The Chilcot report

July 7th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

British Prime Minister Tony Blair told US President George W Bush eight months before the 2003 invasion of Iraq “I will be with you, whatever”, and relied on flawed intelligence and legal advice to go to war, a seven-year inquiry concluded on Wednesday.

It strongly criticised Blair on a range of issues, saying the threat posed by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s supposed weapons of mass destruction had been over-hyped and the planning for the aftermath of war had been inadequate.

Blair responded that he had taken the decision to go to war “in good faith”, that he still believed it was better to remove Saddam, and that he did not see that action as the cause of terrorism today, in the Middle East or elsewhere.

“The intelligence assessments made at the time of going to war turned out to be wrong. The aftermath turned out to be more hostile, protracted and bloody than ever we imagined,” the former prime minister, looking gaunt and strained, told reporters.

The lesson from this is that a nasty dictator might be better than the turmoil that comes from removing him.

The 1991 war was absolutely justified as Saddam had invaded Kuwait. The 2003 war was based on the premise that Saddam had WMDs – something that turned out to be wrong.

Iraq mission extended

June 21st, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Gerry Brownlee announced:

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee says Cabinet has today agreed to extend New Zealand’s contribution to the joint New Zealand-Australia mission to train Iraqi Security Forces until November 2018.

Also agreed was an amendment to the mission’s mandate to allow small numbers (generally around six to eight at a time) of our training and force protection team at Taji to travel for short periods to Besmaya, a secure training location about 52 kilometres south east of Taji.

“At Besmaya our troops will ensure a smooth hand-over of the Iraqi soldiers they’ve been training at Taji to other coalition trainers, who will be teaching them to use heavy weapons,” Mr Brownlee says.

Finally, Cabinet has also agreed in principle that New Zealand personnel be authorised to provide training to stabilisation forces, such as the Iraqi Federal Police, in addition to the Iraqi Army.

“These forces are providing an essential role in securing cities once they have been liberated from Daesh so rebuilding can occur,” Mr Brownlee says.

“To date this has been a successful mission, and the value we’re providing the Iraqi Security Forces to rid their country of Daesh is increasing all the time.

This is a broken promise, but the right thing to do. Circumstances have changed, and we would lose credibility to bail out of Iraq at the end of the two year mission. The Islamic State needs to have their territory removed from them, as it is territory that gives them credibility. It is important that the forces they battle be local residents, not outsiders. NZ has played a small but useful role in training the Iraqi Army. and so far the training has worked. They have recaptured significant cities and territory from ISIL.

The mission is not without risk, and we may suffer casualties.  But far far more people will die if Islamic State is left in control of the territory they have.

The Herald reports Andrew Little as saying:

Labour leader Andrew Little says he will withdraw New Zealand troops from Iraq if his party is elected to power next year.

Mr Little said he expected the security situation in the Middle East to change significantly by the general election, by which time the Islamic State may have been pushed back further or defeated.

But regardless Little says NZ will do nothing to help defeat Islamic State. It is worth recalling that the intervention in Iraq has a Security Council authorisation, and the support of the Iraqi Government. It is against a clear evil that has spread terror in scores of countries. Yet Labour is still against NZ doing anything to defeat ISIL.

Little in Iraq

April 30th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour leader Andrew Little has ended a secret trip to Iraq where he says he wanted to see first hand the work of Kiwi troops.

The invitation to visit troops at Iraq’s Camp Taji was issued by Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee, after Labour opposed the deployment.

Little’s trip was not announced till after he and Brownlee returned to Dubai on Thursday.

Little says he accepted the invitation to go because it was important to see for himself the work Kiwi troops were doing and the conditions they were working under.

The Opposition leader also met Iraqi Defence Minister Khaled Al-Obedih and senior military officials from the Coalition forces in Iraq.

Good of the Government to invite Little to go, and good that he attended. In the unlikely possibility he becomes PM, he will have to decide on future deployments.

“Labour opposed the deployment because the Iraqi Army’s track record was poor, even after years of training by American and other armies.

“The situation in Iraq, as well as Syria, remains hugely challenging and it is not yet certain how the Iraqi security forces will address issues of motivation and discipline, and continuing ethno-sectarian divisions across the whole army.

“It’s obvious the needs Iraq has won’t be met in the two year period the Government set for the mission. The Government must now be open with the public about the demands being made of it and its plans.”

Labour opposed the deployment, but their reason for doing so has been proven invalid. The Iraqi Army is now winning battles and the training has been cited as a major factor.

Brownlee, who was on his second visit to Taji, said the Kiwi taskforce had trained more than 4000 Iraqi troops since being deployed alongside Australian troops in 2015.

National MP Mark Mitchell also accompanied the group.

“I thought it was important to offer the Leader of the Opposition an opportunity to see Task Group Taji in action for himself, and for Mr Mitchell, as the relevant select committee chair, to have first-hand experience of the mission.”

Task group Taji provides a range of training to the Iraqi Security Forces.

“This training includes basic weapons handling, counter IED, combat first aid, obstacle breaching techniques, planning for combat operations, the laws of armed conflict and human rights.

“It was pleasing to hear from senior Iraqi commanders that Task Group Taji-trained troops have on a number of occasions captured and held towns and territory from D’aesh using their newly attained skills.”These commanders speak highly of the training and intend to cycle units back through Taji for further training when possible.”

Over the last year Islamic State has lost significant territory.

Little will now visit the Zaatari Refugee Camp, where 80,000 refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria are now based.

