§ 3.40 p.m.
§ The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Anthony Nutting)
I beg to move, That this House approves the accession of Her Majesty's Government to the Turco-Iraqi Pact of Mutual Co-operation and the Special Agreement which has been concluded with the Iraqi Government.
Last November the House debated Middle Eastern affairs with special reference to the Anglo-Egyptian Agreement and the Persian Oil settlement, which had then just been concluded. In opening that debate, I said that these Agreements marked a good beginning in settling problems and that we and our partners would go forward to develop these achievements in the positive direction of promoting unity, strength and well-being throughout the Middle East. The arrangements which we are now considering are, I believe, an important further step in that direction.
It has long been the purpose of British policy to establish and maintain an effective defence system for the Middle East. This need has, in the past, been dictated by the simple facts of geography and strategy alone. Lately, the development of the oil resources of this area has added yet another compelling factor to the need for adequate and effective Middle East defence. At the same time, the political and strategic picture has changed considerably. Nationalism as well as nuclear weapons have made their appearance; and we must take account of them and adapt our plans accordingly. That is what we have done in our new Agreement with Iraq and our accession to the Turco-Iraqi Pact. Our strategic need today is to safeguard and strengthen the extreme right flank of N.A.T.O. At the same time, the change in the political scene requires us to base our defence arrangements on the concept of an equal partnership between sovereign States.
As the House knows, the 1930 Treaty with Iraq was due to expire in eighteen months' time, but, rather than wait until even nearer the end of its term, Her Majesty's Government decided to take the occasion offered by the Turco-Iraqi initiative to place our relationship with 835 Iraq within a wider setting. I hope that the House will accept the wisdom of this step.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has said, in connection with Western European Union and European defence arrangements, that unity can only grow and cannot be imposed. The same is surely true of the countries of the Middle East. That was certainly our experience with the abortive project of 1951 for a Middle East Defence Organisation. With this lesson in mind, no Government in this country could fail to recognise the importance and significance of this spontaneous move by Turkey and Iraq to unite for their mutual defence.
It is, I am sure, in our own essential interest to encourage such a move on the part of one of our partners in N.A.T.O. and one of our oldest established allies in the Arab world. Clearly, therefore, this was not an opportunity to be missed. Clearly, this was the proper moment for Britain to remodel her defence arrangements with Iraq and lend her full support to the Pact. We hope that this new strength and unity will grow and spread and that it will eventually include other countries in the area.
Essential as this new arrangement is in its present form, it could lead to an even wider defence system and hence to greater and wider security within the whole Middle East. There is nothing in the Pact which need threaten, weaken or cause anxiety to any State in the Middle East. It is directed against no one in the area, against no State or group of States. Indeed, it respects the independence of all countries and offers a specific guarantee to any States who should accede.
In particular, Article 3 provides that the contracting parties shall refrain from any interference whatsoever in each others' internal affairs. This undertaking and guarantee will apply not only to the original parties to the Pact, but to all acceding States.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
May I interrupt the right hon. Gentleman at this point, for the purpose of elucidation? He spoke about the Pact not constituting a danger to any States in the Middle East who have the right to accede to this Pact.
836 Is it not true, as a result of an exchange of letters between Turkey and Iraq—I agree that the Foreign Secretary dissociated himself from that exchange of letters—that Israel could not be allowed to accede to the Pact?
§ Mr. Nutting
Under existing circumstances Israel is not in a position to accede to the Pact, because, under Article 5, the Pact is open for accession "to any member of the Arab League or any other State actively concerned with the security and peace in this region and which is fully recognised by both the High Contracting Parties"
§ Mr. Nutting
May I be permitted to answer the right hon. Gentleman?
Therefore, this guarantee of non-interference applies, as provided for in Article 3, only to those States who are in a position to accede to the Pact. But I believe, and it is the belief of Her Majesty's Government, that the Pact and these arrangements will—as I think I may develop in the course of my speech—provide for greater security for all States in the Middle East, including Israel.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Whatever the right hon. Gentleman develops in the course of his speech, have we not to deal with the facts now presented to us as a result of this Pact and the exchange of letters? Does it not follow from what he has just said that, while other States in the Middle East can be afforded a guarantee such as he suggests and which is available both to Turkey and Iraq, it cannot be afforded to the State of Israel, for the reasons which he has just stated?
§ Mr. Nutting
Nothing prohibits us from giving any such guarantee. Indeed, nothing, under these arrangements, in any way alters the position or the responsibilities or the obligations of Her Majesty's Government under the tripartite declaration. That was what I meant when I said that this Pact and these arrangements are in no way incompatible with Israel's interests and threatens no one—Israel or any other State in the area.
Before I leave the Turco-Iraqi Pact itself I should like to draw the attention of the House to the provision in Article 6 for a permanent Council at Ministerial level which is to be set up when at least 837 four parties have become parties to the Pact. This arrangement will be similar to that already existing in our defence systems in Europe with N.A.T.O. and Western European Union and in the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation. It will provide permanent machinery to review periodically the workings of our joint defence arrangements; and to coordinate policies.
Now let me turn to the main features of the Special Agreement between the United Kingdom and Iraq and to the supplementary notes annexed to it. Since my right hon. Friend's statement in the House on 30th March, this Special Agreement has been approved by the Iraqi Parliament by acclamation. It will come into force when the United Kingdom's instrument of accession to the Turco-Iraqi Pact is deposited in Bagdad tomorrow. I will not repeat what my right hon. Friend said about the Special Agreement last week. But it might be of interest to the House if I were to show how the new arrangements meet our requirements in a political and strategic situation which has changed so radically since 1930.
First of all, let me say that although the Treaty of Alliance of 1930 is terminated by the new Agreement, the peace and friendship between our two countries which was established by that Treaty is to be maintained and developed.
Article 1 of the Special Agreement makes this clear, and provides for cooperation between the United Kingdom and Iraq in our mutual security and defence.
Article 5 of the Special Agreement follows this up and provides that there shall be close co-operation between the competent authorities of the two Governments for the defence of Iraq. This co-operation shall include combined training and the provision of such facilities as may be agreed between the two Governments.
In accordance with the new basis of co-operation, the Government of Iraq assume full responsibility for the defence of their country and will command and guard all defence installations in Iraq, including the air bases at Habbaniyah and Shaiba. These bases are now to be jointly used by the Iraqis and ourselves for our common defence.
838 Under the old Treaty of 1930, we had the right to station air forces in Iraq. Under the new arrangement, we are to keep in Iraq R.A.F. ground staff, technicians and instructors to assist and instruct Iraqi forces and to service our aircraft. The flying units of the R.A.F. now stationed in Iraq are to be withdrawn over the next twelve months. But R.A.F. Squadrons will, under the new arrangement, visit Iraq for joint training with Iraqi squadrons, to quote the terms of the Agreement, "at all times"; and they will be looked after by our own ground staff, who will still be permanently stationed there.
The Prime Minister of Iraq, Nuri Es-Said, in his speech to the Iraqi Parliament on 30th March, said that assistance for the Iraqi Air Force and joint defence were necessary for Iraq's security. In pursuit of this aim not only will the air bases be kept in a state of readiness, but we are to help with the training of the Iraqi Air Force and with advice in operational and technical matters.
We are also to join with Iraq in setting up an effective system of anti-aircraft defence, including a radar warning system and a system of aircraft reporting. This. I submit to the House, is a very important matter indeed. For this purpose, we will make available to Iraq the co-operation and advice of British Service and technical personnel. Article 7 of the Special Agreement permits us to continue to enjoy our existing facilities for over-flying, landing and servicing our aircraft in Iraq.
The Agreement further provides for cooperation in the training and equipment of the Iraqi Army. Paragraph 8 of the first supplementary Memorandum lays down that certain defence requirements and installations which will be needed by our own forces in the event of war shall be kept in a state of readiness. These facilities include the pre-stocking of equipment and the establishment and maintenance of installations, including tank repair workshops.
Now, all these measures of co-operation relate of course to peacetime. In the event of war, under Article 8 of the Special Agreement the Government of Iraq undertake to provide all facilities and assistance to enable our aid, which may include, if necessary, armed forces, to be rapid and effective.
839 Our personnel who will be serving in Iraq under this Agreement will enjoy the same immunities as apply between members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. They will be under the command and administration of British officers responsible to the United Kingdom Government and acting in close liaison with the Iraqi officer in command of each establishment. The Government of Iraq are to make available essential services for these personnel.
We have also taken the occasion, in connection with these negotiations, to reach a settlement of our outstanding wartime financial claims with Iraq. As part of this settlement, the Iraq Government have agreed to pay into a joint Anglo-Iraqi Trust Fund the sum of £150,000. This Fund will be used to promote good relations between the two countries. This might, for instance, include the establishment of scholarships for Iraqi students here or the development of a British school in Iraq. The actual use of this Fund has not so far been decided, but, subject to the payment of £150,000 by the Government of Iraq, the existing claims on both sides have been washed out.
§ Mr. Nutting
No, they are not essentially military. They are claims arising out of the war, some of them for military services and others for civil services and supplies.
My right hon. Friend said last week that we had given very special attention to the problem of the Assyrians who have rendered such excellent service to the R.A.F. My right hon. Friend said that we had had assurances from the Prime Minister of Iraq about their future. The Memorandum annexed to our Agreement provides that those members of the R.A.F. levies who wish shall join the Iraqi armed forces, and that as many as possible of the civilians shall continue in employment at the airfields. In addition, Her Majesty's Ambassador at Baghdad has informed the Iraqi Prime Minister in a letter that Her Majesty's Government intend to care for all the levies and civilians.
840 In the case of the levies, we propose to make suitable arrangements for pensions, and in the case of civilians to award gratuities. We shall set up suitable facilities as soon as possible for vocational training in certain trades for those who wish to find employment elsewhere in Iraq and, in certain cases which would not be adequately covered by any of these measures, we would consider making grants towards resettlement in Iraq. In reply to the Ambassador's letter, the Iraqi Prime Minister has said that he welcomes these proposals and will assist us over vocational training and resettlement in Iraq.
I am glad to be able to inform the House that our first reports of the reaction of the levies and civilian employees to these proposals have been very satisfactory. I am informed that at Habbaniya and Shaiba, a considerable majority of the levies will probably volunteer for transfer to the Iraqi Army. The Iraqi Government have been most helpful over this matter. The Prime Minister has issued a reassuring proclamation and the Chief of the General Staff is sending a senior officer of the Iraqi Army, of Assyrian origin, to Habbaniya, where the majority of employees are Assyrians, to explain the details to the personnel concerned.
I think I have said enough to show that the arrangements which we have made adequately measure up to our and Iraq's requirements in the new political and strategic situation which obtains today in the Middle East. We have made arrangements for mutual defence preparations and for joint military training and cooperation which will serve to keep both British and Iraqi forces at a high state of readiness and efficiency. If war should come to that part of the world, we and our Turkish and Iraqi friends will, by virtue of these Agreements, be the better able to act together in defence of this critically important region.
By planning our defence arrangements in this forward area—the northern tier of Middle Eastern defence, as it is sometimes called—we can the more easily deal with an aggressor before he can penetrate deeply into the Middle East. If that is realised and understood, the likelihood of war will be vastly reduced. In short, these new arrangements are yet another 841 essential contribution to the deterrent to aggression and to the cause for peace. As such, I commend them to the House.
§ 3.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Herbert Morrison (Lewisham, South)
It was announced as late as Thursday afternoon that this debate would take place today, Monday. I caused representations to be made to the effect that in an important matter of this kind that was very short notice between Thursday afternoon and Monday, even though the Foreign Secretary had made a statement on the Wednesday. I understand and follow the reasons for it; there is nothing discreditable about them, but perhaps it would not be well for us to go into them now. I hope that this will not be a precedent.
When an important arrangement of this kind is made, when the Command Paper is available in the Vote Office only a very few days before, and when the announcement of the business is made upon Thursday afternoon for the following Monday, it is rather taking liberties with the House of Commons to expect it to debate and decide this matter today.
Another point involved is that I had an appointment at 4 o'clock this afternoon. which I have now postponed until later, upon the assumption that the Secretary of State was to open the debate. In those circumstances, if I am not here he is the victim of not opening the debate, and I am the victim of his readjustment of my time-table. I apologise that that should be so.
This Pact, Agreement and Exchange of Notes are based partially upon the latest model, established by the decisions reached in respect of Egypt. They are not the same; nevertheless, there is a certain relationship between this Pact and that made with Egypt. The 1930 Treaty with Iraq, which is now ended, gave us rather more extensive rights than we have under this proposal. The Royal Air Force is to withdraw. It is a looser arrangement, which has certain characteristics related to the Egyptian Treaty.
After the Foreign Secretary made his statement about this Pact on Wednesday last, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) asked him:Is this system of free co-operation between equal partners the same principle as used to 842 be described by hon. Members opposite as the policy of scuttle?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th March, 1955; Vol. 539, c. 385.]I admit that there may be some elements of exaggeration about it, but there is also some truth in it and I believe that my hon. and learned Friend was on to a good point there.
On the other hand, it has to be remembered that some British personnel will be left in Iraq, for training and technical purposes of a rather varied character. That has been accepted by the Government of Iraq, which is thereby going further than the Government of Egypt were willing to go. Moreover, certain facilities have been granted to the Royal Air Force in respect of passing over and visiting Iraq, and similar facilities have been granted to the Royal Iraqi Air Force in relation to visits to this country. We are also making supplies of various kinds available to Iraq.
Under Article 5 of the Agreement, Iraq undertakes to co-operate with us for her defence, and to provide facilities to that end. We are, therefore, committed to her defence in certain broad circumstances. Iraq is excluded from any obligations other than the defence of its own country, so there are clearly no reciprocal guarantees—and I accept that there could not easily be such reciprocal guarantees. Under Article 8 of the Agreement we are obligated to assist in the defence of Iraq if she is attacked, but she is not obligated to assist in the defence of our side if we should find ourselves in circumstances in which it would be advantageous for us to have her assistance.
