BY MOHAMMAD SHOEB
DOHA: Any military strike to stop the advancement by ISIS in Iraq without an inclusive government in Baghdad “will be counter-productive”, the UK Secretary of State for Defence, Philip Hammond (pictured), told a news conference yesterday, after meeting with Foreign Minister H E Dr Khalid bin Mohamed Al Attiyah.
“We both agree that a military intervention will not be a successful way to resolve the crisis unless there is first a political solution,” Hammond said, adding “once there is a fair and inclusive government in place, that government has to take a lead in defending its territory and dealing with insurgents and extremist groups.”
Hammond said given the ground realities in Iraq, there is a “broad political consensus” among all GCC states, including Qatar, to first place an inclusive government to find a sustainable solution of the crisis.
He reiterated that the UK does not support or have any plan for military action in Iraq. “We advise all our friends and allies, including the US, to deliver a political solution.”
If military intervention will still be an option after an inclusive government, he said: “The government will have to deal with military challenges it faces. And I am sure allies of that government will address requests for any technical support and advice sympathetically.”
However, he stressed that there has to be a better future for Sunnis in Iraq otherwise it would be difficult to establish a united Iraq.
On the issue of acquired weaponry by ISIS, he said dealing with ISIS is the second part of the challenge, which can be tacked only when there is a legitimate government credible to all the people of the country, including Sunnis, Shias and Kurds.
“ISIL is a terrorist organisation, there is no question about that, but we have to understand rapid advances it has made could not have been possible without tacit support of a much wider Sunni community which is not terrorist. They are frustrated and discontented about the situation,” he added.
“The first challenge is to have a government in Baghdad, which is inclusive enough to attract ISIS supporters away from aligning themselves with terrorists. There has to be a better future for Sunnis.”
Asked if the UK is working in coordination with the US, he said: “The US is our closest ally. We have a huge amount of coordination on all aspects about defence arrangement. But we do not have a specific coordination on this issue. However, we work very, very closely with Americans.”
To a question on who represents the popular voice of the Sunni community in Iraq, Hammond added: “That is not for me to say. There are tribal leaders and military councils established. This is one of the questions I have been asking my interlocutors in GCC countries about the leaders they are in contact with to identify the credible voice.”
However, he acknowledged that it is difficult for outsiders to identify who the credible community leaders are? “A solution has to be found quickly,” he said.
Referring to Iraqi constitution, he said the process of forming a new government has to begin by the first week of July.
Whether Sunnis will have a greater power share, he said: “Any power share has to be equitable among all communities based on their role in the country.”
To a question about recent air strikes on Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) militants, he said he does not have any information about that.
On the UK’s role, he said: “We have our own security interests. The stability in Iraq is necessary for the stability of the region. We have stakes in the region, including Iraq.”
Asked who is supporting ISIS, Hammond said: “Militants have been able to acquire very considerable weaponry and cash over the last 10 days, which made them self-sustained. In addition, a large section of the army abandoned their position due to factionalism.”
Asked if he realised the UK and the US were are accountable for the current situation in Iraq, he said: “I would not say that whether directly or indirectly we are responsible for the mess in Iraq.
“But we would recognise that we have very considerable interest in this region and the outcome in Iraq. So we would do everything that we can to ensure a good outcome,” he added.