UK: There Is No Profit In Peace By Kelly Grehan

On 15th February 2003 I was one of the 3 million people who marched through the streets of London, one of 600 cities that held protests around the world at what was then, the imminent bombing of Iraq.

You might think that such a big, and a global show of feeling would have at least slowed down the march towards the invasion, but days later, on March 19th, George Bush announced:

“On my orders, coalition forces have begun striking selected targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein’s ability to wage war. These are opening stages of what will be a broad and concerted campaign…..My fellow citizens, the dangers to our country and the world will be overcome. We will pass through this time of peril and carry on the work of peace. We will defend our freedom. We will bring freedom to others and we will prevail.

His words could not have turned out to be more ironic: the invasion, turned into an occupation.

No thought was given to what came next.  

Credible estimates of Iraq War casualties range from 150,000 to 460,000.  Iraq’s armed factions still remain locked in a struggle with the forces of the Islamic State.

This morning we woke up to the news Britain, France and the US had launched air strikes on Syria, or as Donald Trump put it:

The nations of Britain, France, and the United States of America have marshalled their righteous power against barbarism and brutality.”

To quote Jeremy Corbyn “Bombs won’t save lives or bring about peace.”

This action occurred despite Reports saying UN Inspectors were in Damascus last night to carry out inspection of Douma today.

The UK could have enabled the inspection and not joined the US & France launch strikes in Syria.

The BBC are reporting that Theresa May pushed for an early strike “to avoid having to get parliamentary consent”.

This while we lecture other countries on democracy!

The Syrian conflict began seven years ago as a peaceful uprising against the president, but has now turned into a full-scale civil war.

Many groups and countries are involved and perhaps unsurprisingly the jihadist groups Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda have flourished.

The US, UK, France and other Western countries have provided varying degrees of support for what they consider “moderate” rebels.  A global coalition they lead has also carried out air strikes on IS militants in Syria since 2014 and helped an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) capture territory from the jihadists.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group with a network of sources on the ground, had documented the deaths of 353,900 people (up to March 2018).

This includes 106,000 civilians.   1.5 million people have been left with permanent disabilities, including 86,000 who have lost limbs.

At least 6.1 million Syrians are internally displaced, while another 5.6 million have fled abroad.

The figures do not include 56,900 people who it said were missing and presumed dead. The group also estimated 100,000 deaths had not been documented.

Neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, where 92% of them now live, have struggled to cope with one of the largest refugee exoduses in recent history.

As the 6th richest economy, you might have expected the UK to play a role in aiding the civilalians, but the truth is this country is incentivised to pursue conflict for profit.

But as I wrote a few months back Britain is the worlds second biggest arms exporter.(https://theavengeruk.com/2017/09/13/blood-on-our-hands-london-hosts-worlds-biggest-arms-fair-by-kelly-grehan/).

In July 2014 the then Foreign Secretary William Hague confirmed to Parliament that the UK had indeed exported chemicals that “were likely to have been diverted for use in the Syrian programme”.

This morning David Cameron said  “I firmly support the military action taken in Syria. The barbaric & intolerable use of chemical weapons should never go unchecked.”

Yet, 10 months after the Syrian uprising David Cameron granted chemical export licences to British firms so they could supply chemical weapons to Syria!!

Here is an idea for you David, maybe we could prevent chemical weapons attacks by NOT SELLING CHEMICAL WEAPONS.

Maybe Britain has redeemed itself with its’ efforts to secure safety for those who have left Syria?

In 2016, Lord Dubs sponsored an amendment to the Immigration Act 2016 to offer unaccompanied refugee children safe passage to Britain amidst the European migrant crisis. Originally rejected by the House of Commons, the amendment was eventually accepted by the government following a second vote in favour by the Lords.

In February 2017, the Home Office abandoned the scheme after accepting just 350 out of the planned 3,000 child refugees.

To quote David Lammy MP “We have today found ourselves in the morally untenable position of bombing Syria without Parliament voting at the same time as refusing to take in child refugees who are fleeing the bombing in Syria. As a society we must reflect hard on how we have ended up in this situation.”

A View From Kurdistan By Cllr Karen Constantine

By Cllr Karen Constantine 

It seemed to me that there was scant coverage in the UK on the critical situation emerging in Kurdistan.

This was a surprise given its global importance and that independence referenda are a current ‘zeitgeist’ issue (Brexit, Scotland, Catalonia, etc ). 

