Stewart McDonald – 2020 Speech on Security in the Middle East

Below is the text of the speech made by Stewart McDonald, the SNP Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, in the House of Commons on 7 January 2020.

I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement. We on these Benches of course hold no candle for General Soleimani or, indeed, for the actions of the Iranian Government, but I would simply say to the Secretary of State that it is not anti-American to question and press the Government on what they are doing in relation to their closest ally. He says that the US is confident that General Soleimani had co-ordinated the 27 December attacks and was planning further attacks, but how confident is he that that is correct? There is certainly no consensus on Capitol Hill among congressional leaders that that is the case. The Secretary of State mentioned that he had seen intelligence that had perhaps convinced him, but have the UK Government done their own legal analysis of whether the strike was lawful? I ask him simply: does he believe that the strike was lawful? And why has it taken four days for the Government to convene the National Security Council, given the gravity of the situation we now face?​

On UK forces, the Secretary of State tells the House—this is the killer paragraph—that all training has been “suspended” and “contingency planning” is going on, which can be taken to mean planning to leave Iraq, so can it be taken as read that there is now no active fight against ISIS in Iraq because of the actions of the President of America?

On de-escalation, will the Secretary of State mount the most robust and unapologetic defence of international law and order? Does he agree with the International Committee of the Red Cross that the threat to target cultural sites, as made by the US President, would be unlawful? Will he work to ensure that the UN Security Council can finally step in and do its job? Will he condemn the fact that the Foreign Minister of Iran has been prevented, against international law, from taking part in UN proceedings? On the JCPOA, I welcome what the Secretary of State has to say, but we really need some detail as to how he will get the plan resurrected with Iran and the United States.

We hear a lot at the Dispatch Box about the international rules-based order, but our closest ally is ripping it up before our eyes, whether we like it or not. I ask the Secretary of State to be unapologetic in standing up for it and to mount the most robust defence of it—America is a close friend, and that is what a close friend should do. If the Secretary of State does that, he will have the support of those on the SNP Benches.