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The Holocaust was the worst event in human history; we must never forget it. But, in making amends for that terrible event, we cannot condemn millions of innocent Palestinians to humiliation and

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poverty in what seems like perpetuity. There is now another opportunity for progress. A ceasefire has been agreed between Israel and Gaza, but, sadly, not with the West Bank. This brave initiative of Prime Minister Olmert two weeks ago is very welcome and we have heard many comments about it this evening, but it will not work if the Israel Defence Forces continue to terrify Palestinians with overflights, sonic booms, humiliation at checkpoints, arrests, arbitrary detention, the relentless expansion of West Bank settlements and targeted assassinations. Such actions provoke trapped Palestinians until they take action and break the ceasefire. As my noble friend Lady Williams said, Gideon Levy’s recent article in Haaretz pointed out many examples of where this has occurred and where the Palestinians have been provoked into taking action following the actions of the Israel Defence Forces and Shin Bet. Gideon Levy asks:

He calls on all Israelis and Palestinians to monitor the ceasefire that has just been called and to examine both sides carefully in the next few weeks to determine what is going on.

Nevertheless, this new initiative is welcome and we must all have great hope for it. The news that leaders of United Kingdom churches are at last going to Bethlehem and the Holy Land is also welcome. I am extremely moved by their action and thank them for it. This Christmas they will visit Bethlehem and the Holy Land to remind Israel and the Palestinians that it is also a centre for the Christian faith and its message of peace and loving one another.

6.22 pm

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, reading the Hansard account of your Lordships’ discussion of foreign and security policies during the debate on the humble Address was a rather sobering experience. Not only did the twin cuckoos of Iraq and Afghanistan seem to drive every other foreign policy issue, whether the future of the European Union, the fate of Africa or the problems of world trade and climate change, into the margins, but the whole tone of the debate was shot through with anger and despair, with few enough suggestions for adjustments to the policies which were so widely criticised. This is sad, but it is a fact and it reflects a general mood in this country, encouraged, it needs to be recognised, by a media which simply ignore any positive stories that emerge in either of the combat zones in which our troops are currently engaged.

Today, we have an opportunity to return to those two burning topics of the hour and to look more widely at the problems of the Middle East. I should like to make a modest contribution to a shift in emphasis away from Stygian gloom towards remedial action. I very much welcome the fact that a number of participants in the debate have taken a similar course.

First, I make a plea to decouple in our thinking those twin issues of Iraq and Afghanistan. They are two very different countries in two very different regions. No doubt someone will forgive the speech writer who coined the meaningless and misleading

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phrase, “The wider Middle East”, but I shall not readily do so. They are subject to quite different considerations and need quite different policy prescriptions. The costs of failure in each will also be very different. Linking them together, therefore, serves no useful purpose; it merely makes it more likely that failure, or relative failure, in one will drag down the other.

Looking first at Iraq, much attention is currently being given to the possibility of enlisting its neighbours, in particular Syria and Iran, in an effort to stabilise the country and check the sectarian violence. I welcome that attention, having myself called for a regional approach to security issues since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, but we need to approach this issue in a serious and systematic way. It is no good thinking that an appeal to Syria’s and Iran’s better feelings, because we are in a pickle, is going to bring a positive response. Nor should any attempt to bring in Iraq’s neighbours be confined to these two countries. It surely needs to encompass all Iraq’s neighbours, not just the ones which cause the most trouble. So that means bringing in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Jordan and Turkey too. To what should we try to bring them in? Not, I suggest, some one-off conference, which would be long on words and short on follow-up. Surely, what is needed is to give all these countries, including Iraq, of course, a long-term stake and a long-term say in the stability of their region. That could mean a regional organisation which would give legal guarantees of non-intervention, systematise co-operation across a whole range of policy areas and provide for in-depth confidence building measures between its members.

I can already hear critics saying how utterly unrealistic all that is in the present fraught state of affairs, or asking how we can offer such openings to Iran or Syria when we are still at odds with them over nuclear and other issues. Well, what are the alternatives? Might not giving Iran and Syria a real stake in regional security make some of the other problems that we have with them easier, not more difficult, to resolve?

I suggest that on one point we need to be clear. The disintegration of Iraq into three separate states would be an unmitigated disaster more likely to lead to intervention by its neighbours and to a wider conflict even than the one that currently exists. Because any such conflict would risk involving the vital interests of all western countries, it would not be one from which we could afford to stand aside or from whose consequences we would be protected. So, by all means—I would strongly support this—let us have a federal Iraq with considerable powers devolved to its three component regions, although a functioning central Government and an equitable sharing of oil revenues would be essential if that were to work. But let us not be seduced by those siren voices from across the Atlantic, which sometimes argue that we could contemplate the break-up of Iraq with equanimity.