This is the nature of the Pact which was agreed between Turkey and Iraq and which is now supplemented by the Agreement and the accession on our part to the Turco-Iraqi Pact. The Minister of State and the Foreign Secretary have agreed that we must consider this matter in the light of our general plans for the defence of the Middle East. The Minister of State referred to the proposals which I made when I was at the Foreign Office—and we were dealing with the difficulties which emerged as a consequence of Egypt's unilateral denunciation of the 1936 Treaty—that there should be a joint arrangement between equals, namely, Egypt, the United States, France and ourselves, whereby we should institute the beginnings of a mutual defence plan for the Middle East, in the hope that other 843 Arab States would come into it—together, possibly, with other countries.
I had a hope that, in due time, when prejudices wore off, Israel might also have come into that arrangement, and we might have had a collective defence system of a modern character for the Middle East. In those circumstances, Egypt would not have been treated as an inferior; neither would Iraq, if she had later wished to come in. They would have been treated as equals, and we should have had a modern system of collective defence for the Middle East, which most hon. Members would probably agree would have been better than the separate pacts which we are now making—although I am inclined to agree that this is perhaps the only thing that we can do in existing circumstances.
There are Agreements with Egypt, which the House debated some time ago; there is the Agreement with Jordan, and now the revised Agreement with Iraq. Apparently, there have been some repercussions in the Arab League, some members of which are against Pacts of this sort. Egypt is critical of the fact that Iraq and the United Kingdom have entered into the present arrangement. We cannot consider this Pact and our accession to it without also considering the wider implications which affect the whole of the Middle East.
As I have said, we would have preferred a real, collective security pact for the Middle East, covering a wide variety of Middle Eastern countries as well as the Western Powers, but we have increasingly to recognise and face the fact that as these Treaties, Agreements and Pacts increase in number—there are now at least three—Israel, and possible difficulties which may arise in relation to her, assume an increasing importance. We cannot, therefore, exclude consideration of Israel from this debate.
Let me briefly submit to the House the situation in which Israel finds herself, and the attitude of the Arab States to that small but progressive and democratic country. Israel is subject to an economic boycott, which hurts both ways. It hurts Israel, who cannot get adequate supplies because her ships are barred from passing through the Suez Canal, and it hurts the Arab States because they are denying 844 themselves water supplies and electricity supplies, consequent upon the prevention of a possible two-way traffic between the Arab States and Israel.
A so-called armistice has existed now for over five years between Israel and the Arab States, in place of the state of war which existed following the British evacuation of Israel. There is no peace; indeed, Israel is in a state of near-siege. Consequently, incidents occur with great frequency, and this keeps the Truce Supervision Organisation and other United Nations organisations busy on the spot, making inquiries into allegations by Egypt, Israel and other countries, including Jordan, of shootings, killings and attacks by one country against another.
I have in my hands a considerable document, including detailed reports of the Gaza incident, and whole pages of lists of attacks, one way or the other, which have occurred. I think the Foreign Secretary will agree that it is fair to state that when the judgments are recorded, whether people agree with them or do not, they certainly cut both ways. Various countries are criticised and condemned. This is not war in the full-scale sense of the term, but it is, I am afraid, one of the inevitable consequences of this situation of tension—of borders which are not finally settled, and of an armistice situation and a technical state of war which exists.
Although both sides have been condemned, this still goes on. There were proposals for the joint defence of the borders, which Israel has accepted, but which otherwise have not been accepted so far—I hope they may be and that there may be co-operation—and this is the situation which confronts this little State of Israel, for the creation of which, directly or indirectly, we and the United States are jointly responsible. It is a progressive, democratic State in which a considerable number of Arab citizens are politically free, politically enfranchised, and subject to similar social services as are the Jews. It seems to me a great pity that that situation should exist.
What causes us and Israel apprehension is not so much the merits—this is difficult to explain—of this series of facts in themselves, because not one of us would be disposed to deprecate the friendship between the United Kingdom 845 and a series of Arab States, especially if it is done within the curtilage of the United Nations. It is bound, however, to have repercussions in the direction which I have indicated and to cause increasing apprehension on the part of Israel, which at least ought to be just as much a friend of ours as are the Arab States.
This is how they feel, and I will now quote the Prime Minister of Israel, who was dealing at this point, I think, with the Turco-Iraqi Pact before British accession actually took place. He took the view that the chief harm of the Agreement lies "in the encouragement it lends to the stubborn refusal of the Arabs to accept existing realities and make peace with Israel. In short, it renders the prospects of peace in the Middle East more remote. The treaty does not contain the customary wording of similar documents by which the parties undertake to settle by peaceful means any dispute with a third party in which either may find itself involved.
The conclusion of military assistance and mutual defence agreements by the West with the Arab States has altered the political balance with the region to our detriment, and is aggravating the dangers with which the problem of our security is in any case fraught. The Western Powers who have inspired this treaty cannot divest themselves of responsibility for the document itself or for its consequences. If they take the initiative in organising the region for purposes of defence, they thereby make themselves responsible for the effects of this activity on the position of each State within the region."
I find it difficult to be critical of that. It seems to me to be a reasonable and fair interpretation of the situation. There are these British traditions to be taken into account on the internal political balance of the situation in Israel, which I visited in the course of last year for the second time: there is a situation in which there are democratic parties who are friends of ours—friends of Western democracy—and whose thoughts, if I may say so, are perhaps very much like British thoughts. They have a parliamentary democratic system, a system of national proportional representation without any constituencies at all, which I should not like in our country. They do not like it either, but P.R. is easier to get than it is to get rid of, and that is what they are finding.
Nevertheless, the main bloc of political power is on the part of responsible democratic, parliamentary-minded people.
846 There exists, however, in Israel a minority element of Communists, which would wish their policy to be more adaptable to that of the Soviet Union. That is not strange: it exists in other countries, too. There is a minority element of terrorists with whom we had every reason to be familiar in past years.
What worries some of our goods friends in Israel, who are the really democratic elements, is that electorally—and they have to face an election in June or July of this year—there may be an increase in the political influence of these less responsible people, and there may be a weakening of the authority and power of the democratic bloc. That is a possibility because of what might be said in the light of these Agreements.
In the light of this series of agreements which the Western Powers have either made or inspired with the Arab States, with specific provision in them whereby there cannot be accession on the part of Israel, they may begin to say, "Well, the Western States are doing business with the Arab States on the basis that business cannot be done with Israel by accession under the Agreement, and we have not only been encircled, but the encirclement, with Western blessing, is becoming increasingly powerful. Therefore, let us have a policy of desperation by swinging the other way in world politics between the two camps of Western democracy and totalitarianism." These things may happen, and they are real apprehensions which, I think, the Foreign Secretary has to take into account.
I wish to draw attention to one or two provisions of the Pact itself, so as to drive home the point to which I have been referring. I will quote from the Turco-Iraqi Pact which, however, is not upset by the British accession. We have acceded to the whole of this Pact, to every Article, without exception, as I think the Foreign Secretary will agree. Article 3 says:The High Contracting Parties undertake to refrain from any interference whatsoever in each other's internal affairs. They will settle any dispute between themselves in a peaceful way in accordance with the United Nation's Charter.My recollection is that the more customary course is that they will settle any dispute, not merely between the two Contracting Parties, in a peaceful way in 847 accordance with the United Nations Charter, and I hope that in the course of further discussions and the Foreign Secretary's reply we shall hear why this course is preferred to what I think is the usual course.
The other article to which I have referred in the Turco-Iraqi Pact is Article 5, which says:This pact shall be open for accession to any member of the Arab League or any other State actively concerned with the security and peace in this region and which is fully recognised by both of the High Contracting Parties.It is well known that Israel is not recognised by the Arab States. Therefore, one of the High Contracting Parties does not recognise Israel; and this must mean that Israel is specifically excluded from the possibility of acceding to this Pact.
There is something else. There was an exchange of letters. The Foreign Secretary has announced that the Government, as regards part of these letters, have kept themselves clear and free. There is a letter from the Prime Minister of Iraq in connection with the Pact which reads:I have the honour to place on record our understanding that this Pact will enable our two countries to co-operate in resisting any aggression directed against either of them.Presumably Her Majesty's Government had not made reservations about contracting out of the Agreement up to that point, but it does mean that if it were held that Israel had committed aggression against Iraq—and he would be a clever man who knew who was committing aggression against whom between Israel and the surrounding Arab States—it might involve us in trouble against Israel, which would be unfortunate.
The letter goes on to say:In order to ensure the maintenance of peace and security in the Middle East Region we have agreed to work in close co-operation for effecting the carrying out of the United Nations Resolutions concerning Palestine.I gather that those resolutions mainly concern the border. On this point the Foreign Secretary has announced that we have, so to speak, contracted out of these particular provisions.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir Anthony Eden)
I will carefully check the position. As I understand, the position is that these letters are no part of the Agreement, but were exchanged entirely separately. I dissociated myself from the whole of the letters by a process—if I may use the right hon. Gentleman's phrase—of" contracting out."
§ Mr. Morrison
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I had taken the Foreign Secretary's own statement. I am not disputing it. He should know, and he may well be right. He gave the information, and it was, no doubt, carefully prepared and carefully studied by his competent advisers. He said:I wish to make it clear that in acceding to the Pact we are not associating ourselves with the letters which were exchanged at the time of signature between Turkey and Iraq Government on the subject of Palestine.The letters go a little wider in regard to Israel itself than the first part of the letter which I have quoted, in which there is an undertaking on the part of Turkey to go to the rescue of Iraq if, in their opinion, there had been aggression against Iraq. That was the point. The Foreign Secretary said last Wednesday—
§ Sir A. Eden
Perhaps I may read what I said? It was:We do not associate ourselves with that particular exchange of letters."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th March, 1955; Vol. 539, c. 381–4.]That is the position.
§ Mr. Morrison
I accept that. What the right hon. Gentleman has said today will be on record, as well as what he said last Wednesday. His statements completely cover the point about the letters, so far as I understand them. That is satisfactory.
Can we be enlightened about one further point, in respect of the discussion that has taken place? If there were aggression against Iraq which involved Turkey—and here I am not talking about Israel or about anybody else in particular but about any aggression—what are the consequences to N.A.T.O. in its obligations towards Turkey as a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation? Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman might think about that and give us his advice about it later. This is the point 849 that my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) asked me to raise, and it is very natural, in view of his past Ministerial experience. If there were alleged aggression which involved Turkey, who is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, what would be the direct or indirect repercussions on that organisation, as a consequence of this accession to the Agreement which is before the House this afternoon?
In all the circumstances, we do not propose to vote against the ratification of this accession to this Agreement, but we are not altogether happy about it, for the reasons I have indicated. We think that the Government's position vis-à-vis Israel is by no means satisfactory. There is a danger that the Arab States may feel that Israel is isolated, and that there is no obligation to try to settle this rather foolish position of an over-five-years' armistice, an over-five-years' cease-fire, more or less, without peace. That is bad. We ought to do everything we can about it.
I should like the Foreign Secretary to tell the House what he is doing to bring to an end this situation, which may encourage some of the Arab States to feel that Israel is isolated and that, therefore, it does not matter. It might be a source of trouble for ourselves in the Middle East. We urge that we should be careful not to be over one-sided about this matter. We should still go ahead in a determined effort to bring the parties together so that this utterly unsatisfactory and dangerous situation may be brought to an end.
This should be done not merely in the interests of Israel but of the Arab States as well, who have great economic and social advantages to gain by the ending of the state of war and the beginning of economic co-operation. It is desirable, also, for the sake of the peace of this vital and dangerous region of the Middle East. We wish that Her Majesty's Government with other friends of ours could bring the parties together or induce them to get together—which would be still better—so that a settlement may be reached.
We would like the Government to consider entering into a pact of this kind with Israel as well as with Egypt, Jordan and other States. In 1930, we made a somewhat bolder treaty with Iraq than the Foreign Secretary has made in 1955.
§ Mr. Morrison
Is it not possible that we have got to a point where we should seriously consider entering into a somewhat similar pact with Israel, so that between that progressive country and ourselves mutual help, co-operation and assistance can take place? Israel and other people would then feel that Israel, like other countries in the Middle East, has friends in the world.
We are not raising these objections to our being friends with other countries in the Middle East. We want to be friendly with Arab countries. We do not like a situation in which there is apparent indifference to, or lack of warm friendship for, one of the important democratic countries of the Middle East, and we press the right hon. Gentleman to give favourable consideration to the points which I have advanced.
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ Colonel Sir Ralph Clarke (East Grinstead)
The right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) devoted a considerable part of his speech to Palestine. I hope also to refer to it, but I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not think I am discourteous if I wait until I reach the part of my speech where I wish to deal with Palestine and do net deal with it directly and at once. I should, perhaps, apologise for this incursion into a foreign affairs debate. Although I have been in the House for some considerable time I think that this is the first time I have spoken in such a debate; but in the two wars I spent about five years in the Middle East and the problems we are discussing today have always been of great interest to me.
I should like first to congratulate the Foreign Secretary on the highly successful negotiations whereby we are acceding to the pact between Turkey and Iraq—thereby forging a fresh link in that traditional friendship between this country and Turkey which, with one unfortunate break, has existed between us for, I might say, centuries; and also on reaching a Special Agreement for mutual defence with the Government of Iraq, replacing the Treaty of 1930 which was due to end in about 18 months.
It is of particular importance that something fresh should replace that older 851 Treaty. Since it was made our position in the Middle East—and particularly in Iraq and Persia—has changed very considerably because our traditional base at Bombay is no longer available to us in the lamentable event of a war in that area. The provisions of Article 6 are, therefore, particularly important. This extension to Iraq of the relations we enjoy with Turkey and the other nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is a great advance. I sincerely hope that it is the precursor of further similar pacts in the Middle East.
§ I listened carefully to the Minister of State's amplification of the Agreement. Personally, I cannot see anything in the Agreement which should alarm the State of Israel. I recognise that the Israelis are very anxious, and have been for some time, but it is only fair to say that their neighbours are anxious, too.
§ Mr. Barnett Janner (Leicester, North-West)
If that is so, can the hon. and gallant Member tell us why those neighbours continually say they are at war with Israel, and why they make such violent declarations which incite people to attack Israel?