“New Zealand has had a history of supporting humanitarian causes. We believe the Government must double the refugee quota and that we should be stepping up support for the people who are suffering in these camps,” Andrew Little said.

Labour often says we should treat causes, not symptoms. The misery of the refugees is being caused by Islamic State. If Islamic State is not defeated, the number of refugees will continue to increase massively. So why does Labour say NZ should help refugees, yet opposes doing anything to reduce the number of refugees?

No SAS for Iraq

February 17th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Prime Minister John Key has all but ruled out giving the SAS a role for now in the fight against Islamic State in Iraq.

Key said using the SAS ran counter to New Zealand’s current mission in Iraq, which was focused on equipping Iraqi soldiers to take the fight to IS themselves.

United States defence secretary Ash Carter issued a global call for extra help last December, including elite troops, air strikes, and the provision of ammunition and training.

But Key indicated the SAS was off the table.

We are doing our bit with the trainers, but as that two year deployment comes to an end, the question will be what next? The Islamic State provides a threat well beyond its own borders  The UN Security Council has sanctioned use of force. We should continue to play a role.

Buchanan says we should send SAS to Iraq

January 8th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Paul Buchanan writes in the NZ Herald:

The United States has asked New Zealand to provide special operations troops to the coalition against Isis (Islamic State). The Government has said it will consider the request but the Prime Minister has qualified the response, stating that he does not think New Zealand will increase its contribution beyond the company-sized training complement currently deployed at Camp Taji outside Baghdad.

The PM’s caution has more to do with domestic political concerns than the practical or diplomatic necessities of the conflict. With a thin majority thanks to Winston Peter’s by-election victory in Northland, National cannot risk parliamentary defeat on the issue. But Opposition leader Andrew Little has signalled that Labour is willing to consider sending SAS troops to the fight, so the ground is clearing for authorisation of a new phase of the New Zealand mission.

They argued so vigorously against sending trainers, it is hard to see they will do a u-turn and support direct combat troops.

The problem lies with the Iraqi Army leadership. Iraqi field rank officers are not included in the training programme and are by and large unwilling or unable to demonstrate the type of leadership skills under fire that are required to make best use of the training received by their soldiers from the NZDF and its allies.

That is where special operations troops like New Zealand’s SAS are useful. Among many other roles they serve as leadership advisers on the battlefield. Because of their exceptional skills and hardened discipline, SAS teams serve as force multipliers in the field by adding tactical acumen, physical resilience and steadfastness of purpose to the fight. They lead by example.

I’m sure the NZ SAS would add value.

It will be odd if New Zealand refuses to send its most elite soldiers when asked for them by its major allies in a UN-sanctioned multi-national military coalition. Troops such as the NZSAS need regular combat experience to sharpen and maintain their skills. Since part of their specialness is versatility in a wide range of combat environments, the SAS would be keen to test its troops in the mixed urban/desert, conventional and unconventional battlefields of Iraq and Syria.

Leaving the SAS in New Zealand is akin to leaving a Bugatti in the garage. Much has been invested in their combat readiness. They are trained to fight and lead others in combat (such as during the anti-terrorist mission in Afghanistan). It would be counterproductive for them to be idling in Papakura when there is a just cause to be fought against enemies of humanity who commit atrocities and wreak misery on those they subjugate.

It is a very just cause, and indeed against enemies of humanity.

Dom Post on Iraq

January 5th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Finally, there is something to cheer in the international war against Isis.

The Iraqi army, famously the “cowards” of NZ First MP Ron Mark’s imaginings, took the city of Ramadi this week, capital of the Sunni-dominated province of Anbar.

That is an important turnaround from six months ago when Isis took the city at a canter.

Some of the army’s newfound cohesion and tactical nous is reportedly down to the training and equipment it has received from US troops; perhaps New Zealand’s small deployment of trainers has also played a role in the revival.

If so, that is gratifying: it hints that the US coalition, which toiled for months in Iraq and Syria with very little impact, might be having some useful impact after all.

It’s a beginning, but a useful one.

Back in New Zealand, Prime Minister John Key will surely draw some comfort from the victory in Ramadi – he has already declared himself “vindicated” after a brief trip to visit New Zealand’s troops in Iraq. But there could easily be more twists to come – this war has been bleakly unpredictable, while even an Isis in retreat poses a threat in Western cities.

Key presumably understands this: he has stressed his unwillingness to extend the New Zealand deployment, no matter how that undercuts his sometimes righteous rhetoric about fighting Isis.

The Labour Party, on the other hand, added to its recent record of vacillations before Christmas by floating the possibility of sending the SAS to the war, months after it had opposed sending trainers to Iraq.

I have no idea what their policy now is. They condemned sending trainers in, and now are talking about sending the SAS in.

The battle for Ramadi

January 4th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Ibrahim Al-Marashi at Al Jazeera writes:

For Iraqis the year 2016 has been ushered in with their military’s capture of ISIL’s headquarters in Ramadi, capital of the nation’s Anbar province. In terms of what 2016 holds for the future, the military dynamics that led to the fall of Ramadi will serve as long-term harbinger of ISIL’s ability to endure in Iraq.

Upon first glance, the fall of Ramadi appears to mean little for the long term campaign against ISIL. The recent victory brings Iraq back to the status quo as of May 2015, when Iraqi forces took retook Tikrit from ISIL towards the end of April, but then lost Ramadi right after. It took the Iraqi forces several months to return to this status quo. Over all, the victory would appear as a loss, as the Iraqi state won back Ramadi, but utterly devastated the city in the process. 

