Iraq: My enemy’s enemy may not be my friend


Amidst all the clamour for the UK to take military action in Iraq again we should pause and ask ourselves whose side are we on? What would we be fighting for? These questions are equally acute if we simply supply arms, logistic support and intelligence to others to do the fighting.

I do not think the UK should back either the Sunnis or the Shia in the underlying Islamic struggle. Nor do I think we should fight to ensure the current borders and patterns of states remains immutable if people who have to live there no longer like the current lines on a map. After all we are just having a democratic vote in part of our country to see if our country still suits all its inhabitants.

Past UK policy has been incoherent, expensive in lives and money, and unhelpful to settling the future of the Middle East. The UK has wanted to keep current Iraq together, but has wanted to help the opposition forces in  neighbouring Syria who wish to dismember the Syrian state. Now the UK is considering sending weapons to the Kurds, whose ultimate aim is an independent Kurdish state. Is that now the UK’s aim? Have we sounded out our Turkish allies in NATO  on this matter? If a Kurdish state is split off, do we need then to support other divisions within former Iraq? How do we avoid a Sunni state in part of the territory?

I hold no brief for the current borders of Syria and Iraq, nor do I  think the UK should participate in a war either to maintain  the current lines or to create new states there. The huge instability, the wide range of factions and armies and the intensification of the civil wars in both countries makes stabilising a new settlement extremely difficult. Sending more weapons in is unlikely to  make it better. Many US weapons sent to the government of Iraq to defend the Iraqi state are  now in the hands of IS who wish to establish a new Caliphate state.

The people who say we should arm the Kurds need to answer some other questions. The Kurdish peshmerga forces have KDP and PUK wings who disagree with one another. Which of these would we favour, or would we arm each equally? What would we do if the Kurdish forces did seek to establish an independent Kurdish state as the reward for fighting the IS forces? How could we support them sufficiently to avoid capture of some of the new weapons by IS forces?

Not so long ago I urged the government with a group of Conservative colleagues not to intervene militarily in Syria. We were successful when Labour eventually joined us in opposition to such intervention. One of my reasons for opposing intervention was I did not see how our support for the opposition forces could  be confined to the so called moderates as the government hoped. It seemed obvious we would also be helping the extremists, as IS was an important part of the opposition to Assad. I have no time for Assad and his brutality  either. The irony of today’s position for the west is opposing IS forces means helping Assad, who is one of the principal forces of resistance to IS.

Labour’s war in Iraq was a bad mistake. Fighting another one would not right the wrongs of that war. There is a continuing lack of clarity over who we support and who we wish to defeat. The West has an unfortunate history of changing sides or revising their view of which is the worst cause we need to oppose. My enemy’s enemy may not be my friend. In the latest case my enemy’s enemy that I was wanting to help last year is now apparently my worst enemy instead. That does not make my old enemy my friend, but if we wish to stop IS Assad may be part of the means to do it. It would also help if our relations with Russia were better, as they too have an interest in stopping IS forces in the Middle East.

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  1. formula57
    Posted August 16, 2014 at 5:18 am | Permalink

    We can take some encouragement that although “In the latest case my enemy’s enemy that I was wanting to help last year is now apparently my worst enemy instead” at least the Minister most responsible for last year’s dangerous policy has been removed from the Foreign Office pending his self-propelled removal from Parliament. It still leaves him and his then and now colleagues shaping the UK’s responses: let us hope you with the group of Conservative colleagues from last year will be listened to afresh. I strongly support all you say here.

    Reply Thank you. I have of course sent these views to the new Foreign Secretary who I think listens more than his predecessor to what we are saying.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted August 16, 2014 at 7:11 am | Permalink

      To Reply: Good, I hope very much this proves to be the case.

      • Hope
        Posted August 16, 2014 at 8:45 am | Permalink

        Perhaps a good starting point would be to conclude why the UK went their last time and the person(s) responsible held to account for the deaths and maimed. No cover up no collusion the truth. Then perhaps we could do the same with Libya. The findings could then be used to prevent interference and expansionism of the Ukraine. There are matters that need to be resolved in this country before it tells others what to do and how to live their lives.

        • Anonymous
          Posted August 16, 2014 at 9:15 am | Permalink

          “Labour’s war in Iraq was a bad mistake”

          It was no mistake. It was quite deliberate and evidence was concocted in the absence of any good reason to invade and despite all good advice not to do it. There was public outcry in fact.

          Worst of all was that there was no post invasion plan.

          • Anonymous
            Posted August 16, 2014 at 9:55 am | Permalink

            Some of us are on record (on leading blogs and newspaper letters pages in the run up to the invasion) predicting that bloody anarchy would rule in Iraq for generations and that the perpetrator would scuttle off to America and make his fortune there as a hero on the after-dinner circuit – all at our expense.

    • formula57
      Posted August 16, 2014 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

      Excellent. And I have now sent your views to my MP and sought his assurance that he supports them too.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted August 16, 2014 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

      You know my views on it. I used to wince every time the pro-EU Hague opened his mouth, but we still need to convince Cameron. He’s at it again today, condemning Russia for incursions into Ukraine, with the Ukraine ‘government’ apparently claiming to have destroyed a Russian military convoy. He must be in cahoots with the BBC or at least feeding off their propaganda. There’s one thing missing however – evidence! It’s as if we’re all being conditioned to hate those nasty old Ruskis, and war is an inevitability.

      I’d like to know who’s pulling Cameron’s strings. Or more accurately, who in Washington is pulling his strings. We need out of this madness altogether. And it’s because we in the west have got so many foreign policy decisions so wrong for decades, that the world is such a dangerous place. But I think it is a deliberate construct by corrupt politicians with vested interests, and the more I read, the more I am convinced we need a totally fresh approach to politics on both sides of the Atlantic.

      When an MP mate of mine rang me one Saturday morning and said Cameron was another Blair, he wasn’t joking!


      • Lifelogic
        Posted August 17, 2014 at 6:12 am | Permalink

        Heath, Major, Blair, Clegg all rolled into one pro EU, green crap, PR spin warmongering, tax increasing, freedom destroying, economic disaster.

