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MS2 - Iraq 2
#1
Mr Speaker, I beg leave to rise and offer the House the following statement in accordance with my pledge to keep the House fully updated on the matters at hand in what was a delicate situation.

Mr Speaker yesterday at 7:30pm the Foreign Office received word that the Hussein Regime had launched multiple Soviet Scud missiles at a variety of targets, these targets included coalition forces in Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan, and other allied Gulf States. Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Forces from multiple nations worked around the clock to try and minimise the damage and death toll from impacts across the region and were successful in removing 7 such missiles via interception before they could hit their targets. Unfortunately Mr Speaker in these situations it is simply not possible to intercept every missile launched and as such 12 missiles hit coalition positions in Saudi Arabia, 2 missiles hit Jerusalem, 8 missiles hit Tel-Aviv, and 4 missiles hit Haifa, the latter three strikes representing the three largest cities in Israel. Mr Speaker it is quite clear that the Hussein Regime intends to strike Israel and provoke a response to break apart our coalition and create a conflict which spans the entire Middle East rather than simply Kuwait and Iraq. We have confirmed reports that 49 civilians in Israel lost their lives last night in these heinous attacks. We have also received reports of 37 coalition dead in Saudi Arabia, although none of these are British personnel, and 23 British personnel wounded. Further to this Mr Speaker at approximately 7:55pm the Foreign Office lost contact with the British Embassy in Tel-Aviv, fortunately that communications blackout was not a result of a missile hitting our embassy but rather of a missile hitting a building next to our embassy and disabling our communications, I would like to thank the US Embassy for being able to confirm this for us after my request to the US Secretary of State. It is clear that the Hussein Regime is determined to flout international law at every turn, targeting less powerful neighbours, civilians, and of course ambassadorial staff with weapons of war. This will not be allowed to stand.

Mr Speaker I am sure now that many in this House will have learned that that is not the end of the story, in the Israeli city of Haifa we have been able to independently verify that the chemical weapon of mass destruction known as VX was deployed, again against a civilian population. VX is an extremely toxic synthetic chemical compound that, because of its low volatility, persists in environments where it is dispersed. Of the 18 casualties reported in Haifa it is believed that 15 are directly the result of this attack, we do not anticipate this number increasing at the present time and Israeli specialists are on the ground overseeing cleanup and an exclusion zone. Mr Speaker I made myself perfectly clear when announcing the operation to evict the Hussein Regime from Kuwait, the use of Chemical or Biological weapons of mass destruction is a red line for this government, a red line we will not back away from. Its use on a civilian target constitutes a war crime, in addition to the multiple other crimes against humanity that the Hussein Regime has committed. These crimes against humanity include, but are not limited to, the persecution of the Feyli Kurds leading to relocation, imprisonments, and mass-executions, the Halabja poison gas attack on an Iraqi-Kurdish town which killed thousands, the Al-Anfal Campaign which has killed thousands to tens of thousands including women, children, and the elderly, and further (although unconfirmed) reports of up to a million Iraqi Kurds being murdered, imprisoned, and relocated to "model villages" which are as awful as they sound. Put simply Mr Speaker the World cannot sit idly by and let this despot remain in power, the blood on his hands would fill several lakes, the skeletons in his closet would fill a hundred graveyards, we must remove him from power before he commits another atrocity along these lines.

Therefore Mr Speaker I have the unenviable duty of updating the House on our mission objectives for the coming ground-based conflict. Our first objective remains the eviction of Iraq from Kuwait, our second objective is the complete destruction of the Hussein Administration's ability to fight through the destruction or surrender of their armed forces including the terrorist organisation known as the Revolutionary Guard, and our final objective is the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the capture of himself and the Dirty Dozen, and their trials for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The precise nature of the battle plan and how it has been amended is of course still top secret but I can confirm to the House that 33 of the 35 nations in the coalition established for the initial mission have agreed to the changes including the overwhelming majority of our regional partners. Only Egypt and Syria are opposed and have signalled their intention to stay out of any operation that would see regime change as one of its tenets they have as a result signalled their intention to withdraw from the coalition.

Mr Speaker regime change without a rebuilding process, and some stability afterwards, would be functionally meaningless. If we were to go in without a plan on what to do afterwards we would create a power-vacuum which would at best see another dictator rise to fill Hussein's shoes. It is for this reason that I am today announcing the Government's intention to follow up our anti-Hussein operation with a much more sustained involvement in the region encompassing fiscal support and rebuilding for the people of Iraq following our military conclusion. The first phase of this plan is to secure for the Iraqi people their primary needs. This will include extensive house building, security provision (whilst we train up local law enforcement and military personnel), food provision, healthcare provision, and the provision of other basic services. This phase shall be an ongoing concern for the international community for the duration of our involvement with Iraq although we anticipate being able to move on to Phase 2 by the end of 1992. The second phase of our rebuilding programme in Iraq will concern political and economic choices, freedoms, and priorities. We will help to establish trade and enterprise in Iraq, rebuild its economy, work with locals to create a system of government and a state constitution in keeping with local preferences and traditions. Mr Speaker this phase shall not be possible until Phase 1 is sufficiently advanced and as such may be moved forwards or delayed depending on the situation on the ground.