§ Sir R. Clarke
I have very considerable sympathy with Israel. I was in Lord Allenby's army. I cannot say that I took any real part in freeing Israel because I was wounded before I got there—but I started. At that time I thought we were writing the final chapter of an old tragedy, whereas, apparently, we were writing only the first chapter in a new volume of that tragedy.
Nevertheless, I think it is a fact—and perhaps it is complimentary to Israel—that her neighbours are just as anxious about her as Israel is about her neighbours. I realise, however, the immense importance of trying to negotiate a similar type of pact which could include Israel in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, remove suspicions on both sides and fill a dangerous vacuum in the defence front which we are trying to build. It is essential that something of that sort should be done as soon as possible.
What I have heard today has considerably reassured me as to the future of the Christian elements in the levies in Iraq. There is not much doubt that most 852 of the Mohamedan elements will be absorbed in the Iraqi forces and will be a valuable addition to them. The Christian element is a rather different problem. I greatly regret that these levies cannot continue in our service. When I saw them during the last war they were among the finest military material I had ever seen. I made such a comment to one of their officers after watching a particularly smart parade. He told me that it seemed to come natural to them and that to punish them they were merely not allowed to go on guard. They were not excused guard—they were not allowed to go on. I have often thought that some sort of foreign legion recruited from those levies would have been of great value to us.
Taking the long view, I hope that this newly-formed association between us and Iraq will provide something in addition to the Special Agreement for mutual defence—although that, of course, is its primary purpose. For many years our relationship with Iraq has been very friendly. I hope that not only will we continue such co-operation but extend it to things appertaining to peace as well as war.
During the last war I spent about a year in Iraq. I was engaged very largely in making reconnaissances of airfields. I travelled the country very widely from Amedia in the north down to the mouth of the Shatt-el-Arab. I saw a lot of the country and I was greatly impressed by it, and I became fond of it and the people—particularly the people in the north.
Iraq is an ancient country, with a long and proud history. As we all know, it is almost the cradle of mankind and it is extraordinary how practically all the great peoples of the Middle East have entered into its history: the Assyrians, the Persians, the Greeks—I believe that Alexander the Great died at Babylon. Then, of course, there came the Tartar hordes who reduced the population to about one-fifth; and from that reduction the country is only just beginning to recover.
Iraq has great potential natural advantages and today the country seems well on the road to retrieving its ancient glory. From an agricultural point of view, no country that I visited in the Middle East seemed to have greater possibilities and potentialities. The great, well-watered alluvial plain in northern Iraq is at 853 present very under-populated, but is capable of tremendous development. There are mountains where the people can live when the weather is too hot in the plains, just as is done in India. Here, there are enormous future possibilities. There is also the great advantage, denied to most agriculturists, of an abundant source of capital from the oil royalities with which to develop the country.
I hope and believe, therefore, that tomorrow, 5th April, when this Instrument of Accession will be deposited, will indeed be a fortunate one for the future of our relations with Iraq. Finally, in this connection, I was very pleased to hear about the good-will fund of £150,000 which is to be available to be devoted to the improvement of the relations between ourselves and Iraq.
§ 4.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker (Smethwick)
I shall be dealing with some of the points raised by the hon. and gallant Member for East Grinstead (Sir R. Clarke) in the course of my speech, because I intend to talk about some of the same subjects as the hon. and gallant Gentleman mentioned.
I should like first to emphasise the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) that this Pact is part of the new pattern of relationships between the United Kingdom and the rising nations of Asia and the Middle East. As I see it, it is inevitable and good that our relations should be redefined in this way. But in itself this seems to me to be an incomplete step which raises at least as many questions as it solves.
Some of these questions are Commonwealth questions, and there are two in particular that I want to put to the Foreign Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman has no doubt noticed that Mr. Nehru made some rather critical remarks about this Pact in a speech in his Parliament which, but for the newspaper strike, would doubtless have attracted much more attention than it has done.
I take it that the right hon. Gentleman went through the normal process of consultation and keeping all other Commonwealth countries, including India, informed as we came to the point of adhering to this particular Pact. The other point is whether or not, as a result 854 of the Pact, we are entering into specific treaty relations with Pakistan, because Pakistan already has a pact with Iraq. Now we too have this Pact with Iraq, and I should like to know if there is a juridical tie-up between these two agreements, because these matters are important to Commonwealth relations.
The main question which I think is raised by this Pact is that it is only a partial solution of the very difficult and almost intractable problems of the Middle East, and, because it is only a partial solution, to some extent it makes these problems more difficult. The Middle East is the Achilles' heel of Commonwealth defence. That area is absolutely vital to the Commonwealth, and yet it is an area the defence of which is tending to be more and more neglected because of the increasing concern of each Commonwealth country with its own regional area defence, which is situated elsewhere rather than in the Middle East.
In the, old days, Australia and New Zealand used to regard the Middle East as their front line, but nowadays they regard Singapore as being their front line. Canada has always rather withdrawn from Middle Eastern problems, and normally, when there are Commonwealth discussions about the Middle East, Canada makes that clear by appearing as an observer rather than as an actual participant.
Most important of all, of course, is the fact that the United Kingdom, by the new commitment of four divisions to the Continent of Europe, has very greatly reduced its own capacity for sending forces very rapidly to the Middle East. Indeed, of the Commonwealth countries today, one might say that only South Africa and Pakistan have a natural interest in the Middle East, where they would automatically send forces for their own defence, because it is for them a flank area or one which they regard as being strategically necessary.
It is because of this development of Commonwealth regional strategy that a vacuum has arisen since the war in the Middle East. It is a power vacuum, and, like nature, dictators abhor a vacuum. It is important that we should not leave this power vacuum in this part of the world. The only way in which it can be filled up is by this sort of pact, by increasing 855 local strength within the area. It would, of course, be better if we could achieve this in a big arrangement, but all attempts at Middle Eastern defence organisation and so forth, which both we and the present Government have tried to get, have broken down. There is also the problem of Arab-Israel relations.
Therefore, we must do things that will raise the local strength of the area, and Commonwealth forces can only be reinforcements and cannot any longer be a front-line permanent element in the defence of that area. This Pact is a step in that direction, but it does raise some very grave problems, with which I hope the Foreign Secretary will be able to deal.
It raises both political and military problems. It deals with one section only of the Middle East. But the Middle East is strategically an indivisible area, and all the various parts are inter-dependent, so that we cannot deal with it piecemeal. We must complete the whole of the process begun by this Pact.
This Pact by itself, and by its first effects, will disconnect the various parts of the Middle East which have to be connected strategically. We hear a lot about the northern tier of defence, but if we really had to rely on the northern tier alone, we should be running very grave risks. It is a very thin line of defence, a line that turns entirely on the hinge of Turkey.
If Turkey went, the whole line would go, and the northern tier is a line of a kind to which it is very difficult to bring sea power to bear, which is one of our main ways of reinforcing the Middle East. If we have only a northern tier of defence we are in very great difficulties. I am not opposed to a northern tier, but I am sure that it must be completed, for if it is incomplete we are left in danger.
Next, we must consider the effect of this Pact on Arab-Israel relations. This, of course, is the fundamental source of the weakness of the West in the Middle East. The Middle East is a single area, and we must treat it as such, and it remains, therefore, one of our prime interests to secure an Arab-Israel reconciliation.
There are some policies which are advocated to get Arab-Israel reconciliation, but which we cannot pursue. One such is the suggestion that we should 856 bring pressure to bear on the Arabs to agree with Israel or upon Israel to agree with the Arabs. That seems to me to be a policy which is old-fashioned, and based on the idea that we can force the Arabs or other countries in the Middle East to do the things we want. The attempt would do more harm than good.
I have fairly recently been in the Arab States, and I hope soon to visit Israel. There is no immediate prospect of agreement between the Arab States and Israel, and we have to accept that. Attempts to force them together would drive them further apart. We must have as our longterm policy the aim of securing a reconciliation between these two States, for the short-term prospect is not good.
Therefore, our policy should have as its long-term objective this reconciliation between Israel and the Arab States. We should keep an equal balance of friendship and help between the Arab States and Israel. We must say that we cannot make a choice between the Arab States and Israel in such a way that this involves us in enmity with the other. We must remain equal friends with both. There is no other way of helping to bring about an ultimate reconciliation, and, in the meantime, to preserve as much peace and stability as is possible in the Middle East.
The rôle of the United Kingdom is vital in this. The Tripartite Declaration is very nearly a dead letter, for both the United States and France have pointedly refrained from giving the sort of reaffirmations and interpretations of the Tripartite Declaration as those which the Foreign Secretary has given on behalf of this country. It has almost become a United Kingdom declaration in which we have made it clear what we mean by the Tripartite Declaration. The solution of the trouble in the Middle East turns upon us, therefore, more than on any other great Power.
We cannot deny that this Agreement disturbs relationships between Israel and the Arab States. It is no good making assuring statements about it, saying that it should not do so. In fact, it does disturb relations between Israel and the Arab States. Following the Suez Pact, it is quite inevitable that Israel should be worried about these developments. I am sure that Israel understands our interests and why we are taking these steps, and that she is not suspicious of 857 us, but I am equally sure that the Agreement has disturbed those relationships.
As my right hon. Friend said, it is very important that, to complete the step which is being taken today, we should seriously explore the possibilities of establishing a similar bilateral arrangement between ourselves and Israel. I should like to go further and say that we should explore the possibilities of establishing a base in Israel—of course, with the consent of Israel, for all this would depend on her consent. That would have a stabilising effect on the Middle East and would fit very properly into our pattern of defence in the Middle East.
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman will feel that it is too dangerous to go into that question today. If he did think so, I should understand. But I hope that the Government are thinking of completing this process in that way, and I hope that the Foreign Secretary can say something about it.
To conclude, I think that this Agreement is good and is to be approved, but only if we regard it as a first step and if we press on to restore and redress the balance in the Middle East which this Agreement, although a good step, must by its very nature disturb. It is only if we go forward to complete this work that this will be a good step which can be wholeheartedly supported in the House.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Walter Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
The right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) referred to this Agreement as disturbing further relations in the Middle East, particularly those between this country and Israel. Surely he is in error. It was the Pact between Turkey and Iraq and the exchange of letters which disturbed those relations and, if anything, this Agreement should, and I hope will, do something to restore them. It will lessen the state of tension. It may be that it will be necessary for it to be followed by further steps, but it is certainly not the first step in disturbing relations. It is the first step towards relieving the tension, and I think it will generally be so regarded.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
I gather that the right hon. Gentleman is referring to the main Pact between Turkey and Iraq.
858 This accession adopts the whole of that Pact vis-à-vis the United Kingdom and takes nothing away. I can be corrected if I am wrong. The only point on which Her Majesty's Government had reservations was the exchange of letters between the two Governments, and this, the Foreign Secretary said, was outside the Pact. I cannot see where the United Kingdom's accession modifies the original Pact.
§ Mr. Elliot
Then the right hon. Gentleman and I are obviously at variance.
If an arrangement is reached between two people who are not friends of mine, and subsequently someone who is a friend of mine accedes to it, specifically dissociating himself from the unfriendly references, and that is accepted by the other two people. surely that diminishes and does not intensify the hostile or perilous nature of the agreement previously reached. I am sure that that is so and that it will be so regarded by our friends in all parts of the world. We are regarded as a modifying factor in this Pact and not as an intensifying factor, and I therefore start from that point—that this is not an intensification of tension but a step towards a diminution of tension.
The right hon. Member for Smethwick referred to the important fact that we in the United Kingdom are very closely concerned with this area. He spoke of Pakistan and South Africa as being the only two countries with a natural strategic interest in this region. I think that is rather fine-drawn.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
I do not want to be misunderstood. I meant that they were the only people who would have troops available and who would naturally send them to that area. Other Commonwealth countries would send their troops to other regions.
§ Mr. Elliot
I demur even from that.
I think that to suggest that the United Kingdom would have a strategic interest, but would not have troops available for such a vital area, whereas South Africa would, is rather an unreal attitude. Certainly if I were either Israel or Iraq I should prefer to know that the United Kingdom had acceded to a Pact of this kind rather than to know that South Africa or even Pakistan had acceded to 859 it. Do not let us underestimate our force, or the importance of the accession of the United Kingdom to a document such as this. It is a step of first-class importance. I think we shall have the power, as we certainly have the will, to back our signature, if necessary, by more active steps.
It is remarkable—and no comment has been made on this—that the original Pact contains an earnest of the enormous importance which we exercise in that area in that the original Pact between Turkey and Iraq,Done in Duplicate at Bagdad this second day …of a period which is certainly not according to our chronology, is prefaced by the statement that the Pact has been signed in Arabic, Turkish and English,all three texts being equally authentic except in the case of doubt when the English text shall prevail.
§ That seems to be a remarkable example of the influence of the United Kingdom. After all, it was the United Kingdom—indeed England—which invented the English language. I think that reference in the Pact is a remarkable tribute to the importance which these countries attach to the whole body of cultural and of military influence which this country commands.
§ Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)
Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that because the Pact is also written in English it proves the influence of Great Britain? John Foster Dulles also speaks English, and he might have had something to do so with it.
§ Mr. Elliot
I do not wish to chop logic with the hon. Gentleman. If he thinks Mr. John Foster Dulles invented the English language, he is a little out of date.
This is a matter of interpretation. I think that the hon. Member will find that the more authentic interpretation of English comes from documents in this country—or at any rate, they are at least equally authentic to any document in America. I do not think he will deny that the Oxford Dictionary is at least as authentic as Webster's Dictionary in the interpretation of any international documents.
860 But that leads me away from the important point. The interest of the United Kingdom in this region is ancient and historical, and is also alive today. It seems to me, as a matter of fact, that the importance of the document is more in the emphasis and reinforcement of our relations with Turkey than in the reorganisation of our relations with Iraq.
I do not under-estimate the importance of the reorganisation of our relations with Iraq, for there is one Article in the Agreement of very great importance which ought to be emphasised, and to which attention has not yet been drawn—the right of this country to assemble stores in Iraq and to have them visited by our Forces whenever we desire. That is a very important provision, especially in these days of dispersal. The possibilities of dispersal under that provision are significant, and from a military point of view I regard that as a very important provision.