  2. Lifelogic
    Posted August 16, 2014 at 5:31 am | Permalink

    I agree fully.

    “Past UK policy has indeed been incoherent, expensive in lives and money, and unhelpful to settling the future of the Middle East” indeed and was done on a blatant lie to voters and parliament too.

    You say “Labour’s war in Iraq was a bad mistake. Fighting another one would not right the wrongs of that war. There is a continuing lack of clarity over who we support and who we wish to defeat.” Indeed, but it was supported by the Conservative leadership, it was an appalling but entirely predictable error. We clearly should only enter wars where we know we can win the war (and the peace). Also we are, as sure as we can be, that the outcome will be far, far better than it would have been without intervention.

    This war meets none of these stipulations.

    Leadership means having a good compass not just being good on your feet and PR spin. Leading people in the wrong direction (as Cameron now does on most issues) is not helpful. We needed more Robin Cooks and independent thinkers at the time.

    “I cannot support a war without international agreement or public support” as he stated at the time”.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted August 16, 2014 at 7:15 am | Permalink

      Especially one we might well lose (or lose the peace), one that is likely to make the situation far worse and is entered into on a blatant lie. He might usefully have added.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted August 16, 2014 at 7:44 am | Permalink

      Off topic it is interesting to hear on “More or Less” radio four yesterday, that the expected return on student loan is only expected to be a bit over 50% and it is likely to cost nearly as much as the old grant system.

      Payment back from EU students and woman (the large majority of undergraduates) will no doubt be much lower still for obvious reasons.

    • APL
      Posted August 16, 2014 at 7:50 am | Permalink

      Lifelogic: “Leadership means having a good compass not just being good on your feet and PR spin.”

      What’s wrong with the word ‘principles’?

      But you have hit on one aspect of the problem, modern ‘leaders’ are not in fact leaders, they are managers, as such they have no guiding principles.

      They are blown by events to reacting to one crisis then the next. Any area of government policy are a series of firefights, ever more hectic attempt to keep things under control.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted August 16, 2014 at 10:05 am | Permalink

        Indeed they are are not really leaders most of the time, merely actors and pr people reading lines prepared for them and doing endless silly photo opportunities with huskies, in hospitals, overseas or with hoodies.

        It is the direction of travel that actually matters not if you make half good jokes at PM questions.

      • Brian Tomkinson
        Posted August 16, 2014 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

        “What’s wrong with the word ‘principles’?”
        Politicians have principles, as their spokesman Groucho Marx said:
        “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.”

    • sjb
      Posted August 16, 2014 at 8:31 am | Permalink

      Not only the Conservative leadership but the overwhelming support of Tory MPs.

      Only fifteen Tories – including John Baron and Ken Clarke – voted against, compared with 139 Labour MPs and (all) 53 LibDems.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted August 16, 2014 at 10:07 am | Permalink

        Indeed lots of fools and sheep. Not their children going to war one imagines.

        • Kenneth R Moore
          Posted August 17, 2014 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

          What passes for democracy now is a choice between groups of bland, obedient pre-chosen candidates all taken from a professional political class. College kids. Independent minds are actively discouraged – this is what led us into Iraq.

          This rigging of the political system has arguably got worse since 1997 so don’t be surprised if they decide to go to war again because St David Cameron says it’s a good idea.

  3. Leslie Singleton
    Posted August 16, 2014 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    What I thought we were trying to do (I’m not sure about “clamouring”) was to go in to protect innocent harmless people of all ages stranded on a bare baking hot mountain without food water or shelter from fanatics seeking to torture and exterminate them………but you seem to see it differently and make no mention.

    Reply I called for the Iraqi government to rescue its citizens on the mountain when they were there,as the Iraqi military have the most military helicopters of anyone in the country and could have done so. When the US decided to do the job for them they discovered that most of the people had found their way off the mountain. Now the issue is the longer term one of where should those poor displaced people live, and can they live there peacefully? Again that is a question for Iraq.

    • Excalibur
      Posted August 16, 2014 at 7:41 am | Permalink

      An intractable problem that you have outlined well, JR. The Americans concluded there were only five-thousand people stranded on Mount Sinjar although they intimated that they were generally in better health than had been expected. This was largely because of air supply drops of essential humanitarian aid by both ourselves and the Americans. But the question remains are we to stand by and watch the killing of these Christians by IS ? There has already been a report of ninety killings in a village nearby. My view is we are going to have to tackle IS sooner or later. Better sooner.

      • Hope
        Posted August 16, 2014 at 8:49 am | Permalink

        No it is not just for Iraq because the Uk created the mess in the first place and as an occupying power failed to leave the country in a stable condition. The was no plan after the invasion. What plan did Cameron have after causing regime change in Libya or wanting to bomb Syria?

        • Lifelogic
          Posted August 16, 2014 at 10:09 am | Permalink

          What serious thought out plan does Cameron ever have for anything?

    • agricola
      Posted August 16, 2014 at 8:10 am | Permalink

      Yes the Christians and the Kurds are the responsibility of the government of Iraq, but as they are in total disarray nothing will happen. They are now the responsibility of the USA and UK as we sowed the seeds for their plight in the first place.

    • ian wragg
      Posted August 16, 2014 at 9:10 am | Permalink

      But of course we know that’s not true. Refugees will pitch up at our shores to be welcomed by the LibLabCON to water down the indigenous population. We still have the Afghans who high jacked a plane several years ago still hanging around funded by our taxes.
      Any crisis in the world is seen as an excuse to import more foreign unskilled labour into thisn overcrowded island.
      Off topic, how come the BBC were informed about the strike on Cliff so they could have a helicopter hovering in wait. What about his “umanrites” or are they only for foreigners and ethnic minorities.
      When did we become a police state??

      • Kenneth R Moore
        Posted August 17, 2014 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

        The plan is working beautifully to drive mass migration . Blair and now Cameron starting wars and fanning the flames of instability to fulfill their nightmare vision of a crowded …….. multi ethnic Great Britain.

