Islamic State: Government must heed lessons from previous Iraq war, says Ken Clarke

Former chancellor labels 2003 invasion 'catastrophe'

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Kenneth Clarke has warned David Cameron not to launch UK air strikes against Isis unless it is part of a long-term plan to bring stability to the Middle East.

The former Cabinet minister described the US-UK invasion of Iraq in 2003 as  “disastrous” and a “catastrophe”, which has contributed to the “anarchy” in the region today. He said the West must learn lessons as it prepared for action against Isis.

Speaking in a Commons debate on foreign affairs for the first time since leaving the Cabinet in July, the former Chancellor used his new freedom to warn the Prime Minister that it would be a “political outrage” with “very dubious legality” to take military action against the jihadists without first winning Parliament’s support.

Mr Clarke said Isis was “one of the most barbaric and outrageous" organisations to emerge for some time and he would like to see it "degraded and destroyed". But he argued it was "slightly putting the cart before the horse" to focus on whether the Government would be supported if it decided to take part in air strikes.


He said any regional alliance would need to include "some people with whom we have been enemies and with whom we have very serious issues on other fronts". He added: "I'm not sure the states of Iraq and Syria will ever exist as we know them. I do think we need a political strategy to make sure what long term stability is going to replace the anarchy we've helped create so far."

John Woodock, a Labour member of the Commons Defence Committee, described the "twisted" ideology of Isis as the greatest threat to global and British values since Nazi Germany. Joining Conservative MPs in calling for Britain to lead the fight against extremism in the Middle East, he said: “Just like the rise of the Nazis, we will all ultimately be held to account for what we did or did not do in confronting the threat when we had the chance.”

Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, said no decisions had been made but promised: “If we reach the conclusion that joining in American-led air strikes would be the appropriate way to shoulder our share of the burden, then in accordance with the established practice we should ensure the House of Commons to debate and vote on that.”

In a hint that the Government is moving towards air strikes, Mr Hammond said: “This Government is clear that we cannot shirk our responsibilities in the world. If violations of international norms are allowed to go unchallenged and the spread of terrorist organisations with violent and extremist ideologies is allowed to go unchecked, the future prospects for our own national security and that of the friends and partners who share our values will only get worse."