But close association of this country with Turkey in the military problems of the Middle East is of paramount and transcending importance. The right hon. Member for Smethwick spoke of this being a thin tier, but I do not agree with him. This is the backbone of the whole of the structure of defence in that region. The accession of Greece and Turkey to N.A.T.O. was an event of cardinal importance. It was the entry of the old Byzantine Empire again into world affairs. What we call Turkey, or Asia Minor, has, after all, been historically associated with the West for far longer than it has been associated with the East.
The articles in the Turko-Iraq Pact to which we have acceded, providing for co-operation in security and defencewhich may form the subject of special agreements…seem to me, therefore, to constitute a position of very great importance indeed. In fact, we are resuming the march up country, with which some of us have been familiar, in construing the Anabasis of Xenophon since our schoolboy days. It was from the very region of Iraq into the very region of Turkey that that great march of the Greeks took place. The association of these regions is no new thing. It is an ancient and historical fact, and that is why it is so important for us fully to appreciate its bearing on our affairs this afternoon.
861 Speakers on both sides of the House have referred to the difficulty which may arise in the case of Israel. The right hon. Gentleman the ex-Foreign Secretary spoke about that, and my hon. and gallant Friend for East Grinstead (Sir R. Clarke) also referred to it. It may well be that further provision will need to be made to obviate any sense of insecurity, because it may well be that Israel at this moment has an impression of insecurity, of having been left on one side.
I should have thought, however, that this difficulty would have been tackled better in trying to get round Article 5 of the Turco-Iraq Pact, by which a State cannot accede unless it is fully recognised by both contracting parties, rather than merely by ad hoc arrangements. If nothing better can be done, then no doubt some ad hoc arrangement should be come to. What can be done under this Pact is that any country which is fully recognised can accede, and obviously it would be better to secure full recognition of Israel by both contracting parties than to come to an ad hoc arrangement.
§ Mr. Shinwell
That is the point. The Pact provides for the complete exclusion of Israel simply because the contracting parties, certainly on one side—an Arab State—decline to accede to the recognition of Israel. Therefore, there is only one alternative left; that is a bilateral arrangement with Israel.
§ Mr. Elliot
But that was dealt with by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. He said that the relations between these two Powers have nothing to do with the relations between this country and Israel, and that this Pact does not weaken the Tripartite Agreement or militate against the reinforcement or clarification of the Tripartite Agreement. The point put forward has already been fully met by the Government spokesman.
§ Mr. Shinwell
No. The point has been presented, and I gather that the right hon. Gentleman does not disagree with it. All that we require now is an assurance from the Foreign Secretary that the Government would consider the proposition with a view to its implementation.
§ Mr. Elliot
No, that is not the point.
The right hon. Gentleman is in error. He asked if Israel was excluded, and the Minister of State said that it was not 862 excluded. He said that it was not excluded from any relations with this country. I do not wish the right hon. Gentleman to cast any doubts upon the validity or strength of the Tripartite Agreement. He does a disservice to Israel in so doing. This does not weaken the Tripartite Agreement. It does not weaken our relations with Israel. Anyone who casts doubt upon that is, I repeat, doing a great disservice to Israel, and in a most sensitive part, namely, by raising doubt in the Arab States as to whether the Tripartite Agreement is valid.
The Minister of State has already given an assurance on that point, and I am sure that further assurances will be forthcoming in so far as they can be made without casting doubt upon the existing document. [Interruption.] It is perhaps a besetting sin of mine that I am apt to turn a speech into a conversation. I beg hon. Members opposite not to lead me further along that path, or it will make my remarks take rather longer than I would wish them to do.
It may be necessary, as I was saying, to make an ad hoc arrangement, but the comprehensive arrangement would be much more suitable. It was said by the right hon. Member for Smethwick that it would be impossible to force the two countries together. It would be impossible to force the Arab States and Israel together, but I do not think it is too soon to suggest that some approaches might be made between them. I think that the state of tension along the Gaza strip is very high indeed and might lead to very great difficulties. I would say, greatly daring, that we ourselves, and Israel, and the Arab States, must consider positive steps towards ending that tension. Those steps must be directed towards dealing with frontiers, refugees and co-operation.
On these three points, it should be possible to get some conversations going. Some statement and some approach should be made on the subject of refugees. The refugee problem is a festering sore there, and it is useless for us in this Assembly merely to shut our eyes and avert our faces from it. It is there and ought to be dealt with.
The armistice frontiers are most unsatisfactory, and they will need to be regulated. An Egyptian spokesman has already made a positive suggestion, although I think of a very sweeping 863 nature—the cession of the Negev. It is a suggestion which I would not myself support. But at any rate, if a man is willing to formulate his demands, it is possible to take some step towards discussing them. The difficulty is that each side is standing apart and taking no step whatever towards diminishing the claims which it might possibly advance—this is particularly so in the case of refugees—and consequently the tension does not diminish. It increases.
§ Mr. Thomas Reid (Swindon)
Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that Britain should take the matter out of the hands of the United Nations, with its staffs on the spot, and that we should try to settle the dispute between Israel and the Arabs? Should we not leave the problem to those who created it, the United Nations?
§ Mr. Elliot
If this country always waited for somebody else to do something, the world would be in a very much worse state than it is. I think there are times when, in spite of the difficulty, it is necessary, as the French say, to put one's finger between the bark and the tree. If one can tear the bark off the tree, so much the better. If on the other hand, the bark pinches one's fingers, it is just too bad. We cannot leave this matter to the slow, cumbrous, and sometimes intentionally obstructive, machinery of the United Nations. Britain will, either formally or informally—preferably informally—have to begin to consider whether these matters can be softened and ameliorated.
This Pact gives us a starting point. That is why I say it is a movement towards diminishing and not increasing the tension. There is fear and suspicion on the part of the Arab States as well. It is well known that the Arab States fear a march inland of the Israeli State. They say that this congested area is bound to break out. They say that there is an armed force in a state of high efficiency and that it might begin to make an armed incursion into the Jordan Valley or elsewhere.
I have had opportunities of discussing this matter with Israeli statesmen of high standing, such as the late Dr. Weitzman. He regarded any march inland by Israel as perilous to his own country. He had 864 in mind a much more traditional form of State, which has been so long and so well known in the Mediterranean, the Sea States, cities that face to the sea, of which the Mediterranean provides us with a dozen examples, Venice being, perhaps, the noblest and most renowned. There are, however, dozens of other examples which could be quoted.
I am sure that in so far as Israel attempts to become a land State she will enormously weaken her chance of ultimate survival. She is a small unit afloat on the great currents of the world. The more she looks to territorial conquest the more dangerous and the weaker her position will become. I think that the more far-sighted of the Israeli statesmen recognise that. That is a second point from which one can start. The natural interests of Israel do not lie towards the land. They lie towards the sea, and they lie naturally in a closer association with the great sea Powers, of which, even in the Mediterranean, we still are one.
I put forward that as a suggestion because I would agree that this is a starting point, not a finishing point. The discussion between ourselves and the Arab world cannot be merely one-sided. It must be a discussion between all the Powers in the Middle East. I think we have a great opportunity which it would be wrong for us to neglect, and dangerous to neglect; dangerous both to our own interests and to the interests of the other countries in that region. I am certain that the organisation which is going on in that part of the world is part of the inevitable organisation of wider and wider regional governments, and of arrangements leading to the power of physical intervention.
I do not think we can run the world, as it is now, on resolutions. I think we shall need increasingly to have the power of a police force of some kind or another; working by agreement with the countries in which it operates: but working. I think that this Pact is a step towards that. I believe, therefore, that my right hon. Friend is greatly to be complimented on the steps which he has taken, and I hope that the House will support him.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)
I think I can follow the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot) on one particular, namely, 865 that if we leave everything to the United Nations we shall not have a policy in the Middle East. I cannot, however, follow the right hon. Gentleman in his 'argument that this Pact will be the beginning of the solution of the difficulties of the Arab-Jewish world. I am afraid that I shall have to indicate how, so far from this being so, it will aggravate the difficulties of solving that problem.
First, I would consider the Pact from the point of view of British relations with the Arab world and defence in that area. I am surprised that up to now in this debate nobody has discussed the remarkable fact that this Pact, which has been welcomed as strengthening our position in the Middle East, has actually split the Arab world from top to bottom. I suppose discretion is the reason why no one has mentioned Egypt and Egyptian reactions to this Pact.
I shall be interested to hear what the Foreign Secretary will have to say about what he thinks is to be the future of the Arab League, which, I believe, is his one original contribution to international organisation. He launched the Arab League in the last year of the Second World War. This Pact has just about knocked it out. I should like to hear what is the change in British foreign policy which has led to this radical rethinking—to say the least of it—about our relations with the Arab States.
If I understand the right hon. Gentleman aright, when he signed the Agreement with Egypt his idea was that the basis of our relationship with the Arab States was to be through Egypt. Indeed, I think he spent no fewer than twelve months delaying the Anglo-Egyptian Agreement to get Turkey included in that Agreement in order to improve the relations of Egypt and Turkey. Relations between Egypt and Turkey have been undoubtedly made a great deal worse by the signature of the Turco-Iraqi Pact and our adherence to it.
The very essence of the Anglo-Egyptian Agreement was, as the Foreign Secretary himself has said, that the Egyptians were not formally committed to a Western alliance, because they resented the idea of a military alliance. They wanted to be left free to be friendly with the West without being joined in formal alliances. Now we have the new Treaty with Iraq which is a formal alliance.
866 I happened to see Colonel Nasser on the evening of the day this news broke—the news that a treaty was to be signed.
§ Mr. Crossman
The first, the Turco-Iraqi Pact. It was some weeks ago.
Colonel Nasser expressed himself very frankly on the subject of the Treaty. I dare say that the Foreign Secretary will think Egyptian views of the Pact at least as relevant to the debate as those of Nuri As-Said. The effect of what Colonel Nasser had to say was that Nuri As-Said had been a stooge of the British now for twenty or twenty-five years.
§ Mr. Crossman
I am reporting what was said. I would point out, with great respect to the Foreign Secretary, what Nuri As-Said has actually done. He had an election, and before the election he suppressed every single party in Iraq with any independence whatsoever. Now the Pact has been ratified "by acclamation" in the Iraqi Assembly—but one can hardly say that there was a debate of any genuine character.
§ Mr. Crossman
When we talk about form of democracy, we should consider the difference between Colonel Nasser and Nuri As-Said. Colonel Nasser rose to power in a revolution against Western imperialism. Nuri As-Said is in power because he has served Western imperialism faithfully over the last fifteen years.
§ Sir A. Eden
Iraq, more than any other country in the Middle East, has spent money on developments in an endeavour to improve the conditions of her people. I think we ought to say that, because the fact that a man has been our friend is no reason why he should be attacked.
§ Mr. Crossman
I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman should have adverted to a quite different subject. What I said—and what I repeat—has nothing to do with development at all. It was that everybody in the Middle East knows that Nurli As-Said is tied to the West. It makes no difference, therefore, whether he signs another scrap of paper 867 or not. He suppressed the opposition in Iraq, but an overwhelming number of Iraqi had indicated that they were against the Western alignment, and that means that there is a certain instability about this Pact. Do not let us over-emphasise the value of this gorgeous diplomatic success.
I do not really blame the Foreign Secretary for this Pact, because he was not concerned with it. The conclusion of the Turco-Iraqi Pact was not owing to British initiative but to American initiative, and the man properly to be congratulated on this Pact is Mr. Dulles, because this is the second of Mr. Dulles's achievements in the Middle East. My right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) laughs at this.
§ Mr. Crossman
I think I heard the Foreign Secretary say, "This is ludicrous." Does he really deny that the plan of the Americans, which was not an unsensible plan, was to get an alliance linking Greece, Turkey, Persia, Pakistan and Iraq, and that it cut across the plan of the British, which was to work on the basis of friendship with Egypt?
I should say, therefore, that on the whole the man who got what he wanted was the American Secretary of State. The Americans believe more than we do in this type of straight military assistance to Arab States. The Foreign Secretary knows that the Americans are lavish with their military aid. I was told that there are to be four Iraqi divisions as a result of this American assistance, and that they are to form the cadres of that great army which is to defend the Middle East against the Russian invasion.
I hope the Foreign Secretary is as sceptical as I am about whether an Arab army will think that its first objective is to defend the Middle East against Russia. Anybody who knows the Middle East knows perfectly well that if ever there were a Russian invasion Iraq would make her peace with Russia as quickly as she possibly could. And I would not blame her. Iraq would not dream of using this army for such a dangerous purpose. She wants it for one purpose and for one purpose only. The one purpose for which 868 she wants it is the second round against Israel. We must all know that if we connive at a Pact of this sort we are conniving at the rebuilding of an army which Iraq will use, if she uses it at all—I hope she will not—for the second round.
We are told by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove that this is the first step towards improvement in the Middle East, but let us see where the Pact began. It began with pulling Turkey out of her position of neutrality as between the Arabs and Israel. It is quite untrue to say that before Turkey was the enemy of Israel. Turkey and Israel have had extremely good relations. The first effect of this Pact has been to break the good relations between Israel and Turkey, because, in acceding to the Pact, Turkey has now agreed with the Arab position, that Israel's present frontiers should not be recognised but only the partitioned frontiers, which are 2,000 square miles fewer than the existing frontiers.
So, in replying to the right hon. Gentleman, I would say that I do not think that the best way of starting a general improvement in relations is to break the only decent relations between a Moslem country and Irael, and put Turkey into bad relations with Israel.
§ Mr. Elliot
I think the hon. Gentleman should decide whether he is now discussing the Turco-Iraqi Treaty or the British Pact. We would get on far faster if he would determine that matter. It is all very well for him to refer to the Turco-Iraqi Treaty, but I was discussing the Pact which the British Government had made, and which is the subject before us this afternoon.
§ Mr. Crossman
The right hon. Gentleman does not seem to realise that what we are doing is acceding to the Turco-Iraqi Treaty and that the basic thing whose value we have to discuss today is that Turco-Iraqi Treaty and whether Britain should accede to it or not. Clearly, when we are discussing the Pact in the House we must discuss the value of the original Treaty and whether by acceding to it we shall really improve relations, as the right hon. Gentleman said we were doing.