Afghanistan, it seems to me, is a quite different set of problems, and one where the prospects for a relatively successful outcome are a good deal better. There, too, there is a need for a regional approach, although with

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a quite different group of countries, Iran being the only common factor with the neighbours of Iraq. Afghanistan’s neighbours have often meddled in its affairs in the past, just as Afghanistan has meddled in theirs. The single most vulnerable point now, as it has often been in the past, is the porous border with Pakistan’s tribal areas, which are not fully under the control of the central Government.

In the case of Afghanistan, too, the establishment of some kind of regional grouping with strong, binding commitments to stabilisation and co-operation would seem to be highly desirable. At the same time, along with others who have spoken, I hope that we would take another careful look at our policies on drug eradication, which, as currently designed and implemented, seem likely to cut right across attempts to provide security and development in the south of the country, and which do not seem to be getting to grips with the corruption and drug traders in high places within the government machine.

That brings me to the one issue that truly impacts on both Iraq and Afghanistan, as it does on the whole battle that we are waging against terrorism, and that is the sorry state of efforts to resolve the problem of Palestine. If anyone doubted that a policy of neglect and unilaterally imposed solutions was doomed to failure, recent events in Lebanon and Gaza have surely blown aside those doubts. At the same time, there are few, if any, signs, of a purposeful move back to a peace process which, over many long and weary years, has become discredited. I would except from that criticism the recent speech by Prime Minister Olmert, which seemed to be a very serious attempt to send a signal. However discredited that peace process may be, there really is no practical alternative if we are to avoid periodic outbreaks of hostility and if we are to leech away the poison of Islamic fundamentalism. The time has now come, as many others who have spoken in this debate have said, for a renewed effort.

Perhaps it is also time to move away—and here I differ from many others—from the staged approach characterised by the much referred-to road map, which seems, so far at any rate, always to founder on the mutual distrust of the two sides so long as the final status issues are not being addressed. We should move towards negotiations more like those at Camp David in 2000, which did address those final status issues. Can we expect a lead from the same direction that gave a lead in 2000; namely, the US Administration? I fear not. There I entirely agree with those, including the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, who cast doubt on whether the present US Administration look likely to give any such lead in the next two years. I do not believe that they are going to do so. Can the Europeans, at least, begin to move ahead, working with both Arabs and Israelis, to prepare the ground? I believe that they can and should. After all, the European initiative in 1980, led by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, who was here at the beginning of today’s debate, paved the way towards acceptance of a two-state solution. That initiative, though much criticised by the Americans at the time, was later accepted by them.

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Like others, I regret that our Government were not part of the initiative recently taken by the French, Spanish and Italian Governments; perhaps they can now catch up with that and ensure that the European Union as a whole, with its considerable influence, begins to stake out the ground for a comprehensive settlement. The appointment of a politically prominent European Union figure with a strong official-level back-up team might be one way to get the ball rolling. I would not see that as in any way abandoning the use of the quartet as an essential co-ordinating instrument. Indeed, the new UN Secretary-General, a very welcome visitor to this city today and tomorrow, would be an essential part of that and could become a very important player, along with the EU, in a renewed effort to build momentum towards peace negotiations. As so often, there are, no doubt, plenty of objections to proceeding in this way. People will say that nothing can be done without the Americans. True—up to a point: nothing can be completed without the Americans. There is no question of a Middle East peace settlement being agreed without full American involvement and endorsement. Does that mean that we have to wait until they are ready to move? I do not think so. Doing nothing much while the Middle East burns again is surely the worst of all policy prescriptions.

6.33 pm

Lord Soley: My Lords, I begin my comments on Iraq by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Jacobs, whom I heard with interest confess to being one of few Members on the Liberal Benches to support intervention. He should not be ashamed of that. The reality of Iraq—and I think without any doubt that historians will say this—is that it is a classic example of how to win a war and lose the subsequent peace. As many have already said, problems started after the disbanding of the army, the police and much of the civil structure governing the country. Unlike some others who have spoken on this today, I have taken time to look at the background to that. I say that because I took the view, as they did, that the mistake was for there to have been no planning at all. In fact there was. That is what I learnt and that is why I have changed my view slightly on this.

