Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Iraq And The Queen's Speech Debate

On Monday Ann Clwyd and Dave Anderson spoke in the Commons during the debate on the Queen's Speech, they both devoted the bulk of what they had to say to the current situation in Iraq. I give the relevant extracts below. With Dave's contribution I have also added what he said about the Tobin Tax as it could also be used to improve the condition of the people of Iraq.

Dave Anderson (fifth from the right in the back row) in Iraq with "Labour Friends of Iraq" and Iraqi and British Trade Unionists.

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley) (Lab): .....I want to spend the time available today talking about Iraq. For the first time in many years, the Queen's Speech did not mention Iraq. The complex issues relating to that country have dominated so many debates, questions and speeches in the House in recent years, and I feel that it is important to use this moment to highlight the important progress that has been made, and to remind the House of some of the issues that still need further attention.

I spoke to President Talabani of Iraq when he was here in London recently to attend the very moving memorial service for UK troops who had been involved in operations there. I was struck by the fact that, despite all the difficulties that Iraq has faced since the overthrow of Saddam, the President retains an unwavering belief that it was the right thing to do. It is clear from talking to him, and almost any other Iraqi, that ultimately only they can solve Iraq's problems. The role of the UK and coalition forces was to get them to the point at which they had a realistic prospect of success. I have full confidence in the determination of the Government and the people of Iraq to ensure that the country continues on its path to stability.

Iraq's internal dynamics have changed significantly over the past 18 months, and I believe that it is now a nation that has changed for the better. There have been significant improvements on security, the economy and politics. Millions of Iraqis now have control over their own destiny. The Iraqi people have embraced democracy with great enthusiasm. The parliamentary elections in December 2005 saw a turnout of around 80 per cent., and provincial elections were held successfully in January this year, again with a very high turnout. National elections are due to take place in January 2010 and will provide another opportunity for Iraqis to embrace democracy. The Iraqi Parliament and the Council of Representatives are both steadily maturing as a voice for the people.

There are difficulties and delays in passing a new electoral law to regulate the next elections and the composition of the new Iraqi Parliament. Again, however, 25 per cent. of the places are going to be set aside for women, which is a point worth making here. It is another welcome sign that difficulties are being battled out in the political arena rather than on the streets.

The attempts by some to throw progress off course, as seen in the terrible bomb attacks on key ministries in Baghdad in August and October, have not had their desired impact. The response from Iraqis has been to deal with matters in a mature and considered manner. I sincerely hope that all the main political leaders in Iraq will continue to work together in a spirit of compromise and for the interests of all Iraq. Not doing so risks damaging the recent gains in security and political progress.

It is clear that many challenges remain in ensuring peace and stability in Iraq. Starting from such a low base, it is inevitable that work remains to bring about an effective human rights culture in Iraq. In my continuing role as the Prime Minister's special envoy on human rights in Iraq, I continue to engage with a wide range of Iraqis-both here and in Iraq-to help this process along. I urge those I meet to continue to focus their efforts on ensuring that the rule of law is respected.

The number of detainees held without trial has dropped considerably over the past 18 months, but sustained effort to ensure that those remaining are either released or made to face trial is needed. All those subject to the Iraqi legal system should be dealt with in a timely and humane manner.

Freedom of expression was an area that suffered greatly under Saddam. Since 2003, a vibrant media reflecting a wide spectrum of views has sprung up. There are signs of some efforts to curb the effectiveness of the media, with new regulations and legislation under consideration. This is a subject that I intend to raise when I visit Iraq shortly and meet key activists working to protect the rights of journalists. I discussed the challenges faced by the media in Iraq at one of the programmes of ongoing human rights forums or round tables held by the Foreign Office this year, which I chaired.

Industry in Iraq continues to recover and international trade links are being re-established. British companies assisted by UK Trade & Investment are showing more interest in doing business in Iraq. To support their efforts, the UKTI staff in our diplomatic missions in Iraq have been bolstered. BP and the Iraqi Government signed a new deal earlier this month to help revitalise the Rumaila oil field in southern Iraq, which should dramatically increase oil production and revenue for the Iraqi Government.