However, in the long term perspective, the fall of Ramadi is a victory in terms of the lessons applied on the strategic-political level and the evolution of Iraqi military tactics, which signals a significant setback for ISIL.

He explains the importance:

Whereas the battle for Tikrit primarily featured irregular Shia militias, the battle for Ramadi involved the (ISF), along with irregular tribal Sunni levies. This was not so much a battle for a city, but a battle by the Iraqi state to project that it still has a national army, and is willing to work with the Sunni tribes. …

On another level, the role played by national Iraqi forces in the fall of Ramadi also has implications for the creation of an inclusive sense of Iraqiness. A debate has ensued since the summer of 2014 as to whether one can claim that the Iraqi nation still exists. …

With the fall of Ramadi, the Iraqi military, which is featured prominently on this channel, can now also claim that it represents the national aspirations of Iraq. Again any Iraqi will know that the nation is divided among Kurdish Peshmerga and Shia militias. For the legitimacy of Prime Minister Haider al-Abbadi, the Iraqi military’s victory in Ramadi is a testament of his ability to preside at the helm of what remains of the Iraqi state and nation. 

So the importance is this was not a battle won by Shia militia against Sunni insurgents. It was the Iraqi military against ISIL.

What remains to be seen after the fall of Ramadi is the ability of the Iraqi military to develop a doctrine, or a series of lessons learned in the fighting that can be carried forward in the battle for Mosul. A BBC article revealed that the Iraqi military has benefitted from a learning curve during the months-long campaign to remove ISIL from Ramadi.

The Iraqi insurgency that erupted from 2003 primarily used hit-and-run tactics against US and Iraqi forces, tactics typical of a guerilla war meant to wear down the resolve of the enemy. As a result, the US training mission had focused on ensuring Iraq’s new military could deal with this type of combat.

ISIL is different type of insurgent group, holding cities and territory, which required retraining the Iraqi military forces in sustained urban combat, fighting street-by-street, house-by-house.

This transformation of training the Iraqi military from counter-insurgency to urban combat explains why it took so long to be deployed on the front lines, creating a security vacuum which the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Iraqi Shia militias filled.  

And as the Herald reports, the troops fighting in Ramadi include those trained by the New Zealand Army:

Iraqi troops trained by the New Zealand Defence Force were part of a force that has retaken the city of Ramadi from the Islamic State (Isis) terrorist group.

Defence minister Gerry Brownlee said the success was a result of the commitment to the Building Partner Capacity training programme.

“New Zealand and Australian trainers can take some pride over the successful action by the recruits.

“NZDF trainers have gone into a dangerous environment and professionally established a training operation which is upskilling large numbers of Iraqi troops to better equip themselves to fight.

“New Zealanders can be very proud of the work our troops are doing to professionalise the Iraqi security forces,” Mr Brownlee said in a statement.

It is worth recalling that Labour said the training was pointless and NZ First called the Iraqi army cowards.

This is only one battle, and there will be many more battles and some setbacks. But as the author writes, this was very important psychologically, and a key building block. And New Zealand played a small part in giving the Iraqi people a better chance of not having to live under a fascist theological barbaric regime.

Stupid Defence Force

October 29th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A decision to deny an Iraqi-born New Zealand woman a job in the New Zealand Defence Force because of her birthplace has been slammed as stupid and prejudiced.

Warda Jawad, a 25-year-old psychology masters student whose family fled to New Zealand in the wake of the Gulf War when she was three, said she burst into tears after hearing the reason for her rejection.

Jawad told Radio NZ she applied for a job as an army psychologist after listening to a presentation from recruiters, and was initially told she appeared to be “the right candidate for the job”.

However, after a four-month application process, she was told she would not receive a security clearance due to her birthplace, as well as a 19-month period spent studying medicine in Oman.

“[The recruiter] said, ‘Hey look, the news isn’t good, basically your application has been rejected, given your place of birth and being away for extended periods of time from New Zealand, you weren’t able to pass a security clearance’.”


That was a pretty appalling decision. You treat people as individuals and don’t judge them off stuff they have no control over, such as where they were born.

One of my best friends was also born in Iraq, and her family left she she was very young.  I’d be furious if this had happened to her, and I can only imagine how upsetting it is for Ms Jawad.

Again you should treat people as individuals. If an applicant has beliefs or behaviour or even associates that could make them a security risk, then that is okay to decline them for a security job. But if someone has lived here since they were three years old, and you refuse them purely because of where they were born, then that’s nuts.

Labour defence spokesman Phil Goff said the NZDF had shown a narrow and conservative mindset, and had been unreasonably prejudiced against Jawad based on her birthplace.

“It is a stupid decision, it lacks any sound rationale, and they may have burnt off a person who could have been incredibly useful to them.

“There are not that many people around that are motivated to join the Defence Force and are capable of making the sort of contribution she could.”

Goff said Jawad’s fluency in Arabic, understanding of Middle Eastern culture and ability to talk with Muslim women would all be assets to New Zealand’s military operations.

“We lack in New Zealand people with those very sort of skills…we give people a few weeks’ training in the local culture and a few simple words in the local language, but those sort of skills would be so valuable to the Defence Force.”

I agree with Phil Goff on this.

NZDF have changed their decision, but the damage is already done.