In replying, all I am saying is that what we are doing is acceding to a Pact which 869 broke the relationship between Israel and the one Moslem country in the Middle East which was relatively detached from this feud between Israel and her neighbours. I am arguing that that is not the first step to improving relations.
§ Mr. Elliot
This is rather important. Does the hon. Gentleman seriously contend that the accession of a country which is already a member of the Tripartite Declaration to this Pact has intensified the anti-Israel position, or is even supporting a supposedly anti-Israel point of view?
§ Mr. Crossman
I would get on faster if I were allowed to develop my speech, but that was the point I was coming to next. My answer is, "Yes." I should like to explain why. The point has been put by several of my hon. Friends, and also by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South. We are in treaty relations now with Egypt, Iraq and Jordan. In the case of Iraq, the Treaty was running out. We have decided, instead of renewing the old Treaty, to accede to a new Pact.
I would suggest to the Foreign Secretary that in the Middle East people are not quite as nice-minded as in this House, and the interpretation put upon this Pact is that it offers support for the Arab point of view against Israel. If the Foreign Secretary had simultaneously signed a treaty of alliance with Israel the thing would be entirely different, but the right hon. Gentleman has been approached by Israel month after month and year after year asking for any form of political association, and for three years the right hon. Gentleman has refused to negotiate any form of political understanding with Israel outside the tripartite Agreement which is binding on both sides.
Therefore, he has inevitably aroused suspicion. For three years he refuses to negotiate any form of military understanding with Israel and now he negotiates a brand new one with Iraq under which Iraq has grabbed Turkey and pulled her to the Arab side. One has only to go to Israel to discover what interpretation is put there on what has happened. I also think that any Arab country would also tell anyone investigating the position that they were very pleased at what they are getting—a completely one-sided relationship between this country and the 870 Arabs and no treaty or relationship between this country and the Jews.
§ But that is not all. Under this Pact we are rearming Iraq. We are to create four divisions, and the Iraquis are openly saying that they intend to use them for the second round against Israel. That is a fact. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I thought that that was common knowledge.
§ Sir Robert Boothby (Aberdeenshire, East)
The hon. Gentleman is saying that the Iraqi divisions are being sponsored by the United States of America.
§ Sir R. Boothby
Does the hon. Gentleman seriously think that the United States of America, if they created these divisions, would sanction their use in this way?
§ Mr. Crossman
With great respect to the hon. Gentleman, I would not have believed that the British Government would sanction the use of the Arab Legion against the Jews, until it actually happened, and Jerusalem was bombarded. The Arab Legion, led by British officers, went into the kill against the Jews. I attacked my Government at the time on the subject, and I have a right to point to it now. Men and women in the Middle East have had experience of this kind of thing. They have known that happen in the past. The Western Powers look on so calmly, so smoothly and make all kinds of assurances. Then, when the terrible fact of war comes, one country is left virtually undefended and the Western Powers stand and watch an attempt to wipe it out. That is what happened in 1948 and, therefore, the House cannot—
§ Mr. Elliot
The hon. Member is entitled to attack his own Government over that. But he cannot attack ours.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)
We cannot have two hon. Members on their feet at the same time.
§ Mr. Crossman
I have given way a great deal, and, anyway, there was nothing in what the right hon. Gentleman was saying. He was being offensive.
In the Middle East, people remember what happened in 1948. The Jews remember it regretfully: the Arabs remember it extremely hopefully. They say, "If only we had been allowed ammunition at that time and allowed to 871 go after them, we should have pulled it off. "Therefore, they look at our policy in a slightly different way.
So, first of all, we have the Pact. Then we have the rearming of the Arab States and next we have the Arab embargo. We have a complete trade embargo during a period of armistice about which there is no protest by the Western world. Finally, and most important of all, we have the refugees. They are being systematically used to maintain a psychological state of war between Israel and the Arabs; and the funds which enable those refugees to be used for this psychological warfare purpose are largely contributed by Her Majesty's Government.
When I last went to Jordan I was appalled to find U.N.R.R.A. officials saying openly, "Of course, we cannot resettle these refugees. It would upset the Arab Governments and the British and the Americans will not let us do that." U.N.R.R.A. has now become the organisation which is used to keep refugees as refugees, to keep the war spirit. The U.N.R.R.A. organisation is used for that purpose by the Arab States with the connivance of Her Majesty's Government.
The Foreign Secretary looks surprised. I will give him one example. Just outside Jericho there is an U.N.R.R.A. camp in which there are 38,000 Arab refugees. Just four miles the other side of Jericho an Arab has sought to do some resettlement. He is a friend of mine and I am sure the Foreign Secretary knows him, Musa el Alami. I visited him. I saw 1,000 acres with water flowing because he had dug the wells. I saw where 1,200 refugees were working, where 100 orphan boys were doing a job. It was the finest thing I saw in all Jordan.
Not a penny came from U.N.R.R.A. for that man, not a penny from Technical Aid, not a penny from economic assistance. And I was told by the British that it would not help him to be supported openly by us because we are so unpopular out there. Because he is trying to resettle the refugees, he is a marked man; and he is a marked man because the British and American Governments connive at this exploitation of human misery.
§ Sir A. Eden
I really must protest. Successive Governments have given support to these refugees. Successive Govern- 872 ments, of whatever party, in this country have worked their hardest and done their utmost to try to get a settlement. We cannot compel the Arabs to settle these people if they will not do it. We have done everything in our power, and to indict the British Government for inhumanity, and to indict his fellow British subjects, is, on the part of the hon. Gentleman, a most discreditable thing to do.
§ Mr. Crossman
I am very sorry, but I cannot possibly withdraw a single word I have said, for this reason. Of course, we provided the money, but I am saying that the only way to stop this exploitation of misery is to cease to provide the money unless resettlement follows. If we give the money without any conditions, resettlement will never take place—and we all know it. The Jews know it. The Arabs know it.
I do not blame the Arabs for exploiting the British and Americans. I do not blame them for keeping the refugees as refugees. They are fighting a war against the Jews. I blame us for not understanding what the effect of our action is. If, for five years, we give millions of pounds and permit every attempt at resettlement to be sabotaged, the Arab will draw the conclusion that, fundamentally, we are conniving at what he is doing. So this seems to me to be the situation: no treaties with the Jews, three treaties with Arab countries; heavy rearmament of Arab countries; refugees left for five years, with no settlement.
If I were a Jew in Israel I would be alarmed at that and would say to the British and American Governments, "You are conniving at our slow strangulation. We are being besieged by the world around us and you, the British and American Governments, are permitting the siege." For the armistice is being violated by the Arabs. They do not even pretend to stand by the armistice. They say there is not one. They say there is a state of war. Therefore, when we sign a Pact of alliance with Iraq, we are signing a Pact of alliance with a country which overtly says, "We are in a state of war with Israel and we are proud to be so." And not only do we sign an alliance with that country. We agree to rearm her and to train her airmen too. In so doing, I assert that we are conniving at the state of war, whether 873 the Foreign Secretary is shocked to hear it or not.
I do not want to say only what is wrong with our policy. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South that it could be rectified by one action. It could be rectified if, instead of refusing the Israeli for three years, when they asked for some form of political treaty, we had simultaneously, when we negotiated this Pact with Iraq, announced a completely complementary defensive military alliance with Israel. If that one thing were done, everything I have said today would be unfair. But it has not been done.
For three years the Foreign Secretary has refused to do it. I want to know why. If my allegations are unfair, if he really is equal in his love and affection for Jews and Arabs, why cannot he do equally for the Jews what he is doing for Iraq and what he has done for Egypt and Jordan? Why cannot he show his strict impartiality? I know why. Because if he showed that impartiality, two or three Arab Governments would probably fall. There would be a devastating effect in the Arab world if we were really impartial between Arab and Jew. They reckon on our not being impartial. They reckon on our conniving, and if they found they could not reckon on our conniving, then the bluff of certain politicians in the Arab capitals would have been called and they would fall.
Have we really to spend our time propping up tottering and corrupt Governments in the Arab world? Is that what this Pact is for? If so, let us know it. Let the Foreign Secretary reply this evening, "Of course, my dear friend, I was just delaying this announcement for this precise and proper occasion." If this great secret will be revealed to us this evening, I will withdraw every charge I have made. But I know that the right hon. Gentleman will not announce it this evening. I know that he is not prepared even to consider such a pact, and, as long as he is not prepared to consider it, I have come to the conclusion that the type of policy we had in the 'thirties, the type of policy we had under the Labour Government, is still there today. It is a policy which has made it impossible for Jews to live in Israel without having to fight for their lives.
874 I do not like quoting from a paper with which I am closely associated, but there was one letter published in last week's "New Statesman" which was extremely interesting. It was written by a friend of mine, Lieut.-Col. Shaul Ramati. He is one of the most distinguished, one of the soberest and one of the most moderate soldiers in the Israeli Army. To show that some of the things I say do not sound so absurd on the spot as they may sound here, I will read what Lieut.-Col. Ramati, who was the Jewish representative on the Mixed Armistice Commission, said about our joining the Turco-Iraqi Pact:The sense of isolation after the signing of the Turco-Iraqi pact, and the feeling of having been entirely ignored, except in a most negative way. in the negotiations leading up to it, forced Israeli opinion to the conclusion that to maintain its security, Israel had only itself to rely upon. This feeling was reinforced by the West's reluctance to give a firm guarantee to protect Israel's frontiers against Arab aggression, inadequate though this would he as a 'balance' to arms shipments to the Arab States. In such circumstances, U.N. condemnations and adverse world public opinion can do but little to wean Israel away from self-reliance. It is even quite conceivable that, before a certain stage of unbalance is reached, the choice before Israel might be peace or a shooting war now—however unfavourable the circumstances—or certain destruction in a year's time. The lesson of Czechoslovakia's surrender of the Sudetenland for ' the common good' in 1938, and its destruction in 1939, is still fresh in our minds. Though there is no one with influence in Israel who favours retaliation, there is also no one who does not believe that at a certain stage it becomes inevitable.I regard those as carefully chosen, balanced and extremely serious words. I regret the fact that British policy in the Middle East has never granted justice until violence has been used or threatened. That is a fact which every Arab and every Jew knows. The Jews know that there may come a point when they have to use violence to bring Britain and America to their senses. They look back over the record of 20 years and they remember. I say to the Foreign Secretary that if he leaves the Jewish frontiers as they are today, if he leaves the impression that British and Americans are conniving at the Arab siege of Israel, he should not blame the Jews if they turn to violence. It is a tragic thing. They have an army which can go to Damascus, to Suez, to Beirut or to the Jordan at any moment they like in the next five years.
§ Mr. Crossman
My hon. Friend says, "Not to Amman." I do not think that that is the view of the British officers in charge of the Arab Legion.
The fact is—I say it quite openly—that today the Jews have great military power and a great temptation to abuse it. It would, of course, be a fantastic abuse of their military power to use it to smash the Arabs. But that abuse may be forced upon them by the inaction and lethargy of great Powers who permit the evil to go on festering without anything being done about it. If I felt that the Pact with Iraq could in any way reduce the evil I should welcome it.
I conclude, therefore, by saying, "Please sign a treaty of alliance with Israel as well as with the Arab States." It will safeguard us against wild-cat Israeli adventures to which they may be driven by their sense of isolation. It will prove that the Foreign Secretary really does want to be fair-minded between the two. Therefore, I hope that when we come to the end of the debate he will end his speech about the Turco-Iraqi alliance and our adherence to it with a curt announcement, "To prove my fairness and my integrity, and to disprove the violent calumniator, the hon. Member for Coventry, East, I announce my willingness to sign a pact with Israel."
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)
The hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) has really exceeded himself in both the venom of his remarks about friends of this country and the tautology of his argument, which constantly came round to the same point. I really think that we have at one moment this afternoon listened to some of the pent-up venom of two weeks' unprinted "Sunday Pictorials." It almost seemed that at times the hon. Gentleman was willing to transfer his powers for disruption, now that the Paris Agreements have been signed, from Europe to the Middle East. I have seldom heard from him a speech which has been less constructive or less well thought out.
The series of objections launched by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have not done them much credit. The speech of the ex-Foreign Secretary the 876 right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), seemed to be largely concerned, as did much of the speech of the hon. Member for Coventry, East, with the effect of the Pact on Israel.
§ Mr. Fraser
I really think that something must be wrong when, according to hon. Gentlemen opposite, we find that both Israel and Egypt are equally opposed to it. There seems to be something odd somewhere in their logic. There is something odd about the logic which suggests that Colonel Nasser and Mr. Ben Gurion are both up in arms over it and have, overnight, become allies on the issue. I think that that is exaggeration.
I have made speeches in this House, and shall undoubtedly make more speeches, in favour of the State of Israel, but to suggest, at this stage, that British foreign policy should be inhibited by whether or not a certain party in Israel will win or lose an election is asking too much. That is what the right hon. Gentleman suggested.
§ Mr. Fraser
The case can be grossly overstated. After all, who, inside the Middle East, have proved to be the best friends of Israel? Undoubtedly, the Turks. The Turkish exchange of letters with Iraq did not prohibit the continuation of that friendship between Turkey and Israel. What the Pact does—this is perfectly clear—is to inhibit the Israelis from joining the Turco-Israeli defence pact. Equally, it is not likely that the Israelis would be invited to join the Arab League.
I believe that, on the whole, we can look back over ten years of decline and readjustment of British power in the Middle East. The low point which was reached was the low point of Abadan. I believe that we now see a reorganisation of our power there which takes into consideration the mutual interests of ourselves and the Arab and other States. It is no longer, as one hon. Gentleman has said:Dominion over palm and pine.It is the mutual interest of ourselves and the States in the Middle East which we 877 are setting up into systems of friendship and alliance.
There is one point which has rightly been raised by hon. Gentlemen. I agree with other hon. Members that the Tripartite Agreement of 1950 needs some strengthening. I also agree that that is an argument largely apart from what we are discussing.
§ Mr. Janner
I know that the hon. Gentleman is reasonably disposed towards the interests of Israel in the Middle East, but does he realise that treaties of this nature, without a similar treaty with Israel, and the giving of arms in this enormous manner to the Arab States by both this country and America, make the position of Israel very difficult, if not impossible?