There is much work still to be done to protect the rights of Iraqi workers. The British TUC, which I thank very much, continues to assist in many ways. There remain in place many Saddam era regulations restricting the rights of trade unions and preventing public sector workers from joining the union of their choosing. I am pleased to hear that a campaign launched by the Iraqi permanent co-ordination committee of trade unions and professional associations is gathering momentum. I note with some satisfaction that on 13 November President Talabani himself signed up to their campaign calling for more equitable labour laws.

I have raised from the start concerns about the treatment of women in Iraqi society. Women continue to face many problems in their day-to-day lives. Article 41 of the constitution could seriously affect the rights of women and I hope it will be revisited in the ongoing constitutional discussions. So-called "honour-based" violence has been reported as on the increase in many parts of Iraq. This is not a religious or an Islamic practice, but something rooted in the traditions of the clans and tribes. I have encouraged the leadership in Iraq, particularly the Kurds in the north, to speak out against it and to treat any "honour" crime just like any other crime. The considerable abilities of the new Kurdish Prime Minister, Barham Salih-he has visited this House several times-will, I think, be used to good effect in Iraqi Kurdistan, and I am sure that we would all want to send our good wishes to him. He has been an excellent Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq and I am sure that the Kurds will benefit from having him as Prime Minister of Iraqi Kurdistan.

I plan to visit Iraq again before the end of the year and am sure that, as in each of my previous visits since 2003, I will see further evidence of improvements. I know I will meet Iraqis who are committed to the future of their country and to seeing peace and prosperity. I know I will meet such people because they form the overwhelming majority of the population. I am sure that they will be pleased to hear that Iraq is no longer such a regular source of bad news and that they will not be at all offended that this year they did not even get a mention from Her Majesty the Queen in her Gracious Speech.

I finish with a short announcement. On 1 December, our present ambassador in Iraq will be coming here to answer questions. The Foreign Minister will also be present, as will the chargé d'affaires from the Iraqi embassy. I hope that those interested in Iraq will come along on 1 December to ask any questions that I have not been able to answer today.

......Mr. David Anderson (Blaydon) (Lab): Earlier tonight we heard from my right hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) about the situation in Iraq. She made the point that, for the first time in many years, the word "Iraq" was not mentioned in the Queen's Speech. However, the Queen did say that her Government want to work for peace in the middle east, and it is impossible to have any real peace there without involving Iraq. In recent discussions that I had as chair of the Labour Friends of Iraq with the Islamic Dawa party, it said that it believes that Iraq can be a beacon for democracy, freedom and moderation in the middle east instead of suffering the tyrannies of poverty, backwardness and extremism in what is still one of the most prosperous parts of the world. The first part of my speech will ask what our Government intend to do to try to continue to improve the situation in Iraq, now that we no longer have troops on the ground to any great extent.

One of the key issues that I want to raise is something that has been a running sore for more than four years-the imposition of restrictions on the freedoms of the trade union movement in Iraq. In August 2005, the interim Iraqi Government imposed restrictions on the trade union movement in Iraq, seized its assets and reintroduced rules that said that working in the public sector, which is a huge part of the Iraqi economy, is not compatible with trade union membership. If Iraq wants to pretend to be a democracy and behave like a democracy, it has to accept that free, democratic and independent trade unions must be allowed to exist, something that trade unions in this country, our Government and the International Labour Organisation have all supported. We need to emphasise that, so I hope that the Government take that point on board.

We also heard from my right hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley about the upcoming elections. They are due in January, but there are doubts about whether they will go ahead. They should go ahead, and one of the key things that we could is to sit down with the Iraqi Government and the various parties and people across Iraq and say, "What can we do to help you ensure that these elections go ahead?"