Ms Jawad facebooked her feelings a couple of weeks ago:

Earlier this year I applied for a Psychologist role with the New Zealand Defence Force, a role I had my heart set on for a long time. As I had met all of the criteria for the position, my application proceeded and I met the medical requirements and began training for the NZDF fitness test that I would shortly need to pass. I was told, I only needed security clearance to progress further and become shortlisted. 3 months later, I was told I wasn’t eligible to pass security clearance and on that basis my application was rejected. Why? I was told “Given your place of birth, and being away from NZ for extended periods of time [a 9 month and 10 month period], you are not able to progress through security clearance”. …

Having been 18 years in NZ, completed all of my education here and completing a Masters degree, contributed to the community with various volunteer work that put me in risky and dangerous situations, and a completely clean slate, I am deemed to be a threat to national security because of where I was born. Serving in the Defence Force isn’t just an ordinary job, and I think we all know what sort of sacrifice is present. I willingly chose to put my life at risk and sacrifice many things, to serve New Zealand because here is what I have called home for a long time. Yet, the only thing that has been taken into consideration, is my ethnicity. Heartbroken, disappointed, confused, amongst other awful feelings. Time to turn the page and look ahead for what tomorrow has to bring. Thanks for reading friends 

Very very sad – someone who really wanted to contribute, and got turned down because of where she was born and lived for three years.

I have no doubt that some people will claim that anyone born in a Muslim country could be an extremist, and hence NZDF were right. That’s crap. As I said, one of my best friends was born in Iraq. She is the most Kiwi person I know. She is also Iraqi and also a Muslim. These things are not contradictory.

Media go from NZ should not go to Iraq to NZ must stay in Iraq

October 12th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Claire Trevett writes:

Key now has some thinking to do about the two-year limit he has put on the deployment. Such is the attrition rate in the Iraq Army – both from deaths and desertions – the need for basic training is unlikely to reduce. He met with the troops not just in front of the cameras but in private around the dinner table as well. Many made it clear they had jumped at the assignment, bored in the lull after the withdrawal from Afghanistan. They also made it clear they believed it was a worthwhile mission.

When the powhiri was held for Key, many of the 300 Australian troops came along as well. The emblem for the Anzac’s joint ‘Taskforce Taji’ mission is an intertwined boomerang and silver fern. It is on their sleeve patches and flags. Nor is it simply lip service to a joint effort – the Australians and New Zealanders work in the same teams. In his address to the troops in Taji, Key made much of that Anzac spirit and the difference he believed they were making. As US President Barack Obama has done, Key has also often spoken about the battle against Islamic State being a world-wide battle – not just Iraq’s.

It was hard for some to see the justification in Key’s decision to deploy the troops in the first place. It is harder still to see how Key will justify a decision to cut and run after that type of rhetoric, especially if Australia stays on.

Trevett is not alone in this view. I’ve read or heard it from most media who went to Iraq.

Before they went, they were sceptical about whether we should be there.

Now they are saying that we should not leave in two years, but stay for the long haul.

Watkins on Iraq

October 8th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins writes:

John Key’s trip to Iraq asked and answered the question about whether our troops are making a difference.

It only took a day watching the Kiwi trainers and their students in action at Camp Taji in Iraq to know they are making a real difference and it is more than just a drop in the ocean. 

A first hand observation from someone who has just been there.

And they are doing it under hellish conditions that beggar belief – stranded in a desert miles from anywhere and surrounded by pockets of one of the most brutal enemies in modern time, the Islamic State.

Our soldiers there are serving hard.

They passionately believe that the six weeks they get to train up Iraqi soldiers for the fight against IS – or Daesh as they prefer to call the enemy – has and will save Iraqi lives.

Six weeks may not be long compared with the years that Kiwi recruits get on the training ground. But the soldiers who leave them will still have a better chance of defeating IS than when they came in.

Many of them are veterans of the battle field and they have lost not only fellow soldiers but friends and family to IS.

But they have been fighting with one arm behind their back, lacking equipment and experience.

Part of what the Kiwis do is demystify the enemy to Iraqi soldiers, demoralised by the slick mind games of an enemy that has mastered social media to spread chilling propaganda.

Among the myths that have taken root are that IS has millions of soldiers and snipers who can shoot them from 6km away.

Along with teaching the Iraqi troops medical skills and combat tactics like door-to-door fighting and the use of explosives, the Kiwis have been debunking the myths and boosting the confidence of their students that IS is an enemy that can be beaten.

And they are doing it in a typically Kiwi fashion that has earned them the respect of the Iraqi soldiers.

It may not be a huge contribution, but it is important to be doing our bit. Abandoning the Iraqis to the terror of the Islamic State is not a great idea.

But it is not a one way street; the Kiwis know the men they are training will be returning to the front line where the lessons they learn could literally make the difference between life and death.

You won’t hear many of them agreeing with NZ First MP Ron Mark’s description of the Iraqi soldiers as cowards.

Maybe Ron could go over and share his views in person!

Public support troops in Iraq

September 8th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Zealand’s deployment of troops to train the Iraq Army continues to have strong public support, says the latest Herald-DigiPoll survey.

In the poll, 59 per cent of respondents said they supported the deployment of 121 troops to train Iraqi soldiers in the fight against Islamic State – up from 57 per cent in May. Just over one-third said they did not agree with it – the same level as in May soon after the troops arrived in Taji.

So almost 2:1 in favour.

Labour leader Andrew Little said Labour stuck by its decision to oppose sending the training troops, saying New Zealand’s efforts were better spent on humanitarian efforts.

Labour’s policy is to do nothing to actually defeat ISIL, just to take in the refugees who are fleeing from them!

Hehir on supporting “the family”

February 28th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Liam Hehir writes in the Manwatu Standard:

My brother and I grew up on the same family farm but now live in different parts of the country. We are independent of one another, we are busy pursuing different priorities and each of our lives is truly our own. That doesn’t mean that the familial bond between us is meaningless.

