This is a battle for civilisation… the UK cannot remain neutral
By Maurice Glasman
Published in the Daily Mail on August 10, 2014
‘We cannot be neutral’: Lord Glasman is clear that the UK government must act over the situation in Iraq
Last week, the Christians of Qaraqosh, the heart of Christian civilisation in the Nineveh region for almost 2,000 years, were given a choice; convert to Islam, leave or be executed.
The same thing happened to the Christians of Mosul. They had been living there for 1,700 years and still speak a form of Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus.
They tell a story of an ancient Christian community linked by blood, language and tradition to the earliest Church. They have lived through Babylonian and Persian Empires, the birth of Islam, the Crusades, through the conquests of Genghis Khan and the spite of Saddam Hussein.
They cannot, however, live in the newly established caliphate.
As they left Mosul by foot, on their refugee march towards Kurdistan, they were robbed of all they carried, dispossessed of the remnants of their inheritance lasting nearly two millennia. Their bibles were burnt and their churches destroyed.
They joined a growing train of refugees, the final exit of the most ancient Christian congregations from their ancestral lands,
There was no one to protect them, no one to answer their cry of despair. They were abandoned to their fate.
Today, we learn of more horrors taking place in the region – of beheadings and crucifixions, of women being kidnapped and sold into slavery.
How did it come to this? How did we move from the ‘liberation’ of a decade ago to the domination of a group so violent and extreme that Al Qaeda fight against them?
And what happened to the trillion dollars invested by us and the United States in ‘upholding the territorial integrity of Iraq’ and ‘training and equipping’ the Iraqi army?
The answer seems to be that we unwittingly armed and funded the army of the Islamic State.
It started with a group of 70 vehicles leaving Eastern Syria carrying about 800 soldiers. Within 72 hours they had conquered a land mass four times the size of Britain.
The Iraqi army dissolved in a puff of smoke. Not only did more than 50,000 soldiers desert their posts and run but they abandoned all the new, expensive kit that we had bought for them: fleets of white land rovers (1,500, I was told by a senior Kurdish general) hundreds of surface-to-air missiles, tanks, ammunition and artillery.
The Islamic State also took all the money from the banks, calculated to be at least $500million.
The outcome of our Middle East policy over a bloody and treasure-spending decade has been to arm and fund the greatest threat to peaceful co-existence that exists in the world.
It is the biggest foreign policy failure since Appeasement.
Savagery: A man is crucified in northern Syria by Islamic State militants
We have refused to sell weapons to the Peshmerga, the Kurdish Army, because doing so would ‘undermine the territorial integrity of Iraq’.
We have armed our enemies and refused arms to our friends. This madness has to stop.
Two months ago, I visited the Kurdish region with Tobias Ellwood, who is now the Minister for the Middle East. It is clear what the Government needs to do.
There must be an immediate intensification of humanitarian aid to the Kurdish Regional Government. Solidarity with the abandoned and forsaken Christians and Yazidis should take immediate priority in our approach.
We should offer asylum priority to these dispossessed people and let them know that they are not alone in this world.
Hunted: Iraqi Christians – whose ties to the land are ancient – have been hounded from their homes and threatened with death if they do not convert
The Christians of Nineveh do not speak words of violence or revenge. They have sent no rockets and planted no bombs but they have been forced from their homes for not renouncing Jesus. We should extend our hospitality to those who have been left with nothing.
It is to be noted that the Shia Muslims in the south of Iraq have taken in nearly 20,000 Christian refugees, opening up mosques and homes.
We need to look at Iran with fresh eyes and explore the possibility that they are our partners in defence of peaceful co-existence and the pursuit of the good.
Then we should intensify intelligence, security and military co-operation with the Kurdish Peshmerga and regional government and drop all illusions about the ‘territorial integrity of Iraq’.
There is a battle for civilisation that is forming before our eyes and we cannot be neutral. Our strategy should be pro-Kurdish, pro-Iranian and pro-Christian.
We have never been in greater need of the nourishment that the Christian tradition brings in terms of building a common good between those who wish to build it.
That is the basis of a realistic and right strategy and the Government should take a lead in building it. It is in all our interests to do so.
Maurice Glasman, Labour Peer And Ex-miliband Adviser