David Shearer says that Iraq doesn’t need military assistance in fighting ISIS, instead it needs non-military assistance.
Iraq’s government is lukewarm on military assistance from New Zealand and “smashing” Islamic State won’t solve the war-torn country’s problems, Labour’s David Shearer says.
Foreign minister Ibrahim al-Jafaari was in Auckland last week for talks on what the Government can contribute to the battle against Islamic State extremists.
On offer are 40-100 troops to train Iraq’s military forces in a non-combat role. However, a sticking point is whether the Kiwis will be able to provide security, after Jafaari suggested protection would come from Iraqi troops.
Labour leader Andrew Little and foreign affairs spokesman David Shearer met with Jafaari, after his talks with foreign minister Murray McCully. Labour are opposed to the plan to send military trainers – but Shearer appears open to other forms of assistance.
He says Jafaari was more enthusiastic about the non-military support that New Zealand could provide.
Outside of airstrikes and intelligence gathering – which New Zealand can’t help with – the strife-torn country needs capacity building support, Shearer said. Jafaari was especially interested in agricultural know-how.
“That [help] doesn’t have to be military. What they would like to see is more countries in there supporting them. [Jafaari] started [the meeting] off by saying 90 per cent of Iraq’s foreign income is through oil. Oil has just gone down dramatically in price, so they are suffering really badly as a result, they don’t have that economic base there anymore.
“They never had other industries, they effectively had state-owned enterprises which were these huge corrupt industries at one end and barber shops and corner shops at the other end. There was no middle-sized businesses that employ people.”