islands, by accidents of geography, history and war have a long, unbroken tradition of justice” and that “English law and British justice are prized as the gold standard around the world.”

The rule of law, firm institutions, and centuries of developing them are why the proposed programme of skills transfer from British MPs to the Kurdistani Parliament and to youth and student organisations can be so important in helping the Kurds adapt lessons from elsewhere.

Imperial Britain used to rule the waves and waived the rules to do so but now, perhaps, waving the rules that have made it successful can do more to allow others to navigate storms in this transition to a new international order and lift all boats, including those of the landlocked Kurds.

* The full text of Tom Tugendhat’s speech is at https://rusi.org/event/tom-tugendhat-defending-rules

Gary Kent writes in a personal capacity

Posted in General | Comments Off

Minutes of the meeting on 9 October 2018 of the APPG on the Kurdistan Region in Iraq

Attendance: Mary Glindon MP, Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP, Firmsik Bilbas for John Grogan MP, Anita Lowenstein-Dent for Jonathan Djanogly MP, Gary Kent (Secretary) and Khasro Ajgayi (KRG).

Apologies: Jack Lopresti MP, Rosie Winterton MP, Ian Austin MP, Scott Mann MP, Janet Daby MP, Joan Ryan MP, Henry Smith MP, David Drew MP, Alex Sobel MP, Lord Glasman, Lord Clement-Jones, Lord Luce, Baroness Goudie, Baroness Hodgson of Abinger, The Bishop of Carlisle, Lord Hylton, and Karwan Jamal Tahir (KRG High Representative)

Gary Kent introduced the report of the recent APPG delegation to Kurdistan and Baghdad. He outlined the positive changes a year after the referendum and the failed attempt to invade the Kurdistan Region.

He highlighted the proposed training programme for Kurdistani MPs, which he will discuss with their Parliament in Kurdistan, and where he will discuss the report with various audiences. He also suggested the APPG seeks to recruit 50 MPs and Peers.

It was also agreed that we explore the possibility of a delegation to the Kurdistan Region in early January.

Khasro Ajgayi outlined current developments in the Kurdistan Region including the elections on 30 September, the election of Barham Salih to the Iraqi Presidency, and the formation of the new Iraqi Government.

Posted in General | Comments Off

Jack Lopresti MP explains why Kurdistan matters to the UK

The peaceful independence referendum a year ago today in the Kurdistan Region in Iraq and the violent reaction by Baghdad was lost in the news maelstrom but the rehabilitation and reform of Kurdistan and Iraq is highly significant to us.

I have visited Kurdistan at crucial stages in the last few years of war, officially observed the referendum, and recently flew to Baghdad to meet the President and foreign minister. I can easily make a moral case for a place that respects us, was crucial to defeating Daesh in Mosul, routinely protects Christians, promotes women’s equality, and wants to deepen its young democracy.

That argument only goes so far given other pressing policy priorities. I also want to advocate the case that the success of Kurdistan is in our hard-headed interests.

Daesh was smashed on the ground but its surviving soldiers have not simply gone back to civvy street. Pockets of insurgents are still active and their vile ideology has not been vanquished. The sectarian centralisation that encouraged ordinary Sunnis to collaborate with them, rat on their neighbours, or join them has not yet been put to one side.

Not only does Mosul have to be rebuilt but it also needs decentralised governance that make Sunnis feel comfortable in a Shia dominated Iraq. As do the Kurds and indeed the Shia city of Basra, which has been the power-house of the Iraqi economy although evidence of benefits is hard to find in its paltry infrastructure and services.

The Kurds are clear they want to leave and maybe one day they will be able to negotiate an exit that combines statehood with extensive co-operation with Iraq on security and maybe some form of common market.

The continuing cultural battle against extremist ideology, that could one day erupt back into life as a more vicious death cult, is lucky to have a people who detest Daesh, will resist it and want to work with us.

I was so proud, as one who served in Afghanistan, to meet our soldiers in Kurdistan who are training the Peshmerga to be a more professional and unified army.

As a Parliamentarian, I was bowled over when Kurdistani MPs from all several parties, ethnic and religious groups told us they want British MPs to train them.

The Kurds voluntarily decided to set up their Parliament under the protection of the no-fly zone pioneered by Sir John Major, a working class boy whose fantastic, inspirational, and aspirational story set me on the path to Parliament.

Their Parliament has not become the respected pulpit of national debate that could drive further much needed reform and inspire its people. A deeper democracy in the Middle East and in Iraq is not merely good in itself but can provide the leadership and resilience that makes it harder for extremism to flourish. Kurdistan could then do much more to drain the swamp and allow us to live without the fear of being bombed at home.

