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U.K.: We warned Iraq about extremist threat

July 7th, 2014
12:18 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

Amanpour’s full interview with Ambassador Simon Collis airs at 2pm ET, 7pm London, 9pm Baghdad time on CNN International.

The United Kingdom consistently warned the Iraqi government about the threat posed by ISIS before that group swept across large swaths of the country, UK Ambassador to Iraq Simon Collis told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday.

“I’m not suggesting that anybody saw quite the speed and scale of the advances that took place, which were in part also a result of the collapse of very significant numbers of Iraqi security forces.”

“But the fact that Mosul was vulnerable was known. The fact that ISIL were already holding territory from last year in parts of western Iraq, in Anbar and elsewhere, was well known.”

“We were aware of the threat and we gave clear advice at the time and throughout about the best way to tackle it, the only effective way to tackle it.”

The UK told Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s government that the only way to defeat ISIS was through a “comprehensive counterterrorism strategy,” involving political, economic, and security measures, Ambassador Collis said.

Al-Maliki’s government has appeared thus far to prioritize the security situation over a political solution.

“Iraq needs a broad-based government that can show national unity,” Ambassador Collis said. “The idea that you can tackle the security part first and come back to the politics in due time is part of the reason why Iraq’s in the situation it is today.”

Meanwhile, leaders in Iraqi Kurdistan are giving their strongest-ever indication that they will seek full independence for their region.

“We did not cause the collapse of Iraq,” Iraqi Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani told Amanpour. “It is others who did. And we cannot remain hostages for the unknown.”

Ambassador Collis, who just recently met with Barzani, said he did not believe Kurdish political leaders are discussing full independence “as an imminent matter.”

The future of the region, whether in Iraq or Syria, “looks very serious,” Ambassador Collis said.

“The message is a consistent one, that defeating extremist terror requires moderate democratic political leaders to come together. Autocratic governments are not the answer in Syria or anywhere else. The only thing that can defeat extremist groups is national cohesion.”

Amanpour asked whether “dealing with the Syria piece” is necessary to defeat ISIS.

“As far as tackling the threat that ISIL pose to the region, the secret’s in the name,” Ambassador Collis said, referring to the group by an alternate acronym.

“It operates in both Iraq and in the Levant, in Syria. And tackling it will require coordinated action in both countries. The only people taking on ISIL inside Syria, incidentally, are the Syrian moderate opposition.”

“There’s no doubt about the seriousness of the situation in both Iraq and Syria, and therefore beyond borders of those two countries. It’s been a disaster for millions of people in both countries, who’ve been so badly affected. It’s a humanitarian disaster.”

People can debate, he said, whether “straightforward military intervention” would bring a better reality on the ground, “but it’s not obvious at all that that would solve the problem.”

“It is about working with moderate people. It’s clear that the Assad regime, for example, cannot be part of the solution. ISIL’s rise is a direct result of that regime’s behavior in many ways.”

“But supporting people who are in the middle, people who are moderate, people who simply want security in their lives and personal freedom and the right to choose their leaders – this must be our goal in the West, it seems to me.”

“And that’s going to require activity across the range of political action with leaders, direct support to people inside Syria.”

Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Iraq • Latest Episode
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Paddy Singh

    By simply 'telling', it was a mere s;lap on the wrist. The UK should have warned Maliki over his sectarian policies and emphasised to him that if he did not change immediately it would be too late as is apparent right now. He should also have forewarned that help would not be coming if Al qaeeda came back in force. The problem is that the US and the UK are like two dummy boys when it comes to facing reality – Maliki should have been deposed long ago. Just the same way as these countries have been deposing other sovereign heads of states.

    July 7, 2014 at 2:04 pm | Reply
  2. flightsfor

    No Sh** Jose

    July 7, 2014 at 2:10 pm | Reply
  3. friendly foe

    More war mongering !!
    As if the Iraqi government did not smell?

    UK US are blood thirsty animals want a reason to shed the blood

    July 7, 2014 at 2:32 pm | Reply
  4. friendly foe

    “We were aware of the threat and we gave clear advice at the time and throughout about the best way to tackle it, the only effective way to tackle it.”

    When? When maliki removed all sunnis from the army and government and started oppressing the minority and making them feel second class citizens ?
    Its not about waring about ISIS its about US and UK failure to give DEMOCRACY to iraq there was no democracy there was a puppet leader who was oppressing sunnis

    July 7, 2014 at 2:35 pm | Reply
  5. ashok

    It will be good if the Kurds become an independent nation. They could add bits and pieces of Syria and Turkey. People matter more than lines on a map.

    July 7, 2014 at 3:34 pm | Reply
    • Joe

      It would be even better if these kurds move to america and leave irag to the iragis.

      July 7, 2014 at 6:46 pm | Reply
      • Raw Okra

        Are you sarcastic? If not, you must have forgotten to take your meds.