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted August 16, 2014 at 9:36 am | Permalink

      Comment on Reply–“Only five thousand” it says below but I don’t get it and do not understand what the number of them has to do with it. Should make it easier to rescue them I should have thought.

      Reply I think the logic was that there were many more on the mountain but they managed to find their own way down, so the US now assumes the remaining 5000 can do the same without needing a US airlift.

      • Leslie Singleton
        Posted August 16, 2014 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

        …………being spasmodically massacred here and there all the way, and down to where exactly, given that down the mountain not what you would call safe for them?

  4. Mark B
    Posted August 16, 2014 at 5:58 am | Permalink

    We need to ask some fundamental questions here, too numerous to list. But when asking them, we need to have in mind what is the desired out come that we wish to achieve ?

    I have sympathy with the Kurd’s but, we must first understand that we are not responsible for them, the Iraqi Government is.

    Part of the problem is, that the Sunni minority, which has held power for so long, has been as poorly treated by the Shia led Government as the Shia were under Saddam. In turn, ISIS has found a rich source of angst amongst the Sunni minority, in which to put down roots. It is this sectarianism that is at the heart of all this, and it is this that must be addressed.

    Government is for ALL of the people. Whether they elected you or not. Whilst in power, you have a responsibility for ALL those under your care, not certain groups, whether they be religious, ethnic, political, gender or of a any sexual persuasion. They are all equal, and deserve the same as any other. *

    It is this fundamental principle in a ‘functioning’ democracy

    When you ‘impose’ a democratic system upon a people who have no history of such, and their culture is based more on Tribal / Clan loyalties than any notion of a nation state, you immediately have created a situation of future strife and conflict.

    We ourselves have had the same in the UK. For example: Northern Ireland. There we had two communities which, one side (Protestants) persecuted the minority (Catholics) such, that eventually the British Army were called in to try and restore order. And so marked the beginning of a 25 year campaign of murder and mayhem which, as our kind host knows only too well, caused the deaths and suffering of many, including members of his own party.

    If the Iraqi Government cannot be seen to act for the good of ALL of its people, then it has no moral ground on which to stand. Similarly, I would argue, neither does any British Government, as they too discriminate against a section of their people, the English.

    Is it therefore not better, until all the above is placed into a proper and coherent Foreign Policy, we should not seek to intervene, whether directly or in directly. Provide aid of course. But no weapons please, I think they have quite enough !

    * I think it is that, which some former Minister may have had an issue with, because their ‘pet constituency’ was deserving of a bigger say in relation to their size of the electorate.

    • Anonymous
      Posted August 16, 2014 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      Good analysis of a complex situation – which we in the UK would do well to get to grips with.

      Now that we have imported all the World’s conflicts it would be wise for us to do so.

      They tell us that “we must fight wars there to prevent atrocities here, at home” and spend billions doing so. Are these billions added to the millions lost in rioting when they tell us what an economic boon immigration policy has been ?

  5. Alan Wheatley
    Posted August 16, 2014 at 6:04 am | Permalink

    If for “we” one reads “the UN” then there is a better basis for sound and sustainable decisions.

    If the UN does not endorse what “we” think should be the right course of action, then “we” are well placed to point the finger at those with an different point of view and to lay the blame for the consequences of inaction. Modern World-wide communications makes this far more effective that it ever was.

    We can still have inter-nation treaties for mutual self protection, such as NATO. And I suppose we are still guaranteeing the neutrality of Belgium, are we not?

  6. Mike Stallard
    Posted August 16, 2014 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    The only thing we need in Iraq is the oil which, since we seem to have pushed fracking into the long grass, we depend on utterly. So is the oil safe?
    I am also worried about my brother and sister Christians out there. I think we ought to see that they/we are fed, sheltered and given necessities.
    Otherwise, let the Muslims fight out their own Reformation in their very own 30 years’ war.

    PS Please would someone tell The EU not to interfere in Russia? Otherwise Russia might interfere in the EU…

  7. alan jutson,
    Posted August 16, 2014 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    Yes its a mess, and a mess that is getting larger and larger.

    We should stick to humanitarian aid, and in the meantime try to encourage all those within the UN to come up with a solution, which all members would support.

    Unfortunately the UN track record is not that good.

    We should at the same time upgrade our own border security to suit ourselves, no matter what the EU says or does.

  8. Duyfken
    Posted August 16, 2014 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    The mission of the FCO could or should be summed up in just a few words: “to promote and to protect British interests”. Being one of the world’s policemen may assist in this but surely only to a limited extent, and restricted to activity in support of the FCO’s mission. In some cases, in taking on that role, Britain may be acting against that maxim by stirring up hatred. One might also consider variations of the “enemy’s enemy” rationale, such as a) my friend’s friend should not necessarily be my friend, b) my enemy’s friend should not necessarily be my enemy, and c) my friend’s enemy should not necessarily be my enemy. And then we need to identify who is our friend and who is the enemy—today and also as likely to be so tomorrow.

  9. Old Albion
    Posted August 16, 2014 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    I’m with you JR.
    The Islamic states are at war with each other. Let them sort it out, it’s not and never was our business.

  10. stred
    Posted August 16, 2014 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    During the Cold War the MAD standoff actually resulted in the longest period of peace for centuries. Of course the CND atcivists did everything they could to change the situation and now we have one of them as our EU foreign minister. The ability of both sides to destroy the World was not too worrying as the Communist elite were not totallly mad and it was in their interest to keep the situation as it was with their priveliged lifestyle. Since the end of the Cold War we have been secure because the Russians and Chinese have become even more reasonable and even tried to join NATO at one point.

    In contrast to this, we now are facing a new threat from people who believe that death will result in a better life for them an the infidel ebing cast into hell. The MAD idea for them is an option. Fortunately, perhaps a majority of religious people in their area are not total nutters and probably just hate us and each other, without wishing to go to heaven immediately.