Mr Speaker I do not take these decisions likely, as I have said many times no Foreign Secretary relishes the prospect of sending our servicemen to war, but this is the right choice and I stand by it even if some in this House will find themselves unable to.
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#2
Mr Speaker I rise again to offer the House a further update on matters. At 21:30 I authorised the beginning of ground assault operations from British forces in conjunction with the Americans, French, and 30 other coalition nations. The offensive has begun in conjunction with the UNSC resolution and authorisation, it will continue in line with the UNGA resolution regarding the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime and I will of course keep the Privy Council and House informed as I receive updates from commanders on the ground.
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#3
Mr Speaker,

My Rt Hon Friend tells the House that Egypt and Syria are opposed to regime change, and are consequently withdrawing from the coalition.

Could my Rt Hon Friend confirm that when he says "only" Egypt and Syria, he is talking about the countries with the fourth and sixth most military personel engaged in the conflict, the largest amongst nations from the region itself, other than Saudi Arabia?
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#4
Mr Speaker,

I am certain the whole House will join me in paying tribute to those members of the British Armed Forces who have so far laid down their lives in this conflict as well as to the 49 civilians killed in the bombing in Israel, the 37 coalition forces killed in action in Saudi Arabia and to the 18 casualties of the chemical weapons attack in Haifa. Each of these is a tragedy at the hands of a regime flouting international law and human rights.

Mr Speaker, I am certain the House will also join me in wishing those 23 members of the Armed Forces wounded in the attack in Saudi Arabia, a speedy recovery. We thank them for their service.

Mr Speaker, the attacks on coalition forces working under United Nations mandate to force Iraqi withdrawal ought to be condemned absolutely. However further to that, the attacks on neutral states, on innocent civilians and the use of chemical weapons of mass destruction, are a horrific abuse of human rights and flouting of international law. Mr Speaker, this House I am certain stands absolute in its affirmation that this was morally reprehensible and cannot be allowed to continue.

Mr Speaker, the human rights abuses of the regime in Iraq are staggering. The Labour Party, as a fundamentally internationalist movement, wholeheartedly condemns the wide-scale persecution of the Kurds under Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. It cannot and must not be tolerable to any liberally-minded modern global community that a state has for so long engaged in the atrocities that it has. Any state that deploys mass executions has no credibility or moral standing at all. Mr Speaker, the Halabja massacre in particular culminated the Iraqi regime's treatment of the Kurdish population, it being the largest chemical weapons attack against a civilian-populated area in human history.


Mr Speaker, while this dreadful event gives moral weight to the decision of the Foreign Secretary to commit the UK to broadening our mission objectives in Iraq, it does also raise several key questions for the Government. Mr Speaker, the massacre in 1988 was a culmination of several years of targeted assaults on Kurdish civilians, starting around 1985. Mr Speaker at the time, the United States bought into the propaganda and claimed that Iran had actually ordered the massacre. I am grateful now that the Foreign Secretary recognises that the Government's position was flawed.

Mr Speaker, the Iraqi regime has been noted for their use of chemical weapons against Iran during the previous war, yet the UK Government seemingly chose not to act on it until it came to changing these mission objectives. In a Foreign Office briefing, reported in the press, the FCO responded to the claims of use of chemical weapons by saying, and I quote;
Quote:"We believe it better to maintain a dialogue with others if we want to influence their actions. Punitive measures such as unilateral sanctions would not be effective in changing Iraq's behaviour over chemical weapons, and would damage British interests to no avail."


Mr Speaker, what is clear is that the Foreign Office has known for quite some time about the use of chemical weapons by the Iraqi regime against the Kurds. Can the Foreign Secretary now take the time to tell the house if he feels this position was right and if he will apologise on behalf of the Government for turning a blind eye to this atrocity?

Mr Speaker, while I welcome the update on the mission objectives in Iraq, I was disappointed they came so late. The Foreign Secretary was asked to present mission objectives before the House on this matter and told us that they were too sensitive and could not possibly be given in this place. When in consultation with the Labour Party on the change of objective and the possibility of regime change, we made it clear to the Foreign Secretary that measures must be met to ensure that the decision taken was credible. One of those measures was the presentation of achievable and justified mission objectives before the House of Commons. I am grateful the Foreign Secretary has now presented them, however it is disappointing that he waited until after he had ordered British troops to change objective to do so. Does the Foreign Secretary feel he has treated this House with the respect for its role in scrutiny that it deserves?

Mr Speaker, the right Honourable Gentleman has mentioned that Egypt and Syria have chosen not to engage in this extended mission because they oppose regime change. Can the Foreign Secretary please outline for the House what reasons were given to him as to why the two states mentioned opted not to take part in the action, and can he please outline for the House the steps he took to ensure international consensus on this matter?

Mr Speaker, I finally want to ask about cost. The original mission objectives were in line with Government briefings that the role of Britain's armed forces was changing to meet modern global need. In this respect, the Government outlined a plan to reduce defence spending in line with this new focus on shorter more tactical deployments. Now that the Government seems to be changing strategy and once again committing to using the Armed Forces in a strategic and nation-building capacity, using conventional forces as a bulk, can he outline for the House how much this is estimated to cost and how this has been accounted for?


Mr Speaker, we take seriously our role as an opposition to offer constructive scrutiny of the Government's management of this conflict and whilst we continue our cautious response, we hope the Government will be more forthcoming with the details of their policies going forward. 
Gruffydd Rhys Morrison MP
Labour and Cooperative
Member for Easington \ Shadow Regions Secretary
Biography  | XP: 5 | Traits: Safe pair of hands
Issue Champion: Britain’s place in the world
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