DECISION ON TROOPS TO IRAQ SOME TIME OFF YET
By Richard Harman (author)
Though Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee has today agreed to begin contingency training for NZ Army personnel at Waiouru and Linton camps in case they are deployed to Iraq, it may be some time before a final decision of whether to send them is made.
The Cabinet is discussing whether to send the troops New Zealand troops areto Iraq to assist its fight against the IS – the Islamic State.
Speaking on Monday at his post Cabinet Press Conference, the Prime Minister, John Key said discussions were only at a preliminary stage at present and he didn’t expect a paper proposing the deployment would reach Cabinet till the end of the month.
He said the Iraqis had sent a very strong message that the troops would be in Iraq to train locals not to fight for them
New Zealand has yet to receive a formal request for the deployment and though Mr Key told the BBC in January that sending New Zealand troops to Iraq was “the price of the club” . Though he did not specify which club he meant it is widely thought he was talking about Five Eyes Intelligence Agreement involving the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
It is thought unlikely that the formal request will come this Friday when an Iraqi Minister is expected in Wellington.
That visit will be followed up by a visit by Foreign Minister Murray McCully to Iraq and any invitation might follow that.
But Cabinet sources say there is confusion in the information coming from Iraq and the situation there is changing rapidly, particularly now with the intervention of Jordan in the fight against the IS.
Mr Key did confirm that one of the six or seven New Zealanders believed to be in the Middle East fighting for Islamic Terrorist groups was in Iraq.
Opposition defence Spokesman, Phil Goff, however believes that the Government has already decided to send the troops to Iraq.
“The pretence that no Government decision has been made just isn’t honest," he said.
“The reason the Prime Minister gave today for taking that decision isn’t honest either. This isn’t about the need to protect human rights and fight evil. It’s about, as he admitted earlier, the price of ‘being in the club’ led by other countries such as Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
“New Zealand cannot do for the Iraqi Army what it cannot and will not do for itself. Over $25 billion has been invested by the United States over the past 10 years in training and equipping them. That investment has made practically no difference."