    As far as Iraq is concerned, the motive for keeping it as a single state seems to have long gone. The main threat at the moment seems to come from nutcases who have come from outside the area, including our own country. I have not heard any Kurds who sound like nutters. In fact they have had the worst treatment of any group in the Middle East over the last century. If the Turks don’t like the idea of them having control of their traditional areas, they will have to put up with it. the Kurds are probably better neighbours than Jihadists.

    If the West has the ability to use air power to help the sane parties in the area an help them repel the nutters, why not? Up to now our genius politicians have taken the wrong side and the end result is that now they have the best US weapons.

    Reply Defining some people you do not like as nutters is no basis for a foreign policy. The whole point is the extremists and the more moderate opponents of regimes we do not like or they do not like often work together.

    • stred
      Posted August 17, 2014 at 9:20 am | Permalink

      My own definition of a nutter includes someone who enjoys killing in horrific manner- not someone who fights and kills reluctantly, often in wars started by politicians and going out of control. Most Moslems are as horrified by the butchery and genocide as peole of other faiths or non- faiths. There is little point in negotiating with people who are psychopaths. However, i agree that every effort should be made to come to an understanding with those who are not. A good start would be to stop the excesses of liberal lifestyle, many of which are not approved of by many who are not of the western metropolitan elite.

  11. Richard1
    Posted August 16, 2014 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    Absolutely, no-one in the Government or official in the foreign office seems to have the faintest clue about who we should or shouldn’t be backing. Every so often a new bogeyman shows up – Saddam, Assad, Isis, etc. We hear who we should be against (pretty much all govts in the Middle East on any reasonable analysis) but who we should support is very much a moving target.

    We certainly need to get much better relations with Russia, the last 20 years of managing relations with Russia have been handled with extraordinary ineptitude by the US and UK govts. What about China? Now the second largest economy in the world, with a strong interest in peace and stability to sustain export markets and trade, and millions of troops. Shouldnt be we be asking them to lend a hand before the UK again marches the Grand Old Duke of York back up to the top of the hill and dispatches our one or two remaining ships? (The others having in effect been scrapped so we can afford wind farms, hs2 etc).

  12. MickN
    Posted August 16, 2014 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    What we really need is a Peace Envoy for the Middle East.

    • Bazman
      Posted August 16, 2014 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

      Who like? Tony Blair? Good luck with that one.

      • Tad Davison
        Posted August 16, 2014 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

        Spot on! What was it George Galloway said about Blair, ‘The most inappropriate appointment since Caligula nominated his horse for the consul of Rome.’

        I don’t always like the BBC, but Newsnight (15th August) played the 2003 speeches of Tony Blair and George W. Bush for which I am glad. It reminded me of how cynical they are, and what a disaster their foreign policy was. But I’ll never be convinced it wasn’t contrived. I’d like to know how many barrels of Iraqi oil were extracted by certain companies that didn’t even meter it, and who benefitted from its sale and disposal.


  13. agricola
    Posted August 16, 2014 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    A set of questions but no obvious solutions from your submission. Ask yourself who are the perpetrators of evil upon the innocent and undefended. Are these evil doers alone or part of a worldwide conspiracy of evil. It does not take much working out.

    Militant medieval Islam is your target. In terms of Iraq, modern surveillance and air power should call a halt to the advance of IS. Think of the Iraqi exit from Kuwait or the Falaise Gap. I suspect that were IS dealt with robustly they would be found to be a minority within the religious grouping they claim to represent. Historically Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Lebanon have been relatively advanced and westernised societies. With an imaginative political approach backed by real power, such as Macarthur applied in Japan post WW2, could work to everyone’s benefit. Much the same approach could be used in Gaza following the removal of Hamas.

    Support for Assad alongside the Russians could work providing political restraint is applied to Assad post conflict. The moderate opposition to Assad could possibly be brought onside dependant on the post conflict plan for Syria.

    Those with real military power, Russia, USA, NATO, need to get together and work out a coherent plan. They all have a lot to lose by either ignoring the problem or just prodding at it from the sides. Sitting back, thumb in bum and mind out of gear is not an option.

    • zorro
      Posted August 16, 2014 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

      I ask again, who has fomented the growth of this grotesque misrepresentation of Islam, and why? Who really benefits from the demonisation of Muslims?


    • zorro
      Posted August 16, 2014 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      The US and NATO have no intention of working with Russia. They are clearly trying to provoke a conflict…..


    • Mark
      Posted August 17, 2014 at 12:46 am | Permalink

      To do a MacArthur in Syria and Iraq would entail finding at least half a million troops – which was what the Pentagon originally estimated would be needed to do the job in Iraq after deposing Saddam.

  14. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted August 16, 2014 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    JR “There is a continuing lack of clarity over who we support and who we wish to defeat.”
    There may be lack of clarity over whom we support but surely not about whom we wish to defeat. IS poses a major threat not only to the people in Iraq and Syria but well beyond. I agree that more should be done to improve relations with Russia but the EU and the USA seem to have expansionist ambitions which preclude this. How do you propose IS should be stopped or don’t you think they should be stopped?

    Reply IS have to be stopped by a political process in Iraq. They cannot be bombed into submission.

    • Brian Tomkinson
      Posted August 16, 2014 at 8:57 am | Permalink

      Reply to reply,
      Just what interest has IS shown in any political process? They are Islamist extremists set on forcing people to accept their religion or die.

      • zorro
        Posted August 16, 2014 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

        Who is ‘Al Baghdadi’….?


        • Bazman
          Posted August 16, 2014 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

          Leave it.

          • zorro
            Posted August 17, 2014 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

            Leave what?


          • Bazman
            Posted August 18, 2014 at 6:53 am | Permalink

            LOL! It’s like showing a dog a card trick.

          • zorro
            Posted August 18, 2014 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

            Sorry, I must be missing something but I couldn’t see what you were referring to when you made your comment.


      • Anonymous
        Posted August 16, 2014 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

        Indeed. If enough people vote against IS then they stop getting killed by them ?

        Frederick Forsyth is good on the capabilities of guided air strikes in his most recent article.