§ Mr. Fraser
I think that the statement made by the hon. Member for Coventry, East, that four divisions are being prepared, if they be four divisions, for a second round against Israel, is consummate nonsense. If the hon. Member will read the terms of reference of the Agreement, he will see that they speak loudly against it. The very facts that there will be British officers helping in the training, British collaboration, and British bases, and that there is all this argument inside the Pact point against what was put forward by the hon. Member, who has suggested that the whole point of bringing us in was to arm the Iraqis for a second round against Israel.
§ Mr. Crossman
I want to make clear the point which I made. I only suggested that the Iraqis themselves make it clear that their major military interest is against Israel and not Russia. They have said so in frequent speeches. Secondly, the presence of British officers has not prevented Arab armies from being used against the Israelis in the past. The Arab Legion was used against the Israelis with British officers. It is no good assuring the Israelis that Arab armies will not be used against them again merely because there are British officers in Iraq.
§ Mr. Fraser
I will not take up that point, because I do not know sufficient about it. The point which the hon. Member raised about the bombardment of Jerusalem may be true or not. However, the difference in this case is that the British officers are from Britain and are not on attachment locally.
§ Mr. Fraser
It is clear that we should have far more influence over policy there than we had in respect of the Arab Legion.
§ Mr. Crossman
Is the hon. Gentleman really telling us that the British control of Iraq in the future will be closer than the control of Jordan that we now have? I am amazed. The Iraqis will not like it very much when they hear of the reassertion of the British Raj in Iraq. Is that really what the hon. Member says?
§ Mr. Fraser
If the hon. Gentleman looks at the "Manchester Guardian"—if he has been lucky enough to get a copy—he will find that the influence of Britain will probably be larger than it has been in the past in these matters. It stands to reason that if we have a military pact as allies, then we will be more solid as allies than we would be if we were a Power still retaining some of the protecting status we retain at the moment.
I believe that on the main issue we have come back in the Middle East to the twin interests that have always been the interests of British foreign policy there—first, to preserve the area from external attack and, secondly, as far as possible, to maintain internal order. I believe that the Pact goes a considerable way towards helping those ends. From the external point of view, from the point of view of the whole Middle East area—and in that I include both Israel and as far east as Pakistan—an area of order in Iraq will be of benefit. I believe that the greater and wider the areas of order that there can be the more benefit that must accrue to the whole region. I believe that the general Agreement and the special Agreement will be of benefit to that. The Pact will also be of benefit to the internal order of Iraq.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite will recall that in 1948 the late Ernest Bevin signed the Portsmouth Treaty, which proved to be abortive, with the Iraqi Government. That was an effort to get over the problems of the ending of the 1930 Agreement. Hon. Members will remember the misfortunes that befell the Iraqi Government—Abadan, the resignation of Ministers, trouble, shooting, and the collapse of that Government. This Pact is far more surely founded. It is founded on the fact that my right hon. Friend the Foreign 879 Secretary said that this was a Pact between friends, a Pact between equals.
There is a much firmer regime inside Iraq than the hon. Member for Coventry, East tried to make out. Hon. Gentlemen may recall that the Treaty of 1948 collapsed at a time when the trouble over Israel was just beginning. It happened at a time when bread was costing £200 a ton in Iraq. It happened when there was a weak Government, when there was Communist agitation in Kurdistan, when many things of an untoward character were taking place.
If we look at Iraq today—and I am glad that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Coventry, East, who said such disparaging things about Nuri As-Said, is back in his place—we will see a great improvement over the situation in 1948. One will see an enormous increase in revenue from British oil companies. In 1948, that revenue was about £2 million per annum. This year, or next year, I see from the newspapers, the Iraq Government will be receiving no less than £100 million as oil revenue in addition to the various imports, wages disbursed and other advantages which come from this great industry. As a result one will find that, internally, the Pact will be welcomed by the mass of the people, whether or not there will be free elections, even though some of the extreme papers—the "Tribune" of the day—have been suppressed.
Far more important is the fact that this country today has a very special interest in Iraq. That is why we have gone in to protect and have a treaty with such a country. Treaties are not thrown about the world. Pacts of mutual assistance are not dispensed unless there is some real merit in them. Apart from the question of the Middle East, apart from the question of the northern tier, this area is of immense importance. This is one of the few areas in the world where there is pressure of resources on the population rather than pressure of population on resources. There is a potential of 20 million acres which can be cultivated. It is some of the richest country in the world. The population is five million as compared with a population of 20 million in Egypt with an area of nearly 8½ million acres to cultivate. There are enormous possibilities of oil and other developments.
880 Here is an area which is richer by nature than Texas ever was, which can be developed and in which we have an interest. Here is an area at the head of the Persian Gulf in which we still maintain areas of importance. Here is a Pact which can be of benefit to the Middle East as a whole by helping to restore order to that area, a Pact which can be of benefit to us who are no longer prepared to activate as rulers over palm and pine but as equal allies, a Pact which will be of real benefit to the people of Iraq and which will help to cement our own proper relations with that rich and important part of the world.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Reid (Swindon)
In debates of this kind I always try to get down to the fundamentals and to see what the question is really about. This debate is not about Israel. It is about the cold war, and this Pact is an item in that cold war. We have to judge it in that light. This is an attempt to protect a vast territory from possible attack by Communist imperialism.
Recently a Treaty was signed between Turkey and Pakistan, but there are over 1,500 miles of undefended territories between those two places. That is an enormous gap, and it would not be difficult for Communist soldiers to walk through it. There is nothing to stop them, but this Anglo-Iraq Agreement is an attempt to bridge that gap, to put in solid resistance to Communist imperialism if it tries to invade that part of the Middle East.
I consider that the prime interest of the British Government in the world today is to resist Communist imperialism, to protect our very lives and our liberty, and that is why I am in favour of the Pact. Three or four years ago I pointed out in the House, knowing the Near East and the Middle East, how dangerous the situation was, that there was nothing there to correspond to N.A.T.O. The right hon. Gentleman who is now the Secretary of State for War made speeches in a similar vein. He saw the difficulty, too. I venture to suggest to the Foreign Secretary—it is not really necessary to do so, because he is doing what I want—that his prime duty as Foreign Secretary is to protect this part of the Middle East against Communist imperialism, and his second duty is to protect British interests.
881 British interests and the larger question of the cold war go together. Nevertheless, I want to stress that British interests as well as the protection of the country against Communist imperialism should be the two primary motives in our Eastern foreign policy today.
§ I had the honour of giving evidence in writing to the Anglo-American Commission on the Palestine issue in 1947. I stated there quite bluntly that in my opinion the setting up of a Jewish State was unwise and a blunder because we were turning into a hostile area the very places which had the oil, and they are enormously important strategic positions in the Middle East. I condemned the procedure both on the grounds of morality and of expediency, and I do the same thing today.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
Would my hon. Friend say something about morality? He has talked about expediency but, except in passing, he has not yet mentioned morality.
§ Mr. Reid
If my hon. Friend wishes me to go back to the question of setting up a Jewish State, the question of morality is very simple. It was iniquitous and a blunder to take the best part of Southern Syria from the people who had possessed it for 13 centuries and to hand it over to Jewish immigrants. If that is not immorality, what is?
Again, I talked about Turkey. Turkey has been a valiant little country. The Soviet Union has tried to frighten Turkey several times. It demanded that the Northern part of Turkey should be added to the Soviet Empire. It also tried to get hold of the Straits. On each occasion Turkey valiantly resisted. We often hear talk about our country being bombed out of existence in a future war, but what about poor little Turkey, who is much nearer to Russia? She has held her ground. Even in the days when the Turkish Government were rotten—and they are not now—they always had pluck. They could fight. They are the same today.
On her right flank Turkey is completely unprotected up to date. This Agreement, which was started by Turkey—between Turkey and Pakistan first and then between Turkey and Iraq—is the beginning of defence. I knew that the 882 old Treaty with Iraq was coming to an end, and recently I asked Questions which I gathered the Foreign Secretary thought inopportune. However, I thought that he was doing well, and I stopped asking the questions, but I knew exactly what was going on, not from the Foreign Office but from other sources.
In addition to protecting an area of vital strategic importance to the world in the cold war, this Pact will also be a mighty deterrent to Russian aggression. In addition to their other commitments—their commitments all round the world wherever resistance like this is set up this makes their task still more formidable. The Minister of State said that this measure was an adequate one for preserving peace in the area. I entirely disagree. This is only a beginning. It is a good beginning, but the measure is not a sufficient protection for the area in question.
I urge him to carry on with the good work. Anyone who knows the Middle Eastern countries can imagine Persia being invaded by Communist Imperialism. Persia is a vast elevated plateau in the north. If any powerful force were in command in the northern part of Persia on that plateau, would this arrangement defend Iraq? No military man would think that it would. Control of that Persian plateau is absolutely necessary for the protection of the whole of the Middle East.
§ Mr. Nutting
I did not say that these arrangements constituted a completely adequate defence system for the whole Middle East. I said that in my view they adequately measured up to our and Iraq's joint requirements.
§ Mr. Reid
When the Minister reminds me of the actual words I agree that he is correct and that I am incorrect, but still I disagree with him. The arrangements are not adequate to Iraq's requirements. I am pointing out that we must go further. Now that Persia has a sensible Government, they must be induced to join with us—not merely Persia, but Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
I know the difficulties. I know the Arab States extremely well. I do not think that any Arabs regard me as their foe, but I would say to my Arab friends that they should stop this squabbling about Hashemites and other "ites"— 883 about those who are descended from the Prophet and those who are not. These questions are of little political importance in the world today. People who are using them are like Nero fiddling while Rome burnt. The necessity is to protect the whole of the Arab States, Persia and the Near East. That will not be achieved by arguments as to which Arab State is the leading State, and so on.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) said, it is true that Egypt refused to join in this arrangement, and therefore the Foreign Secretary very wisely started negotiations with Iraq, the other Arab State. In this vital matter we cannot afford to wait until everybody is satisfied. It was quite right for the Foreign Secretary to go to Iraq. I know Nuri Pasha slightly. I do not know if he is the "tyrant" that the hon. Member for Coventry, East described. I do not think he is; but Nuri Pasha is a world statesman of great ability. He has not got the parochial ideas which unfortunately so many Arabs have. I do not think that he believes in antiquated Arab blood feuds or the like. He is not a parish pump politician. He has done a great job, in my opinion.
Several of my hon. Friends and my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) have said that this arrangement is only a partial solution. I agree, and that is why I urge the Foreign Secretary to do more, and to make it more than a partial solution. I think that it can be done. Apart from inter-Arab jealousies, there is the question of Palestine. This debate is not about Palestine; and the Foreign Secretary must look after world interests and the interests of Britain, even though they cause annoyance and embarrassment to other States.
§ I agree with my hon. Friends that the Egyptian settlement and this settlement have made the Jews in Palestine nervous. We ought not to stop a policy of protecting the oil of the Middle East because it causes embarrassment to the Jews in Palestine. We cannot model our foreign policy on the opinion of the Jews in Palestine. Why should we? The Jews in Palestine are not members of our Empire.884
§ Mr. Reid
Our job is to look after the world interests in the matter of Communist aggression, and our own vital interests. Whatever treaty we make we are bound to annoy somebody. We must annoy somebody if the treaty is more important than that.
On the other hand, I am entirely in favour of getting peace between the Jew and the Arab. I do not want the row to continue. It is a scourge to the whole of the Middle East and to the defence of the free world against Communist imperialism, and I hope that it may be ended.
For a long time the policy of the Arab States and Israel was one of neutralism. Neutralism is a hopeless policy. I commend to the neutralists the advice of Litvinov, who said that peace is indivisible, and I think he also said that war is indivisible. Anybody who talks about being neutral today is, like Mr. Nehru, talking through his hat. The Arabs are coming out of their neutralism under one great statesman, Nuri Pasha, and there may be others to follow.
This development must be encouraged. The Arab States are in a vitally important position, and they have, in oil, a vitally important ingredient for the running of our country, even in peace-time. We must look after British interests as well as the interests of others. It was suggested that one way of settling this appalling Arab-Israel dispute was that we should enter into one treaty with the Arab States and into another with Israel, and be ready, I suppose, to fight for both. That is an impossible proposition.
We want collective security in the Middle East, but collective security does not consist of having two rival collective security forces ready to spring at each other. What is needed is one force, like the N.A.T.O. force or an alliance of the various States and their forces, in a system of collective security. It is not for we poor British to spend more blood and treasure—and goodness knows we have spent enough in Palestine—and to lose more of our reputation by giving an Army to both sides and helping both to fight. That is not statesmanship.
I have tried to put this debate into what, in my opinion, is the proper perspective. If that is not done, a debate tends to go all awry. This debate is the discussion of an item in the cold war in the defence 885 of the free world against Communist imperialism. I am glad that our party has agreed to give support to this Pact, which is a first-class Pact, and may lead to bigger things than its immediate consequences.
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Johnson (Manchester, Blackley)
I agree with a great deal of what has been said by the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid), but I feel that he has reproved me in advance, for my remarks will be concerned mainly with the position of Israel. They will be brief, because much of what I had proposed to say has already been said by the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison). I must say that I thought my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. H. Fraser) was a little unkind to the right hon. Gentleman in what he said about his speech.
I welcome this Pact, because I believe it makes a valuable contribution to strengthening the right flank of N.A.T.O. It may do even more. It may have an effect beyond the purely military aspect and help to increase the flow of trade between Iraq and ourselves, because Iraq is far from being an impoverished Middle Eastern country. This is probably wishful thinking, but it may be that it will put us in a better position to restart the flow of oil between the Middle East oilfields and the oil refinery at Haifa.
There is no doubt, however, that this Pact fills Israel with a great deal of alarm, perhaps with undue alarm, for one effect may be that it will awaken the Arab States to the real danger which threatens them from the north, and distract them from the unreal and, I think, imaginary danger which they consider threatens from Israel. I do not believe that Israel has any aggressive intention whatsoever. None the less, the Israelis are undoubtedly very worried. They feel, I think naturally, that this Pact, coming so soon after our Agreement with Egypt, may give the Arab States the impression that Israel has been isolated, and more or less forsaken by the Western Powers.
