MP who helped patrol no-fly zone in Iraq insists action can work

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AN MP who helped to police the Iraqi no-fly zone in 1995 claims the measure has already been proved to work despite some critics questioning the effectiveness of similar action in the past.

Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney spent six months policing the northern no-fly zone in Iraq when he was a Flight Lieutenant in the RAF, as Tornados launched regular bombing missions to take out Iraqi missile defences.

He said the fact Libya had already declared a ceasefire showed that the decision to authorise a no-fly zone over the country had already been effective.

“We’ve potentially saved hundreds of lives already this weekend by getting this resolution and getting ready militarily,” said Mr McCartney. “It’s been effective already.”

The UN resolution authorising a no-fly zone has been widely welcomed by MPs, but some critics have questioned the impact of similar measures in protecting citizens on the ground in the past.

A no-fly zone over Bosnia in the 1990s was not enough to prevent massacres at Srebrenica, and Iraqi forces regularly flouted no-fly zones imposed following the first Gulf War in the early 1990s.

Two separate no-fly zones were imposed over Iraq in an attempt to stop Saddam Hussain’s forces carrying out atrocities on Iraqi Kurds in the north and on Shi’ite Muslims in the south.

Over the duration of the zones, several Iraqi fighter planes were shot down and a number of Iraqi defence systems bombed, but the US also lost two helicopters during friendly fire incidents.

Speaking in the Commons, Labour’s Willie Bain criticised weaknesses in the no-fly zone system, claiming the Nato-backed no-fly zone failed to prevent the massacre at Srebrenica, when 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed by Bosnian Serbs. They were attacked by ground forces, rather than from the air, and were meant to be protected by Dutch soldiers.

Mr McCartney said desert conditions would make it a relatively simple task to take out anti-aircraft defences in Libya if that is necessary.

He served at the Turkish Incirlik air base near the northern Iraqi border and the allies’ base in Zakho, northern Iraq, helping run operations and manage relations with local villagers.