    • agricola
      Posted August 16, 2014 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

      The power base of IS is terror to which the answer is shock and awe directed at wherever the poke their heads above the horizon. The political process can come after they have been eliminated, with the religious sect to which they purport to belong. There is no compromise with evil. If we end up with an Iraq divided three ways then so be it, as a country it was artificial from the aftermath of WW1.

      It should be made absolutely clear to those citizens of the UK who have gone to IS or plan to, that there is no way back. Not even for their remains.

    • Mark
      Posted August 17, 2014 at 1:14 am | Permalink

      IS is not an Iraq-only issue. A large proportion of its fighters come from elsewhere (it first established in Syria as part of the Assad opposition), including the UK and Australia, as well as Saudi Arabia and Morocco (and doubtless many others too). Its main power base is still in Syria, with its Iraqi conquests yet to be fully secured – several of them are under attack.

      Its aims are not confined to the area it currently dominates militarily. It is likely that it will seek to interfere in the Saudi succession, as it considers itself to be more deserving as the “Keeper of the two Holy Places” – Mecca and Medina. It spreads by ideology – germs on the wind of the internet – and may grow much stronger if it is allowed to topple other regimes. There is n shortage of candidates across North Africa, for a start.

      The UK is ill-placed to make more than a token contribution to halting its advance: our forces are far too small and ill-equipped. Perhaps the most useful thing would be to ensure that we stop the flow of would-be jihadis from the UK and ensure that their radical ideology gets no foothold here, instead of allowing (home grown supporters to promote it ed), and admitting far too many potential sympathisers and cheerleaders.

      Nevertheless, we need to ensure that this evil is stamped out, which requires us to encourage others to do so. It is highly doubtful whether the fractious politics of Iraq makes it possible for Iraqis to be the only scourge, especially as the problem extends in to Syria as well. Involving the Iranians has both risks and opportunities – and much the same can be said of others. It is important that as wide a coalition as possible is involved at least in some way, so that there is nowhere to hide and nowhere to single out.

  15. Douglas Carter
    Posted August 16, 2014 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    John – to what degree do you suspect that our Foreign Policy, such as it is, may be adrift due to policy decisions taken historically which obviate an approach which compels us to pool such a policy with our near overseas ‘friends’? I don’t just mean the EU – there are of course other agreements, treaties and organisations to which we belong which also compel a UK Government to frame its approach with regard to the views of other nations.

    It’s naturally the opinion of you and I alike that it has been an unwise process to dogmatically link the UK foreign policy with that of the EU* but there are those who are even yet attached to this approach. (*There are times this would be entirely appropriate, also times where it would appear to be clinically insane to do so…) However, the mismatches between ourselves and our erstwhile allies are drifting to a point where policy would be more suited to interpretation by a chimp’s tea party if it is to remain governed thus.

    ‘Confront’ may seem a harsh word, but in literal terms, it’s the best to use. There are very significant and influential Nations within our alliances and agreements who refuse to engage in any respect with such international affairs, will frequently have separate agreements, political imperatives and prior relationships with nations – the nature of which prevents such larger administrative bodies from forming any coherent group policies – no matter what the specific Treaties or agreements may say or imply.

    Perhaps for the good of all, we should confront the nature of this incoherence by the most undiplomatic and non-pragmatic means (I would suggest the previous use of these tenets of political art are effectively becoming exhausted). If ‘we’ are to have a recognisable and workable Foreign Policy in a shared form, we really do need to confront the obstructions to its formation. If those obstructions remain, we should direct to their respective custodians that a continued linked-by-policy relationship as such ought to be brought to a permanent conclusion. It’s not unreasonable for the UK taxpayer who generously funds the bitter fruits of these anomalies to expect of their Governments insist that others might get their act together. To walk the walk, if they intend to carry on talking the talk.

    Reply Yes, I think our foreign policy has in the last couple of decades been too guided by those who want us to fit into the EU policy and wish to preserve the “special” relationship with the US. History tells us we have often had to differentiate our policy when important matters come up – as we did by rescuing the Falklands from an invader with the EU unhelpful and the US ambiguous at best, or as when we declined to join the USA in Viet Nam wh9ch turned out to be a good call.

    • zorro
      Posted August 16, 2014 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

      Reply to reply – Agreed…. John, why do you think it is that the UK government feels the need to have followed this line for the last two decades in particular – fear of something, or just lack of confidence?


      • Anonymous
        Posted August 16, 2014 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

        A self aggrandising and narcissistic PM answers at least part of your question, Zorro. He wouldn’t have been feted as a hero in America had he been scared into the action he took – he’s certainly not known for lacking in self confidence either.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted August 16, 2014 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

      Reply to reply:

      I couldn’t agree more! There IS a better way, but it is founded upon honesty and an ethical foreign policy. Unfortunately, both have been in short supply for many decades. We have a golden opportunity to put right the world’s ills, but those who still conspire to stir up trouble all over the place for their own ends are a clear and present danger.


  16. oldtimer
    Posted August 16, 2014 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    You perfectly illustrate the mess that is or what remains of Iraq. The political solution can only be found on the ground by the people on the ground. Arming one side or the other in a civil war is the utmost folly for the reasons you clearly set out.

    The new Iraqi PM may or may not succeed in stitching together a viable state that embraces the Shia, Sunni, Kurds and other minorities. That will take time. He will not be assisted by the UK arming the Kurds. Nor is it self evident that the Kurds are the primary target of the IS; that is more likely to be Baghdad. The IS interest is to prevent the new PM achieving his objective of bringing the disaffected Sunnis into a new constitutional settlement. Conflict at or inside the gates of the city will be the distraction most likely to achieve that aim – pursuing the Kurds would not. The emerging IS will go for the jugular.

  17. Douglas Carter
    Posted August 16, 2014 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    Apologies in advance – off-topic but you’ve engaged with this subject in the recent past. Therefore you may choose to include the link here – it’s relevant.

    Open Europe placed a Freedom of Information request to Treasury Officials with regard to claims by the LibDems that EU withdrawal would cost the UK 3.3 million jobs.