The last year was a tough trial for the Kurds but they came through and are bouncing back. A judicious mixture of altruism and self-interest can serve them and the UK for the best.

Jack Lopresti is the Conservative MP for Filton and Bradley Stoke and the Chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on the Kurdistan Region in Iraq

Posted in General | Comments Off

Reflection on Kurdistani referendum a year on

A year ago today Kurds in Iraq went to the polls to vote on the principle of independence from Iraq and I saw their joy and determination in three cities there. Given they endured genocide by Saddam Hussein, it was no surprise that it was a whopping 93% for Yes.

A negotiated deal with Iraq should have been doable given how hard the Kurds worked to make Iraq work better after Saddam’s fall in 2003 and how the Peshmerga – those who face death – did so much to repulse the so-called Islamic State.

But Baghdad’s leaders opted to go for the Kurdistani jugular, closed its airports, made its economy scream, and tried to invade it. It was illegal but Prime Minister Abadi got it into his head that conquering Kurds would compensate for his losing Mosul and make him a nationalist hero in elections in May.

It didn’t work out that way. The Peshmerga resisted and great powers then told Baghdad they were out of order. The airports eventually re-opened and normal business has resumed.

Abadi lost support in the elections and probably won’t stay in Little Venice, his Baghdad residence while the Kurds will again take the Iraqi Presidency and could secure a deal with Baghdad.

Coincidentally, this crackdown on the Kurds by Baghdad was obscured by the referendum days later in Catalonia. Of course, many more of us have been to Barcelona than Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan, since you ask.

You can also ask, as many Brits do, why this affects us. I could wax lyrical about how they boost women’s rights and protect Christians and other minorities with gusto. And their hospitality, beautiful countryside, and tourist sites. One day, you may go there. Really.

But many are sceptical about our role in Iraq and wider intervention. One advantage of going back and forth to Kurdistan for over a decade is that I know that the Kurds respect us, relish our long-term engagement, and are firm allies against extremism.

The British link with the Kurds is crucial to our interests. The Middle East is where much of our civilisation began and we can thank them for algebra, for instance. Yes, it is also a vast reservoir of oil and gas, which all economies need, and on fairer terms than imperialism imposed in the bad old days.

But, sadly, the Middle East, and North Africa, also has the greatest concentration of a death cult that wishes us harm. Thanks to the Kurds, they have been defeated in Iraq but haven’t gone away, you know. And Iraq and Kurdistan are pivotal powers in the Middle East.

This is where the Kurds come into the British security equation. If they succeed in reforming their country further, they can show a positive example to the rest of Iraq and the Middle East. A more prosperous economy and pluralist politics can inspire the vast youth bump of highly qualified people with nowhere to go and prey to the false sirens of extremism.

And the Kurds are keen to learn from us. Britain is helping professionalise the Peshmerga. The boys (and girls) from the Thames, and the Mersey and the Tyne, to quote Elvis Costello’s Oliver’s Army, can teach them a thing or two about military matters. The Peshmerga may again have to fight terrorism on their borders.

Our model of online public service delivery also appeals to them. And their Parliament, which is 26 years old, wants our MPs from a Parliament dating back to 1215 to train them to be more efficient and proactive. We will also help increase the clout of youth and student groups.

Our Kurdistani allies and have been to hell and back since their referendum. Their cause matters to us, I argue, because our links help increase stability and inclusion across the Middle East and help halt further extremist atrocities on our streets.

Gary Kent is Secretary of the all-party parliamentary group on the Kurdistan Region in Iraq, has been there 29 times in 12 years, and writes in a personal capacity. @garykent

This article appears in the Newcastle Journal today.

Posted in General | Comments Off

Brief statement by MPs on the recent Iranian attack on Koya

Our increasingly smaller world allows some victims of violence to use round-the-clock news and smart phones to encourage international remedies and justice. But some issues fall through the cracks into relative silence and invisibility, which encourages the guilty to believe they can continue with impunity.

Iran’s recent missile attack against an Iranian Kurdish refugee camp in Koya in the Kurdistan Region in Iraq could fall into that category, although we welcome good statements from the UK and the US.

Nearly 20 people were killed and fifty injured in long-range missile attacks on this camp in a clear attempt to intimidate Iraqi Kurdistan whose leaders are possibly pivotal to the process of selecting a new coalition and Prime Minister in Baghdad.

The Kurdistan Regional Government remains a vital ally in resisting extremism and in creating decentralised forms of governance plus reconstruction and economic prosperity that can prevent any further resurgence of extremism. Its security is vital to our interests and that means continuing and more concerted action to stop further Iranian aggression.

