Government expected to force a no-vote debate on troops to Iraq

They simply don’t have the numbers.

New Zealand is poised to join the war in Iraq with the deployment of Kiwi troops to the region to train local forces.

Cabinet is expected to agree in principle to the deployment on Monday after concerns were eased over the Iraqi Government’s refusal to sign a “status of forces” agreement setting out the legal status of the New Zealand troops.

Alternatives including “diplomatic passports with guns” or special military or official passports are understood to be under discussion and sources say they should provide the level of legal protection demanded by the New Zealand government as a condition of sending troops.

But the deployment is deeply opposed by Opposition parties who have warned that it could drag New Zealand into another long and bloody conflict, just two years after Kiwi troops were pulled from Bamyan, Afghanistan, a decade after the American invasion.

The divisions over Iraq are so deep Prime Minister John Key is likely to seek a Parliamentary debate without a vote, in stark contrast to 2003 when Helen Clark sought Parliament’s backing to send the SAS to Afghanistan.

Clark said she did not need to put it to the vote but she wanted the troops to know they had the backing of Parliament. Every party except the Greens voted in favour.

But with Labour, NZ First, the Greens, United Future and the Maori Party lined up against sending troops to Iraq, the Government can only count on ACT, meaning it would almost certainly lose a vote because it has one vacant seat due to the resignation of Northland MP Mike Sabin.

Sometimes grown up decisions have to be made that aren’t popular decisions. ? Even so, this will play straight into the ‘arrogant’ refrain we’ve heard since the election.

Once again the government hasn’t been able to sell its message and build cross party support for a humanitarian intervention against ISIS.

Voters are 50/50. ?Parliament is 50/50. ?Yet nobody has heard a decent argument to explain why it is necessary to go. ?Not unless you read Whaleoil, where it has been explained in detail.

Having buy-in on these matters is going to count long-term. ?Because now, when something goes wrong, the fact National had no support beyond ACT is going to end up a multi-year stick to beat National with. ? Hearts and minds win the day. ?Not stubborn force.


– Tracy Watkins, Stuff