I want to say a couple of things. First, and I know that the Minister has a particular interest in this, we have not talked enough about the Sunni/Shia divide. There has always been a division within Islam; at times it has been bad and at other times not so bad. You could say the same of Christianity. The present division got dramatically worse in 1979-80 with the arrival of Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran and then the following Iran/Iraq war. Only a few weeks ago I was talking to the King of Bahrain and some of his people there about this problem. His generation feel quite strongly that they do not want to be labelled as Sunni or Shia because they regard themselves as Muslims—and I suspect that the noble Baroness takes exactly the same view. My concern, and this is one of the things that we have to address, is that the younger generation is becoming increasingly pushed into support for either Sunni or Shia. The more that we go down that road, the more difficult it will become as that view is entrenched in that generation as they grow older.

I say to the Minister that one of the things we ought to be thinking about in our discussions with various Arab and Islamic states is how the whole issue of the divide between Sunni and Shia can be headed off and brought back to a more unified sense of the religion, accepting that they will never agree on the original cause of that division. That divide will always be there, as it is for many Christians, with Catholics and Protestants and so on. In Islam right now, though, that division is getting deeper and it is hard to see how that can be in any way helpful in the present situation.

We ought to look on the terrible situation at the moment as an opportunity. I agree that military intervention would not make sense and would not work. I am in favour of military interventions when I am clear about the objectives, but if you are going to intervene militarily, you must have a clear objective. It is difficult to see what that objective would be in the current situation. That is why you should not do it.

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However, we can look at how we can assist in the area. Unless there are groups within ISIL that will take over the more extremist groups, one hope is that the Sunni tribes will rise against that extremism, as they have in the past. There is a real possibility of that. That is what we ought to be discussing, and if we can assist in any way, we should do so.

I want to say something about the way we use our power and influence. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, will know about soft power. We need to readdress it. I have worked on and discussed this issue over the years, and I have found that there is general acceptance that people would like the rule of law and there is general, but not quite so ready, acceptance that they would like democracy. However, in some of the countries in that region, democracy is being interpreted as “winner takes all”. You saw that in Egypt with the Muslim Brotherhood. That does not justify what the current regime is doing in Egypt, but you could see the problem as soon as the Muslim Brotherhood took power.

You can also see that with the Maliki Government in Iraq. There was a real opportunity. There was plenty of pressure from the West generally on Maliki in the early days of his Administration to include the Sunnis, but he found that incredibly difficult. I know that spokesmen of the Government of Iraq say that they have Sunnis in the Government and in administration. Yes, they have some, but it is very clear that an awful lot of Sunnis felt excluded. More than that, they felt powerless and threatened. If you feel powerless and threatened, you start taking extreme actions. The bombings and killings that have taken place in Iraq in the past few years are an expression of that, plus the aggravation of the Sunni/Shia divide.

There are some positives here. The rapprochement between Iran and the United States ought to be built on, and the involvement of the Sunni tribes might well be critical. We also have a role in refining our soft-power approach—if I can use that shorthand way of saying it—in a number of countries. When we talk about the rule of law and democracy, we must start focusing much more on the recognition that you cannot have a winner-takes-all situation not just in these conflicts but in any state. You must give something to opposition groups because if you do not, you breed dissent. Indeed, we saw that in Northern Ireland. I remember my early involvement in the 1980s. It was very clear that a large section of the community—a minority, but a very important minority—felt discriminated against and excluded. That was bad enough in Northern Ireland. In the Middle East, it is deadly.

9.23 pm

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne (LD): My Lords, as chairman of the AMAR International Charitable Foundation, the executive chairman of the Iraq Britain Business Council and the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Iraq, I have an enormous vested interest in the country, as noted in the register of Members’ interests, and in the most recent terrible incidents in the region. I visit the country very regularly, and I have a deep commitment to the health, welfare and future of its people. My interest in the debate that the Minister has initiated this evening is in seeing how we in the United

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Kingdom can use our limited resources and power in ways that are most beneficial for our nation, for the Iraqi people and for the region.

I remind noble Lords that since the fall of the Saddam regime, right up until earlier this month when ISIS swept into Mosul, the country was making remarkable progress. Democratic elections had been held not once, not twice but several times. The most recent was declared by the UN special envoy to Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, to have been genuinely free and fair—indeed, they passed off with extremely little incident. While there is indeed a convincing argument that Prime Minister Maliki and his predecessors should have done a lot more to make their Governments inclusive, the democratic process was none the less starting to take hold.

