Don Foster MP*

Statement on Iraq Escalation

“Many residents have written to me about the further deployment of British troops to Iraq.

“My Lib Dem colleagues and I are gravely concerned at this escalation, and Charles Kennedy has released the following statement.

“Please contact me to let me know of your thoughts.”

Main ImageText of statement from Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy on further deployment of British troops to Iraq.

13th May 2004

The Prime Minister has told me at Prime Minister’s Questions that no decision has been made to deploy extra troops to Iraq to cope with the deteriorating situation or to replace coalition troops being withdrawn, such as the Spanish contingent.

Although he has denied that such requests have come from either UK commanders in Iraq or from the Pentagon, it is clear that contingency plans are under way. In particular, a sizeable contingent from 40 Commando Royal Marines have been talked about – and their deployment is being linked to an extension of their role to working alongside American troops in Najaf.

I believe the heavy-handed tactics that have been employed by the United States in Falluja and elsewhere have been unacceptable and counter-productive. This disproportionate use of force has provoked ordinary Iraqis rather than reassuring them and this mishandling of the security situation means that coalition troops are viewed as occupiers and oppressors.

British troops must not be used to further this failing strategy and the Liberal Democrats could not support the deployment of additional forces for such purposes.

Before any further British troops are sent to Iraq, the Government should consult with and listen to Parliament about the role they are expected to undertake, under what command they will serve, and where they will be expected to operate. They must not be put in the position where US commanders can use them to carry out misconceived US military operations. The UK should maintain political control and legal responsibility over areas where our forces are deployed.

We recognise that as an occupying power - under the Geneva Conventions - the UK has a legal obligation to provide law and order and to protect human rights in the sector they control.

If British commanders in the Basra sector need more soldiers to carry out these legal responsibilities in the run up to June 30th, or to ensure the safety of those already serving in that area, then that request should be considered. Our soldiers there are doing a difficult and dangerous job and everything must be done to ensure their safety.

While the Bush administration, echoed by Mr. Blair, likes to characterise resistance to the coalition forces as being undertaken only by 'fanatics and terrorists', that is clearly not the whole story. In the end the problems in Iraq are political, and only through the political process now being overseen by the United Nations envoy Mr. Brahimi can democracy take root.

After June 30th, any extension of the UK’s military role, should only take place as part of a new status of forces agreement, established with the new Iraqi Government that takes over sovereignty and with the support of the United Nations.

This article published: 13/05/2023

Published by Bath Liberal Democrats, 31 James St West, Bath, BA1 2BT. Printed and hosted by JPC Infonet, 2 St Georges Works, Trowbridge, Wiltshire, BA14 8AA. Your Privacy._blank

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