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

This entry was posted in General. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.