We have a strong and close relationship with the Kurds in Iraq. They are clear that we saved them from effectively being wiped off the face of the earth. I am proud to be the secretary of the all-party group on the Kurdistan region in Iraq. The Kurds fear that the Government in Iraq are retreating into a central, rather than a federal state. The Kurdistan region of Iraq is struggling to get its people to see that their future lies in a federal Iraq. If the Government in Iraq do not realise that and do not work with the Kurds, they could well experience even more problems than they have recently.

Last week a friend of mine, Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the High Representative to the United Kingdom from the Kurdistan Government in Iraq, wrote a passionate article in my regional newspaper, the Newcastle Journal. She rightly paid tribute to the fallen British soldiers and expressed her "appreciation for the sacrifices made in the liberation of our country".

"Liberation" was the term that she used. It is also the term that I have heard time and again on my visits to Iraq. The people I have spoken to see what happened in 2003 as a liberation. For those of us who opposed the intervention in Iraq, that is quite a hard thing to have to accept. However, it is strange that we never hear much in this country about what the people on the ground believe. Lots of us have opinions, and lots of people outside this place have them too; but the truth is that the people of Kurdistan and the people in Iraq see what we did as an act of liberation.

Bayan knows what she is talking about. Both her father, who was the deputy Prime Minister of Kurdistan, and her brother were among those killed by suicide bombers in the Kurdish capital Irbil in February 2004. I have had the privilege of visiting the monument to their death, which carries a profound epitaph: "Freedom is not free". Very true. Bayan also says: "it is important to appreciate that Iraq is far better off today than it was under Saddam Hussein and there are many great opportunities for exchange between Britain and Iraq-cultural, educational and commercial."

I hope that John Chilcot, whose inquiry starts tomorrow, asks people such as Bayan Rahman to give evidence. I hope that he asks Hangar Khan, from the regional trade union movement, and Abdullah Muhsin, who was exiled in the 1980s and became the international representative of the trade union movement, to give evidence too. They will say clearly what Bayan has said to me: "Some people seem to have forgotten the brutal reality of his long years of repression. Saddam conducted a campaign of genocide against the Kurds. His forces used chemical weapons to kill men, women and children including 5,000 people who were killed in an attack on the city of Halabja in 1988. They murdered innocent people including thousands of boys and men from the Barzan area who disappeared in 1983," never to be seen again, "and whose mass graves are being found today."

Saddam's forces also "razed 4,500 villages to the ground, destroying" the agricultural heartland of Iraq. The suffering in other parts of Iraq was the same. The key question that people ask me when I am over there is not "Why did you come here in 2003?" but "Why didn't you come here in 1983? We might have had a very different way of life."

The other thing that I want to stress to the Government is the opportunities that we are missing in Iraq. There is huge potential for investment in Iraq. The Iraqis want us there. They have a great belief in the craftsmanship of British workpeople and a great loyalty to us for what this Government and this country have done over many years. The Iraqis want us to take up those opportunities, but it is clear that other countries are getting there ahead of us. We really need to step up our game, and we need UK Trade and Investment to do that.

The Queen's Speech also referred to the need for us to ensure that we increase the 0.7 per cent. contribution from GDP to international development, a point echoed by the Foreign Secretary earlier. Over the past few weeks, we have had a discussion that I thought would never happen in this country, about the so-called Tobin tax or a currency transaction levy, which I have supported for many years.

I was a delegate to the World Trade Organisation talks in Seattle in 1999, where we thought that we nearly had a deal. Unfortunately, it did not come off. We then went to the next round in Doha, where nothing like that was anywhere near the agenda, mainly as a result of what had happened on 9/11. It was therefore with some surprise that the idea of a currency transaction levy, as called for by early-day motion 1396, which I tabled earlier this year, came out of the discussions at St. Andrews. A currency transaction levy is something that our Prime Minister, our Chancellor and now other people across the world are starting to pursue.

