What will Iraq action achieve?

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THERE is now every likelihood that Britain’s Armed Forces will be engaged in military action in Iraq by the end of this weekend. Today’s emergency recall of Parliament appears to be a formality after Lord Ashdown, a former leader of the Liberal Democrats and respected authority on defence matters, said it would be “folly” to ignore Iraq’s request for intervention to counter the “convulsion of barbarity” being undertaken by the so-called “Islamic State”.

THERE is now every likelihood that Britain’s Armed Forces will be engaged in military action in Iraq by the end of this weekend. Today’s emergency recall of Parliament appears to be a formality after Lord Ashdown, a former leader of the Liberal Democrats and respected authority on defence matters, said it would be “folly” to ignore Iraq’s request for intervention to counter the “convulsion of barbarity” being undertaken by the so-called “Islamic State”.

To his credit, David Cameron has been careful not to repeat the mistakes of last year when the House of Commons rejected the Government’s plans to intervene in Syria. He was also mindful of Tony Blair’s disastrous legacy and only set out the terms of Britain’s engagement to the Middle East once the Iraqis had made a formal request for the deployment of the UK’s expertise and there was clarity on the legal status of such a mission.

Yet it will not be in Britain’s best long-term interests if today’s debate becomes a mere rubber-stamping exercise, despite Lord Ashdown speaking so forcefully about the “coalition of commitment” on the part of the countries willing to join military operations and the equally important “coalition of acquiescence” from Iran and Syria, two formidable foes of Western foreign policy.

Mr Cameron still needs to answer this question – how will “shock and awe” air strikes make the world a safer place when the imagery has the potential to radicalise a new generation of jihadists? The Prime Minister also needs to explain the logic behind the RAF blowing up IS targets in Iraq and not Syria – the Tory leader has said this is a terrorist organisation that does not respect international borders – and how a more stable Middle East can be secured without the deployment of so-called “boots on the ground”.

Though Lord Ashdown’s intervention means the Lib Dems are likely to support the Tories, thereby securing a government majority irrespective of Labour’s final position, these are all legitimate questions which backbench MPs have every right to ask.

It is their democratic duty to do so before Britain becomes embroiled in another war without end that cannot be won.

Moving forward

Rotherham’s national lessons

THE public’s opprobrium, following Professor Alexis Jay’s report into the sexual exploitation and abuse of at least 1,400 youngsters in Rotherham, has inevitably focused on the weak leadership of the council and police leaders who failed to take decisive action to stop this scandal.

Depressingly, this is not an isolated instance. It is a national problem that requires a national response which leaves no one in any doubt about the seriousness of any abuse allegation and why multi-culturalism must not stand in the way of any investigation.

The sadness is that two Cabinet Ministers – Keighley-born Communities Secretary Eric Pickles and Nicky Morgan, the recently-appointed Education Secretary – have felt the need to write to every local authority to remind them of their obligations as Louise Casey, the Government’s expert on troubled families, begins her own inspection of Rotherham Council and whether past mistakes were rectified before children’s services director Joyce Thacker belatedly tendered her resignation exactly a week ago.

As such, town halls have a three-fold challenge – to review existing protocols; to “come clean” on any claims that have not been properly investigated and to ensure that there is no repeat of the Rotherham scandal. Anything less will be a betrayal of each and every victim of abuse.

Billy flies the flag

Why Britain backs Team Europe

NO PLAYER competing at the Ryder Cup will have as much experience as Bingley caddie Billy Foster as he prepares for a record 12th appearance at this bi-ennial contest between Europe and America’s best golfers.

He’s done it all. He’s carried the bag of the gladiatorial golfing god Severiano Ballesteros; he helped Darren Clarke survive the Ryder Cup’s emotional roller-coaster in 2006 weeks after his wife’s death from cancer and he’s now back in harness with Worksop’s Lee Westwood.

Yet it thanks to caddies like Foster, the unsung heroes of top-class golf, that the Ryder Cup has become the one sporting event where Britain’s most ardent Eurosceptics – including a significant number of Ukip delegates meeting in Doncaster for the party’s annual conference – wave the European Union’s flag with pride and even cheer when a German sinks a winning putt, just as a nerveless Martin Kaymer did two years ago at the very denouement of the “Miracle of Medinah”.

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