Article by Gavin Strang for The Speaker

As I write the eyes of the world are on United Nations in New York. In a fast moving situation, we watch to see whether the international community can resolve the current crisis over Iraq.

War against Iraq must be the last resort. Military action on the scale envisaged would mean injury and death for civilians and military personnel, and further destruction to Iraq’s infrastructure. War would also have a destabilising effect on the fragile situation in the Middle East.

War can only be justified when all other options have failed, and it is my view that we have not reached that point. There is still an alternative to war that is far from exhausted, and that is the weapons inspection process set in place by UN Security Council Resolution 1441 last November.

The weapons inspectors have been in Iraq for just fifteen weeks, and some real progress in disarmament has been made. The weapons inspection process should be pursued until it is concluded successfully or until it becomes clear that it will not work.

That is why I voted with 198 other Members of Parliament in the House of Commons debate that the case for war had not yet been proved.

So what are the options before us today?

Obviously the best outcome is full Iraqi cooperation with weapons inspectors, and the peaceful dismantling of Iraq’s weapons programmes. That would be a victory for the UN, and for the stance taken by Tony Blair.

A second scenario is military action that is not backed by the UN. Now some may say that Resolution 1441 gives authority for war. But it was clear when that Resolution was agreed that neither France, China nor Russia considered that their support for that resolution meant that they automatically supported future military action. An attack on Iraq will only be seen by the world as authorised by the international community if there is a further resolution from the UN backing it.

Without a second resolution we can be confident that war in Iraq would be detrimental to the international coalition against terrorism that has been built since 11 September 2001. Some states now cooperating would reduce their involvement, and individuals would be discouraged from cooperating with police and security services to thwart terror attacks. Indeed a bloody war in Iraq could be a factor in encouraging more people to adopt a misguided and radical approach and support terrorist acts.

If military action is clearly endorsed by the UN then, while many people worldwide would resent the attack, the fact that it was explicitly authorised by the UN would reduce the scale of opposition. A second resolution would unequivocally demonstrate to Iraq and the wider world that any military action was based on international agreement and properly authorised by the only institution in the world which has the authority to do so – the United Nations.
Please follow this link to see Gavin Strang’s speech in the Parliamentary debate on Iraq on 26 February 2003