I never thought that I would say this, but it appears that I was too timid in what I was asking for. My early-day motion, with the support of some campaign groups, suggested a currency transaction levy of 0.005 per cent., which would raise something in the region of £33 billion a year for international development. When we consider the trillions that are moved around the world, £33 billion is not very much, but it would be a huge step in the right direction for international development. I am very glad that that piece of work has taken hold in this country and across the world, because the people of this country are ready to say that it is time that the people who have made millions, billions and trillions off the back of ordinary working people across this country and across the world started playing their part.

For years, the story has been that if we do anything like that, everybody will run away and put their money somewhere else. That is the same story that people told me for years when I argued for the nationalisation of the banks, but what did we see in the past two years? Not only did they not run away; they ran towards and said, "Please, please, please, get us out of the hole that we've put you in." We have done that. We should now be quite clear and say to people, "We want you now to start playing your part in putting this right," and not just by having a transaction levy devoted to international development, but by looking beyond that. What else can we do with the money that we raise with a relatively small levy? The Austrian Government have suggested putting a 0.5 per cent. levy on financial transactions, which would produce £400 billion a year, which could effectively be spent on good causes. That is something that our Government should explore......

HAT TIP : Labour Friends Of Iraq


Anand said...

Nice post. Many Iraqis say things similar to:
"Saddam's forces also "razed 4,500 villages to the ground, destroying" the agricultural heartland of Iraq. The suffering in other parts of Iraq was the same. The key question that people ask me when I am over there is not "Why did you come here in 2003?" but "Why didn't you come here in 1983? We might have had a very different way of life.""
I once told Iraqi Mojo that the Iraqi civil war began in 1991 (the civil war that I think ended finally in 2008.) Mojo responded, it began in 1991 or 1980.

I think that the Iraqis do want economic interactions with Britain, China, India, Japan and the other large global economies. I hope that you and your friends help bring that about Harry.

It seems to me that since security is improved, now is the time to focus more on helping Iraqi workers, the non oil Iraqi economy, and improving civilian Iraqi governance. Instead, there is hardly any coverage of Iraq in America, Europe, the Arab press, or the rest of the world anymore. Thanks for not forgetting Iraq Harry.

Coventrian said...

Welcome back Harry

While you were away, did you find out how much Gary Kent is being paid for using Labour 'Friends' of Iraq to promote Maliki's Islamic Dawa Party?

If so, how much of this will come from £50,000 fine imposed on The Guardian for pointing out the truth about Kent's boss?

Harry Barnes said...

Anand : Before the invasion, Ann Clwyd did sound work with the Committee Against Repression and for Democratic Rights in Iraq (CARDRI) and with INDICT - http://www.indict.org.uk/about.php

Whilst I disagreed with her support for the invasion, she had deeper experiences and understandings about conditions in Iraq than others in her camp.

Dave Anderson opposed the invasion, but once it had happened he saw the need for the labour movement to work with our equivalents in Iraq to try to protect and advance conditions for the Iraqi people. It was possible to work for such ends via the Iraqi Trade Union Movement which emerged immediately after the invasion.

Dave Anderson became an MP after I left parliament in 2005. We share a common approach on matters such as Iraq, the Tobin Tax and Northern Ireland. He followed me onto the Common's Northern Ireland Select Committee. We both fully opposed terrorism, whilst looking for ways and mean to advance peace and reconciliation. An attitude we also share over Iraq.

Coventrian said...

The co-founder of Indict with Ann Clwyd was Peter Galbraith. (A strange position given Galbraith's support for Franjo Tudjman's ethnic cleansing of Croatia)

Galbraith has been exposed to have used his contacts with the corrupt Kurdish government to trouser up to 200 million dollars in an oil deal.


Does Harry know of anyone else posing as a humanitarian while using their contacts with the Kurdish government to feather their nests?

Harry Barnes said...

If anyone wishes to follow a boring exchange of views between Coventrain and myself which is relevant to his above comments, they should turn to the comments section here which have nothing to do with the theme of the thread -http://threescoreyearsandten.blogspot.com/2009/06/mps-expenses-what-is-answer.html#comments

I know nothing about his claims in relation to INDICT, but know that CARDRI was a body I was guilty of failing to be part of, although I had an interest in developments in Iraq which go back to my undertaking my national service in Basra in 1955-6. I regret my failure.

