The main party leaders strengthened their positions at the recent wave of party conferences but their fate at the general election hinges on the prospects of economic renewal and possibly tumultuous events in the Middle East or elsewhere. The slaughter in Syria could endure and spread. An attack on Iran to stop it acquiring nuclear weapons is another major wild card.
We don't know if the Iranian leadership has decided to go nuclear and, if so, how long it would take to weaponise their nuclear capacity. A senior journalist interviewing UK foreign secretary William Hague at a fringe meeting at their party conference confidently predicted an attack next year. Hague wisely refused to answer hypothetical questions and averred that there were many scenarios, including the possibility that sanctions and international inspections would prevent what I call Atomic Ayatollahs.
Britain would most probably be sucked into the aftermath of such an attack, not least if the USA joins in. Yet it is clear is that there is little appetite for foreign adventures in Britain. Many feel that our fingers were burnt by the invasion of Iraq which remains unpopular. It was, therefore, not surprising that there was precious little discussion about foreign policy at the two main conferences. There were the usual packed receptions for friends of Israel, the Arab States and Azerbajan and keynote speeches by Hague and his Labour counterpart, Douglas Alexander but few fringe meetings.
A major exception to this was provided by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), which organised two fringe meetings on the UN's Responsibility to Protect doctrine that allows for international actions if states don't protect their own people. The meetings also highlighted the campaign to recognise the Kurdish genocide and focused on lessons from the Kurdish experience for Syria and the Middle East.
Both meetings attracted a very good number of party activists, visitors and diplomats and provided a platform for MPs and thinkers with foreign policy expertise and experience who are struggling to mobilise public opinion against a Ba'athist regime that has so far killed about 30,000 people and which possesses chemical weapons which it could use in the last resort.
KRG High Representative to the UK Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman commented that the decisions of John Major and Tony Blair to intervene in Iraq saved many lives and built a foundation for stability and security in the region.
As the chair, I told participants that the KRG had become a respected, confident and credible interlocutor and has given important assistance to their fellow Kurds in Syria.
Mike Gapes MP, a former chair and current member of the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, told the Labour fringe that the lessons from the Kurdish case are clear and yet we are not acting to provide some sort of security in Syria.
At the Conservative meeting, British-Kurdish MP Nadhim Zahawi said that if anything good can come from the terrible events in Kurdistan it is that the world understands and learns the terrible price of indifference. He told the Conservative audience that "we have a responsibility to act and I hope that all the world leaders involved in this decision look at the events of Kurdistan and Bosnia and commit to helping those in Syria currently suffering from Government brutality and oppression."
Conservative MP Robert Halfon, a strong supporter of genocide-stricken nations and the Kurdistan region, added that "Kurds have suffered a long genocide. When you see how intense Saddam was in removing the Kurds from the face of the earth, you understand what these people have been through. Even more remarkable they have achieved so much in such a short space of time. I believe it is my duty to help other nations that have suffered from genocide."
Labour MP Dave Anderson, another long-standing friend of the Kurds, wrote about another historical parallel: "Intervention takes many forms and is a wide spectrum. At one end is boots on the ground and occupation. Paradoxically perhaps, the other extreme is non-intervention. The left should know this from the experience of non-intervention in the Spanish Civil War, when an elected government was left to swing in the wind while the Nazis assisted General Franco and infamously destroyed Guernica - a lasting monument to fascist barbarism. Not taking sides is to take sides and, in this case, to allow Iran, Russia and others to prop up a tyrant for their own selfish interests."
Leon Trotsky, not someone I usually quote, once said that people may not be interested in politics but politics is often interested in them. British people may be wary of foreign interventions but foreign crises can profoundly affect domestic politics. The suffering that we see every day in Syria won't go away and will have to be addressed, sooner rather than later.
I believe that these fringe meetings and networking with party members have helped increase understanding of these pressing issues and the Kurdistan Region's possibly pivotal role in what could be decisive events in the Middle East.
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