Scotland's voice in European Parliament Iraq position

SNP Member of the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee Alyn Smith has called on all those responsible for the conflagration in Iraq to be held to account for their actions.

The call came in the debate this week in Strasbourg on the European Parliament's position on Iraq. Alyn, representing his group in the negotiations over the drafting of the resolution, was instrumental in the additional call for the EU to take a much more inclusive approach to involving Iraq's neighbours in any dialogue over Iraq, including actively working with Iran. 

In the debate, Alyn said:

"Mr President, like many colleagues I feel considerable emotion in any discussion about Iraq. I remember myself marching through the streets of Glasgow protesting ‘Not in my nameʼ in advance of the illegal invasion of Iraq by the coalition of the willing.

"This motion takes some account of the other lifetimes cut short or blighted since that deep act of folly. According to the UN there are just in central and northern Iraq 1.2 million internally displaced persons and 1.5 million persons in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. The scale of the tragedy is as paralysing as the complexity itself.

"But in our role as a European Union, as well as remembering how we got to where we are – and there should be no corner where we do not shine that light and no person we do not hold responsible for their actions – we have surely to try to attempt to plot a way out of the nightmare. In that effort I will limit myself to three points within this discussion: the role of the Kurds, the role of Iran and the role of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, though I do endorse the rest of the resolution, which I think has a lot to commend it and I commend the spirit of cross-party working across this House in its production.

"On the role of the Kurds, in recital F we note the actions of the Kurdish regional government in taking control, as Mr Tannock drew our attention to, of additional territory and we stopped just short of criticism of those actions. I think that is the right form of words. I think that is as realistic as it is pragmatic.

In recital G we acknowledge the limited success that the Kurds have had, and they do deserve credit for it in providing a safe haven and the burden that the many refugees they have cared for represents. But in point 11 of the resolution we remember our own principles. Any constitutional changes must, and I quote: ‘respect and uphold an inclusive process in respect of the rights of the non-Kurdish minorities living in the province’. This process will need to be supported by outside, by ourselves.

"On the role of Iran and Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States in points 8 and 9 we call – and I think this is quite crucial – on the international community, especially ourselves, to facilitate a regional dialogue on the problems facing the Middle East and to include all significant parties. Iraqʼs neighbours cannot be viewed as distinct from it; they are actors within the conflagration under way and must be part of its solution as well as part of its current problems.

"We cannot escape our role in how Iraq came to be where it is. We can shoulder our burden in helping them plot a way out of the nightmare."

Speaking after the debate and adoption of the resolution, Alyn said:

"The heartbreak in Iraq was caused, in a large part, by the actions of the US and UK governments, and where I said that there should be no person we do not hold accountable for his actions, our own former Prime Minister Tony Blair was uppermost in my mind.

"But, at the end of the day, looking back will get us nowhere, much as that should certainly not stop us.  If we are to be constructive we have to facilitate a real regional dialogue, and we have to work with Iran.  We also have to take a pragmatic approach to the Kurdish issue.  Iraqi Kurdistan has come as close to a success story as any area in this sad tale, and the people there deserve our continued support as they build a new democratic structure.  What form that process takes, and where it ends up, will need considerable outside support.

"The Parliament does not deal in guns and tanks and bombs, and I view that as a strength, long term at least.  The only solution to the Iraq conflagration is real, sustained dialogue, and the EU is in an ideal position to make that happen.  Who knows, maybe we could host the talks in Scotland?"

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