All I know about Coventrian is that he is deeply into the notion of guilt by association. So I have no hope as Tony and Cherie sent me a huge bouquet of flowers when I was in hospital in 1998. What more proof of my unreliable nature is needed by a conspiracy theorist?

Coventrian said...

Well Harry, it's hard to have an exchange of views when your response is always, 'I know nothing'.

The leadership of LFIQ consists of this gang of four: Presidents, Dave Anderson MP and Rt Hon Ann Clwyd MP, Vice President Harry Barnes and Director Gary Kent.

You have reposted here the disgusting pro-war and pro-occupation speeches of Anderson and Clwyd - which fail to mention the trerrible cost to the Iraqi people. A million dead and nothing said.

So am I to believe you have no knowlege of how much money is going to LFIQ as an organisation or to Gary Kent personally from either Maliki's Dawa Party or the corrupt Kurdistan Regional government?

Does the LFIQ publish accounts?

The LFIQ has been cohosting a stall with the Islamic Dawa Party a successive party conferences. What is it you find so appealing about them?

Perhaps their canvassing techniques?


'The 48-year-old mother of two said at the beginning of this month, a group of women campaigning for the Dawa Party came to her house.

“They told me that Dawa were the only ones fighting for widows’ rights in the parliament and that they were trying to get even more money to us if they win the election,” she said. According to Mrs Mohammed, they also promised to give her children jobs if she voted for them.

While such campaign claims are unsurprising, according to Mrs Mohammed’s account, the women went further and also said that all other political parties were plotting to stop widow payments.

“They said that our money would be lost with the wind if other parities win. I’m poor and cannot afford the risk of losing benefits so I’ve decided I must vote for the Dawa Party.”

Her friends, who are also widows, said they would be doing the same after receiving similar visits from Dawa campaigners.'

or their approach to security matters


'Diyala was only the first publicized case of possibly politically motivated arrests. In December the ISOF arrested as many as thirty-five officials in the Interior Ministry who were thought to be in opposition to Maliki's Islamic Dawa Party. This past March the ISOF arrested at least one leader of the Awakening Councils, semiofficial Sunni neighborhood militias that have been increasingly at odds with Maliki over his failure to keep a promise to incorporate the councils into the military or give them other employment.

The Maliki government has developed a "culture of direct control," says Michael Knights, a Lafer Fellow at the Washington Institute and the head of its Iraq program. Knights visits Iraq regularly and has close contact with the country's security services. He says the people in charge of the ISOF at the regional levels are "personally chosen loyalists or relatives of Maliki. It reminds me of Saddam." Knights says that Maliki is only supposed to approve or reject missions that come to him, but occasionally he will "assert his prerogative as the commander in chief and tell the ISOF to do something or not to do something." Knights raises the possibility that the ISOF will become Maliki's personal death squad. "The prime minister is looking for re-election, and there are not that many restraints on his ability to target political opponents, as [his government] has been doing with the Sadrists for years now." '

But I forget Harry, you know nothing.

Harry Barnes said...

Coventrian : Another thing I don't know is who you are.

Anand said...

"which fail to mention the trerrible cost to the Iraqi people. A million dead and nothing said."

Perhaps a million Iraqis died fighting for their freedom from the evil Saddam and his nefarious followers in the great Iraqi civil war of 1975 and 1980-2008. We should remember and honor their sacrifice and patriotism.

I was pained to see you spout false Baa3thist propaganda about the heroes of the Iraqi resistance against Saddam, namely "Maliki's Dawa Party or the corrupt Kurdistan Regional government."