        July 7, 2014 at 8:13 pm |
  6. inferencial

    Imagine if you never went to war for WMD's or Blair never climbed into Bushes pocket......there would never be the security problems you have now......john Lennon ....imagine

    July 7, 2014 at 4:35 pm | Reply
    • Jason

      John Lennon ' possessions, I wonder if you can...' Hmmm...I don't recall Johnnie-boy ever giving up his own immense wealth/Dakota apartment'
      Rockstars, include Mr. Dark Side R. Waters, make for poor back-up.

      July 8, 2014 at 5:09 pm | Reply
  7. Lamia

    "Friends of Syria" including your country Mr. Ambassador, could have helped the moderate opponents of Assad in the first place, before the rise of ISIL!

    July 7, 2014 at 4:50 pm | Reply
  8. iyke

    First it was Iraq and Alqeada linked Sadam. Afterwards it was Libya and Gadhafi. Now its all of these scenarios the leaders have been painted as gross Evil in western Media. Agreed they were tyrants. But even the middle East camels can attest that both Libya, Iraq and Syria were more stable and secure under these leaders than it is presently.More people have died since foreign intervention than the leaders killed combined. And we're still talking about arming the moderates. Osama was once a moderate hardened by War. I hope these moderates won't tow the same line.

    July 7, 2014 at 8:11 pm | Reply
  9. eyeonukraine

    The UK warned Iraw about ISIS. Ah, but ISIS grew on the west's assistance to the "Syrian freedom fighters". Taking advantage of a weakened Syrian government control over the area, and the west's strong desire to "reestablish the order in the ME, oust the "brutal Assad regime", gave financial and military assistance to these so called freedom fighter, and nurtured this group. UK should have given the warning / advice? to the US. Another fiasco after nurturing that bin Laden guy in the 80's, in the desire to "counter the Soviet Union's intrusion into ....". They never learn.

    July 7, 2014 at 8:44 pm | Reply
    • Isobel

      And there was no al Qaeda presence in Iraq before the war in early 2000s, they went in then having always been kept out by Saddam Hussein. ISIL is the end result of that and ISIS is part of ISIL. It's another interesting attempt to blame everyone but us for the situation in Iraq. And also as you said, the support for 'rebels' in Syria has fuelled both the al Qaeda group al Nusra, and their former friends now adversaries, ISIS. The US don't learn, their behaviour in Syria is insanity.

      July 8, 2014 at 9:59 am | Reply
  10. scott

    Not wrong there U.K and its all the Iraq goc this was went from good back to bad.

    America should not help unless the Iraq Gov signs and deal protection all U.S troops and a new power sharing deal. That county needs a system that has 3 main party's and it will take 2 parts to control power in the gov. So the Shiites can team up with the Kurd and the Kurd can give the numbers to the Sunnis. It will be up 2 the Kurd's to pick a side to back and they can swing power to the other side if 1 clings to power and so on.

    The biggest problem in Iraq is that this Shiite government hack/rigged everything and has fired all the hi up Kurd and Sunnis Army Generals, replacing them with Shiite generals like a bunch of communist. They have taken over the government with a iron fist. The Shiite Gov wanted to takeover and needed American troops out, as soon as they did, we have seen the Shiite Gov cling 2 powers kicking out Kurdish & Sunnis from top military jobs and so on, to replace them all with Shiite highest ranked generals now.

    From the start of the Iraq gov trying to rid Iraq of U.S troops to cling to power, America warned them about doing that. As America pulled out they had 0 troop deaths a week or over months. Before they pulled out they had the terrorist on the run and Intel was smashing the last standing terrorist planing attacks. America showed them how the strategy's worked "clearly" and how Intel was set up now and now kicking in. The Intel was ruining the terrorist out of the city's and then out of areas near the city, so much so, the troops had to go deeper out into the desert to kill them with the raids we seen 6 months before they pulled out. The Iraq war waa won and in the bag & no U.S troops, died In the end, we have just seen less and less Iraq police and troop deaths & attacks were happening less and less. That was all slowly undone once the U.S troops/Intel had to pull out of Iraq.

    The blame lies with the Iraq Gov that knew all that^, and got shown all of the above, but was in a dream world thinking all is ok because they wanted to rule Iraq and needed U.S troops out.

    July 7, 2014 at 9:14 pm | Reply
  11. Ariel

    You warned, but then you armed them in Syria assuming they were democracy-loving "moderate" jihadis.

    How DUMB can you be?

    July 7, 2014 at 9:31 pm | Reply
  12. scott

    U.K is right and there is know buts about it.

    The Iraq Gov is to blame for this as when America pulled out, there Intel was busting mass terrorist in raids that by the time they left, we're going after them way out in the desert, because they killed them all near the city and out side the city.