If you read the recently published book—reviewed in the latest International Institute for Strategic Studies quarterly survey—by David Phillips, one of the advisers to the United States during the whole period of planning for the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq, you will see that there was considerable planning over a long period. The deadly mistake was to override what was happening, for which I would put a lot of responsibility on Donald Rumsfeld, who took the decision to do so. The political drive from Washington, led largely by Donald Rumsfeld, to take such action stripped the Iraqi state of any administrative structure. I agree with my noble friend Lady Symons, who commented that she was rather glad when Donald Rumsfeld went. My only regret is that he left it four years too late. It was not a surprise when, without the policing of borders, and with police and army officers having been sent into permanent unemployment, but with

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their weapons intact, there was a problem. I remember how my heart sank when I heard what had happened. If I have regrets about that period in 2003, it is that we did not hold the United States strongly enough to a post-conflict policy.

The other thing that I want to say about this is very important; I wrote a pamphlet about it in 2003, which got some publicity at the time. It concerns the policy of intervention. There are a lot of people running around at the moment saying that we should have followed the United Nations. Remember this: almost every intervention that has taken place in recent years has happened without UN approval. Kosovo did not have UN approval. Bosnia, as my noble friend will know, was a case where we should have intervened, because some of the paramilitary groups began to arm and fight—perhaps not unreasonably—when they saw white European Christians murdering and raping white European Muslims, while Europe did nothing about it. The lesson learnt from that for many such groups was to start arming and to start fighting, because the Europeans will not do anything to help. Further back, the removal of Pol Pot by the Vietnamese, the removal of Idi Amin by the Tanzanians and, indeed, the removal of East Pakistan’s Government from Bangladesh by the Indians all happened without UN support.

Part of the problem is that the United Nations, which was frozen during the Cold War, is still unable to work effectively. I am a great supporter of the United Nations, but let us not kid ourselves that somehow or other the system is working at the moment. This is why I said in my pamphlet that the other big mistake in Iraq was not to have removed Saddam Hussein when we had the Muslim nations on side. This was during the invasion of Kuwait, and the period immediately after that, when the first material breach of the ceasefire by Saddam Hussein occurred. This was a material breach that meant that the ceasefire no longer functioned, and the UN did virtually nothing other than start imposing sanctions. As so often with brutal dictatorships, these were targeted against the opposition groups within the country, while the dictator protected his own friends and family. Again, we took no action. The history of this is rather different from how it was painted at the time. The post-conflict situation has been disastrous. I have no illusions about that. Our position in Iraq should not have come about, but it did for that reason, and not because we removed Saddam Hussein.

I should declare an interest as chairman of a charity, the Arab-Jewish Forum, which I set up at that time because many of the Arabs in my then constituency of Ealing, Acton and Shepherd’s Bush approached me to say that they wanted rid of Saddam Hussein. Indeed, a leader of one mosque asked whether, rather than invade, we could send in the SAS to kill him. Many felt like that at the time. What they asked me to do was to find some way of dealing with the core issue, referred to by so many Members today, of Israel and Palestine. I was not sure what I could do, but we found that there was no organisation that addressed both the diaspora of Jews and the diaspora of Arabs in this country. So we formed the Arab-Jewish Forum.

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I have a vice-chairman, Atallah Said, who is a Palestinian by origin. Originally, he believed in wiping Israel off the face of the map, but he is now a strong supporter of the road-map approach. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, that the road map should not be regarded as dead—indeed, I think that we must enliven it again. The forum also has a Jewish vice-chairman, Tony Klug. I thought that it would be run by Arabs and Jews and that I, not being an Arab or a Jew, would be able to leave the scene. Unfortunately, the members decided that it would be best if someone who was not an Arab or a Jew chaired it, and I think that that is beginning to work. The forum has held a number of conferences—we will have more—at which it has looked at the relationship between Arabs and Jews. Over several thousand years, on the whole that relationship has been very positive, although there have been periods in which it has gone badly wrong and the present is one of them.

In the context of changing policies, Condoleezza Rice made a very important speech in January or February of this year in Egypt. She said that the big mistake in United States policy since 1945 has been to back almost every regime in power in the Middle East that looked as though it could retain power. Frankly, when she said that, everyone in Europe and elsewhere should have pleaded guilty too, particularly in France and Britain, because that has been our policy. As she pointed out, we should all have encouraged, brought forward and supported the organisations, parties, groups and others that supported the emergence of the rule of law, democracy and human rights, as those are the only ultimate guarantees of peace between nations.

When the spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, said that that is not within the Labour Party’s policy of internationalism, I simply say that my internationalism recognises that the nation state is vital, but it certainly does not recognise that the nation state can do anything that it likes with its population. It is the people that matter, not the boundary of the nation state. That is why in the document that I wrote in 2003, when there was so much argument on this subject, I said that our approach to Saddam Hussein had been very similar to our approach to domestic violence in this country 50-odd years ago. Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait and we get him out—we stop him straight away—but, if he does it to his own people, we take no action. That is just like our previous domestic policy in which, if a man beat up his wife in the street, we arrested him but, if he did it at home, that was all right. In that sense, our policy towards nation states is very similar to the “Englishman’s home is his castle” approach of 50 years ago.

