"To claim that Britain and the US left Iraq a better place in 2003 is delusional"by Dominic Raab / June 25, 2014 / Leave a comment
The oil refinery in Beiji, Iraq, has been a key battleground in the conflict © /AP/Press Association Images
As jihadist rebels reportedly capture an oil refinery near Baghdad, the divisive Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki wants military support to see off a fresh terrorist insurgency. Tony Blair’s call for Britain to return to the fray was punctured by the assessment of the former head of the armed forces, Lord Richards, who said on Monday that the British armed forces are “not good enough” to combat the threat of “militant jihadism.” So, what should the UK response be?
Working as a Foreign Office lawyer in 2003, I was less worried by the quibbling over UN resolutions on Iraq than the coalition’s capacity to effect positive change. Ashen-faced colleagues were dumbstruck by the lack of planning for Britain assuming the role of “occupying” power. As events demonstrated, laudable ambition was punctured by a woeful lack of the means to deliver. To claim that Britain and the US left Iraq a better place is delusional, and the conundrum today is the same. Iraq lacks leaders capable of soothing sectarian wounds, and Western attempts to pick them or force their hand invite anti-imperialist backlash.
Britain lost 179 servicemen and women and spent £9bn fighting in Iraq. It’s not unreasonable to ask how much fresh blood and money it would take to improve the current situation, or question whether air power alone would tilt the balance of fighting on the ground. If neo-cons such as Blair define themselves as “liberals mugged by reality”, loose talk of returning to Iraq suggests they need another good mugging.
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Afghanistan too remains racked by civil war, its latest election tainted by allegations of massive fraud. In Libya, despite Western intervention, former pro-Gaddafi officer Khalifa Hiftar is gathering support in his bid to quell al Qaeda inspired rebels. Meanwhile, Syria’s brutal dictator Bashar al-Assad points to the barbaric terrorist group the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), which was banished from al Qaeda for its savage fanaticism, to gloat over the grim choice his people face.
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