Jack Lopresti MP (Conservative)
Chairman

Mary Glindon MP (Labour)
Vice Chair

Robert Halfon MP (Conservative)
Vice Chair

Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP (Labour)
Officer

APPG Kurdistan Region in Iraq

Posted in General | Comments Off

Jack Lopresti MP. We can help Kurdistan bridge the gap

This article by Jack Lopresti appears in the Times Red Box outlet today

British parliamentarians have closely observed Kurdistan’s progress from a region suffering genocide and grave injustices to a fledgling nation seeking to determine its own destiny. This has taken place over a decade of fact-finding delegations working on the front line with the Peshmerga in the city of Kirkuk, with Iraqi soldiers in Mosul as it was being liberated, and in Baghdad.

Kurdistan often fits into Iraq like a square peg in a round hole. Their only cordial decade of relations in a century ended in 2014 when Baghdad unilaterally severed federal fiscal transfers. Both parties united to expel Daesh, but then fell out over Kurdistani independence.

I had the privilege of being in Kurdistan for the referendum on negotiated independence last year and was horrified that Baghdad violently seized Kirkuk, killed Peshmerga, blockaded Kurdistani airports, and tried but failed to dismantle the Kurdistan regional government. The violence supposedly upheld the constitution although the constitution explicitly defines Iraq as a voluntary union.

Baghdad’s behaviour was vicious and unnecessary, while Kurds are clear what they want in the longer term, but they are now stuck as part of a federal Iraq. The Kurds need robust pragmatism in dealing with Baghdad, which is changing in any case, and all based on applying the long-neglected constitution, which should protect Kurdistani rights.

There’s much to commend Kurdistan. Its deep and natural support for religious tolerance, openness to the world, and pro-Western attitudes, top the list. Its pivotal geopolitical position makes it useful to easing wider tensions, bridging Europe and Iraq, and basing those rebuilding a shattered Mosul.

But friends must not ignore its own internal challenges. Kurdistan needs thorough reform of its dysfunctional and unproductive economy with its huge state employment rolls, a tiny private sector, corruption, an over-dependence on oil, and little progress in tapping its plentiful agriculture and tourist potential. Visitors are always amazed by the beauty of the vast verdant plains, astonishing mountains and rivers, and historical sites as well as commendable security.

The Kurds should make themselves fit for any possible future. A neutral, efficient and accountable military is vital. I visited British soldiers in Erbil who have trained thousands of enthusiastic Peshmerga. This matters to us because the Peshmerga were decisive in defeating Daesh, whose roots in Baghdad’s sectarian centralisation remain live and which could re-emerge in even more vicious forms.

But the Kurds cannot do this alone and look to Britain to boost their capacity. English is their second language, many leaders and others have spent years here and have UK passports — this includes their deputy prime minister. Our universities and quality services and goods attract them.

It is a singular honour that the Kurdistani Parliament’s first ever all-party group focuses on Britain. They want our parliamentarians and others to train them to be more effective, and deepen their new and shallow democracy. We can also encourage civil society and help to lift the voices of young people who are a vast majority there.

The Kurds have survived so many injustices, but we should never take this for granted and need to do more as a strategic priority to protect and promote the positive power of our great friends and allies.

Jack Lopresti MP is the chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on the Kurdistan Region in Iraq.

Posted in General | Comments Off

Minutes of annual general meeting

Minutes of annual general meeting of the APPG on the Kurdistan Region in Iraq. Tuesday 10 July 2018. CR8.

Attendance: Jack Lopresti, Robert Halfon, Mary Glindon, Lord Clement-Jones, Graham Jones, Bob Blackman, Michael Tomlinson, Lady Hodgson, Dame Rosie Winterton, and Daniel Carden.

Also in attendance: Gary Kent (Secretary), Matthew Dent (Parliamentary Secretary to Jack Lopresti), Karwan Jamal Tahir and Hawre Wahid for the Kurdistan Regional Government, and Liam Allmark of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of England and Wales.

Apologies. Andrea Jenkyns, Stephen Metcalfe MP, Henry Smith MP, Ian Austin, Lord Glasman, Lloyd Russell-Moyle.

1 Agreed Jack Lopresti as Chairman.

2 Agreed Lord Clement-Jones, Mary Glindon, Robert Halfon MP and Ian Austin as Vice-Chairs.

3 Agreed the following as officers: Mike Gapes MP, Graham Jones MP, Bob Stewart MP, Henry Smith MP, Andrea Jenkyns MP, Stephen Metcalfe MP, Lord Glasman, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP, Chris Stephens MP, Bob Blackman MP, Baroness Hodgson, Baroness Ramsay, Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP, Michael Tomlinson MP, Daniel Carden MP, Steve Reed MP, and Tom Brake MP.