    The Treasury reply fairly well demolishes the claims – frequently clung to with a degree of desperation by senior LibDems. It may be beneficial to keep a link to that reply close at hand. Your coalition partners seem to lack the medium-term collective memory to retain such informations?

    Reply Yes, this confirms the obvious point I have regularly made. We will not lose all our export jobs the day we withdraw! Germany will still want to sell us BMWs.

    • sjb
      Posted August 16, 2014 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

      HM Treasury’s response states Open Europe’s FoI request asked for info covering “All recent Treasury analysis that concludes that over 3 million jobs are connected to the UK’s EU membership [emphasis added].” With respect, that is rather different to what you appear to think they asked.

      • Douglas Carter
        Posted August 17, 2014 at 7:33 am | Permalink

        With equal returned respect, I’m well aware of what was asked and the significance of the question. I’m also similarly aware of the nuance of the answer. ‘Connected’ means that the jobs are linked with trade among nations which happen to be in the EU.

        The nature of the LibDem (mis)use of the data misdirects the listener to believe the jobs are ‘dependent’ on membership of the EU, and it has been a long term and applied practice of senior members of that party to employ the information thus. A wholly intentional and false application.

        The FOI reply denudes the LibDems from the use of the data thus – with the proviso that alert opponents are prepared to properly qualify the data the LibDems insist on using dishonestly.

        Intra-European trade does not depend on EU membership, and non-membership most certainly does not mean that the UK would have no input into the rules applied to the single market. This is the truth the LibDems wish to conceal. It’s a shame our Prime Minister will not engage with that to political advantage..

  18. Richard
    Posted August 16, 2014 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    I agree completely, including that it would help if our relations with Russia were better.

    We need to add to your list :

    The support we gave the Taliban to remove the Russians only to find ourselves fighting the Taliban a few years later.

    The bombing of Libya to remove Ghaddafi which has made the country far worse turning it into an ungovernable and failing state.

    We should stop aiding any group and let the Middle East sort its own problems out and allow them to define their own borders.

    We should not be forcing our definition of democracy upon them but allow them to institute the type of government they want.

    If different sects of the Islam religion are unable to live together then it makes complete sense to make sure they each have their own state.

    Hopefully this can lead eventually to a more peaceful region.

    Tolerance, freedom and peace will only be instituted through missionary type work and not through military intervention.

    I do not understand what comes over our leaders when they are in government and makes them feel they must intervene in these sectarian conflicts :

    Is it the media pressure of “We must do something” ?

    Is it to provide a legacy for themselves ?

    Is it part of a long-term EU strategy to destabilise countries around the Mediterranean in preparation for future expansion ?

  19. Graham
    Posted August 16, 2014 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Perhaps we should accept what we already know that we have no ‘friends’ in any of these Islamist states. The last group standing will always pledge to kill the British .

    If we do a brief review of the years we can see that we have constantly armed them, saved them, and fed them in equal measure – and of course we continually fight them.

    We should allow them to whittle their own numbers down and be ready to fight the last few million.

    Don’t get involved.

  20. ian wragg
    Posted August 16, 2014 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    John, why all the hand wringing and posturing over the Middle East. Your government in cahoots with the despicable Limp Dumbs have decimated our armed forces, particularly the Navy. We are unable to defend ourselves against Russian incursions so why don’t we wind our necks in and let them get on with it. We are in no position to make any impact.

  21. acorn
    Posted August 16, 2014 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    Don’t worry about my enemy is my friend’s friend’s enemy twice removed; I think? Worry about who is sitting on which Oil Fields. This is all about OIL and always has been since the House of Saud signed up with the US Defence Department and the US major Oil Corporations, to dominate the global oil market.

    Study the Map:- . The US desperately wants a reason to get control of Iran’s huge untapped oil fields; the UK wants in on the plan along with a few other oil thirsty nations.

    The US has been letting its domestic Oil Fields “rest and recover” after giving them a bashing in the last century. Hence, most US Oil Refineries have been built to process Middle East Light Sweet Crude Oils.

    No heavy sulphur laden crap from Africa or South America if they can be avoided. The War-on-Terror was/is a smoke screen. The real war started in 1989 when Saddam walked on to the Kuwait oil fields and started blowing them up. The US Oil lobby literally **** itself and could see US gasoline prices going through the roof. This oil war has been going on for 25 years now and it ain’t going to finish anytime soon.

  22. Malcolm Edward
    Posted August 16, 2014 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    I wish you were in the cabinet.

  23. Francis Lankester
    Posted August 16, 2014 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    people like the Kurds & Yezidis deserve to live like us and they deserve to live. Yes, arming the Kurds risks weapons finding their way to the PKK to use against Turkey. But since Turkey is “our NATO ally,” we acquiesce in its dreadful treatment of its Kurdish population-so we have some responsibility in any case.

  24. Stephen Berry
    Posted August 16, 2014 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    “What would we do if the Kurdish forces did seek to establish an independent Kurdish state as the reward for fighting the IS forces? How could we support them sufficiently to avoid capture of some of the new weapons by IS forces?” (JR)

    Could this be the disastrous endgame for British policy in Iraq? I don’t wish to sound like a spoilsport, but I must point out that, apart from Iraq, there are Kurdish minorities in Syria, Iran and Turkey. If an independent Kurdistan is formed in northern Iraq, Kurdish minorities in the other countries will want to join with it and Syria, Iran and Turkey will seek to prevent the consequent loss of territory. So it won’t just be IS forces we would be up against.

    Really, if there were one area of the world I would give a wide berth to at the moment, it would have to be the Middle East. Is this government running a humanitarian mission or a foreign policy?

  25. Terry
    Posted August 16, 2014 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    We all realise (alas, with the exception of one, Mr A. Blair) that the Iraq invasion was a disaster. Hundreds of thousands of lives lost to rid the country of an evil tyrant. But was he the worst of the evils?
    As predicted by many at the time, that tyrant turned out to be the controlling force behind the comparative peace in that country. That evil tyrant never persecuted the Christians nor other minority religious sects and in that respect he was a protector of the minority groups.
    The whole war was badly exercised because of a political gungho approach supported by gross incompetence so that it was never actually won, by anyone.
    An exit strategy was the key component in maintaining the success of the military.
    There was no such strategy. The military and the country were failed by their Political leaders.