I point out to noble Lords that the system of elections that the United Nations bequeathed to the federal Republic of Iraq was not designed on the European Union model. There is no d’Hondt system in Baghdad’s electoral commission. In other words, the model that was bequeathed was not the first past the post model that we the British put in, which was widely praised and liked, but is somehow a halfway house. It is not designed to produce a coalition Government; it is not designed, as Prime Minister Maliki said today, to produce the sort of Government that the international community is requesting of him. The system that has been designed has produced an outcome. Yes, it was democratic; yes, it followed the rules; yes the electoral commission and the United Nations—there were no international observers this time—declared it to be free and fair. It is neither correct nor proper for us now to demand a form of government that does not fit the model and which would, therefore, be undemocratic.

The 10% growth rate that the country has enjoyed over the past few years was based upon the proper values that were bequeathed in the constitution. This evening, we had the Human Rights Minister speaking at an all-party group, for example. He reassured us—and I have seen him and his Ministry in action on the ground—that human rights were at the heart of the Government’s policies. I do not pretend, and nor does he, that the implementation of the human rights agenda is absolutely perfect—far from it. However, he has set up a human rights institution and has been working incredibly hard to try to make it work; I can prove this entirely with my evidence-based knowledge of his work and that of his Ministry.

In the justice system, judges are trained by UK judges, no less. Yes, they have been left with a tiny justice system. Nevertheless, the judges have fought extremely hard to fulfil the requirements of a proper justice system. Indeed, I have been hosting some of them to come and see our own Supreme Court and sit in the Old Bailey to understand exactly what they should do. It is not for want of trying that the justice system has not been fulfilling its potential. Indeed, the fundamental freedoms, the rule of law and the fight against corruption, have all been embedded and were starting to work.

Iraq’s enormous supply of natural resources has of course played no small part in helping to fuel the renaissance of the entire country. Here is where Britain’s

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strength has been so obvious. Shell, BP and almost all of the big oil companies are working out of here, including Chevron, Foster Wheeler, Vitol and so on. They have all been working immensely hard, and Shell and BP alone have been producing 80% of the country’s GDP. That, I suggest, is one of the big resources and our Government should do all they possibly can, once this crisis has passed, to work hard to get the investment of British companies in Iraq.

The misery at the moment is that all of this good work has been thrown into jeopardy. The gang of thugs, the Islamic extremists that call themselves ISIS, have wreaked havoc in the west and north-west of Iraq for some time now. Their brutality is unprecedented, even in a country that has seen more than its fair share of horror over the past few decades. Their numbers have burgeoned; they have grown dramatically. At first, 500 thugs came into Mosul; they are now in their thousands, and now they have the most enormous sums available to them and are fully armed. How terrifying for the people of Iraq. We should do all that we possibly can to help.

To group back to the theme for a moment of the British businesses in Iraq, Iraqis think very highly indeed of this British resource. They think very highly of the quality in our work and of our lack of corruption. They think very highly of the quality of the people that we employ and of our technical abilities and innovations. We should do all that we can to satisfy that wish. They want to see British companies in Iraq.

Last month, only four weeks ago, I was able to host 80 Iraqi businesses here in London, in Mansion House. So the synergy is working—the connectivity and the capacity to build partnerships and forge contracts. This is the underpinning of the success of Iraq before the ISIS people emerged. ISIS has no place in modern society, and I am confident that other noble Lords throughout the debates on Iraq in the coming weeks will say categorically that these people will have no link with Islam at all. I doubt that there is any tiny shred of knowledge about Islam in their warped brains, because Muslims are—like Christians and like followers of Judaism—people of the book. We share completely common values. Yes, there are customs and practices that may jar between our three sisters, as it were, of the people of the book, the Abrahamic faiths. But let there be no mistake at all: these values are inherent in all three of the world’s greatest religions. Islam has nothing to do with any of these people.

The immediate difficulty for the people of Iraq is how they can survive without international support. Wiser colleagues than me this evening have said no to this, that and the other, in terms of that international support—so what support are we going to give? I would suggest that we have to look very carefully at what we can provide. For example, there is the AMAR International Charitable Foundation, which I chair. There is simple work—high-quality medical work and educational work—in the models offered to us by the National Health Service and the Department for Education here. Those models are exemplified in the teaching of the World Health Organisation and UNESCO. We have a huge amount that we can offer to ordinary people in Iraq. I suggest that one thing that we can do

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is, yes, on the military side. It is not for me to say whether troops should be put anywhere at all, although I am very sad to see the cuts that have so degraded the numbers of troops and the capacity that we have in military, hard-power terms. None the less, with our knowledge and the way in which the Iraqis respect what we have to offer, I would really like to see us do the same as the USA and at least have military advisers in Iraq.

