|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) (Lab): I am pleased that my right hon. Friend mentioned the numbers of dead discovered in Iraq. Will he comment on the current security situation? What is his estimate of the number of American, British and other soldiers who have died since March, the number of Iraqi soldiers and civilians who have died, and the number who are suffering because of depleted uranium and cluster bombs used during the conflict?
Mr. Straw: I do not have those figures to hand, but I shall be happy to supply them to my hon. Friend. Yes, sadly, there have been casualties among British, American, Italian and other coalition forces, and there have been a greater number of casualties among Iraqi people. However, I think my hon. Friend will find that since the end of the conflict, a large number of the Iraqi victims have been subject to violence, not by coalition forces, but by other Iraqis, former loyalist elements and outside terrorists. Overwhelmingly, it is Iraqis who have been killed in the major terrorist incidents. If my hon. Friend wants to go in for this kind of calculus, and if he looks at the number of people who have died even over the past six months, including during the military conflict, and compares that with the numbers routinely killed under Saddam Hussein, he will see that Iraq today, notwithstanding its difficult security situation, is a safer and better place than ever it was under the murderous Saddam.
Mr. Straw: I discussed that matter with General Sanchez, General Lamb, other military advisers and others during my two days in Iraq. The borders of Iraq are huge and relatively porous, and even with the best policing, which Iraq does not have at present, some people would still come through. Of all the borders, the most probable route is through Syria. I accept that there
Mr. Straw: A great man, but that does not alter the truth of what I just said. My apologies to him, too. I am glad to know that his Conservative Member of Parliament takes such notice of him. That shows that Labour is leading the way, even in Reigate.
The decision that we took for military action was based on Saddam Hussein's flagrant violation of United Nations resolutions, and on what was assessed not by us and the US alone, but by the whole international community in resolution 1441 to be a threat posed by Iraq to international peace and security, by reason of its defiance of the UN, its long-range missile systems and its proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. I am convinced that the judgment made by the international community a year ago this month was correct then, and it is correct now.
I never claimed, nor did the Prime Minister, that there was any direct link between al-Qaeda terrorists and those of the Saddam regime. Indeed, I remember a number of questions from the hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) in which he asked me about that. I said, accurately, that the Saddam regime had been sponsoring and harbouring terrorists operating in Israel and the occupied territories. There is no question about that: the regime paid a pension to the families of suicide bombers.
As for whether terrorism has increased since, and as a result of, the conflict, the figures on terrorist incidents are there to see. The claim that there is a connectionthat the terrorism has been caused by the conflict and that, as a result, the coalition is somehow indirectly responsible for itI regard as complete nonsense. I do not accuse the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Blunt) of this, but sometimes it appears that some commentators
Building a free, prosperous, democratic and stable Iraq should make a powerful contribution to lasting security across the middle east, but we also need urgently to make progress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which feeds an environment of hatred and despair in which terrorism thrives. The road map published by the Quartet of the EU, the US, Russia and the UN sets out an international consensus, endorsed by Israelis and Palestinians, for what a just solution to the middle east conflict should look like: two states living securely side by side. We continue to call for both Israelis and Palestinians to fulfil all their commitments under the road map, which has just been explicitly endorsed in Security Council resolution 1515.
In the wider middle east region, we are determined to work harder to build lasting stability. Stability does not mean no change: it means changes in the right direction, towards economic development, greater democracy and greater protection of human rights. As many hon. Members pointed out last week after my statement on the Istanbul attacks, the example of Turkey shows how mistaken it is to argue that there is somehow an incompatibility between Islam and a democratic, vibrant and secular society. However, in the Arab world, human development is worryingly low, as Arab authors themselves have pointed out in two recent UN reports. With our partners, the Government will continue to promote better governance and reform across the Arab world by funding grass-roots projects aimed at building up capacity locally, by encouraging our international partners to do the same, and through dialogue with Arab leaders.
Mr. Barnes: I tried to intervene at the end of my right hon. Friend's remarks about the reconstruction of Iraq, before he turned to his important comments about the Arab-Israeli situation. Is not the Foreign Office to be complimented on the role it is playing in Iraq in working with and facilitating the development of the new free trade union movement? Why are the Americans not acting in a similar way? Are there links between the
Mr. Straw: I am grateful for those remarks. My hon. Friend did part of his national service in Iraq and knows the country better than most hon. Members, and I pay tribute to him as one who has prompted our work on trade unions. We have strong, continuous links with our American colleagues, and I promise that I shall follow up that issue with them.
Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South) (Con): I agree with the Foreign Secretary that the success of the Israel-Palestine road map is key to peace in the middle east. Does he agree that more robust intervention than is currently happening is needed? There are problems of dispute resolution, and a third-party authority with genuine powers is needed to drive the process forward.
Mr. Straw: We need more robust intervention. We must make it clear that third-party intervention is required, but achieving that and getting both parties to accept it will be difficult. However, I support the recent courageous decision of the United States Government to stop loans to the Israeli Government as long as they continue to build the security fence. On my way to Iraq on Tuesday, I flew over Israel and saw the security wall, which, in some places, completely surrounds Arab towns and villages, imprisoning their people. We all understand the security threat to Israel, but I think I speak for the whole House when I say that that is not the way in which it should ensure its own security.