    Instead, Western political naivety put both the resident Shiite and Sunni Muslims in direct confrontation over the newly politicised Iraq. And we now see the devastating result of that. Mass murder and attempted genocide which succeeded the regular bombings of each other mosques and their respective peoples. Iraq became lawless.
    This is a repeat of the Balkan crisis of the 90’s – the aftermath of Marshall Tito’s departure from the former Yugoslavia. His Communist regime held it together and effectively held the peace between the warring factions with his iron grip on the region.

    And those are the reasons why we should not send any combat troops to the region. We do not want ultimately, to become the punch bag for any or all of the tribal combatants for we definitely will upset both of them after the fighting is over.
    By all means, we should send aid to all of the innocents and that would require troops and aircraft to protect the helicopter landing strips and their crews delivering that aid but the UK must stay away from full ground combat. Protecting our own assets there is not the same as fighting for a particular side in Iraq.

    If we cannot learn from the lessons of the Balkans and the past Iraq debacle then our leaders have no business representing us.
    I trust Mr Cameron is listening to the older, wiser members of the military and our parliament and should he not not heed their advice, nothing will be resolved but many more lives will be lost. On all sides.

  26. Eddie Hill
    Posted August 16, 2014 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Dear Mr Redwood

    I agree absolutely with every word you have written in this piece, and also applaud the clarity and erudition. Let’s hope that people are listening to you, because it is way past the time we should stand back from this and consider the whole picture and the long game.

    Not only is there an issue with rampant Islamic fundamentalism destabilising the entire Middle East and large parts of Africa, there is also a major issue over mass migration from these areas, with the resulting refugee problem destabilising neighbouring states and the question of asylum for the refugees. All of these pigeons are now coming home to roost and are, in themselves, destabilising Europe, both where the refugees come ashore (Italy and Spain) and where they end up (France, and then Britain).

    The Telegraph seems torn between the need to arrive at a coherent long-term policy to deal with the former issues, yet it prints personal views demanding a liberal approach towards their consequences.

    This is typical of the cack-handed way we are approaching the problem. Yes, there will be hard decisions to make and yes, these decisions will probably result in many deaths, but the alternatives we have adopted in the past have also resulted in many deaths, but they have also detracted from Europe’s security and prosperity.

    This must not be tolerated any longer. It doesn’t help anyone if Europe suffers all of the social and economic consequences of a few thousand bearded maniacs wandering round the Middle East killing people.

  27. Bazman
    Posted August 16, 2014 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    “The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.” – Joseph Conrad
    Francis Ford Coppola’s epic Vietnam War film Apocalypse Now is a parable of imperialism, evil, madness and human darkness. Coppola’s script was based upon Joseph Conrad’s 1899 novella Heart of Darkness. The book and the movie follow a world weary, skeptical, cynical character in his search for the truth about Kurtz, an evil genius. A long slow boat ride through dangerous dark jungles represents a path from civilization to madness. The book explores European colonial imperialism in the Congo, while the movie explores U.S. interventionist imperialism in Vietnam. The themes of hypocrisy, imperialism, evil, and human madness were pertinent in the 1800s, the 1960s, and today. In the book, the main characters work for a Belgian trading company who conquer the “savages” of Africa to “harvest” ivory and rubber for sale in “civilized” Europe. Native labourers who failed to meet rubber collection quotas were often punished by having their hands cut off by their Belgian saviours. In the movie, the main characters work for the U.S. military, who conquer the “savages” of Vietnam to “save” them from communism and “civilize” the jungles by napalming them. Today, the neo-cons who have captured the foreign policy of the U.S. are conquering the “savages” of the Middle East in order to secure oil while making their countries “safe” for democracy. The book is considered a masterpiece. The movie is considered a near masterpiece. The lessons from both are applicable today.
    Kilgore’s eulogy to napalm is chilling and the Vietnam War did eventually end but that it is known historically as a great failure for the United States, the optimistic tone and the use of the word victory are ironic.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted August 16, 2014 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

      Good post. I just wish the American people could vote for a third party who aren’t part of the ‘bought’ system. They have a choice between Neo-liberal interventionists, or Neo-Con war mongers. It costs a lot of money to get elected in the US, and there’s always a pay-back to the sponsor in the form of ‘voting the right way’ when somebody smells a profit.


  28. Kenneth R Moore
    Posted August 16, 2014 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    A mistake is leaving a bag or mobile phone on a train. A mistake is leaving an umbrella at home on a rainy day.

    The Lab/Con war in Iraq was a bloody tragedy… a catastrophe of our Mp’s own making through their own failure to see through Mr Blair’s spin.

  29. zorro
    Posted August 16, 2014 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Good analysis John which gas been singularly lacking amongst your peers. You have clearly identified the drift and lack of long term planning in policy apart from hanging to US coat tails.

    The aims of US and Israeli policy have been clear for a long time, but in geopolitical terms there is little dividend for the UK compared to the resource spent.

    The Turkish/Kurdish issue us complex and one wonders about how Turkey is being viewed by the neocons. What seems clear is that it is in Israel’s interest for Syria and Iraq to be dismembered into competing statelets….. And that is what is effectively happening. The US aim of getting rid of Maliki has been achieved through the pressure exerted by ISIS, and the comparatively/minimal opposition by the US. Of course, the irony of opposing ISIS when they have been effectively supporting it against Assad cannot be list on anybody….

    You also touched on the implications of US adventurism in theg Ukraine….. They are effectively dragging the EU into a trade war with Russia in order to prop up dollar hegemony. Again, of what benefit is thus to the UK? Your cool detached reasoning is sorely needed to advise the FO on the UK’s political and economic interests.