It is not going to be easy to get rid of ISIS. We have seen in Iraq—and as I said, I have visited the camps, for example—hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees who have been driven out of their country by ISIS and al-Qaeda. Now they are inside Iraq, which is a much bigger country than Syria and far wealthier. Therefore, as ISIS takes over different parts of Iraq, as it has done so successfully, in such a sweeping short moment, is Iraq really going to able to sustain the opposition to stop the invasion of Baghdad, for example? Our military advice is sorely needed. It is not for me to say whether or not it should be followed up by something harder, but I am absolutely sure that the Iraqis want our businesses, our military advice and our model of democracy. Above all else, they want our support and intervention to help them to regain their balance and lead the decent, civilised, normal life that a country of their great wealth, history and culture surely deserves. I urge the Government to do all that they can and not to hold back. Let us not be Johnny-come-lately yet again.

9.35 pm

Lord Williams of Baglan (CB): My Lords, I welcome this debate and I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her statement. The situation in Iraq is dangerous and threatens not only that country but the wider Middle East and the security of the United Kingdom.

In the coming months we will see, I hope, the publication of the Chilcot report. That report will assess not just the invasion but the aftermath, on which I will comment because I believe that the occupation of Iraq is responsible for much of the continuing tragedy of that country. We need a clearer understanding of what has happened if we are to find a way forward.

Essentially, the Iraqi state was gutted and little put in its place until late in the occupation, and that action remains at the root of the present crisis. The fate of Iraq was then surrendered to a US vice-regal Administration led by figures who had scarce international, let alone Middle Eastern, experience. Not only was Saddam deposed but the entire armed forces were dissolved, as well as the ruling Baath Party. The only modern historical precedents were the fates of the German Wehrmacht and the Imperial Japanese Army in 1945 when those militaries were disbanded and the two countries occupied by Allied forces. Incidentally, I once accompanied the then Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, on a visit to Tehran, where President Khatami recommended the fate of the German army and Germany as a relevant example for Iraq post-Saddam.

Even today, 11 years after the invasion, Iraq pays a considerable price for those unwise decisions. It has weaker military capabilities than a smaller neighbour such as Jordan or even Kuwait. It has no offensive

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aircraft with which to stem the threatening advance of ISIS. Alone among the Arab states, Iraq has no jet combat aircraft, although some are now on order from the United States. The removal of Saddam, a cruel dictator, was followed by the unnecessary and foolish destruction of the state, for which the Iraqi people have paid a terrible price. That state has not been rebuilt. Its weakness, a deliberate action on the part of the occupiers, has prevented the emergence of a national political narrative and consensus, and has left Iraq prone to the rampant sectarianism that we see all too obviously today.

Despite the endeavours of Secretary of State Kerry on his visit to Iraq earlier this week, Prime Minister Maliki has spoken this afternoon in a television broadcast, promising no hope of greater representation in his Government for members of the minority Sunni Arab community, whose anger at what they perceive as his sectarian and authoritarian policies has been exploited by the jihadist elements from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. Mr Maliki claimed that forming an emergency Administration that included all religious and ethnic groups would go against April’s parliamentary elections and he rejected that in no uncertain terms.

That is, to say the least, a deeply troubling response to the crisis engulfing Iraq. It offers little hope of forestalling further violence; rather, it entrenches the sectarianism of the present Iraqi Government. In that regard I hope there is no question of the UK sending military forces to Iraq or joining any potential US military action there. I should be grateful if the Minister could address that issue. At the same time I urge the Government to continue to press Prime Minister Maliki to see a national coalition as the only response to the threat posed by ISIS.

