Dave Anderson MP appeal to arm the Kurds

We have all been disgusted by the wanton barbarism in Iraq -beheadings, mass executions, selling women as sex slaves, rape, and genocide against religious minorities. The so-called Islamic State (IS), deemed extreme by even Al Qaeda, can be defeated militarily and politically although the Nato coalition reckons it will take three years. It is a fight that cannot be flunked.

I want cross-party support for measures that can save the Kurds and encourage a deal that allows the peoples of Iraq to work together for the common good. Incredibly, Baghdad has blockaded the Kurds since January and their civil servants and soldiers have not been paid. This must end.

I met the former Iraq Prime Minister in Baghdad in 2008 but he proved unwilling to work with Kurdish and Sunni minorities and helped create alienation that the IS exploited. I have also met the new Iraqi Prime Minister and hope that he can make a fresh start.

The Kurds and the Iraqi Army, when it recovers from its disastrous defeat in June, can do the job. Military action against IS does not need foreign combat troops apart from advisers who can improve the organisation of local soldiers.

Turkey is part of the coalition and they and the Kurds have overcome ancient tensions to work together. I note that Iran and Syrian President Assad have parallel interests. We may have to sup with the a long spoon with them as we did in the fight against Nazism. Arab states and millionaires should stop backing the IS.

David Cameron was initially hesitant because he feared that public opinion would not tolerate involvement. I urged the Prime Minister to recall Parliament in August because Cameron could present a stronger case if he heeded MPs in touch with public opinion and who can help give a lead.

There is a brutal moral clarity about what is at stake. The Kurds need weapons so they can fight the IS without one hand tied behind their backs and have also asked Britain and others to take part in airstrikes.

They argue that their defeating the IS will enhance our security. Kurds with British accents due to their exile here from Saddam Hussein tell us that many IS fighters also speak with British accents and could come back here, battle hardened and keen to kill. Defeating them in Kurdistan reduces that danger.

But the miserable human consequences for hundreds of thousands of men, women and children of the jihadist onslaught will persist for many years. This is so far the least well understood part of the picture.

It needs to be better understood in human terms so that the international community can help. What would it mean here? There are about 300,000 people in Newcastle. Imagine if there were a sudden increase of about a quarter – 75,000 people – in a matter of weeks, most with just the clothing on their backs and half of them children. It would be a massive crisis.

This is broadly what has happened to Iraqi Kurdistan, a decent, democratic and dynamic country which I have been privileged to visit as Secretary of the all-party parliamentary group which seeks to build connections between the UK and the Kurds. The Kurds are widely pro-British because they know that we saved them when they rose up against Saddam Hussein in 1991 and we imposed a no-fly zone to stop them being bombed to kingdom come.

Kurdistan has about 5 million people but now has to look after an extra 1.4 million people. All public buildings, public parks, churches, mosques and even private gardens are occupied by desperate people. Refugees have some sort of roof over their heads and basic services. But a lost generation of children is denied education and intellectual nourishment at a crucial stage of their lives.

Looking after the refugees and creating the conditions for them to return home is a long-term priority for humanity. I hope that we will be as generous and kind as we usually are. The Kurds are our friends and allies. Helping them also helps us. This is a fight between barbarism and civilisation. We must help ensure the decent guys win.

This article originally appeared in the Newcastle Journal

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