I am sure that that is not the case, but the Arab States may think it is. It may be that they will be encouraged, not only to make no attempt to reach a settlement with Israel, but rather the reverse, to step 886 up their aggressive actions along the frontier between Israel and themselves.
Israel is worried about all the arms being supplied to the Arab States under this and other treaties. That is natural, in view of the threatening things which have been said, and the quite open statement by a certain Arab statesman that it is their intention to wipe out the Israelis and drive them into the sea. When the Israelis see all these arms being supplied for an entirely different purpose, they are worried that such arms may be used against them.
I should be grateful if my right hon. Friend could clarify this point, about which I am concerned: will Israel be able to obtain arms for her own defence, or is that not possible at present? Under Article 5, Israel is excluded from the Pact. I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to say that he recognises—as I am sure he does—that Israel can make a valuable contribution to the defence of the Middle East. The strength of the Israeli Army has already been mentioned. It is a good Army, and the Israelis are a hardy people who could make a valuable contribution to strengthening the position in this dangerous area. I hope we should welcome such a contribution from the Israelis, and that my right hon. Friend will make this clear.
I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State is not now in the Chamber, because he could put me right on this point. I think he said that there is nothing in the Pact which prevents us having a similar Treaty with Israel later. Perhaps the Foreign Secretary would make that clear, also. I hope, further, that my right hon. Friend will confirm—if confirmation be necessary—that the declaration of 25th May, 1950, is in no way weakened by the conclusion of the Pact with Iraq. I believe that the Israelis would be happier if they could obtain that confirmation and a definite assurance that, were they attacked, the supply of arms to the Arab nations would be immediately stopped. I do not know whether that be possible, but the Israelis would be greatly reassured could they be told. I have already said that I think Israel is alarmed, I believe unduly alarmed, and if my right hon. Friend could give a favourable answer to the points I have raised, I think it would do much to reassure them.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Greenwood (Rossendale)
I agree with almost everything said by the hon. Member for Blackley (Mr. E. Johnson), and I therefore will not follow his arguments, particularly as, like him, I wish to set an example of brevity. I want to be brief, and I want to avoid saying anything that could possibly inject any additional venom into the already difficult situation in the Middle East. But perhaps I might preface my remarks by saying that, in my submission, to be a pro-Zionist—like the Prime Minister and myself—does not mean that one is necessarily anti-Arab. Those most anxious to preserve the integrity of Israel are equally anxious to do everything possible to raise the standard of living throughout the Arab world.
My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) challenged the Foreign Secretary to say something about his conception of the future of the Arab League. I should have thought it enough for the time being to concentrate on the present condition of the Arab League. The Pact which Iraq has now signed with Turkey has shown what many of us have been saying for some years, that the impressive front of the Arab League is nothing but a hollow sham. Now we have the Arab League split from top to bottom, with Iraq looking to the West, Egypt rallying Saudi-Arabia and a rather reluctant Syria to her side, and Jordan and the Lebanon—I think wisely—insisting on remaining aloof.
To that extent. I think that the Pact is a good thing. I agree with the right hon. Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot), who sees this Pact as being what he called a moderating factor in the Middle East. I believe it to be a good thing that a country like Iraq should come under the influence of responsible guides like Turkey and ourselves. Although there is the correspondence between M. Mederes and Nuri As-Said, I think it would be a mistake to attach too much importance to the reference in that correspondence to the position of Israel.
I doubt very much whether Iraq really feels passionately about frontiers so far away from herself as the frontiers of Israel. I suspect that Turkey shares that indifference to the problem, and that the 888 references to Israel were put into the correspondence only to provide a face-saving alibi for Iraq in face of the arrogant intransigence which Egypt was showing. We should emphasise those aspects of the Pact, because we are doing a poor service to Israel if we go out of our way to increase the very natural apprehension she is feeling.
But the purpose of the Turco-Iraqi Pact was not, of course, to divide the Arab League. Its purpose was to add another link to that chain of defence which holds the Communist bloc short of the Atlantic, the Mediterranean and the Indian Oceon. My right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) was right to remind us that we should take this rather wider view of the Pact.
I go on to say, however, that I think that the claims made about the importance of the Agreement are grossly exaggerated. The right hon. Member for Kelvingrove took exception to my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) describing the defences created by the Pact as being" a thin tier. "But that is a fairly accurate description of the defences we are obtaining as a result of the Agreement. My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid) spoke of the Pact being designed to defend the Middle East against Communism, but we must be under no illusions about the strength of the defence or the value of the defences that we are obtaining as a result of this Agreement.
After all, Iraq was not the most dependable of our Allies in the last war. There is not a great deal of stability in the country, despite what the hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. H. Fraser) had to say this afternoon. There is a great deal of unrest in the country. The Communist Party, although illegal, is extremely strong. Nuri As-Said is a fairly old man, and nobody can tell what will happen when he resigns or is replaced. There is also a good deal of strong anti-British feeling in Iraq, and I confess to the gravest of apprehensions as to whether this Agreement will stand the test of time.
As for the military value of the Agreement, I should like to remind the House of what the "Economist" had to say in November last year, at the time 889 when the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Field Marshal Sir John Harding, made his tour of the Middle East. It said:The vulnerable, covetable area between Egypt and Iran consists of lands in which the virus of neutralism is strong, of peoples who seldom give thought for the day after tomorrow. How many of these nations, except the Turks, actively want to commit themselves to western alliances? How united would be their officer corps, let alone their rank and file, behind such a policy? How far can their armies—largely composed of unlettered conscripts—be relied upon except when reinforced with a stiffening of western personnel?I do not think that the Pact radically alters the position which the "Economist" described on that occasion.
§ Mr. Elliot
Even the "Economist" specifically mentioned the Turks; it said "except the Turks." The hon. Member is talking about Iraq. The Pact also includes Turkey.
§ Mr. Greenwood
Yes; but we had the Turks already.
What I am arguing now is that our acceding to the Pact made between Turkey and Iraq does not really provide more than the thin tier of defence to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick was referring. I think that what the "Economist" had to say on that occasion is largely true of the rest of the Arab League, and that as my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick said, if we are to be realistic, we must consider all the Arab countries in the Middle East as a whole.
My own belief—as we are discussing the protection which the Pact will give us against Communism—is that it is extremely unlikely that Russia will be so foolish as to invade the Middle East. I suspect that she will wait patiently for the Middle East to fall into her hands like a ripe plum, and I think that that will happen unless the problem of poverty throughout the Middle East is tackled on a regional and on a serious scale. Unfortunately, there has been very little progress in that direction so far, but I agree with what the Foreign Secretary had to say about what Iraq has been trying to do in the way of development. For that, at any rate, we should give credit to Nuri As-Said.
Iraq now is devoting 70 per cent. of her oil revenues to the development programme. That is good, but apart from 890 that there is not very much that is encouraging in the Middle Eastern picture, outside Israel. There is not much that is encouraging, partly because in most of the Arab countries there are reactionery regimes. In others of the Arab countries it is not possible, because of the size and strength of the country, to cope with problems of the magnitude which they have to face. Thirdly, there is the determination of the Arab League to strangle Israel and to commit suicide at the same time. I was glad that my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South drew attention to the disastrous effects of the Arab blockade against Israel.
All this brave talk of the Arab League has ended up in absolutely nothing. I should like to call the attention of the House to the report of the Study Mission which was sent to the Middle East by the United States Congress and which reported last year. The members were Representatives Smith and Prouty. On page 15 of that Report they passed this judgment upon the Arab League:The Arab League is frequently mentioned in the Press but its function has been almost exclusively to oppose developments in Israel. So far, the League has never been able to agree upon or carry out any programme of constructive action.The irony of the situation is that although so little has been done, the Arab League has existed almost entirely upon subventions from the United Nations, the United States and the United Kingdom.
Until this foolish blockade of Israel ends, and until the Arabs are prepared to talk peace, the Middle East can never be secure against Communism in the way that everybody in this House this afternoon wishes it to be secure. In my submission—I may be wrong—our only really reliable friend in the Middle East, in the present fluid state of affairs, is the Republic of Israel. She is the only country which is making democracy work. Her military prowess has been proved. By going ahead with plans for economic development and by creating a welfare State, she is providing the real answer to the challenge of Communism in the Middle East.
But all this time, while all that is being done, Israel is being subjected to a constant barrage of threats and abuse from her neighbours. The Arab countries refuse even to discuss peace with Israel.
891 Israel's offers to pay compensation to the refugees, to accept 100,000 of them back, and to sign non-aggression pacts with her neighbours, have all been turned down with arrogant contempt by the nations belonging to the Arab League. It is quite clear that the Arabs are risking everything upon their hopes of the economic collapse of Israel.
It is because of the identity of interest between Israel and ourselves, and because of the similarity of outlook between us on so many issues, that we cannot afford to allow that collapse to take place. I believe that we should do everything possible to help her, to help her secure the lifting of the blockade, to help to ensure that Arab arms are not used against her, to help to stabilise Israel's economy and to help to end the feeling of isolation from which Israel is suffering so acutely.
But the more concessions that we make—like the signing of the Suez Agreement and the signing of the Turco-Iraqi Pact—the weaker our bargaining position becomes. That, more than anything else, has contributed to the pessimistic feeling on the part of our friends in Israel. Before the situation deteriorates further, or our bargaining position becomes even weaker, I hope that the Foreign Secretary will take full note of what my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South proposed, and that we shall give Israel that bilateral agreement which would end the feeling of isolation which is now afflicting her so tragically.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. F. M. Bennett (Reading, North)
While I do not agree with every word said by the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid), I did particularly agree with his wish to bring back an air of reality to our debate. Judging by nearly every speech from hon. Members on both sides of the House, one might be forgiven for imagining that the debate was primarily concerned with the effect of a pact upon Israel, instead of the improvement of our world-wide defensive system against the threat of Russian imperialism.
Before proceeding with this main theme, however, may I say that I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot) that Britain's accession to this Pact is clear evidence to Israel that it is not to be allowed to be directed against her in future but, instead, 892 should actually strengthen her position. I was glad to see, too, that even the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) agreed that Britain's adherence to this Pact should at least give Israel more assurance than she would be entitled to feel if Britain were not a party to it.
Apart, also, from any other consideration, one would imagine that the fact that Saudi-Arabia and Egypt—neither of which countries could be accused of being pro-Israel—have reacted so violently to Britain's accession to the Pact would indicate that it cannot be designed to weaken Israel. On the contrary, I believe that one of the reasons for their hostility is precisely that they see something which we welcome, namely, the diversion of much of Iraq's thinking away from possible war with Israel to the real dangers in that part of the world, which arise from the threat of Communist aggression.
I notice, further, that Article 6 of the Pact provides for the setting up of a permanent ministerial council when at least four Powers have become parties to it. After our accession, therefore, only one more is needed. I can imagine nothing more reassuring to Israel than to have such a permanent ministerial council in being to decide how this Pact shall proceed, especially when its leading member will be Britain, who, by the Tripartite Declaration, has surely shown that she will in no circumstances allow any pact to which she adheres to be used in a manner hostile to Israel.
Before I came into the Chamber I was looking with interest at an atlas and examining not only the Middle East but the whole globe, in order to see how this new Pact affected the world-wide defensive system of the free world against the Communists. It is something of a feat—for which both this and the preceding Labour Government, together with our allies, deserve full credit—that we now have a defensive ring which, although often rather thin in places, extends all round the globe, from Norway to Pakistan—except for two gaps, in Iraq and Ian. We are now filling one of those gaps. I believe that this Pact will become really effective only if it is given a wider application, not only by the inclusion of Iran but also of Syria, Jordan and, perhaps, one day, in happier times, of Israel. Then we shall truly have sealed off one 893 more of the remaining potential trouble spots from the possibility of Communist aggression.
When I was travelling through the Middle East, in Iraq, Jordan, Palestine, the Lebanon and Turkey, shortly before being elected to this House, I got the impression that there were a number of weak States which would be much better off if they were joined together in some form of union. Although I should never suggest that it would be desirable to go back to the old days of Ottoman Empire, I think we are witnessing the start of the creation of a stable Middle East system, in a modern conception, to replace the old stability which used to exist, even in a most limited degree, in the days of the Ottoman Empire.
There is some hope now that the small countries which were carved up, largely to suit the rival wishes of local monarchies and the rival claims of the victor Powers after the 1914–18 War, will be again welded together into a unity which can only be of benefit to them all, quite apart from the purely defensive concept, against Soviet aggression.
As a firm admirer of Turkey, I am delighted to see her playing such an effective part in this arrangement. During my tour of the Middle East I went by car through Iraq and Jordan, and then through the Lebanon and Syria, across the Taurus Mountains into Asia Minor. If the Russians ever invade the Middle East I suppose that that is the route they will use, because, as Alexander the Great found, it is one of the very few ways of getting over the Caucasus mountain range, and into the fertile crescent of the Middle East.
Even so, it would be no easy task. That mountain pass over the Taurus Mountains is a very difficult one, even for a modern army. At the top a little plaque is let into a wall of solid rock. That plaque is supposed to have been carved by Alexander the Great, and on it he says that he trusts that no conqueror of the future will have to pass that difficult way again. I hope that what we are doing today is to make that pass even a little more difficult if anybody else wishes to emulate Alexander the Great.
§ Mr. Bennett
I was impressed, on my tour of Turkey, by the fact that it is characteristic of the people—and one meets it very little elsewhere in the Middle East—that they really appreciate the danger of Soviet Communism. Even the poorest Turkish peasant, if asked where he thinks the real danger is coming from, will say that it is coming from Russia. If he is asked, "Does that mean that you fear or dislike Communism"? he will reply, "We fear the Russians. They have tried to come this way every century. Whether they have been Communists or Tsarists they have always tried to come this way." Yet this Turkish peasant, who would fight really hard against the Russians, has probably never read, or ever heard of, Karl Marx. They are just traditional enemies of Russia.
