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We're Trying To Stop Brits Fighting In Iraq, says Clegg

Thursday 19th June 2014

The Deputy Prime Minister has told LBC the Government is doing everything it can to stop people going to join the fighting in Iraq.

Nick Clegg echoed David Cameron's comment that the threat of Jihadis coming back to Britain and inflicting violence here is one of the biggest security challenges we face.

The Kurdish director of intelligence in Iraq claims around 450 British nationals have joined the ranks of ISIS.

"Yesterday we met in the National Security Council for the umpteenth time to look at that, that's the group that gets together in Whitehall to look at this," the Deputy Prime Minister explained on his weekly LBC show Call Clegg.

"It appears to be a fact that the flow of people leaving the UK, going to Syria for instance, becoming ever more radicalised and extreme in the views but also of course becoming ever more expert in the use of violence and then wanting to come back to inflict that violence on our streets is now one of the biggest security challenges we face and that's why we've been pretty open as a Government saying 'look, this is a big issue, it's right up there at the top of the security agenda of the things that we're looking at in Government and we're doing everything we can either to discourage people from going there in the first place or, of course, making sure we keep an eye on them if they come back with violent intentions'.

"I'm afraid it's one of the oldest things, that violence begets violence and that appears to be the case and that's why this bloody barbaric brutal civil war in Syria is not only so tragic for the Syrian people, it's dangerous for the rest of us as well."

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair recently rejected claims that the 2003 invasion of Iraq led to the current violence.

Mr Clegg says he agres with some of his arguments but not the main one.

"There is one thing where I actually think he's got a point, which is that the violence in Syria is acting as a a sort of generator for violence elsewhere and it has a spill over effect," Nick Clegg responded. "We shouldn't pretend that that kind of bloody civil war is just sort of hermetically sealed within the borders of Syria, on that he's self evidentially right.

"Where I think he's just plain wrong is to somehow suggest, which he sought to, which I thought was a rather contorted argument that says, 'what is happening in Iraq now would have happened even if we hadn't invaded Iraq,' as if somehow the invasion of Iraq, which I think was the most disastrous foreign policy decision that this country has ever participated in since the Suez crisis is somehow disconnected with what happens 11 years later.

"I personally am not going to spend a huge amount of time trying to reinvent history to say if this hadn't happened would that have happened? I think it is a slightly pointless thing for Tony Blair to have done but on Syria I think he and most people are in a sense stating, what I believe the obvious, which is that kind of bloody civil war going on with such ferocity over such a prolonged period of time, of course it has an effect on people who move in and out of Syria but also on neighbouring countries."