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Iraq: Coalition against ISIL

Mr Richard Bacon (South Norfolk) (Con): For two thirds of my adult lifetime, we have been dropping bombs on Iraq, and as the hon. Member for Bradford West (George Galloway) said, actually, we have been doing it for 100 years. Each time we do it, we think it is going to make things better. The evidence suggests that each time we do it, we make things worse. I voted against the Iraq war in 2003 because I thought it would make things worse. The Deputy Prime Minister was not a Member of Parliament at the time, but many Liberal Democrats did vote against it and they were right: it did make things worse.

The Leader of the Opposition countered the argument that if we do anything, we will make things worse by saying that if we pass by, we will make it harder to persuade Arab countries to play their part. I find that quite a difficult argument to understand. The House of Commons Library tells me that in the top 18 Muslim countries in the world, of which 13 are Arab—the other five are Muslim countries such as Pakistan and Indonesia—there are 2.8 million men under arms. It seems to me that if fellow Muslims—co-religionists—are being threatened in this part of Iraq and Syria, the first response would be from Muslim countries. Those top 18 Muslim countries—perhaps many others as well—would be the first to put their soldiers’ lives on the line, although not necessarily all of them. Of course, not all of them would be available, but out of 2.8 million soldiers enough could probably be found to do the job, especially if other countries, including those in the west and in the Gulf, could be found to pay for them. They would not excite the natural suspicion and antagonism that will be aroused by any involvement by the west. However, that has not happened yet.

Perhaps the single most important contribution I have heard today was from the right hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton (Mr Meacher), who said that there are big questions to ask about the regional powers that have been supporting ISIL. That issue has hardly been touched on in the debate. We have heard that Turkey has yet to make up its mind, and there are big concerns that some of the Gulf states—and Saudi Arabia itself—are partly supporting ISIL.

The truth is that Islam faces its own version of the thirty years war. The idea that we can solve the problem by supporting one side in this war is absolutely delusional. It is only Muslims who can decide locally for themselves whether they wish to live together or to die together. There is a role for the United Nations and the five permanent members—including Russia and China—and we quite possibly could get a resolution through, including all five permanent members, if we but tried.

26 September 2014