My Views on IS and the Middle East


Ahead of the recall of Parliament tomorrow, I want to update local people about my view on IS and the current situation in the Middle East.

Like many British people, I opposed the US/UK invasion of Iraq in 2003. I believe that some of the chaos we now see in that part of the world today is, at least partly, a legacy of that action. But I do not believe that affects the urgency of the situation in Iraq and Syria right now.

As a former Member of Parliament’s International Development Committee, and as the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Britain-Palestine, I have seen for myself some of the consequences of war on civilians in both central Africa and the Middle East. I have been to refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey for people fleeing the civil war in Syria, and I am in direct contact with some of those working on the ground to provide humanitarian relief in Northern Iraq today. There is no doubt in my mind that there is a humanitarian crisis unfolding there. In recent days over 130,000 Syrian refugees fled to Turkey as a result of the threat from IS.

As a new MP in the mid-90s, I remember being horrified by the way the international community allowed so many to be butchered in Bosnia and about the genocide which took place in Rwanda. Those massacres led to the United Nations taking on a new mandate called the “Responsibility to Protect” where crimes like these are committed. There are important differences between Iraq today with both Bosnia and Rwanda in the 1990s. But there are parallels too. That is why I believe it is critically important that the international community, including the UK, faces up to our responsibilities. This does include some form of military action, which is necessary to keep IS at bay, and facilitate this humanitarian relief and stabilisation in the region.

Along with other MPs, I will obviously carefully consider the precise proposal that will be put before Parliament tomorrow. However, I set out my overall view on the international community’s response to IS in an article in the Huffington Post back in August.

I am absolutely clear that such action cannot be, or be perceived as, any form of continuation of the 2003 US/UK invasion. It underlines the point recently made by the Richard Barratt, former head of Counterterrorism in MI6, about the importance of a political strategy to prevent the spread of IS-style ideology, and that military action can even be counter-productive if approached in isolation.

I strongly believe action we take must be part of a clear and evidence-based strategy to combat the unfolding crisis in the Middle East – one which strictly upholds international law and ends the accusation that we display double standards in the region. That is why I am one of those who continues to urge the UK Government to take much stronger action to resolve the situation in Israel and Palestine. You can read more about what I have said and done on the Middle East in recent years here.

If you would like to share your views with me on this important issue please feel free to write in with your views. It is really important to me that I know the range of views which constituents have on these matters. You can find out how to contact me here:

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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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