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24 Sept 2002 : Column 112—continued

7.3 pm

Mr. Doug Henderson (Newcastle upon Tyne, North): I want to make only one main point. This has been a useful debate, but we all know that we will be back here again in a few weeks. There will be a crunch time when the United Nations tries to put together a resolution that will be acceptable to the middle east countries and to other members of the Security Council. If we do not get that resolution, we will be back here to decide how to respond. If we do get that resolution, we will be back here either to accept the inspector's report showing that certain things have been found and certain things have been done and that it is acceptable to the Security Council or because the inspectors have been obstructed or have found things to which the Iraqi Government are not prepared to respond. The United Nations and the British Government would then have to decide what to do.

I have read the document published by the Government this morning but it does not take us much further along the road. Presumably, its contents are the intelligence community's best belief about the situation in Iraq. I do not know whether that is so, but when the public here and in other countries are deciding whether they believe what is being said by our Government, they will not be persuaded by what the Joint Intelligence Committee has said. I am not saying that the committee is wrong, just that the public will not be persuaded.

I believe that people will be persuaded—certainly those in my constituency who have been lobbying me—only if there is a just cause that must be addressed by the international community. When people are making up their minds about whether there is a just cause, they will ask themselves whether the United Nations backs what has been suggested. Any diplomatic and political strategy should be carried out through the United Nations, and I am glad that our Government are committed to taking forward the strategy in that way.

The Government must also say that, if we get into difficulties with diplomacy and need to take things further, it will also be done through the United Nations. It would be extremely dangerous for Britain and America to go ahead on their own with some military adventure in Iraq. It would cause more problems than it would solve. There is no doubt that Britain and America have the military power to destroy whatever they want to destroy in Iraq, but what happens afterwards? If we do not start with a coalition of public support, it will be impossible to build any stable society in Iraq and neighbouring countries afterwards.

I was in the middle east about 10 days ago and I spoke to many people in both the political and commercial sectors. They all believed that, ultimately, it was about oil and that that was why there was such focus from the international community. They also believed that without

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an international coalition, the instability caused by any action would cause huge problems for oil supplies. I do not believe that the Government will have public support unless there is a coalition through the UN from the beginning.

We cannot get such a coalition without persuading Iraq's neighbours that they must support whatever action is being proposed. It is not good enough for the dossier simply to say that there is a problem. The people in the neighbouring countries have to believe that there is a problem and want the support of the international community, just as the Kuwaiti community did during the Gulf war. We must not ignore that issue.

I do not want to say any more other than that it would be wrong for our nation and Government to enter into action in Iraq, either political or military, without international support. Any action must be through the United Nations and there must be support from other members of the Security Council and other Arab and Islamic states in the region that might be threatened.

7.9 pm

Mr. Andrew Tyrie (Chichester): I should like to say a few words about Iraq, the threat of terrorism and descriptions of a new world order that are now being articulated to justify military action.

On Iraq, my reservations have already been voiced by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) and my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh). I will not rehearse those arguments again. Like them, I am not convinced by the evidence so far provided that Saddam has the capability and the intention to attack the west. I think that the biggest single risk from current developments is that if we engage in military action and Saddam is cornered, he may attack Israel and provoke it to the point of triggering a general middle east conflagration.

It is, of course, right that the UN should try to resolve the crisis through a resumption of weapons inspections. However, I differ from my colleagues in one important respect. In a crisis such as this, so much depends on intelligence information, which, except in general terms, Prime Ministers cannot share with us. Only the Prime Minister can judge the scale of this threat. He says that he is convinced that it is very serious and very real. Ultimately, I will have to trust his reasons for forming that judgment, but in the coming weeks I hope that he will go far further than he has so far today in explaining the need for war.