4 Approved the Income and Expenditure statement for 26 June 2017 to 25 June 2018.

5 Gary Kent, Jack Lopresti, Robert Halfon and Matthew Dent reported on the recent delegation to Kurdistan and Baghdad. Liam Allmark also gave his views as an observer.

Mary Glindon suggested we look at twinning arrangements between British and Kurdistani institutions. Bob Blackman suggested we look at possible activities involving the Inter-Parliamentary Union. Michael Tomlinson suggested we seek a meeting with the new Foreign Secretary.

6 KRG High Representative Karwan Jamal Tahir briefed the group on the current situation in the Kurdistan Region. He thanked the RAF on its centenary for its invaluable assistance in fighting Daesh and protecting Kurdistan.

7 Agreed the following:

We welcome the Kurdistani Parliament’s APPG on the UK as a partner in providing training of MPs and in encouraging other organisations to train Kurdistani MPs.

We will convene a meeting of interested groups to discuss this and also how we can encourage the growth and capacity of youth and student groups in Kurdistan.

We will explore how to organise short and introductory delegations outside parliamentary recesses to undertake some training at the Kurdistani Parliament, meet youth and student groups and a few senior leaders as well as the British community in Kurdistan.

We will publish the report of the last delegation online and in printed form to be circulated to all attendees at the recent KRG reception.

Articles by participants will be drafted by Gary to coincide with the publication of the report, who will also seek to persuade a newspaper to publish a news report.

We will seek a meeting with the new Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and with Alistair Burt to discuss the report.

We will seek a meeting with the Immigration Minister to discuss the visa situation.

ies appg

Posted in General | Comments Off

Christians in Kurdistan and Iraq

Reflections from Liam Allmark – head of public affairs at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

Liam Allmark was an observer on the last APPG delegation and these are his views

Our Bishops do not align themselves with any political group or party. However the Catholic community in England and Wales has a strong connection with the Christian community in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, so it was a welcome opportunity to accompany British MPs and join in some of their conversations.

Christianity has ancient roots in this part of the world and, despite the enormous challenges their community has faced, Christians continue to play an active role in society today. We met Christian lawmakers in the Kurdistan Parliament; attended a packed Mass in St Joseph’s Chaldean Cathedral; saw the Church’s university and the site of its new hospital; held lively conversations with Christian students (and of course shared culinary delights in Ankawa – Erbil’s Christian Quarter).

The Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil, Bashar Warda describes his mission here “to help my people not to survive but to thrive.” We hope that anyone concerned with the future of Iraq and the Kurdistan Region can get behind this vision.

We know all too well how much Iraq’s Christian community has suffered in recent decades because of conflict and political instability. As the leaders of churches in the Kurdistan Region stated last year: “it is possible to say without any doubt that it is the Christians who continue to be the biggest losers in all of these fights, to which they have never been party and which, if continued, would render our people more intent on emigration, leading to their being wiped out from the surface of this land.”

During this visit the delegation received fresh insight into those challenges facing the region’s Christians, around 100,000 of whom fled to Erbil from their homes on the Nineveh Plains, escaping the advance of Daesh in 2014.

Things today are very different to my last visit a few years ago: almost half of the Christians who arrived in Erbil as IDPs have returned home and the Church’s last IDP camp is about to close. This is largely due to the phenomenal work of the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee, a collaboration between the Chaldean, Syriac Orthodox, and Syriac Catholic communities, which has so far renovated more than 4,000 homes, with support from the international community.

However, there are still tens of thousands of displaced Christians living in the Kurdistan Region who do not know what the future holds. Thousands of homes on the Nineveh Plains, along with vital infrastructure and farmland wrecked by Daesh forces, still need to be restored. The huge costs are even harder to meet against the backdrop of economic difficulties in Iraq.

Without opportunities to return home or rebuild their lives, many Christians will follow the thousands who have left for Europe or America. Iraq’s Christian community has already shrunk exponentially over the past decade. If it continues to do so this will be to the detriment of the whole country.

We hope that going forward the UK will increase its support for reconstruction, job creation, and educational opportunities both in the Kurdistan Region and more widely, which will help give a meaningful future to this community that has experienced so much violence, displacement and destruction of their livelihoods.

Another critical issue is the security of people returning to the Nineveh Plains. During the visit we heard how instability on the plains, exacerbated in the aftermath of the referendum, has slowed down reconstruction and left many people frightened to return. It was also clear that Daesh remains a threat, despite losing control of territory.