We know that we cannot change things quickly, but I say to the Liberal Democrats that they need to recognise that internationalism is not just about nation states, and it is certainly not just about doing precisely what the United Nations says. The reality is that we would not have intervened in any of those cases. Indeed, our problem was in not intervening in Bosnia or Rwanda and probably, I am sad to say, it will be in not intervening in Darfur, where the number of killings will be just as great. Because we see the events on television, Iraq or Afghanistan are

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considered to be terrible, but, just because we do not see events in Burma, North Korea or wherever, that does not mean to say that they are not happening. They are happening and we need to know that and think about it.

The process in these conflict situations is extremely important. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, with his considerable experience, also referred to that. A process must be started, above all, on Israel and Palestine. I accept what everyone else has said about that. It is a way of disconnecting the extremists from the moderates. Our own evidence from Northern Ireland shows that the process has to start with talking. Again, I agree with my noble friend Lady Symons that we should not be too fussy about whom we talk to, but how and when we talk to them is a matter of judgment. I talked to the political representatives of the military wings of both the unionists and the republicans in Northern Ireland and got into considerable trouble for it at the time with the media and the Conservatives, only to discover a few years later that they were already talking to them. I should have saved my time and stayed at home watching television.

However, the reality is that that sort of talking is necessary to get to the point of a process. When you get that process moving, you can then start to talk about the things that are necessary to move towards a more stable situation where justice for both sides is recognised. It would be a mistake to line up against the Israelis or the Arabs in a simplistic sense, because that only loses you influence with one side or the other. The Prime Minister recognises that rather well. It is a case of recognising that you maintain your influence only if you are listened to in both cases. If you have power, you can impose it; if you have influence, you have to use it in whatever way you can, and often that is not as easy as it looks.

At times, particularly when listening to debates in continental Europe and increasingly, I am sorry to say, when listening to debates here, I am troubled when people place an almost moral and political equivalence between tyrannical despotic states and states that have the rule of law, democracy and human rights. There is no moral and political equivalence. That does not mean that you do not bother to talk to people at all or try to make arrangements with them from time to time, but it is very important that you never lose sight of that lack of equivalence. If you do, you begin to think, first, that the state that is under a tyrant is popular, which it almost always is not, and, secondly, that somehow or other you will get peace if you simply make peace with that state. From our experience in the run-up to the Second World War, this country should remember that well. It does not work in that way and it never has.

Modernisation is happening in the Middle East and, in my view, a modernisation struggle is also going on within Islam. If we look at what is being debated in the Muslim press both here and overseas, we see that a struggle is going on for the heart and soul of Islam. It is an important struggle which perhaps we cannot do much about, but we must recognise that it is happening and, as my noble friend

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Lord Triesman said in his opening comments, we must recognise that a lot of states in the Middle East are leaping ahead. Whether it is Dubai, Kuwait or Morocco, they are making considerable progress. It is not a total disaster area from one end to the other, and we should not look at it in that way. If we do, to some extent we make the mistake that occurred in the United States: a British officer, perhaps rightly, said that there was institutional racism in the US Armed Forces against Arabs, and I think that there is some truth in that.

I shall end with a brief comment on Afghanistan. I agree with much of what has been said, but I wish to add one point. When people plead for NATO, us and everyone else to put more emphasis on reconstruction and less on the military side, they should remember that the people who lead the opposition to us, whether there or in other parts of the world, also read books about asymmetric warfare and about winning hearts and minds. If they enter an area in Afghanistan where there are no western forces and they shoot a headmaster or kill a government officer and so on, they know what they are doing. It is not some bizarre accident; they are trying to say, “You can’t govern this country and you, the people of Afghanistan, had better remember that when they’ve gone, we’ll still be here”. Again, we experienced that in Northern Ireland. We tried to get Catholics to join the police force. It was not simply that they did not want to join; it was that, if they did join, at best their families were pressured and threatened and, at worst, they were shot. That is how it worked. Sometimes, people do not believe that these groups and organisations have brains at the top. They do, and they adjust their policies, tactics and strategies in much the same way as people do in Britain, America or anywhere else.

Although there is a long road ahead, I am not wholly despondent about the Middle East: the present moves between Israel and Palestine are very encouraging. I think that we could do more to use the diaspora communities of Arabs and Jews in this country and elsewhere rather more effectively and in much the same way as the British-Irish Association underpinned many of the things that we did in Ireland.

6.49 pm

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