The dramatically deteriorating situation in Iraq is a matter of very serious concern, both for the Iraqi people and for the international community as a whole. The al-Qaeda linked Islamist militia known as ISIS, with allied Sunni groupings, has captured large parts of northern and western Iraq, including the major city of Mosul. It is also targeting key installations such as the country’s largest oil refinery. The Government has previously warned of failings and inattention on the part of the current Iraqi Government in actively promoting reconciliation with the minority Sunni community. These concerns have now been shown to be wholly justified. The ISIS advance has been concentrated in Sunni-dominated areas and has only been possible because disaffected local Sunni forces, many of whom had earlier fought al-Qaeda during the US-led surge in 2006, decided to joined forces with it. The Tánaiste discussed the crisis in Iraq with EU colleagues at the Foreign Affairs Council on 23 June. The Council agreed conclusions condemning the recent attacks by ISIS, and reports of horrific atrocities. The Council emphasised that a security solution alone cannot resolve the current crisis, but must be combined with a sustainable political solution through outreach by the Iraqi Government to local communities and Iraqi society as a whole. Following the elections on 30 April, the Council also called on Iraq’s political leaders to negotiate as soon as possible the formation of a government representative of all Iraqi communities in society. Similar messages were also set out in the joint declaration of EU and Arab League Foreign Ministers meeting in Athens on 11 June, which I attended.
The Foreign Affairs Council on 23 June also expressed its serious concern at the humanitarian situation amid a further massive civilian displacement of some 500,000 people arising from the current emergency. The EU has increased its humanitarian assistance to Iraq to a total of €12 million this year. Ireland, for its part, is sending an airlift, worth €220,000, to be distributed by GOAL, which recently also received €200,000 to support its emergency response in northern Iraq. A further allocation of €75,000 to another Irish Aid NGO partner, Christian Aid Ireland, brings the Government’s total humanitarian assistance to Iraq in 2014 to €655,000.