Today in Parliament at the instigation of the Backbench Business Committee we will be debating Iran. Many of us feel it is high time Parliament debated the whole question of UK intervention in the Middle East. We need to review what has come of wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. We need to ask again the fundamental question, can you wage a war on terror? We need to ask, how far should the west go, if at all, in insisting on regime change where we do not approve of the government.
I want the UK government to recognise the strong limits there are on how much political influence the UK does have and should have over who governs in each Middle Eastern country. We believe as part of a group of leading western nations in the self determination of peoples. We fought successfully to liberate Kuwait from an invader. Most of the neighbouring countries agreed with us. We fought successfully to free the Falklands of an invader. As allies with the US we fought for the self determination of the western European peoples to free them from Nazi domination. There is a case for the UK and her allies to intervene on the side of an oppressed country if it has been invaded and its government changed by force from outside. This is best done with UN support and with a multinational force, to abate any suggestion that the motives for the intervention are other than to restore legitimate national authority. We did not intervene to uphold the right of eastern European peoples to self government during the Soviet terror. We judged it would have killed too many people to do so.
The more recent doctrine in Libya has been based around the proposition that where there is a civil war, with a strong opposition coalition of internal forces seeking to bring down the undemocratic government of the country, the west can with UN backing move in and help the rebels. This doctrine does not encompass such western action in Syria. This is partly because Russia and China block UN support for such intervention. It is also partly because the military task would be more hazardous and the opposition forces are less strong and focused than in Libya. The new doctrine is rightly flexible, responding to differing circumstances.
In the case of Iran and her possible move to own nuclear weapons, neither of these doctrines applies. Iran has not been invaded from outside to need our help to restore national government. There is no strong opposition in Iran seeking military help to topple the regime. The case of considering any kind of action against Iran, including diplomatic action and sanctions, is based more on the type of argument used to justify the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan. It is the progeny of the war on terror.
The argument went for the war in Afghanistan that the Taliban were allies of the terrorists who attacked the twin towers. They needed to be displaced as the government of Afghanistan, for that government was harbouring terrorists who could do more harm to the west. More than a decade on, and the main western powers are now in discussion with the Taliban over the future government of Afghanistan, recognising that depsite all the force expended they remain a political organisation of influence within the country.
I always had difficulties with the argument about waging a war against terror. Tomorrow I will consider the case in more detail.