Two years ago I visited Moscow with a Nato parliamentary group. In a meeting with a Russian minister the Arab Spring – then just beginning – came up. He replied that the Russians have a saying: an early spring leads to a long, hot summer.
It felt ominous and indeed the Arab spring does seem to have given way to a sweltering summer. While only Tunisia seems to have emerged with some semblance of stability, other parts of north Africa and the Middle East are ablaze. The upheaval has benefitted the area’s extremists.
None is more brutal than the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (IS). They are a group al-Queda considers too extreme and it has swept across northern Iraq butchering Christians and other religious minorities, crucifying innocent civilians, and enslaving young women. There are even reports of women and children being buried alive.
This gang of fanatics has now captured territory larger than Great Britain. They rule land with a twisted morality that means enforced female genital mutilation and no unveiled women in the street. Not even simple pleasures like music or football are permitted. They pervert the peaceful religion of Islam and want to drag all of us back to the middle ages.
In recent weeks IS forces trapped thousands of Yazidi – a religious minority in northern Iraq – on Mount Sinjar. Thankfully, British air crews have been able to deliver essential supplies to these desperate people.
They are by no means safe, but we can be proud that UK aid is helping those who need it most. It is proof that, when properly targeted, our aid can make the greatest difference.
Yet as the US carries out limited, targeted air strikes against those who, unchecked, would commit genocide, we should consider what further action we can take. We cannot and should not intervene in every crisis around the world. Yet we also have a proud history of standing up in defence of liberty and democracy.