If he makes some request of me, I would always give it very serious consideration.

As it is with families, so it is with nations and there is a natural affinity between those countries that share a Britannic inheritance. Winston Churchill spoke of the common bonds of the “English speaking peoples”. New Zealand historian James Belich has written of it as the “Anglo-World”. The term that seems to be vogue now is the “Anglosphere”.

But whatever you call it, it is a very real phenomenon. Some historians say that future generations will look upon the Anglosphere as we look upon the ancient Greeks and Romans – an interlocking group of nations and cultures forming a common civilisation. Along with Britain and the United States, its core members comprise Canada, Australia and New Zealand – as exemplified by the “Five Eyes” security alliance.

This closeness is not based on race. An Italian American has little ancestry in common with a British Pakistani or an Australian Aborigine. There is no such thing as a “Canadian” or “New Zealand” ethnicity. Our familiarity is instead bound up in shared traditions like the common law, habeas corpus, trial by jury, free enterprise, private property, freedom of speech and, of course, the English language.

That we find ourselves fighting shoulder-to-shoulder is not because of any blood fealty, but because our shared culture leads us to see the world in similar ways.

A very elegant explanation.

Another occasion that comes to mind is the Malayan campaign during the Cold War. New Zealand participated in this British-led fight to save the South East Asian peninsula from the Communist yoke, contributing warships and airstrikes. It was a 12-year war of difficult jungle fighting and bombing but, unlike the Vietnam War, it ended with an Allied victory.

Today, Malaysia has a system of government modelled on the British tradition and remains part of our extended family through the Commonwealth. It is a flawed but functioning democracy that gives lie to the notion that Muslim majority countries cannot also be fundamentally free societies. The fight was worth it and we can be proud that our ancestors did their part.

Malaysia is better than many countries. I do wish they’d stop arresting their opposition leader on trumped up charges though.

Does this mean that we should follow our Anglosphere partners without question? No. New Zealand should only ever go to war when such actions are justifiable in the national interest. Our support should never be taken for granted.

I wouldn’t lend money to my brother for a business venture I would be convinced would fail. I also wouldn’t lend him money to do something illegal, like set up a drug ring. In the same way, New Zealand’s backing for any military intervention should always be subject to the same caveats.

Basically Hehir says you always treat requests from your “family” seriously, but you don’t automatically say yes to them.

Dunne has a point

February 12th, 2015 at 9:09 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Mr Dunne also launched a stinging attack on comments made in New Zealand last week by British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond when he said: “Frankly we’ve got used to New Zealand being there alongside us, alongside the US, the UK, Australia, as part of the family.”

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee said the training was made at the request of the Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Tim Keating.

Prime Minister John Key has already made it clear he wants to deploy up to 100 NZDF staff in a training mission with Australia which has 600 people in Iraq.

Mr Dunne, a minister and the leader of United Future, described Mr Hammond as a “patronising figure from abroad loftily telling us we are in the club, we are part of the family and it would be lovely to have you along for the next round of unmitigated slaughter”.

He said the debating chamber had plaques on the wall of other times “the family” had acted together.

“Gallipoli, the mindless slaughter of Australian and New Zealand troops in the pursuit of a British objective, Passchendaele and the Somme, so to come here and say to New Zealanders today ‘we love having you on board, you are part of the family but you’ve still got to queue up at the aliens gate at Heathrow’ is unacceptable in the extreme.”

I agree that any action should not be justified on the basis of being part of any family, or club.

It should be justified if it meets the criteria that it is morally the right thing to do, the risk are not too great, and the action will help improve the situation.

Mr Little, the Labour leader, said everybody felt the urge to do something but: “After 10 years of training of the Iraqi Army by the … best-resourced army in the world, what is it that we can do now that is going to make a difference?”

It’s a fair question, but the situation is not fluid. A number of things have changed.

  1. A new Iraqi Government is less divisive and more able to command army loyalty
  2. The rise of the Islamic State and their barbaric actions against native Iraqis being so much worse than the previous insurgency. This has changed the dynamic there, and greatly increased the motivations of the rest of Iraq to join together to defeat them.

It is rather more complicated that that, but the point is the situation is not static. Justifying doing nothing on the basis of a previous failure, only works if no variables have changed. And they have.

The barbarism gets worse

February 4th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Islamic State group has released a video purportedly showing the burning alive of a Jordanian pilot it had captured in December.

The video released online showed images of a man purported to be Maaz al-Kassasbeh engulfed in flames inside a metal cage.

To a degree the Islamic State is more barbaric than the Axis powers in WWII. Executing prisoners is bad enough, but burning them alive is a hideous form of suffering.

I’m amazed that Labour seem to be saying that NZ should not contribute to the fight against the Islamic State. It is hard to think of a more moral case for intervention since WWII.

Now that is not to say we should send in ground troops. I’m against that. But the proposal to send 100 NZers to work with Australia on training up the Iraqi army seems reasonable.  It is possible that the Iraqi Army will fail, as they have in the past. But a change of Prime Minister seems to have improved things in Iraq, and just walking away and doing nothing isn’t a great strategy.

Herald on ISIS

October 2nd, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

If ground forces can rid Iraq of the murderers known as Isis, New Zealand should be there. This country ought to be counted among the nations that are willing to act when the cause is just and military force can be effective.

They key word is “If”.

I don’t think ISIS can be got rid of by force. I do think you can weaken them, but can you eliminate them? If there is an invasion then they just disband for a year, then regroup.