Earlier in this Chamber, we discussed the centenary of the First World War. One of its legacies, the Sykes-Picot agreement between Great Britain and France on the future of the post-Ottoman Middle East, finally looks to be unravelling. There will, of course, be no formal interment of an imperial diktat long resented throughout the region. In practice Syria and Iraq will continue to have their flags and seats at the UN but perhaps not much else, aside from capital cities and sectarian support limited to their core constituencies, the Alawites of Syria and the Shia of Iraq. The stunning assault of ISIS on northern Iraq last week began with the capture of Mosul. From there it has swept further south. What is abundantly clear is that ISIS, whose total forces may number no more than 5,000, owes much of its success less to its own military prowess but rather to the collapse of any remaining Sunni support for the Government of Prime Minister al-Maliki. Paradoxically, Maliki, who is closer to Iran than any Arab country, will rely on the US for any hope of reversing the battlefield humiliation or bolstering his fast deteriorating military position. And, in doing so, President Obama’s Administration would risk further alienating traditional Sunni allies, such as Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, which have never hidden their contempt for Maliki’s Government.

To compound the success of ISIS in the unravelling of Iraq, Kurdish peshmerga took advantage of last week’s mayhem to seize by military means the long

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contested city of Kirkuk from Iraq’s central government. Kurdistan, with diminishing links to Baghdad, is a state in everything but name. It has its own armed forces and international airport and is now exporting oil directly through the Turkish port of Ceyhan, bypassing any semblance of deference to the Iraqi state.

Following his visit to Baghdad, Mr Kerry was the first US Secretary of State to visit the Kurdish region since Condi Rice in 2006. Greeting Kerry, President Barzani said that the time was fast approaching for the Kurdish people to determine their future—a further indication that the unity of Iraq is going to be difficult, if not impossible, to sustain.

The spectre before us is that of Iraq disintegrating. In that regard, I conclude by urging the Minister and the Government to call a meeting of the Security Council to discuss a rapidly deteriorating situation in Iraq before it is too late. I am very concerned that no such meeting has so far taken place. Need I remind noble Lords that the United Kingdom is a permanent member of the Security Council? That is a privilege which comes with considerable obligations to the maintenance of international security, and the United Kingdom needs to take action in the Security Council.

9.43 pm

Lord Selsdon (Con): My Lords, this has been a fascinating debate for me as I have a long-standing relationship with Iraq due to my former chairmanship of the Middle East trade committee. I was always given the more difficult countries of the world to deal with. I thought that was because I was disposable.

I first went to Iraq in 1974, I think. When I arrived, I thought that I would visit the British embassy, but the Iraqis said, “No, don’t go near the British at the moment. We’re not quite sure what they are up to”. I replied, “I’m a British citizen”, but they said, “No, you’re Scottish, it’s not quite the same thing”. Over a period of time, I went backwards and forwards and found, working as I did with the Midland Bank, or one of the banks within it, that we were the main bankers to Iraq. We all knew each other. When we said hello and one asked difficult questions, the Iraqi right arm would go over its heart, and your guest or friend would say, “I am not authorised to discuss this at my level”. I would say, “Were you by any chance trained by us at Midland Bank?”. “How did you guess?”, they would say. This was the rule. There were hierarchies and rules. They were trained at Haslemere or another place—I have forgotten where.

Over that period, I would sit with them and discuss what we could do together; but they did not effectively trust the British. One of the last times I was there, I was with Tariq Aziz, who asked me about Sir Hannay, as he called the noble Lord, Lord Hannay—he could not manage “Sir David Hannay”. He said that he rather liked Sir Hannay, that he was trustworthy, and would like to discuss with him that the Iraqis were looking for interlocutors.

In the discussions there, we looked at Iran’s economic potential in the medium and long term, and of course it came down to oil. We had the Matrix Churchill affair, when no one would speak to anyone about anything. However, the banking relationship still went

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on, and we trained Iraqis, had a great regard for them and they honoured every debt. They were accurate in all their accounting, and I much appreciate them. I thought that it would be a good idea to dig out some of the papers that we wrote about what could happen, the relationship with Iran, and all these things when, in the early banking days, we were determined that politics and economics were one and the same. If you got the politics wrong, you would lose money.

I looked, therefore, at the future and I dug out all my papers from before. When we were out there, it was difficult to have official meetings because you needed that strange instrument called “permission to speak”. I found that rather strange but got that occasionally from the Government, so one had a right to go and talk frankly. If you were their bankers, their children were educated in England or Scotland, and you worked together—you trusted them. I trust that economy. I raised the matter with a few friends the other day and asked why the British were sitting on their whatevers—the phrase was not too polite. The Iraqis are our friends and always have been; we trust them and know where we stand with them. At this point, there is an opportunity to take action. Are we frightened to go there? No, I am not frightened to go there. I would willingly go there again tomorrow; I never have been frightened to. However, the difficulty, once you got caught in the political maelstrom, was that you did not know where you were.

