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Mr. David Amess accordingly presented a Bill to amend the Fireworks Act 2003; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 10 March, and to be printed [Bill 106].
I must say that I am disappointed that the House is adjourning without a proper debate on Iraq. Last month, the UN Security Council extended the mandate for US and UK troops to continue in Iraq for another year. It had been due to expire at the end of this year, after the recent 15 December parliamentary elections. Those have been held and we have been told that they were a success. At least one of the official reasons for the continued military presence has been changed.
There has been no debate in the House of that decision or of the UK position on it either beforehand or afterwards. Barely any proper debate has been allowed in the country's media about the central policy question of whether the troops should stay or go. The BBC tells me that it has "reported on Iraq enough", but reporting events and atrocities is not the same as facilitating policy discussion on such an important issue.
The Security Council extended its own mandate on the basis of a letter by the Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, saying that the Iraqi armed forces should be ready gradually to begin taking over from coalition forces by the end of 2006. There is no rush, then, and the foreign presence is envisaged to go on and on. The non-occupying powers on the Security CouncilFrance, Germany and Russiahave other concerns and interests to tend and saw no diplomatic sense in confronting the US and the UK on the matter: the allies can stew in the mess of their own making. The concession that they satisfied themselves with was that the mandate should be reviewed in June. The decision that the troops should staywhich I opposemeans that the atrocities, the killing and the bitter conflict, which are preventing Iraq from settling down and developing, will continue for many more years.
Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con): The hon. Gentleman talks about Iraq in general, but does he accept that there are three regions in Iraq, and that the northern region under President Barzanithe Kurdish regionhas shown great advances economically, politically, in human rights and in social development? At least it is safe there, and that could provide a model for the other two areas of Iraq. Will the hon. Gentleman join me in hoping that those will proceed in the same way?
Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Order. Before the hon. Gentleman replies, may I remind Members that there is a 15-minute time limit on all speeches? I apologise for the fact that I forgot to do so earlier.
I acknowledge the progress in the north, but the people there did not have the same sanctions as the rest of the country, because they had an
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exclusion zone. I am not in favour of Iraq being broken up, and I shall come back to that point later.
The coalition military presence fuels the insurgency, which is viewed by many in Iraq as a war of national liberation to end foreign occupation. The activities of the overseas forcessuch as what happened in Abu Ghraib, torture, the use of white phosphorous, extraordinary rendition, and even destroying police stations with remote detonators to free soldiers dressed as Arabsalienate the Iraqi people, and are recruiting sergeants for the insurgents.
"would reduce the . . . casualties of Coalition troops simply by virtue of there being fewer Coalition personnel in the country to attack. The Coalition draw-down plan is not conditional upon an abatement in the overall level of violence, despite their occasional public claims to this effect: indeed, the reduction in troop numbers over recent months has occurred alongside a heightening of the insurgency, with a level of attacks that has been greater than at almost any point since the invasion occurred: 92 attacks occurred on average per day in early November 2005, compared with 52 per day in June 2004 or 70 per day in May 2005.
One possibility is that the reduction of Coalition troop numbers will take away the primary reason for the insurgency. That is, if US troops were not so visible on Iraq streets and roads, the Iraqi populationparticularly those who have actively supported the insurgency in the pastwill no longer consider themselves as living under occupation, and thus be less hostile to the Iraqi government and more readily drawn exclusively into the peaceful political process . . . This, at least, is what the optimists within the Coalition have been arguing during most of 2005 ."
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): I am aware of the work of Dr. Rangwala, who did a splendid job when he exposed the dodgy dossier, but I find the logic of that quotation hard to follow. If the number of troops is reduced, the number of attacks on them will not necessarily diminish, nor will the number of casualties necessarily fall because there are fewer troops on the streets. The number of attacks would be just as likely to increase, because a sign of weakness would have been shown, so the number of casualties could rise.
Harry Cohen: Indeed; the Russians discovered that in Afghanistan. By the logic of that argument, the hon. Gentleman wants more and more troops, because if we start to take any troops away, that is "weakness".