If you are willing to have massive collateral damage, you could destroy them. You surround the area, broadcast that everyone within a certain geographic area should leave the area unarmed, and then destroy every building and person in that area. But the civilian toll would be horrendous as many would not leave their homes, and you would create millions of refugees.

The lessons from the last Iraq war is that you can topple a Government, but it is harder to eliminate armed resistance.

The next likely step will be to dispatch armed “advisers” to train and support Iraq’s troops but on previous experience they would soon be fighting alongside the hosts, as New Zealand’s SAS did in Afghanistan. The way Iraqi forces fell away from the initial Isis advance suggests the foreigners would need to do a lot of fighting.


The New Zealand Government should probably call the new Parliament into session sooner than scheduled once a request is received to join the action against Isis.

It’s scheduled to convene on the 20th, in 19 days. I’d be very surprised if the Government made a decision to send troops in before then – in fact surprised if they made a decision to send troops at all.

Headline vs substance on SAS

September 30th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald headline:

Key: SAS could join Isis fight on ground

The substance:

As far as sending SAS personnel, Mr Key said: “I can’t rule that absolutely out, but what I can say is that I’ll get advice and we’ll see how that goes, but it would be my least preferred option.”

When it comes to any military deployment, no Prime Minister can really rule out a response before a request has been made. But when a PM calls it their least preferred option, it is pretty obvious it will not happen.

Any commitment of personnel “would be a step I think we should take very cautiously and with our eyes open because history tells you that going into places like Iraq is fraught with difficulty and danger and as we know with Afghanistan, it was a very long-term commitment”.

I don’t think we should send troops. If we had air strike capability, that would be a possibility. But we don’t.

More bombing in Iraq

August 18th, 2014 at 4:34 pm by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

The US on Sunday launched two waves of air strikes against Islamic State (Isis) militants in northern Iraq, in the most extensive American military operations in the country since the withdrawal of ground troops in 2011.

The strikes helped Kurdish peshmerga fighters to regain control of the strategically important Mosul dam captured by militants two weeks ago.

“Mosul Dam was liberated completely,” Ali Awni, an official from Iraq’s main Kurdish party, told AFP, a statement confirmed by two other Kurdish sources.

Well intentioned and probably helping, but what happens when the bombing stops? Will ISIS be weak enough to be take out?

US back fighting in Iraq

August 9th, 2014 at 10:05 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

US warplanes have bombed Islamist fighters marching on Iraq’s Kurdish capital after President Barack Obama said Washington must act to prevent ”genocide”.

Islamic State fighters, who have beheaded and crucified captives in their drive to eradicate unbelievers, have advanced to within a half hour’s drive of Arbil, capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region and a hub for US oil companies.

They have also seized control of Iraq’s biggest dam, Kurdish authorities confirmed on Friday, which could allow them to flood cities and cut off vital water and electricity supplies.

A Pentagon spokesman said two F/A-18 aircraft from an aircraft carrier in the Gulf had dropped laser-guided 500-pound bombs on a mobile artillery piece used by the fighters to shell Kurdish forces defending Arbil.

Obama authorised the first US air strikes on Iraq since he pulled all troops out in 2011, arguing action was needed to halt the Islamist advance, protect Americans and safeguard hundreds of thousands of Christians and members of other religious minorities who have fled for their lives.

The lesson here is that it is easier to invade a country, than leave it. The US action in this regard is necessary to stop the slaughter.

In Baghdad, where politicians have been paralysed by infighting while the state falls apart, the top Shi’ite cleric all but demanded Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki quit, a bold intervention that could bring the veteran ruler down.

Which is necessary. Maliki is primary responsible for the rise of ISIS.


Why US policy failed in Iraq

July 11th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

A fascinating post at the Washington Post by Ali Khedery:

To understand why Iraq is imploding, you must understand Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — and why the United States has supported him since 2006.

I have known Maliki, or Abu Isra, as he is known to people close to him, for more than a decade. I have traveled across three continents with him. I know his family and his inner circle. When Maliki was an obscure member of parliament, I was among the very few Americans in Baghdad who took his phone calls. In 2006, I helped introduce him to the U.S. ambassador, recommending him as a promising option for prime minister. In 2008, I organized his medevac when he fell ill, and I accompanied him for treatment in London, spending 18 hours a day with him at Wellington Hospital. In 2009, I lobbied skeptical regional royals to support Maliki’s government.

By 2010, however, I was urging the vice president of the United States and the White House senior staff to withdraw their support for Maliki. I had come to realize that if he remained in office, he would create a divisive, despotic and sectarian government that would rip the country apart and devastate American interests.

America stuck by Maliki. As a result, we now face strategic defeat in Iraq and perhaps in the broader Middle East.

Khedery argues that if the US has stopped supporting Maliki in 2010, then what has happened in the last few weeks may not have occured.

After the December 2005 parliamentary elections, U.S. Embassy officials combed the Iraqi elite for a leader who could crush the Iranian-backed Shiite militias, battle al-Qaeda, and unite Iraqis under the banner of nationalism and inclusive government. My colleague Jeffrey Beals and I were among the few Arabic-speaking Americans on good terms with the country’s leading figures. The only man we knew with any chance to win support from all Iraqi factions — and who seemed likely to be an effective leader — was Maliki. We argued that he would be acceptable to Iraq’s Shiite Islamists, around 50 percent of the population; that he was hard-working, decisive and largely free of corruption; and that he was politically weak and thus dependent on cooperating with other Iraqi leaders to hold together a coalition. 