All the Ministers who I got to know at that time have long passed—even the tough ones. However, I remember several instances, once with the Oil Minister. I asked, “How much oil have you got?”. He said, “You in England should roll up that map of Europe. I will unroll our oil map”. We sat and looked and marked on the map how much oil there was. Then he said, “Come and look here”. He opened another curtain, and through a mirror or a window I saw a whole lot of French people who I had met before in the hotel and were negotiating “sanction busting”, I suppose you would call it—oil deals and transactions.

The economy of Iraq, based upon oil, is strong. We have a political situation in which it needs a friend. I genuinely believe that the United Kingdom could and should be its best and most trusted friend. I look back and think of my grandfather who was director of restriction of enemy supplies during the First World War, was in the Navy, and was then responsible to some extent for part of the peace process. He pointed out that in those days trade was important; the world should be based upon trade. The Iraqis are great traders. I have no fear of the situation at the moment but there is an opportunity for this Government—the British—to take an initiative.

I did not realise that Tariq Aziz actually played cricket, had been in Wales and was a wicket-keeper. Because I was a wicket-keeper too, instead of discussing other things we discussed cricket for a long time. Iraq is a great country and I had discussions there before I went to Iran—I was asked if I could help out with that little difficulty called Salman Rushdie, because we were, again, bankers to the Government of Iran, so you could go there unencumbered, without any fear. I feel that we have withdrawn a bit from the Middle

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East and could take many more initiatives because I really believe that we are trusted. What my noble friend Lord Howell said is absolutely true. Unless an initiative is taken by some country, no one is going to get anywhere. When I went to see some of the people on Chilcot’s team—I thought they might like to look at the papers I had written—they said no, it was not of very much interest.

To me, the future lies in whether we can revitalise INOC, the original Iraq National Oil Company. We found in those days that there were many buyers and, from the latest studies I have done, there are adequate oil supplies. I feel the Government should take the initiative; I hope that they will. I would support it and most of my noble friends who know Iraq would support it. It is not a matter of being afraid but taking some initiative at this particular time.

9.50 pm

Lord Judd (Lab): My Lords, due to a lapse in communications, my name did not appear on the speakers list. I therefore seek leave of the House to speak briefly in the gap.

It is clear that there can be no military solution to the ghastly problems of Iraq. A political settlement, however long it takes, and however complicated, will ultimately be essential. Surely we have learnt by now that for a settlement to have staying power and mean something for future stability, it must be as inclusive as possible and be owned by the parties. The outside world cannot impose a solution. The outside world certainly has a part to play in facilitating, but we have to rid ourselves of this management preoccupation that somehow we can manage the affairs of the area and then, in effect, impose a solution with which the parties would concur. That is not the way to lasting peace and stability.

With all the horrific reports accumulating, to which the Minister referred, I can imagine that the pressures for intervention will grow greater and greater. I was very glad indeed to hear my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours make the points that he did in a very interesting speech. It seems to me that if there is to be intervention, there are several imperatives. We must have thought through the consequences. We must have exit strategies in place right from the beginning of our planning. We also have to be very careful about counterproductivity and the methodology that we may use, because we have repeatedly underestimated the counterproductivity of collateral damage. We refer to it as collateral damage, but it is killing innocent people. That builds up tremendous resentment and plays into the extremists’ hands.

In anything we do, we must try to uphold the principles of the international rule of law. We can now see that that is what went wrong at the beginning of the latest Iraq story. We do not bring the UN in because of some formal legal requirement—a specific UN ad hoc Security Council resolution, which is so important—but because it demonstrates the maximum possible amount of international support for what is undertaken. That is tremendously important in an overheated, emotional situation such as this—that any action happens in the context of maximised global support.

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My last point—if I may make this observation, and I speak as a former director of Oxfam—is that I hope that in any humanitarian planning, DfID has consultations with a wide range of organisations about what would be appropriate and how it can best be organised. And I conclude with this observation, to which I think my noble friend Lord Soley was referring. Let us not paint young impressionable British people who have got caught up in this situation into a corner. What is happening is horrific: they should not be there, they were wrong. However, if we paint them into a corner, in which we say what they have become and what they are likely to do, then they begin acting out the part. It seems to me to be tremendously important to have in mind right from the beginning how we reintegrate such people into society, and not just because of the dangers they pose, which of course are there. In that context, what is tremendously important is holding the good will of the ethnic communities here. It should be an essential part of our approach that we do not alienate the ethnic communities by language but keep them on board in playing a part in finding a way forward.

