Martin Hannan: Keep our forces out of Baghdad

Fighters against the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq
Fighters against the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq
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Here we are in Edinburgh, this lovely civilised city which war has not threatened for almost 70 years, so why should we be worrying about what is happening in Iraq and Syria?

Surely the forces at war in those countries cannot reach across hundreds of miles to menace us? Wouldn’t it be impossible for ISIS or any other organisation to endanger Edinburgh?

Apart from the fact that, if there is any involvement of British forces in the Middle East, soldiers from this city and elsewhere in the Lothians will undoubtedly be involved, why should we even care about what combatants are doing to each other in countries so very far away?

One of the very few sensible things which the Westminster State has done in recent years was the House of Commons vote last August against military intervention in Syria following the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons. At the time, I felt that David Cameron should resign as Prime Minister and call a general election, so devastating was the defeat of his pro-intervention policy.

To make such a wrong call that was so clearly out of step with 
political and public opinion irreparably damaged what little remained of Cameron’s credibility.

It was just one vote, and definitely did not ban military intervention in other conflicts, but Westminster Governments of any shade will now be extremely reluctant to propose such actions again.

And what happened? International pressure, and not military action, forced Assad to surrender his chemical weapons. That’s what would have happened eventually in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq – it was just that George W Bush and Tony Blair were hell-bent on an illegal war.

So now we see Iraq in flames again, and the television pictures from that benighted country should really worry everyone in Britain. For yet again we are seeing a US President contemplating military intervention, albeit without boots on the ground, and this time it will be in a civil war based on sectarian divides. That’s what makes this conflict different – the ISIS forces and their Iraqi allies claim adherence to the Sunni tradition of Islam, while the Baghdad Government is Shia.

Regardless of their religion’s teachings on peace between Muslims, Iraq is splitting along Sunni-Shia faultlines and a conflict that dates back to the seventh century is now being played out with machine guns and suicide bombs.

If the US intervenes on the side of the Shia-led regime in Baghdad, the UK will surely follow – Cameron technically doesn’t need a Commons vote on the issue, especially if there are no British troops on the ground. But the RAF and the Royal Navy would be asked to assist our transatlantic allies, and that would be a huge mistake.

For at the moment, the conflict is largely confined to Syria and Iraq, with Shia Iran standing by to assist the Shia Baghdad Government. If the US 
and UK lend military help to the Shia side against the Sunni uprising, then Britain will become a target for every Sunni jihadist. There are plenty of them, and quite a few turn out to be British citizens who have rejected this country’s laws and culture.

Yes, petrol prices may rise because of the conflict, but for the reason 
of self-preservation, this is one mess in which our forces should not be used.