    Bush did start that war and it did go beyond bad unto the strategy's turned it around, and that allowed Intel to be set up that started smashing the terrorist. The U.S troops got 0 deaths every week and the Iraq troops seen less and less attack as the Intel started 2 kick in. The American gov told them you can see Intel is working & if the U.S troops leave, there Intel that is U.S leaves 2 "NOT GETTING TRIED UNDER IRAQ LAW".

    The truth is the U.K is saying it's the Iraq Gov's fault really, and kicking America out has played a bit part of this happening. When the Iraq Gov new they needed America, they just wanted 2 take full control of the Gov, like what made this attack happen. Shiite Gov has fired all hi up army gens and replaced them all with Shiite only, It was who care we just need to focus on clinging to power and block out small things taking place, like areas slowly being taken from them and not caring about a jump in death rates. All they gave cared about was clinging to power, and that's why this has taken place.

    Must threaten to support the kurd and Sunnis and braking up Iraq, if al-maliki i does not stand down ASAP. They will get armed 2 and Shiite will lose mass oil as well.

    July 7, 2014 at 9:32 pm | Reply
    • Isobel

      al Qaeda only went into Iraq due to the war, Hussein had kept them out as they didn't get on. ISIL/ISIS sprang out of that. it destabilised the counry completely going into war the way it was done.

      July 10, 2014 at 9:51 am | Reply
  13. darshan dhesi

    If UK was right than what was it doing when Muslim Brits were heading for the ISIS and other terrorist organization or were they prepared that some day it will be Britain instead of Iraq.

    July 7, 2014 at 11:19 pm | Reply
  14. Madex

    Any interview where the interviewer calls the legitimate Govt of another country 'REGIME' is biased and should not be taken Syriaously.
    Amanpour always referring to Syrian President Assad as 'brutal dictator' who just won election that was better than what we saw in Ukraine is not journalism but taking sides.
    ISIS is a US creation in Syria who decided to move their ideas to Iraq because the Syrian Army is tough.

    July 8, 2014 at 4:24 am | Reply
  15. HCL+HNO3

    I propose that the Brits first solve the islamic insurgence on their own island before meddling around.

    July 8, 2014 at 7:45 am | Reply
    • Jess

      Definitely!! And quickly!

      July 10, 2014 at 5:04 pm | Reply
  16. Isobel

    As far as tackling the threat that ISIL pose to the region, the secret’s in the name,” Ambassador Collis said, referring to the group by an alternate acronym.

    “It operates in both Iraq and in the Levant, in Syria. And tackling it will require coordinated action in both countries. The only people taking on ISIL inside Syria, incidentally, are the Syrian moderate opposition.”

    Apart from, the fighting against ISIS on the rebel side is led by the al Qaeda group al Nusra, with other rebels fighting allied with them.

    Assad forces are also fighting against ISIS, who wish like the al Qaeda group, to overthrow Assad's government and replace him with an Islamic Caliphate. In fact they recently bombed over the border into Iraq at ISIS positions and got criticised by the US for it.

    July 8, 2014 at 9:56 am | Reply
  17. TheGreenMan

    Anyone else notice how William Hague has suddenly 'gone quiet' about training and arming the AQ "rebels" and calling for Assad's removal? Has that Yorkshire Prat woken up to reality yet?

    July 8, 2014 at 11:39 am | Reply
    • Isobel

      I've put in 6 complaints about Hague for lies primarily about Syria, and for trying to lie about supporting al Qaeda allies. he is a disgusting creature in terms of his false propaganda and his conduct re Syria (and Ukraine actually, where he supported neo Nazis in the interim Government).

      July 10, 2014 at 9:37 am | Reply
  18. Skorpio

    Everywhere Islam is present, one only finds violence, war, threats, hatred, coercion, resentment, vengeance, discrimination, death and destruction. More than 70 countries around the world are experiencing the same Islamic madness. Ironically there is not one single Muslim leader that publicly accepts any responsibility, they always blame other factors, countries or people but no one sees Islam as the root of the problem. Muslims always see the speck on some one else's eye but never the beam on their own.

    July 9, 2014 at 4:07 am | Reply
  19. inferencial

    Do we care if you warned them or not.........NO

    July 9, 2014 at 8:18 am | Reply
  20. Isobel

    Does this comments page accept links to other articles, this is one re al Nusra fighting ISIS

    July 10, 2014 at 9:37 am | Reply
  21. Terry

    I think U.K. should also watch those MB they have in their country now, you never know what plans they have for your country.

    July 11, 2014 at 10:28 am | Reply
  22. Rick Schildgen

    March 6, 2021 at 2:06 pm | Reply
  23. Barb Ponting

    I've been absent for some time, but now I remember why I used to love this blog. Thank you, I'll try and check back more frequently. How frequently you update your site?

    March 6, 2021 at 2:33 pm | Reply

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