9.54 pm

Lord Bach (Lab): My Lords, we very much welcome this debate and congratulate the Government on arranging it. Of course, it is unfortunate that it is being taken as last business, but what it may lack in quantity it certainly makes up for in quality. From this side, we thank all speakers for their contributions, and I give my personal thanks to the Minister for setting up a briefing day for the Opposition Front Bench. I am very grateful to her.

I will concentrate on Iraq, and specifically Iraq today. It will come as no surprise that in general Her Majesty’s Opposition agree with the Government’s policy as it has emerged as a result of the present crisis in Iraq. We have some questions and some proposals—that is the job of an opposition in a functioning democracy—but, for the moment, we are happy to give our support to the general direction of government policy.

We of course condemn ISIL, whose medieval barbarism, mixed with a certain sophistication in the use of modern technology, is deeply offensive to all civilised people. Its ruthlessness is shocking and it must not prevail. However, it is incumbent on all of us to understand what we are dealing with—the context in which ISIL has made its advances and its weaknesses and strengths—before we resolve how best to counter it.

Things are far from clear—it is not always easy to know the facts. That is certainly not to question the bravery of individual journalists, and I hope that some other noble Lords may have been fortunate enough to see the video on Twitter of the BBC journalist Paul Wood and his cameraman under fire for many minutes in Jalula, the fire coming of course from ISIL. One can only wonder at the journalists’ courage, but of course much remains unclear.

A good example of that is the misreporting of the extremely influential Ayatollah Sistani when he spoke on 13 June. This was at first described as a call to arms for Shia to fight Sunni. This interpretation—hardly surprisingly, given the significance of the ayatollah—swept

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the world’s airwaves, yet as soon as a translation appeared, it was clear that the call to arms was to save Iraq as a country. It discouraged foreign fighters, and it called for self-restraint and for people to refrain from armed activity outside the state’s legal framework —an obvious reference to militias. In other words, it was a political, not a sectarian, reaction, summed up in the following quote from that event. The ayatollah strongly advised Muslims to,

“steer clear from sectarian and … nationalistic discourse that is of detriment to Iraq’s national unity”.

Listening to British Iraqis last night at a meeting that had been arranged by four noble Lords from around the House, the message being relayed in speech after speech, whether made by a Shia, a Sunni or a Christian—there was a Christian Assyrian there—or even by a Kurd was the same. Very briefly, it was this: extremism was unacceptable and ISIL must be fought in order to save Iraq. That was put best by someone who said, “This is a war of all Iraqis against ISIL”.

Of concern, of course, to all is the fact that British youths have been persuaded in some cases to fight in Syria and, now, in Iraq. Our response, as has been made clear around the House this evening, must be clear and resolute. It represents a real danger to the kind of tolerant, diverse society that we all want to live in. Given the article in the Financial Times last Monday, the emphasis of the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister on this, and the Minister’s department’s key role in collecting names and other vital tasks, why is there a 50% cut from £30 million per year to £15 million a year in the FCO’s counterterrorism unit? The Financial Times referred to 35 out of 85 staff posts. Surely if ever there was a time not to make that particular cut, it is now. Will the Minister comment on that in her summing up?

Whether the response to ISIL is sectarian or political, or whether it is impossible to make such a division, what is clear is the significance of the holy sites within Iraq’s borders, currently threatened by ISIL. A statement published by ISIL itself explicitly states its intention to reach the cities of Karbala and Najaf, which are the homes of extremely holy shrines. These sites are respected by the Iraqi community as a whole, and are the epicentre of the Shia community around the world. Any serious action by ISIS to actively reach these places will undoubtedly have serious consequences, not only in Iraq and the Middle East, of course, but for Muslims in all corners of the world. That could result not only in a sectarian war on a large scale in Iraq but the military intervention of other countries. Here, of course, one thinks of Iran which has itself vowed to protect these holy sites. This whole right to freedom of religion is part of our duty to safeguard. It also includes the protection of places of worship which are in danger. We have all heard of reports detailing the destruction of mosques, churches and heritage sites in ISIS-controlled areas.