By linking ourselves with Turkey, and bringing other Middle East countries within our general defensive structure, there is not the slightest doubt that we have struck a really good blow for the maintenance of peace and security in the Middle East. That is my view, and those who have sought to divert the discussion of this Pact by over-stressing the fears of Israel, which should not and need not exist, ought not to forget its primary purpose, which is to make a beginning in strengthening stability and security in a part of the world where, for far too long, there has been a state of insecurity and uncertainty.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir Anthony Eden)
Perhaps I may begin by dealing with one or two detailed questions which I have been asked before I come to my main argument about this Pact.
The other day I was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Gough) whether the agreement would in any way affect the independence of Kuwait, and I gladly give him the confirmation that it does not. I assure my hon. Friend that our new Agreement with Iraq will not in any way affect our special responsibilities towards Kuwait and the other States of the Persian Gulf. That was one question which I was asked as a preliminary point.
I was also asked by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham. South (Mr. H. Morrison) about a partly 895 legal point, why this Pact refers to the obligations of U.N.O. as "between themselves," as the words are? Under Article 3, the obligations of the United Nations Charter continue in full force. In fact, no pact can override the Charter. In two different places in the Pact there are direct references to the over-riding obligations of the Charter, apart from the fact that the whole structure is based on Article 51 of the Charter, as the right hon. Gentleman knows.
I was also asked, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker), whether the Commonwealth were informed. The answer is, "Yes, they were." He also asked whether I had seen the remarks of the Prime Minister of India on the Pact. The answer is, "Yes, I have." He was, of course, critical not only of this Pact but of all pacts anywhere, including our Western arrangements, which also fell under his condemnation. We all know that this is the view of the Prime Minister of India which, of course, he is entitled to have and to express. It is not the view of the majority of hon. Members on either side of the House. Each successive Government have played their part in building up these pacts.
I now come to discuss the main issue which is before us. I must say that I have been a little surprised that there has been so little emphasis today about the strategic importance of our association with Turkey in this vital theatre for us in the world. Some hon. Members—I think one hon. Member, certainly—referred to how very thin we were on the ground, and how very weak was the position. I must say that I do not so regard the position, which brings us and Turkey together in the 'vitally strategic area of Northern Iraq.
That seems to me to be something which most chiefs of staff, as the right hon. Gentleman, I think, would agree, for a very considerable time have desired to see realised, and it is a much better position from the point of view of defending the area than, for instance, being on the Canal. Here is where I am still slightly mystified at the attitude of Egypt. I should have thought that from the Egyptian point of view, supposing it is accepted, as it is accepted that, generally, Egypt is friendly to the West and with the West, 896 the further north we were and the nearer the main defence was towards the Taurus mountains the better it would be for Egypt.
Just as we would prefer to see the defence on the Elbe rather than on the Rhine, and on the Rhine rather than the Channel, I should have thought it would have been precisely the same in the Middle East. That point of view also applies to Israel. The defence of the area, apart from the internal strains and stresses of the area, is in the interest of Israel as well as our interest, or the interest of Iraq, or that of any other country that is there.
Again, the further the protection is to the north the better it must be for those in the area. For many years—from the early days of the life of Israel—Turkey has been extremely friendly towards Israel and it is quite unthinkable that Turkey would, in fact, join in arrangements which would be unfriendly and unsatisfactory from the point of view of Israel. I believe that while we can argue and discuss the position inside this defended area, it is important that we should keep in our minds that this Pact assists in the defence of the whole area from a major threat. That, I should have thought, everyone in the area would agree in welcoming.
May I say that when we join an arrangement in an area we do not join to make the maximum amount of trouble in that area, which is what some of our critics seemed to suggest this afternoon. I do not think that anyone really thinks that of us. except perhaps the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) who seems convinced that I am the biggest trouble-maker in the whole Middle East—I mean the Government. We did not join this Pact to encourage worse relations between Iraq and Israel, and I do not believe that, in his more generous moments, the hon. Member can really believe that himself. The whole weight of his argument this afternoon was that we were in all this business, and the result would be to make relations still worse between Iraq and Israel.
Our purpose in joining this was a good deal simpler than anything that has been suggested. There is nothing particularly original in what we are doing. I do not pretend that there is. The late Government made the Treaty of Portsmouth. It 897 was a perfectly good Treaty, but it did not come to anything because the Government of Iraq was overthrown. I am not blaming the late Government for that. These are things which sometimes happen in international affairs. But the engagement they entered into is precisely the same kind of engagement that we are entering into here. We do not think it necessary to make an immediate treaty with Israel, nor did they when they made their treaty with Jordan—which they made and we did not make.
I think we must try to give some balance and proportion to this matter. Our purpose in acceding to this Pact was a very simple one. I think that by doing so we have strengthened our influence and our voice throughout the Middle East. I believe in my country whatever its Government may happen to be. My Government's purpose is to try to bring about relaxation and an easing of tension in the world. I am in favour of any arrangement which has the result of increasing the influence of my country.
In one of the few papers which we are privileged to read now, I saw this sentence:By its rapid action in joining the new alliance Britain has ensured for itself a continuing voice in Middle East affairs.That puts precisely what our purpose was. I have no need to amplify that further, except, perhaps, to say that in doing that there is no sinister or ulterior motive at all. As very often happens in foreign affairs, people do not always think that our motives are what we ourselves know them to be.
It is interesting to observe what has been said in various capitals about the Pact. I will mention three. There is one, that of Turkey, to which I attach the greatest importance. The Prime Minister of Turkey, in an interview which he gave immediately our accession to this Agreement was announced:The Middle East will thus cease to have the appearance of a vacuum from the point of view of peace and security. It will be freed from the atmosphere of instability and unrest and will become a peaceful region whose security will rest on a solid organisation. I shall not dwell further on the value and importance of the Baghdad Pact because it is being proved by events. The adherence of Britain is one of the most important of these. The participation of Britain, our valued friend and ally, is most important for us.898 That is Turkey's welcome and we were very glad to get it.
Other comments that I am going to read were not quite so friendly. The first of them was from Tel Aviv. It is not quite so bad as some of the speeches made here purporting to interpret the views of Her Majesty's Government. This is a telegram dated 2nd April:Her Majesty's Government's decision to accede to the Turco-Iraqi Pact, which had been expected, has been received calmly. Full reports of your statement in Parliament on 30th March have appeared in the Press. Prominence has been given to the fact that Her Majesty's Government would not associate themselves with the exchange of letters on Palestine. This has given considerable satisfaction.My next is from Cairo. It says:Egyptian Press reaction was uniformly unfavourable.The interesting thing is that "Al Gumhouria," in an editorial, criticised Nuri Pasha for his readiness to co-operate with imperialists and Zionists. That description should interest the hon. Member for Coventry, East. Next day I got a further telegram saying that "Gumhouria" commented bitterly on my statement that the new agreement was a desirable development from Israel's point of view. The fact that it was desirable from Israel's point of view meant, therefore, that it was thoroughly bad in all respects.
Is it not just possible that the truth lies between all those various extremes, that we are not guilty of the wild charges which the hon. Member for Coventry, East made, and that this is a reasonable contribution to a difficult situation in the Middle East? At any rate, there is the position. It was received with enthusiasm in Ankara, calmly if not with enthusiasm in Israel, not so well in Egypt, and, worst of all, in Moscow. I still take comfort to myself from that fact, in view of the underlying purpose of the Pact.
Perhaps I may now come to one or two of the other criticisms about the exclusion of Israel from this Pact. That was the point made by the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South and by the former Minister of Defence, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). The Turco-Iraqi original pact was said to exclude Israel, because there were no relations between Iraq and Israel; at present there are no relations. The problem is not new. It existed when 899 the late Government tried to build up a Middle East defence organisation. Israel was not going to be a foundation member of that organisation, which was to consist of the Egyptians, ourselves, Turkey, France and the United States; but not Israel.
The late Government had the same difficulty, or would have had, in bringing Israel into that pact as there would be to any attempt to bring Israel into this arrangement between Iraq and Turkey. The problem to which this House has to address itself is whether anything can be done by statesmanship or in any other way to improve the situation that exists between Israel and not only Iraq, but the neighbouring States.
I was a little indignant when the hon. Member for Coventry, East talked about our conniving—I understand that was the charge—at keeping the refugee problem going. It is true that we are very large contributors to the fund run by the United Nations which is responsible for its administration. It is common humanity to keep these people alive, and I do not see that we should be charged because we have not been successful, so far, in getting a settlement for a large number of these refugees.
I will tell the House this, which I, personally, believe. We shall not get any settlement between the Arabs and the Israelis until at least three things are done. The first is settlement of the refugee problem, the second is settlement of frontiers and the third is settlement of the problem of the Jordan waters. All these are component parts of the settlement and we shall not be able to reach lasting agreement on any one of them unless we reach agreement on all three. That is the size of the problem that we face when trying to bring about improved relations between Israel and the Arab States, which is what we have been working for and are still working for now.
Some of the speeches made today seemed to suggest that we had no existing engagements, but, of course, we have. Let me try to underline them. First, is our obligation under the 1950 Tripartite Declaration, and I will read paragraph 3 of it, which says:The three Governments, should they find that any of these States was proposing to violate frontiers or armistice lines, would, consistently with their obligations as Members of 900 the United Nations, immediately take action, both within and outside the United Nations, to prevent such violation.I have no doubt that at the time those words were carefully chosen. They are far-reaching words, and I doubt whether it would be possible to devise in a treaty or anywhere else anything which carried more extensive obligations than they do.
I was asked a little while back during the debate on 2nd November, by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackley (Mr. E. Johnson):Do the terms of the 1950 Declaration bind us to go to the help of Israel if she is attacked by an Arab State?The answer I gave was:Yes, Sir, most certainly."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd November, 1954; Vol. 532, c. 326.]That is where we stand. That is the obligation we have towards Israel. Whether by putting that into a treaty or some other form we could make it more binding than what we have, is arguable. What is not arguable, and is very valuable to us, is that this is a Tripartite Declaration and not a bilateral declaration between us and Israel. It is one in which the United States and France are equally engaged with us.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for referring to this matter. The right hon. Gentleman did, some time ago, provide a more liberal and generous interpretation of the Tripartite Declaration. The trouble is that the other signatories to the Agreement have not furnished such a liberal interpretation, and there is some uncertainty whether the Agreement would be implemented if trouble did arise.
§ Sir A. Eden
I have heard that said, but according to my information I have no evidence at all to show that either the United States, or France, is weakening in support of the Tripartite Declaration. It so happens that I gave this answer in the House in regard to the position in which we were, and I am bound to say, in fairness, that I have no reason to think that the United States and France do not endorse what I have said, or do not stand by every word of the 1950 Declaration. I doubt whether we could find words to do this better.
I come to the question whether there should be some further agreement. This is the position as I see it. By every means 901 in our power we have to use our influence, which is not negligible in these parts of the world, to bring about a settlement between Israel and the Arab States. For such a settlement, so far as I am concerned—and I am speaking for Her Majesty's Government—we should be perfectly ready to venture into some new form of guarantee. Such a settlement would, in our view, have to cover the three things which I have said are vital—frontiers, Jordan waters and the refugees. If we could get an arrangement between those countries in which we would lend all our influence and help if it was desired, we would be willing to enter into further engagements ourselves, to back up the arrangement arrived at.
§ Mr. Shinwell
This is also very important. Does the right hon. Gentleman mean by that that Her Majesty's Government would take the initiative, or that they would await an initiative on the part of the United Nations?
§ Sir A. Eden
I did not mention the United Nations and, as the right hon. Gentleman will know, I do not want to go much more into what we will do. How we make approaches, or what approaches we make or when we make them is something which, as I think he will agree, we cannot discuss in public. What I am saying is that if an arrangement can be arrived at by which we can bring peace into these areas, Her Majesty's Government are prepared to lend our name and authority to underwrite the arrangement, if we think it a fair and reasonable one between the parties.
§ Mr. Crossman
The statement which the Foreign Secretary makes about underwriting a final agreement is very important. Meanwhile, we have certain political alliances pending the final agreement. What we are asking is whether, pending a final agreement, anything approximating to what we have with the Arabs can be given to the Jews-before the final agreement comes, because that might be ten years hence.
§ Sir A. Eden
As I thought I had said, we have, under the terms of the Tripartite Declaration, already given an undertaking and that, I think, is where it should be; and I have given what has been called a liberal interpretation to it. We will fulfil that undertaking.
902 For the rest, I should like to see an arrangement between Israel and her neighbours. I have no illusions about the difficulty of this negotiation. The tragic thing is that whenever it seems that the atmosphere is slightly improved, when we begin to think that it seems as if something might be done by negotiation, an incident occurs and the whole thing flares up again, as has happened twice in the last fortnight.
If we could have the appearance of anything like settlement we have our own ideas and thoughts. We have discussed them with others, and would be ready to do what we could, I think quietly, to try to help negotiations forward. Meanwhile, I say to the hon. Member for Coventry, East, and I think he would agree, that this Tripartite Declaration and the statement which I made in the House are a powerful shield to Israel. Israel has wise rulers and they will not underestimate its importance. I do not think that it would be doing a service to peace in that part of the world if any of us were to attempt to belittle that undertaking.
This arrangement is one of several which have been made in the Middle East. I resent a little what was said about Nuri Pasha this afternoon, because I truly believe that because a man is friendly to this country he need not be called a "stooge." It is not a crime to be friendly to Great Britain. I have known Nuri Pasha for a great many years and I know how much his thoughts are also wrapped up in the development schemes, in which Iraq is already leading in a quite remarkable manner. Practically the whole of her oil revenues have been set aside for this work.
In Baghdad, one of the things which impressed me very much was the discussion we had on the question of armaments, which have been kept level, broadly, between Israel and her neighbours. When we discussed the question of armaments under the Agreement, Nuri Pasha made it clear to me, and I respected him for it, that he was not prepared to divert to the purchase of arms the oil revenues which he was allocating to further development work. I thought that he was perfectly correct in that. I think we should pay tribute to the fact that in that respect Iraq is leading in the Arab world. I have some hope 903 that on the basis of that relationship we can create wider friendship in the Middle East. At any rate, it will be our object so to do.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That this House approves the accession of Her Majesty's Government to the Turco-Iraqi Pact of Mutual Co-operation and the Special Agreement which has been concluded with the Iraqi Government.