How dare you attack the Iraqi Special Operations Forces. These heroes are protecting the whole world from the scum of the earth, the extremist Salafi Takfiris of Jahannam. {The most prominent of which are the Al Qaeda linked groups.}

The ISOF are one of the best quality special forces in the entire world. They defeated the Takfiri Al Qaeda wackos, Baa3thists and the other enemies of Iraq; driving them to Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. If they ever come back, the ISOF will be waiting for them. Hint, the filth shouldn't come back :-)

Harry: "Coventrian : Another thing I don't know is who you are."
Harry, he might be some non Iraqi Sunni Arab bigot who moved to England. He might enjoy salivating while he talks to his fellow Baa3this in Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt about mass murdering Shiites, Kurds and Iraqis. Unfortunately, Harry, there are far too many of his type.

The peace movement should have booted his type from their movement long ago.

Coventrian said...

So Harry, you need to know who I am to defend LFIQ's cosy arrangement with the Islamic Dawa party and the corrupt Kurdish Government?

What have you got to hide?

Anand said...

Coventrian the Baa3thist:

Apologize to the Islamic Dawa party, Kurdish government and ISOF.

Harry Barnes said...

Coventrian : To the best of my knowledge I have never met anyone from the Dawa Party. But if I had, I do not believe that it would have been a sin. I once negiotated with Gerry Adams, but this did not make me a Provisional IRA supporter.

I might even have met you, but given your employment of secret service tactics I have no way of knowing this.

I hope that the development of conspiracy theories is not something that is catching. I had better watch it.

Coventrian said...

'To the best of my knowledge I have never met anyone from the Dawa Party.'

No, but you have met their representative, Gary Kent, on many occasions.

How much has he, and the LFIQ received from the Islamic Dawa Party and the corrupt Kurdistan Regional government?

Not a difficult question for you, as vice-President of LFIQ, to answer.

I wonder why you are being so coy.

Harry Barnes said...

Coventrian : "How one does go on and on" said Ella Wheeler Wilcox dipping her Pen into another bucket of ink.

Coventrian said...

“Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive”. Sir Walter Scott

So, how much has Gary Kent, and the LFIQ received from the Islamic Dawa Party and the corrupt Kurdistan Regional government?

Why do you refuse to answer?

Anand said...

Coventrian Baa3thist . . . what kind of slime are you? Your jealousy of the Iraqi speaks ill of you.

The ISOF, Dawa party and Kurdish Regional Government smashed your friends, your beloved Baa3thists and Takfiri Al Qaedas.

You lost! deal with it. If you really are a Brit rather than a non Iraqi Sunni Arab bigot; then some Brits are incredibly stupid. How the empire has fallen.

Harry Barnes said...

Coventrian : To make the same point seven times (on this thread alone) is clearly excessive. I am basically Vice President for old times sake as I was fully involved with Labour Friends of Iraq when it was established and I was an MP. When I retired I moved away from its day to day activities. I have complete faith in the actions of Gary Kent, Dave Anderson and Ann Clwyd in pursuing its case. To the credit of Ann and Dave, they seem to be the only MPs who concentrated on Iraq during the Queen's Speech Debate.

Unless you make fresh points in my comment box, I will just ignore you. I normally keep my comment box open, except when I close it down because I am following other priorities and for those who are so anonymous that they don't use a tag. You use a tag but hide behind it. That is your privilege. My privilege is to ignore tedious repetition.

Coventrian said...

Interesting that you don't deny that the LFIQ takes money from the Islamic Dawa Party and the corrupt Kurdistan Regional Government. So I'll take that as confirmation, the question now is just how much?

As for your organisation's 'support' for Iraqi workers, here you allowed David Hirsh (a notorious supporter of Israel's murderous attack on Gaza) to smear a brave Iraqi Trade Unionist for having the temerity to oppose the occupation.


I'm sure you had 'complete faith in the actions of Gary Kent' in publishing such filth.

Anand said...

Coventrian, you might be a Brit concerned about petty British politics that almost no one outside Britain cares about.

But please leave the heroes of Iraq, such as Dawa, KRG and ISOF outside your slander campaign against Brits (that almost no one has ever heard about.) Please insult other Brits without smearing the lions of Iraq.

Thank you.