    • Mark
      Posted August 17, 2014 at 1:22 am | Permalink

      Just wait for the EU to propose accelerated membership for Turkey to “solve” some of these problems.

  30. Bert Young
    Posted August 16, 2014 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    It is reported that Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are providing assistance to ISIS . If this is true how do we reconcile our position arming the Kurds , making humanitarian drops and going the extra yard or two with the bombing and , at the same time , maintaining a relationship with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait ? The whole thing is a mess and we should , as you suggest , keep out of it .

  31. margaret
    Posted August 16, 2014 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    The lack of clarity is also due to ISIS being a combination of many . The reports have it that people are simply joining ISIS as it seems to be the more powerful side as they are advancing and taking over territory .

  32. forthurst
    Posted August 16, 2014 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    “Amidst all the clamour for the UK to take military action in Iraq again we should pause and ask ourselves whose side are we on?”

    Another question would be on whose side are those who have been clamouring for our re-engagement in the Iraq Wars or why is the MSM clamouring for action on our behalf over this issue when their are many other victims of ethnic conflict on whose behalf an equally moral case for intervention could be made, some of which are conspicuous by their omission from the MSM? If we believe that our politicians are reactive only to the MSM’s cry, “something must be done”, then we are perhaps delegating too much authority to those who feed the MSM with their story lines.

    “Nor do I think we should fight to ensure the current borders and patterns of states remains immutable if people who have to live there no longer like the current lines on a map.”

    Presumably, therefore JR is wholly against the military assault on Lugansk and Donetsk in South East Ukraine by the Kyiv junta, installed by Victoria ‘**** the EU’ Nuland (Nudelman), whose President Poroshenko, friend of Dave, has recently vanquished a phantasmagorical Russian military column, or does JR believe their votes should be set aside like those of the Crimeans because that is not part of the liberal interventionist game plan of surrounding Russia with ballistic missiles and an anti-(Russian)ballistic missile shield?

    “Past UK policy has been incoherent…and unhelpful to settling the future of the Middle East.”

    As the policy has appeared neither to help us or achieve any policy goal that had been offered us, this might appear to be the case; however, it has cohered precisely with that set out by the cabal that controls US foreign policy and whose goals were carved out in the PNAC codex, as well as those whose main concern is their control of ME oil, both of who appear to be unperturbed about how much misery or loss of life and limb they cause in the process.

    We need to cease offering our military power, such as it still exists, other than in the goal of furthering our own legitimate strategic interests as an independent nation; sending in the SAS and a squadron of Spitfires may make good headlines, but our military forces should be accorded more respect than that of being used for either political posturing or helping those whose project plan is too shameful to be revealed in the light of day.

    Reply Yes I do oppose the EU’s policy on the Ukraine, as I have made clear before. I also think the media should be telling us about the civil war in the Ukraine and showing us what both the Ukrainian government and the rebels are doing. I think these border/belonging issues need to be settled by referenda, as in Scotland.

  33. Monty
    Posted August 16, 2014 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    I am not without sympathy for the plight of the Kurds and the Yazidis and the Christians.

    But I have a much more selfish reason for wanting to see the IS mob wiped out, annihilated. Every survivor from their serried ranks is liable to return to the shores of Europe, North America, Australia, well versed and experienced in the use of weapons, battle hardened, armed, and full of vitriol ready to unleash mayhem upon our own, docile, disarmed people.

    The “flypaper” was never there to catch the jihadists of the Middle East, it was there to catch the jihadists of Luton and Bradford and Malmo and Dearborn and countless other muslim enclaves in the western world. It was just embarrassing to say so, in such bald terms. Especially after all that propaganda about the “religion of peace and love”, that had given us a spectacle of exhibition grade savagery in 2001. Successive western governments have been doubling down on lies, for a very long time. Oh what a tangled web….

    You’re not going to let this through, are you…………..

  34. Kenneth R Moore
    Posted August 16, 2014 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

    Mr Hammond said: “The UK has said we will also consider favourably any requests for supplies of arms. We are already shipping ammunition and supplies from other eastern European countries into Irbil.”

    Perhaps Prof. Redwood could have a word with Mr Hammond and ask for a cast iron assurance that his ‘ammunition’ would never fall into Isis hands ?

  35. ian
    Posted August 17, 2014 at 12:33 am | Permalink

    You have your answer today in the sunday telegraph. Government propaganda, bring terror to the streets of britain. Like i said all growth this year to be spent on arms and war never ending while the financial ponze go”s on.

  36. ian
    Posted August 17, 2014 at 1:25 am | Permalink

    Up date on ukraine. British media propaganda wrong again. No Russian column, Ukraine 95th airmobile brigade wiped out with another brigade equipment destroyed and abandoned. Rebels inflict serious damage on the ukrainian military machine.

  37. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted August 17, 2014 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Quite so. We didn’t even have the willpower to prevail in our own Province of Northern Ireland.

  38. Simon Stephenson
    Posted August 17, 2014 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    Did you not like my comment, Mr Redwood? ?

    Reply I have written on this website before about my view of the Iraq war at the time and what I did and said then. I will not publish your lies about me as you cannot be bothered to read what I have written about it.

  39. Simon Stephenson
    Posted August 17, 2014 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    Which lies are these, Mr Redwood? Please correct me if I’m wrong, and if I am I apologise most sincerely

    Reply I have made clear my opposition to most military intervention in the Middle East (save the liberation of Kuwait) throughout the time I have been writing this blog. Before seeking to misrepresent my views on this crucial matter I suggest you read the blog entries for

    August 16 2009
    March 5 2010
    May 28 2010
    July 29 2011
    February 20 2012
    16 June 2014
    August 8 2014
    August 11 2014

    The First Iraq war instigated by Mr Blair and the Labour government was before this blog started. I argued strongly for the Conservatives to oppose this war and lost the argument with Mr Iain Duncan Smith at the time. He was assured by Mr Blair as PM that there was good intelligence concerning weapons of mass destruction that were a threat to the UK which is why he placed a 3 line whip on the matter against my advice to him. I have explained this before on this blog.

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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