We know that while ISIL may be an extreme Sunni movement it does not enjoy universal Sunni support. While ruthless force of arms by ISIL, linked with the severe disillusion with the Maliki Government, has certainly combined to make ISIL’s advance much easier, it is hard to believe videos, for example, that show ISIL massacring police in Tikrit. Many of those police were Sunnis. It is also hard to believe the basic enmity

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that exists—this was said in the debate—between Baathists and ISIL, seemingly friends now. Surely that must result in a turning at some stage against ISIL and its ways. One must ask the question: if this is a majority Sunni view why did so many hundreds of thousands of Sunnis flee when ISIL came to do its worst?

The world is waiting for this new Government in Baghdad—there is no doubt about that—following the elections in April. The results, as we have heard, were certified by the supreme court. This time it will not be acceptable to the Iraqi people to have a long delay of eight or 10 months, as in 2010, before the Government are formed. Prime Minister Maliki’s comments today are disappointing. It is essential that whoever leads the Government must ensure that immediate steps are taken to be more inclusive and more sympathetic to minorities in Iraq. It is not just a question of sharing out titles to individuals for particular jobs; it is much more a driving sense of purpose that Iraq is worth saving and that its diversity should be a strength, not a weakness.

This is a critical moment. We must stand ready to continue humanitarian assistance of course, and to offer advice certainly. To argue that it is none of Britain’s business is crass and wrong. Not only are some British citizens involved in both Syria and Iraq, there are thousands of Iraqi British who, we must never forget, live and work here. Above all, of course, are the consequences for this country and the wider world of a barbaric, ruthless organisation such as ISIL being allowed to succeed.

10.05 pm

Baroness Warsi: My Lords, I am grateful for the many well informed and eloquent contributions to today’s debate and thankful to the Benches opposite for their support at this difficult time.

As has been reflected in the contributions today, the events in Iraq over the past fortnight have shocked and alarmed the international community. I am grateful for the way in which a number of noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, and my noble friends Lord Howell and Lady Falkner, have analysed the current situation and for their reasoning on how we find ourselves here. The contribution of my noble friend Lord Selsdon was particularly fascinating.

A number of noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Williams, and my noble friend Lord King, spoke of the 2003 Iraq war. My views on the 2003 invasion are clear and on record. I was against the intervention. However, I do not think that today is a moment to reiterate the arguments for and against and, on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government, I will not comment on the specific issues around the 2003 invasion until Sir John Chilcot’s Iraq inquiry has reported.

It is important that I should say—I have said it before—that not everything in foreign policy can be reduced to the simplistic analysis that it is all the fault of western action or inaction. The events of last week need to be set in the context of both the internal tensions in Iraq, which have increased in recent years, and the regional developments over the past few years.

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The strong view that I hear from the House is that military intervention is not the solution. I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Williams, specifically, and other noble Lords, that the UK is not planning a military intervention. However, we are looking urgently at other ways to help—for example, through counterterrorism expertise—and work is already under way on that.

There was, however, strong support for the UK to provide humanitarian assistance. As my noble friend Lady Nicholson said, that is one of the ways in which we can help. The initial package of UK support included funding for basic requirements—clean water, sanitation, medicine, hygiene kits, household items and, in particular, support for vulnerable girls and women through the deployment of dedicated UN safety and welfare teams in key internally displaced persons refugee camp sites and other areas. The second package of support was for emergency medicines, including vaccinations, and basic shelter. It also enabled aid agencies on the ground to trace and reunite families who had been separated while fleeing from the violence. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Judd, that we also continue to work within the UN Security Council to help the wider international response and the organisation of it.

The UN special representative for Iraq was clear to the Security Council only yesterday about the urgency of further humanitarian need and how the crisis could develop, and of the need for Iraq’s politicians therefore to address the immediate challenges.

The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, and my noble friend Lord King referred to the role of the UN. This is an issue of great concern for the UK and other members of the Security Council and we are considering how the UN can play a bigger role. The UN announced yesterday that it was extending its humanitarian appeal as a start. I pay tribute to the United Nations assistance mission to Iraq which is in the country.

The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, and my noble friend Lord King welcomed the reopening of the embassy in Iran. As I said in my opening remarks, the Foreign Secretary has discussed the situation with the Iranian Foreign Minister and several other Foreign Ministers in the region because they have an important role to play.

My noble friend Lord Howell talked about the vulnerability of Lebanon and Jordan. It is right to say that instability in Syria and Iraq has implications for regional security in those countries. We are already providing significant support to them both and we will continue to keep under review what further assistance we can provide.

