Iraq and ISIL

Here is a copy of the email I sent to residents this morning, asking for their views on Iraq and ISIL. You can let me know your views here.

Parliament has been recalled for tomorrow to vote on taking military action to support the Iraqi government in its struggle against ISIL.

As I write, I have no real detail on what the Prime Minister will lay out tomorrow – other than the Iraqi government has asked for our help in fighting ISIL.

I am clear at this point that helping at the request of the Iraqi government and taking some action in Iraq is one thing – but that any further incursion (for instance into Syria) is not on the table.

The UN estimates that 1.8 million people have been displaced in Iraq since January 2014. These displacements are a direct consequence of ISIL violence, killings, and threats. In addition to the displaced population, 1.5 million Iraqis are considered vulnerable in areas controlled by armed opposition groups. The crisis has affected more than 20 million people across the country.

In the debate tomorrow we will know what the proposition is and will be able to make a better judgment. But for now I am laying down some of my thinking and asking for your views.

I think this is an extremely dangerous moment for us – and all the options are hazardous. Whatever we do – I can see that we are in danger in our own country from ISIL – either as terrorist atrocities here fail to be stopped and / or as reprisals for intervention.

The Liberal Democrat party voted against the war in Iraq in 2003 – but we were in the minority and the UK still went to war. Because of that decision, I believe that the UK bears a huge and particular responsibility for Iraq.

Part of what is happening in the region now can be laid at the door of that disastrous foreign policy.

It is also our responsibility to stop slaughter on humanitarian grounds.

We bear the scars from the last Iraq war. My instinct is to not to want to get involved because of that experience. Equally – I never want to feel that we could have done something to stop the slaughter of innocent groups, but we just stood by.

I am uncomfortable with sitting on the sidelines and letting others do the tough stuff, and staying out won’t protect us. So until the actual proposition and debate tomorrow – we all need to think hard.

I know it is difficult to make a judgment with no details available yet about the proposition – but I would truly welcome your thoughts.