Yesterday at church I was talking to a friend who comes from Northern Iraq. He fled to Sweden at the start of the Iran/Iraq war. But he still has family in Northern Iraq, part of the increasingly small and vulnerable community of Christians and other minorities there being persecuted by the Jihadists.
It has been appalling to observe the growing humanitarian crisis in Iraq. Like Sweden, the UK government condemns the barbaric attacks waged by the so-called Islamic State terrorists across the region, including against the Yezidi community trapped in terrible conditions on Mount Sinjar.
Our Prime Minister said on Friday that he welcomed President Obama’s decision to accept the Iraqi Government’s request for help and to conduct targeted US airstrikes to help Iraqi forces as they fight back against the terrorists and to help the civilians trapped on Mount Sinjar.
This is about helping populations facing a humanitarian disaster but also about basic human values– the right to freedom and dignity, whatever your religious beliefs.
Therefore over the weekend the UK conducted a humanitarian airdrop over Iraq in conjunction with the US to provide help to those affected, including those in grave need of food, water and shelter in the Sinjar area.
This is just part of a cross-government response to the crisis. Late last week we agreed an additional £8m package of UK humanitarian aid for Northern Iraq, taking our total emergency aid in response to this crisis so far to £13m.
Our Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has said that the UK expects the air drop operation to go on for the foreseeable future, in particular to the people who are trapped on the Mountain Sinjar.
But he also pointed out that airdropping supplies is a short term solution. The long term solution requires fundamental political progress in Iraq and concerted national and international efforts to defeat terrorism and promote a diverse and inclusive state, respectful of ethnic and religious diversity.
Therefore the process of agreeing a new Iraqi government is less visible but just as important as the military and humanitarian action now taking place.