Khedery says Maliki was the right pick in 2005, but then things went wrong:

With the Obama administration vowing to end Bush’s “dumb war,” and the continued distraction of the global economic crisis, Maliki seized an opportunity. He began a systematic campaign to destroy the Iraqi state and replace it with his private office and his political party. He sacked professional generals and replaced them with those personally loyal to him. He coerced Iraq’s chief justice to bar some of his rivals from participating in the elections in March 2010. After the results were announced and Maliki lost to a moderate, pro-Western coalition encompassing all of Iraq’s major ethno-sectarian groups, the judge issued a ruling that awarded Maliki the first chance to form a government, ushering in more tensions and violence.

So he started to go rogue around 2009.

After helping to bring him to power in 2006, I argued in 2010 that Maliki had to go. I felt guilty lobbying against my friend Abu Isra, but this was not personal. Vital U.S. interests were on the line. Thousands of American and Iraqi lives had been lost and trillions of dollars had been spent to help advance our national security, not the ambitions of one man or one party. The constitutional process had to be safeguarded, and we needed a sophisticated, unifying, economics-minded leader to rebuild Iraq after the security-focused Maliki crushed the militias and al-Qaeda.

In conversations with visiting White House senior staff members, the ambassador, the generals and other colleagues, I suggested Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi as a successor. A former Baathist, moderate Shiite Islamist and French-educated economist who had served as finance minister, Abdul Mahdi maintained excellent relations with Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds as well as with Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

And how high up did the lobbying go?

On Sept. 1, 2010, Vice President Biden was in Baghdad for the change-of-command ceremony that would see the departure of Gen. Ray Odierno and the arrival of Gen. Lloyd Austin as commander of U.S. forces. That night, at a dinner at the ambassador’s residence that included Biden, his staff, the generals and senior embassy officials, I made a brief but impassioned argument against Maliki and for the need to respect the constitutional process. But the vice president said Maliki was the only option. Indeed, the following month he would tell top U.S. officials, “I’ll bet you my vice presidency Maliki will extend the SOFA,” referring to the status-of-forces agreement that would allow U.S. troops to remain in Iraq past 2011.

Biden was wrong, as he so often is.

But all the lobbying was for naught. By November, the White House had settled on its disastrous Iraq strategy. The Iraqi constitutional process and election results would be ignored, and America would throw its full support behind Maliki.

So they can’t say they were not warned. What happened next:

Within a short span, Maliki’s police state effectively purged most of them from politics, parking American-supplied M1A1 tanks outside the Sunni leaders’ homes before arresting them. Within hours of the withdrawal of U.S. forces in December 2011, Maliki sought the arrest of his longtime rival Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, eventually sentencing him to death in absentia. The purge of Finance Minister Rafea al-Essawi followed a year later.

So what are we left with:

In short, Maliki’s one-man, one-Dawa-party Iraq looks a lot like Hussein’s one-man, one-Baath Party Iraq. But at least Hussein helped contain a strategic American enemy: Iran. And Washington didn’t spend $1 trillion propping him up. There is not much “democracy” left if one man and one party with close links to Iran control the judiciary, police, army, intelligence services, oil revenue, treasury and the central bank. Under these circumstances, renewed ethno-sectarian civil war in Iraq was not a possibility. It was a certainty.

I resigned in protest on Dec. 31, 2010. 

If only they had listened to him. What happened was not inevitable after the fall of Saddam. It came about through bad decisions.

Keys rules out SAS going to Iraq

June 18th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Prime Minister John Key has ruled out sending New Zealand special forces soldiers to Iraq as the United States mulls options in response to an unfolding crisis there.

Speaking in New York, Key said the New Zealand government was currently looking at what humanitarian aid it might provide as tens of thousands of Iraqis have been displaced by a violent takeover of parts of the country. …

New Zealand special forces soldiers were deployed to Afghanistan in a similar role.

But Key said he did not believe it likely that New Zealand special forces would be deployed or requested.

“I don’t think that’s likely. We’re just so far away from probably ever having to make that call. But in the end in so much as with any global issue, as things play out New Zealand would always look to the [United Nations] Security Council for its view and its sanction of anything that may happen. So you can never say never in a world where the Security Council decides that Iraq needs support of some sort, engineers or whatever it might be, that could always be considered but I think that’s very unlikely.”

Asked if that meant he could rule out New Zealand special forces soldiers being deployed to Iraq, even in an advisory capacity, Key responded; “I would say yes’.

This means that the only Prime Minister to seen soldiers to Iraq remains Helen Clark.

So Iran are now the good guys?

June 14th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Iran has reportedly sent its Revolutionary Guard forces to fight al-Qaeda-inspired militants who are sweeping across Iraq.

The Wall Street Journal and the Times reported that two battalions of the Quds Forces, the elite overseas branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, that have long operated in Iraq, have come to the aid of the Shia-dominated Government.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki Government last night remained in paralysis, unable to form a coherent response after militants blitzed and captured entire chunks of the nation’s Sunni heartland this week, including major cities, towns, military and police bases as Iraqi forces melted away or fled.

What’s that old saying – my enemy’s enemy is my friend. So true.

The new reality is the biggest threat to Iraq’s stability since the United States’ withdrawal at the end of 2011, and it has pushed the nation closer to a precipice that would partition it into Sunni, Shia and Kurdish zones.

That may not be the worst outcome – three separate countries. Can the Shia and Sunni sects live together now? Kurds are already autonomous. But actual separate countries could also be destabilising as Turkey would not want a Kurdistan as neigbours.