I want to pay particular tribute to the work of my noble friend Lady Nicholson. Her commitment to Iraq as a trade envoy and through the AMAR Foundation clearly shows her deep links with the country, and of course her expertise is based upon them. It was right of my noble friend to note our strong commercial links with Iraq and the contribution made by British businesses. It was also correct to draw to our attention the importance of the rule of law, which the Iraqi Government must restore, as well as ensuring that those who have been responsible for human rights abuses are brought to account.

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The noble Lord, Lord Williams, referred specifically to Nouri al-Maliki’s comments about the emergency unity Government. Although the Prime Minister ruled out an emergency unity Government, he did confirm support for the process of government formation following the elections in April. We have to continue to support the process and make sure that it happens quickly. I specifically raised this matter with Mohammed Shia’ al-Sudani, the Minister for Human Rights, who is today in the United Kingdom, and I stressed the need for a unity Government to be formed quickly. The noble Lord, Lord Soley, also talked about inclusive government. As I said earlier, there has to be a political solution alongside efforts to deal with the current security situation. This is our clear message and we are taking every opportunity to reinforce it with Ministers in Iraq. Moreover, it is important to reinforce it not only with Iraqi politicians, but more widely through the region, and to ask other regional Ministers to play a supportive role.

My noble friend Lord King and others mentioned Kurdistan. My noble friend will be aware that the United Kingdom and Kurdistan have a strong and positive relationship, which was described by a number of noble Lords in the debate. Only last month the Prime Minister of Kurdistan made an official visit to this country. I pay tribute to the response that the country has made to the humanitarian situation since so many have fled to that region. We believe that co-operation between the Kurdish region and the Government in Baghdad is one of the vital elements of finding a political solution in Iraq. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, referred to the economy of Kurdistan. He was right to remind us of the success of the region. Further to that, I would like to remind the House of the economic success of Iraq, to which my noble friend also referred. The growth rate is 10%, which should remind us of the fact that the country has great potential and is hugely wealthy in resources which can be used to improve the lives of all Iraqis, but only if they feel that they have a voice in the political process of the country.

The noble Lords, Lord Judd and Lord Soley, expressed their concerns about British fighters. As I have said, there is no doubt that the Government are prepared to take action to protect the UK’s national security by confiscating passports and thus not allowing people to travel, and through prosecutions. Of course we want to dissuade people from travelling to these areas of conflict in the first place. I take on board the view that we must do this by using language and through policy responses which ensure that we do not alienate any of our own minority communities. They are part of the solution to the challenges we face.

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The noble Lord, Lord Bach, referred specifically to the FCO counterterrorism budget. I think it is misleading to say that the FCO has cut its counterterrorism budget in half. The counterterrorism programme fund has been reducing and some of that money has been directed to other programmes within the FCO. We take an overall approach to how we can best assist a country, and it may well be that other programmes can support the kind of work that was being done previously. We see it as one budget that provides assistance to foreign countries. I can assure him that, on the issue of fighters travelling from Britain to fight in Iraq and Syria, only last week I convened and chaired a meeting where both the Home Office and the Foreign Office were represented. It looked specifically at the appropriate responses required to deter young people from travelling, which of course is part of the wider CT work.

Lord Campbell-Savours: Will the Minister place in the Library a letter setting out exactly what the position is in terms of that budget and where it might have been diverted to, so that we can examine the extent to which these areas are being covered?

Baroness Warsi: That is an important question and a good suggestion. I will certainly do that.

As many of your Lordships have stressed, ISIL presents a major challenge to Iraq, to the region and to the international community. Tackling this challenge is the responsibility of the Iraqi Government. In the immediate term, that requires a coherent security response.

However, as the noble Lords, Lord Hannay and Lord Soley, said, tackling this challenge in the long term will require a much more inclusive political approach within Iraq—again, I stressed that to Iraq’s Human Rights Minister, Mohammed al-Sudani, earlier today. We have called for the new Parliament to convene quickly and for a new Government to be formed as soon as possible following the constitutional process. That Government must be inclusive and find a way of addressing the needs of all Iraq’s communities so as to ensure a unified approach against ISIL’s threat.

The UK will support that process where we can. We will continue to focus on preventing terrorist threats to our country and our interests, and we will continue to provide humanitarian support to those who have been affected by ISIL’s violence. Once again, I thank all noble Lords for taking part in tonight’s debate.

Motion agreed.

House adjourned at 10.17 pm.