By contrast, here we were, in Kurdistan, post referendum as part of the UK election monitoring delegation saturated in news, digital media and surrounded by people of all nationalities intensely absorbed and totally preoccupied with every twist, turn and nuance of this moment of political and social history. 
My companions, other delegation members, were a mix of MPs, MEPs, Peers, political analysts, trade unionists, Kurds, reporters, and more. 

A substantial number from around the world were evidently deployed across Kurdistan to ‘monitor’ the referendum to see if it was free and fair. Our League of Kurdish Nations delegation comprised 18 people. 

It’s an often overused hyperbole, but this really was the ‘trip of a lifetime’. Not just for the obvious thrill of discovering a captivating country – Kurdistan is mesmerising – but the immersion into the referendum was like nothing else I have ever experienced, nor frankly, do I expect to again. 

We were divided into several teams in order to cover as many polling stations and areas as possible. My own team, which included seasoned political activists that know election process inside out, spent an arduously long day observing 6 polling stations and monitoring the close of the vote and the beginning of the count on 25th September.
We were a formally accredited group, registered and carrying credentials. We were assigned a protocol car* and driver, a polling station list and after that we were absolutely free to go as we pleased. We joked Python-style “no one expects the independent monitoring team”. Nor did they. Our arrival at each station was unannounced. We swept in. Of course we were looking for obvious signs of a well run polling station, no coercion of people, a regular and systematic process, an adherence to key polling principles and conformity across the piece. This we found. 

With regard to unfettered participation of citizens we noted, women with children, young and old, refugees, Yazides, Muslims, Turkmen and Christian’s. Kurds leave you in no doubt of their pride of being peaceful and inclusive. They are proud of their religious tolerance and inclusivity. 
At the IDP polling stations (displaced person camps – there are 240,000 refugees in Kurdistan in 52 camps, 41 are from Iraq and the rest are from elsewhere in the Middle East) we came across those people who have refugee status, mainly from the camps of Mosul. 

These polling stations were overwhelmed

Demand had not been adequately calculated, resulting in far, far too few staff to cope. This meant that what had started as optimistic and patient queues were becoming increasingly fractious in the face of 5-6 hour wait in the slowly snaking queues. A late afternoon decision to extend polling station hours was wise. As far as I’m aware all those that wanted to vote and who were registered to vote, voted.
As a substitute delegation for the UN, who could not facilitate this unrecognised referendum, we enjoyed unprecedented political access. We were invited to all the key forums and meetings with High Commission, Electoral Commission and the Governor of Erbil. I met with and questioned Hushar Suwaley of the KDP and the Head of the foreign relations bureau for the PUK. I also met and questioned members of the KRG (A Turkman MP Dr Mohammedali Yaseen Taha ) and KRG staff member Rezan Kader currently ‘acting’ as Consulate equivalent. We even had an opportunity to meet with the Bazarni foundation which provides support to 17,000 orphans among other amazing work. 

A mix of formal and seemingly informal gatherings gave adequate opportunity to share observations and ask occasionally thorny questions. 

What are the Thorny questions? 

Was this a ‘proper’ referendum? 

Well, no. Under the control of Iraq, at odds with the will of the Iranians and clearly incurring the wrath of Turkey’s Erdogan, it was ‘all but’ a legitimate referendum. Well conducted, sincere and overwhelmingly precise in its outcome. 93% of the vote, some 72% of the population voted ‘yes’ to independence. 

However the legal status of such a quasi legal process is analysed it cannot be dismissed. 
The will of the people is clear. 

Will Turkey now cut off its nose to spite its face? 

The threat to starve the Kurds by withholding £8-10 Billion of trade from Turkey to Kurdistan seems at best ill thought though as its this line of business and trade, including facilitation of the lucrative oil pipeline which feeds Ceyhan 550,000 barrels of oil per day the KRG’s main source of income. But clearly also revenue stream for Turkey. 

Iraq’s threats to close down air space have manifested with Erbil and Sulaimaniya closed. But for how long? 


Meanwhile UKs Foreign policy is a joker card in Boris Johnson’s clumsy hands.
Those of us that support the Kurds, both politically and emotionally – because it feels like the right thing, must do what we can do to apply political pressure. 

The patience of the Kurds throughout their decades of oppression is remarkable. They are the last group in the world without a ‘state’. This has been a battle of hearts and minds. Despite stating otherwise I wonder if they will move to a unilateral Declaration of Independence. After all, if it’s good enough for the Catalonians…

There’s an old Kurdish saying ‘Soup cannot be eaten at the same temperature it’s cooked at – you have to let it settle down.’ We’ll all have to wait … and hope…

*’protocol’ was the support team put into place to facilitate our fact finding. 


Karen is a Labour Councillor and was in Kurdistan for the elections.

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