When I began visiting the Kurdistan Region in 2006, one big issue was how best to deal with its awkward neighbour, Turkey. We heard stories of people finding it difficult to cross the border. One trade union delegation, delivering a fire engine to Erbil, was delayed for a day at the border without food or water. It was all pretty petty stuff but more serious dangers simmered. Just five years ago, 100,000 Turkish troops were poised on the border with the Kurdistan Region.
We're no longer the same UN. We're more and more in conflict zones. And we've taken certain decisions that mean we're no longer seen as neutral. The UN flag is now a target instead of a shield. That means we have to change how we go about things, because right now our colleagues and their families are paying too high a price.
It sometimes seems that Iraqi Kurds have no word with the urgency of manana but it hasn't stopped Iraqi Kurdistan making tremendous strides in a few short years. The best start date for their renaissance is 2006, the first full year of the new Iraqi constitution, agreed by the people and which recognised Kurdistan as a largely autonomous region.
A decade has passed since George Bush issued an ultimatum, demanding that Saddam Hussein and his sons were to leave Iraq within 48 hours or face an invasion by the US. Bush's rhetoric made frequent mention of a 'free' Iraq, a country that would be 'liberated' from a dictator, yet the events that transpired from that ill-fated speech have devastated a country.
On Sunday 28th April, the Iraqi Communications and Media Commission announced the suspension of the operating licenses of nine Iraqi Satellite TV Stations and the closure of the Baghdad Offices of Al Jazeera Arabic. The justification given was that the mainly Sunni stations were inciting hatred and divisions in Iraq.
The great achievement of post-Saddam Iraq is its transition from a centralised and mainly Sunni dominated one-party rule to federalism and power-sharing between Sunnis, Kurds and Shia, and small minorities. All this is, or should be, governed by the constitution, approved by over 80% of the people in a referendum in 2005.
The Kurdistan region is clearly thriving as the safest, most stable, and prosperous part of Iraq, with a headstart of 12 years of relative freedom from Saddam. The number of deaths through terrorism is about 200 since 2003. It has built a major energy sector from nothing in just a few years. And it has helped stabilise the rest of Iraq and could be a model for it to follow.
The hero-soldier brand is undeniably potent. The increased presence of soldiers at sports events - be it at Premier League games or the Olympics - is a shrewd move by the PR-savvy Ministry of Defence. The idea of a wholesome, dutiful hero is very appealing and is very much a feature of British identity, intertwined as it is with our military history and our imperial present.