Swansea UK: Peter Hain MP tells university audience that Middle East must lead the fight against the rise of IS

The outgoing Labour MP was speaking at a free public lecture at Swansea University on Thursday evening

Peter Hain

Peter Hain

ISIL’s terror and beheadings threaten havoc on Middle East countries more than the West and they must therefore take ownership of defeating it, former Middle East Minister Peter Hain has insisted.

Speaking at a free public lecture at Swansea University, Mr Hain explained the complexity and dangers of the Shia-Sunni conflict between Muslims in the region.

“The barbarism of the group Islamic State or ISIL risks engulfing the Middle East in a catastrophe of terror, sending shockwaves of instability raging through the region with incalculable political and humanitarian consequences,” Mr Hain said.

“Last year they executed 700 members of the Syrian Al-Sheitaat tribe and 1,700 Iraqis in Tikrit.

“Women and children have been sold into sex slavery, boys crucified and a captured Jordanian airman videoed while he was burnt alive trapped in a cage. Victims have been forced on camera to kiss the heads of the recently decapitated moments before their own deaths.

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“Eyes have been gouged out of defeated enemies and minority groups are reportedly hunted for sport according to eye-witnesses reporting to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

“Acts of unspeakable brutality like these are quite deliberate: helping ISIL create the myth that it is omnipotent, spreading terror and total incomprehension that any human being could ever behave in this way – even more so when normal British boys become such monsters in adulthood.”

‘No passing the buck’

In his lecture, Mr Hain stressed that it is vital for the long-term prosperity of the Middle East that it’s regional powers, most notably Iran and Saudi Arabia take the lead in defeating ISIL, instead of pursuing their own increasingly sectarian agendas and letting Western powers effectively police the region in their absence.

He said: “It is significant that Iran’s Republican Guard in March 2015 began taking the lead in the defence of the Iraqi city of Tikrit with the blessing of the Iraqi government.

“Nevertheless, there is a real danger that by stepping in at all western powers risk freeing Middle East governments and their militia proxies to pursue other sectarian agendas to the detriment of the anti-ISIL campaign.

“The West must be very determined and careful to ensure there is regional ownership of, and responsibility for, tackling the ISIL problem, rather than allowing them to pass the buck.

“The Commons Defence Committee argued that Britain must ramp up its involvement in the conflict, to match the contribution of the US, Germany, Italy, Spain and Australia.

“But the danger is that this will turn the conflict into the very one ISIL craves: with the ‘infidels’ of the west.”

‘No match for the military’

Syrian people gather at the site of one of two car bombs that exploded in the pro-government district of Zahra

Mr Hain went on to say: “In proudly publicising its own atrocities ISIL seeks to goad the West into reacting emotionally, not strategically, on the basis of a hypothetical threat to the West when the real threat is in the region.

“Yet for all their bloodlust, capabilities and wealth, ISIL is no match for the military, surveillance and intelligence capacities of NATO, especially the US and Britain.

“US air power has already provided the Iraqi government with the help needed to come to the support of the Kurds and other minorities facing genocide by ISIL, but air power will always be insufficient, which is why regional powers must coordinate on the ground, preferably Sunni regional powers.

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“The significant contribution of half a dozen Arab countries has slowed ISIL’s remorseless advance and some territory has been retaken.

“Iran’s de facto, if covert, blessing for Western military strikes is of seismic importance, opening up an opportunity for future engagement and collaboration which could be transformative for the whole region, Israel-Palestine included.

“Although Britain has made the right choice helping local Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting ISIL with air strikes, drones, military equipment and other support, British troops on the ground would be entirely counterproductive.”

‘Medieval caliphate’

He added: “As long as the Sunni-Shia fault line divides and poisons the politics of the Middle East, the region will be never be stable.

“Defeating ISIL will be impossible without substantive progress in Iraq towards a democratic, secular and unified government encompassing Sunnis, Shias and Kurds – perhaps based upon a federal structure.

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“This could provide the stability not experienced in living memory but which Iraqis crave and deserve.

“We are also seeing the beginnings of enhanced regional cooperation through the coalition of Arab States currently engaging in air strikes and military attacks against ISIL.

‘Thawing of relations’

“They evidently do not want a return to a medieval caliphate but look forward to building modern nations.

“The last few months have seen an indirect alignment between the US and Iran, because of threats to Iranian interests.

“ISIL represents the end of Shia rights in Iraq which is not only home to a large Shia population but also to sacred locations in the Shia tradition.

“To the overwhelmingly Shia population and leadership of Iran this is incredibly important – even to the point of discreetly backing their old enemy, the US, in the bombing of ISIL strongholds.

“There is, however no prospect of Iran, which has consistently opposed US involvement, especially military, in the region, turning cheerleader.

“A thawing of relations with the West is the most that can be expected for now, and depends upon the outcome of current negotiations over Iran’s nuclear intentions: civil or military.”

source : Wales Online

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