The crisis now developing has its roots in the terrorist atrocity of 9/11. Britain can make a significant contribution to reducing the risk of further terrorist threats. The most important thing that we can do is to get the Americans to grasp the full implications of the fact that terrorism cannot be overcome solely by military means. They must grasp that the level of anti-western terrorism from the Islamic world will be determined partly by the battle for the hearts and minds of moderate Muslim opinion, and that must mean addressing the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

The Prime Minister has implied, and briefed the press, that he has a lot of influence behind the scenes with the United States. Publicly, he backs almost everything that the Americans say. If he really has a unique and special relationship with President Bush, the acid test must surely

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be whether the Prime Minister can persuade him to moderate Israeli military action in Palestine. That is not only morally right, but it is in the security interests of Britain and the west. It would do more to reduce the threat of Islamic terrorism in the west than any number of military operations.

Mrs. Ellman: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Tyrie: No. If the hon. Lady will forgive me, I have only 10 minutes to make my speech.

Let me say a few words about the rhetoric of new world orders that has been put around recently. Over the past year, the Prime Minister has made speeches calling for a new world order in which the west should be justified in intervening to prevent abuses of human rights. However, there is a gap between that rhetoric and the hard reality of the campaign against terrorism. If we are to tackle terrorism, we must be prepared to accept that we will have to do business with many countries whose human rights records make us feel uncomfortable to say the least. The list includes Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Malaysia, China and Egypt. We have been dealing with all those countries to try to break down the al-Qaeda network. We do so because they have repudiated terrorism even though their human rights records are awful. That is the contradiction at the heart of the Prime Minister's new order. His attempt today to justify action against Saddam partly on the ground of human rights abuses in Iraq is at best disingenuous. We are not launching a humanitarian expedition.

Some of the rhetoric coming from the Bush Administration is even more worrying. The Prime Minister will discover that his new world order is very different from that espoused by the American President. The Prime Minister's new world order is internationalist and based on human rights; America's is unilateralist and designed to facilitate the expression of US power. It is underpinned by two new doctrines. The first is the doctrine of regime change: the removal by force, if necessary, of the leaders of rogue states. The second is the doctrine of pre-emptive military action: the view that in the case of rogue and failed states, military action may be taken even in the absence of a clear and imminent threat from those countries to America's interests.

Those doctrines are inherently destabilising of international relations. The notion that pre-emptive action may be taken without clear evidence of an imminent attack undermines the most basic principle of the relations between states—that military action can be justified only by self-defence. The doctrine of regime change is equally corrosive. Who should decide when a country's leadership should be changed?

Those doctrines could all too easily be used by other countries to justify their actions and secure their objectives. Vladimir Putin has already articulated President Bush's rhetoric in a speech to justify recent bombing in Georgia. Such arguments will not be lost on the Chinese or Prime Minister Sharon, among others.

America and the west will not be able to prevent that. Preponderant though the US is, she is not strong enough to impose her will on the whole world; she must seek allies and balance forces, as all previous superpowers have done, and do that within the existing system of states.

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The stability of the international system has at its core a mutual recognition of the legitimacy of other states to exist, to secure their frontiers and to maintain law and order. I am not making a narrow point about international law, nor do I think that no action can ever be taken unless the UN sanctions it. I believe that it is simply a common-sense principle. It is what the US was building on when Truman and Acheson developed the doctrine of containment after the second world war as a means of managing Soviet expansionism. It was Henry Kissinger's achievement, through detente, to engage with the Soviet Union to the point where the Soviet Union had a greater interest in recognising the rights of other states to exist than it did in seeking to undermine them.

The multilateralism of the US in the post-war era has done the world a huge service, not only by keeping the peace, but by providing the necessary stability to enable European recovery and lay the foundations for western prosperity. We owe the Americans a great debt, but those parts of the US policy-making machine that now want to create a new international order need to know—and to be told by our Government—that they are shaking that system to its foundations.

If an attack on Iraq is justified on the grounds of the new doctrines of regime change and pre-emptive action, there is far more at stake than the uncertainty that inevitably comes with large-scale military action, the possible disintegration of Iraq or even the destabilisation of the whole middle east. If action is justified by the doctrine of regime change and pre-emptive action, the overthrow of Saddam will provide many states with the opportunity to take action using the same rhetoric in breach of the traditional restraints on the use of force. It will cut at the roots of international order and in the long run it will make us less secure, not more secure.

The greatest contribution that the Prime Minister can make now is not just to drop some of his own rhetoric about a new international order, but to persuade George Bush of the dangers of his own.

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