26 Feb 2015

Ambassador welcomes NZ troop commitment

5:44 am on 26 February 2015

The Iraqi Ambassador to New Zealand is happy New Zealand has committed military troops to Iraq to help in the fight against Islamic State.

The Iraqi ambassador Mouayed Saleh (left). At a panel discussion in Parliament's Grand Hall. Wellington Feb 25, 2015

Iraqi ambassador Mouayed Saleh (left) during the panel discussion. Photo: RNZ / Demelza Leslie

Mouayed Saleh spoke publicly on the matter on Wednesday night, at a panel discussion on the rise of IS and the motivations and implications for New Zealand.

The Diplosphere panel gathered in Parliament's Grand Hall was made up of politicians, diplomats and academics.

Iraqi ambassador Mouayed Saleh was first to address the audience, telling the more than 200 people gathered that terrorism did not have a border.

He said terrorism was getting closer to New Zealand.

"To prevent that coming closer and deeper in our country it is better to fight it in Iraq and I welcome the support from New Zealand," said Mr Saleh.

But the ambassador said the Iraqi Government did not need ground forces - it needed help with air strikes, technology, intelligence and training.

Director of religious studies at Victoria University Paul Morris said New Zealand was getting involved in a complex situation.

"The truth is that ISIS theology is forged in blood and under occupation, in war, in murder, and in the collapse of political institutions and in justice," said Mr Morris.

Robert Ayson (left) and Jonathan Sinclair during a panel discussion at parliament. Wellington 25 February 2015

Photo: RNZ / Demelza Leslie

Robert Ayson from Victoria University said a solution to Islamic State did not exist - it was about managing a crisis.

"This is not going to be about some sort of decisive end state, it's about trying to make things a bit less worse than they are today," said Mr Ayson.

The British High Commissioner Jonathan Sinclair outlined the British case for military action.

"The brutality [of IS] is staggering. Beheadings, the gouging out of eyes...how is this a threat to the UK? Well, what we face is a clear national threat as it is a global threat to our international partners," said Mr Sinclair.

A former New Zealand diplomat Terrence O'Brien told the audience the decision for New Zealand to commit troops to Iraq was a case of misguided foreign policy.

"Several months of public hesitation about what New Zealand might or might not do, looked like running around in circles."

He said visits by foreign officials had helped push New Zealand into a dubious enterprise.

Some speakers said the Government was bound by what its international allies chose to do.

As one speaker put it - you don't choose the bus, but you do choose whether to board it.

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