"However, it is more likely that a reduction in the overall level of political violence, committed either by the military forces aligned with the Iraqi government or by the insurgents, would depend on the extent to which the Iraqi state and the political process had becomeand were perceived to have becomethe possession of all sectors of the Iraqi people rather than that of a foreign power or segment of the Iraqi population."
"The Coalition retains both direct and indirect control over Iraq's armed forces at present. Through the structure of the Multinational Force Iraq (MNF-I), the overall command of all military forces in Iraq is delegated to a US commander, at present Gen. George W. Casey . . .
The commander of MNF-I also acts as the senior security advisor to the Iraqi prime minister. The Coalition also provides a number of advisors to each Iraqi ministry, including the ministries of defence and the interior. These advisors are in effect making policy still on behalf of their Iraqi counterparts, particularly given the limited expertise available to the Iraqi ministries after the processes of de-Ba'thification . . .
In addition, the US and UK have large training teams embedded within nascent Iraqi forces, whose overt task is to educate, advise and monitor those forces, but whose actual role is better characterised as being that of commanding Iraqi units. The Coalition military retains the only operational communications network within Iraq, and thus acts as the liaison mechanism for Iraqi units with each other and with the operating bases."
"One argument for retaining the engagement of Coalition training facilities for Iraq's armed forces has been that Iraqi personnel need to be re-trained so that they no longer act as a repressive agent within Iraqi society as they did under the ancien régime, but instead observe human rights and humanitarian law in their practice. A similar argument is made about the re-training of Iraq's police force. This argument presupposes that Coalition training is enhancing the good practice of Iraq's military and police forces. Given the actions of Iraqi armed forces in Tal Afar in September 2005, in which there was the widespread killing of civilians, and other recent military operations, this is far from clear. Coalition personnel have been complicit in many of the human rights abuses committed in post-invasion Iraq, from the torture practiced at Abu Ghrayb and routinely conducted during interrogation, to the use of napalm-like MK77 firebombs and white phosphorus, to the mass arrests of individuals kept without due process of law. The argument that Coalition training inculcates human rights-observant practice in Iraqi officials rings hollow when compared with the scale of the human rights abuses in modern Iraq."
Dr. Rangwala goes on to say that the coalition policy has already bolstered rather than demobilised party militias, and that there is unlikely to be any growth in militia power, because instead of adopting the policy of developing a unified non-sectarian armed force for Iraq, we have helped Iraqi forces become more sectarian. I recommend Dr. Rangwala's paper. The rest of it is as scathing as the passages that I have quoted.
What we are seeing is not portents of progress or peace, and the coalition alliance is overwhelmingly to blame for that. It wants to pretend that it is phasing down its occupation and handing over authority, whereas it is doing no such thing. It remains overwhelmingly the determinant of all major policy and involvement in the killing fields.
Of course, like other Members, I welcome the recent elections in Iraq, and the Sunni population's participation in them. A proper Iraqi coalition government must now be formed, and the sectarianism curtailed, not exacerbated. Real authority must be handed over to such a government, but the portents for that are not strong. All the major Shi'a and Sunni elected parties had two central policy platforms: the unity of Iraqmaintaining its sovereignty and its not
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being broken upand the withdrawal of foreign troops. Democracy is not just about voting; it is about implementing what the people voted for.
I realise that I have already read a lot of quotes into the Hansard record, but I want also to quote some key points from an article in last Sunday's edition of The Sunday Times by Hala Jaber, the journalist who recently re-entered Falluja. As the House knows, Falluja was subject to a massive assault by US forces, which we were assisting, in November 2004. She said:
"When I finally reached the city, I was reminded of a remark by a US officer in Vietnam who claimed he had to destroy a village to save it. Falluja has indeed been destroyed. But I found nobody there who thinks it has been saved."
"the insurgency continued elsewhere. Yet what I found in Falluja last week was even more dispiriting. It is not only that promises to reconstruct the city and restore normality have manifestly been broken. The bitter truth is that the actions of US and Iraqi forces have reignited the insurgency. Anger, hate and mistrust of America are deeper than ever."
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