When fighting broke out between Iraqi and Kurdish forces following the referendum, leaders of Churches in the Kurdistan Region appealed: “the Plains of Nineveh should be maintained as a unified territory; it is critical to not divide it into parts. Care should be made not to involve the last remaining Christian land in political bargaining, as our vulnerable community cannot withstand further schism and division in addition to the ongoing political and sectarian fights. The Plain of Nineveh is a great symbol for Christians in Iraq, the Kurdistan Region, and the world.”

As political negotiations continue, we hope that friends of the region including our own politicians will work with both the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Iraqi Government to protect families returning to the Nineveh Plains, safeguard their land rights, and give them a proper stake in decisions about their future.

Above all, it is important that our government, politicians and diplomats continue to engage with Christians in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, promoting their position as citizens with essential rights and responsibilities; while engaging with the Church in England and Wales which continues to maintain close contacts with the Church across the region.

As Cardinal Vincent Nichols reflected following his own visit, the Christian community is “an integral part of the country’s societal fabric and essential for creating a more stable future. The community’s deep commitment to forgiveness and reconciliation is especially important as Iraq strives to emerge from decades of conflict.”

Posted in General | Comments Off

Two steps forward, one step back in Kurdistan

The report of the latest APPG delegation to Kurdistan and Baghdad is here at appg kurdistan delegation report may 2018 website

Introduction to the report of the APPG delegation to Kurdistan and Baghdad, with the participation of Jack Lopresti MP and Robert Halfon MP, and others

The Kurds in Iraq are amongst our foremost friends in the Middle East and have been to hell and back in the last four years but have survived.

They were also decisive in defeating Daesh and remain crucial to our own national security because Daesh is still ideologically potent, and has not evaporated as a guerrilla force, which could morph into a new and even more vicious group.

The Kurds were entitled to hold a peaceful referendum on the principle of independence. Baghdad’s vicious and violent reaction to a peaceful vote of intention made a mockery of the first article of the Iraqi constitution which insists that Iraq is a voluntary union: the Kurds can check out but never leave, it seems.

It is shameful that Baghdad opportunistically tried to dismantle the internationally recognised Kurdistan Regional Government and suffocate their economy. Baghdad failed and whilst I cannot forgive them for killing Peshmerga, senior leaders in Baghdad recognise the need to row back from violence and reset relations with the Kurds, although it should be based firmly on the federalism in the Iraqi constitution and the Kurds need robust pragmatism in dealing with Baghdad.

The report of our latest fact-finding delegation – the 15th in a decade – argues that the Kurds are geopolitically pivotal, with the expertise and experience to challenge extremism, and encourage peace-making. The Kurds are a bridge between Europe, Turkey and Iraq. They could again be a magnet for investment and through that to the wider market in Iraq. Kurdistan could be a base for those reconstructing Mosul. Kurds in Iraq could help ease antagonism between neighbouring governments and other Kurdistans.

The Kurds also know they need to reform their own systems, the fault lines and flaws of which have been cruelly exposed in recent years. Our latest report highlights the need for thorough reform of its top-heavy and oil dependent rentier economy. We say that Kurdistan needs to adopt a capitalist model with the balance between market and state and individual and collective rights suiting Kurdistani needs. A new tax system could include a wealth tax so that sacrifices are shared more equally and funds are raised for a welfare state.

We also argue that Kurdistan also relies too heavily on state employment, that the size of the state strangles independent private businesses, and that massive opportunities to develop agriculture, tourism, light industry and more have yet to gain traction.

In all this there is a major and mutually beneficial political and commercial role for the UK, which is keenly desired by the Kurds. It’s a great symbol of the popular esteem for the UK that Kurdistani MPs have formed an all-party group on the UK, the first such group. They want MPs and others here to train their MPs and deepen their young democracy. We can also cultivate youth and student organisations.

Our initial audit of the British footprint in Kurdistan includes support for modernising the Peshmerga, more links between our universities, cultivating a film industry so Kurds can better tell their stories, and reforming the visa system for Kurds who need to come here for business and other purposes. The UK should organise an official trade mission to Kurdistan.

The report of the delegation, which included an observer from the Catholic Church in England and Wales, highlights Kurdistan’s religious pluralism, which we say is all too rare throughout the Middle East and something which we should not take for granted.

Political engagement in the Middle East sounds alarms for many but it would be short-sighted to ignore the need to help reliable allies there stand on their own two feet. This enables them to avoid further conflicts that create refugee flows and destabilise the world economy. A dynamic and reforming Iraqi Kurdistan should be a major UK goal.

Gary Kent
APPG Secretary

Posted in General | Comments Off