Cunliffe on Iraq

June 14th, 2014 at 5:36 am by David Farrar

Idiot/Savant blogs:

With Iraq turning into a mess again, and the US refusing to rule anything out while pointedly saying it can always count on Australia, people in New Zealand are asking the obvious question: if the US starts another war, will our politicians join it?

John Key hasn’t spoken up yet. As for David Cunliffe, he’s just been asked about it by Newstalk ZB’s Felix Marwick. His response is pure mush:

Cunliffe on troops to Iraq: “would depend on the circumstances when request made. Won’t hypothesize what answer wd be w/out having specific facts.

a difficult decision and would rely on the position taken by the United Nations and our partners. Can’t rule anything in or out.”

And there you have it: David Cunliffe ain’t no Helen Clark. If you want New Zealand to stay out of America’s stupid wars, you’ll need to vote for someone else.

Update: And meanwhile, John Key says the chances of his government contributing to any intervention are “remote”. Its a sad day when Labour looks more warmongering than National.

Labour seem to struggling with clear quick decisions. It took a week or so to declare they would not force a by-election in Epsom – a decision the leader could have made instantly as it was obvious the public would hate a party that caused a million dollar by-election that wouldn’t even see an MP elected before Parliament was dissolved.

Likewise, should have been easy to say something along the lines John Key said – which is that the chances of NZ contributing ot military action in Iraq are incredibly small – especially considering any intervention is likely to be air strikes, and thanks to Labour we don’t have an airforce capable of striking anything!


Cunliffe Iraq

Cunliffe has obviously been got to, and is now saying definitely not. I have no problem with his latter statement, but what people will note is it is entirely different to his first statement which was it would depend on the circumstances.

Goff exposed

December 23rd, 2010 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Whale Oil has highlighted two Wikileaks cables which show Phil Goff supporting not just the SAS returning to Afghanistan, but also in 2006 sending troops back into Iraq.

First the SAS quote:

Goff told the General that he could expect a positive outcome on redeploying the PRT past Sept 2006 and was reasonably assured the SAS (Special Forces) would deploy again after regeneration.

And the Iraq quote:

Goff noted Senator McCain’s comment that New Zealand should think about replicating its success in Bamiyan by heading a PRT in Iraq.

The Minister said he told McCain that New Zealand was not averse to doing so once the security situation had stabilized.

If I was a Young Labour member who has stuck up posters about how Don Brash would send troops to Iraq, I’d be looking for a new party, or at least a new leader, about now.

Fran O’Sullivan also whacks at Goff:

Frankly it’s been rather delicious to watch Phil Goff squirm on the head of a proverbial pin as he flatly denies the insinuation in a WikiLeaks cable that the former Labour Government was prepared to trade “blood for milk” in Iraq. …

Inevitably, there will have been a number of factors in the former Labour Cabinet’s decision to deploy New Zealand engineers alongside the British contingent in Basra.

But it would be pushing credulity to claim the Clark Government did not consider the clear desire by New Zealand business – particularly Fonterra – to ensure its Iraqi trade did not go down the tubes when the postwar reconstruction contracts were doled out. Particularly when America still controlled the game.

I think it was a good thing that Helen Clark and Phil Goff were mindful of NZ’s commercial interests, when they decide to send troops to Iraq.

Goff, while speaking about nations like France and Germany which had also opposed the invasion, said then that “they will want to be part of whatever benefits will flow from reconstructing Iraq and rebuilding the relationship [with the United States]”.

Given their respective comments in 2003 it would be fatuous indeed to believe the decision to commit troops to the reconstruction effort did not have a tinge of economic reality.

More than a tinge I say.

Goff’s problem is that he is embarrassed by the WikiLeaks revelation.

He should look closer to home.

He had no compunction using notes of a private meeting between former National leader Don Brash and a visiting United States delegation to claim New Zealand’s anti-nuclear policy “would be gone by lunchtime” under a National government.

The WikiLeaks documents have something to say on this score too.

Former United States ambassador Bill McCormick wrote in November 2006 that Goff had “misquoted” an Mfat staffer’s notes from the meeting to claim that Brash had promised the nuclear ban would be “gone by lunchtime”.

Julian Assange at least releases the full cables and notes, unlike Phil Goff who broke a decades-long convention and quoted a small extract out of context.

Clark denies milk for blood

December 22nd, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark has angrily denied a claim in a United States diplomatic cable that the previous Labour-led Government sent New Zealand non-combat engineers to Iraq so that dairy company Fonterra could secure a United Nations contract.

She described the claim as preposterous.

So why did Helen send tropps to Iraq, if it were not to help Fonterra?

Mr Goff yesterday said the allegation was ridiculous.

“No such trade-off was ever suggested and if it ever had been, it would have been rejected out-of-hand. We do not trade putting the lives of our military personnel at risk for commercial deals. It is a completely false claim.”

What is interesting is that Michael Cullen has not denied that he did talk about the risk to Fonterra.

Milk for blood

December 20th, 2010 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Critics of the Iraq war claimed it was about oil for blood – that the motives for the US sending troops and spilling blood, was to gain control of Iraq’s oil. This of course was leftish paranoia – the US has gained no control of any oil, and the cost of the war has been massively more, than any oil revenue could match.

But Wikileaks has revealed that one country which did send troops to Iraq, qas motivated by commercial factors. Yes, Helen Clark sent in troops to Iraq (something Labour hopes that people forget), and the reason was to help Fonterra.

So there was no oil for blood by the US, but Helen Clark was willing to trade blood for milk.

I look forward to Labour talking about their principled foreign policy.