Byline: By David Williamson Western Mail
Peace will not come to Iraq and Afghanistan unless the battle against insurgents is balanced with a drive to develop their economies and democracies, Britain's recently retired ambassador to the UN declared yesterday. Welshman Sir Emyr Jones Parry said, "I think the lesson of Iraq is that not enough was done on the politics and the economics at the formative stage." While he refused to comment on troop withdrawals, he warned there would be devastating consequences if the West abandoned efforts to build a prosperous future for each country. Failure to invest in Afghanistan in the 1990s in the aftermath of the Soviet occupation fuelled the growth of al-Qaeda, he argued.
He said, "I can remember Treasury representatives in particular saying, 'The UK has no particular interest in Afghanistan - why bother?'. The problem was most of the West said the same thing and in 2001 Afghanistan bit with a vengeance in New York and Washington."
The country faces a similarly precarious future today, he said, urging that the West does not allow it to once again become a safe haven for extremists such as Osama bin Laden.
He said, "It's very fragile. We can't afford instability in that region and certainly we can't have a reversion to the terrorism that originated beyond question in Afghanistan."
Sir Emyr, who will shortly return to Wales as president of Aberystwyth University, defends the decision to invade Iraq.
He said, "We went with the best of reasons because we believed there were weapons of mass destruction.
"I also believed Iraq was so much of a potential threat and Saddam had so long disobeyed the commands and the edicts of the Security Council that at some stage we had to take a stand."
Despite the ferocity of the insurgency in Iraq and the Taliban counter-attack in Afghanistan, he remains adamant that the two countries are not doomed to remain locked in conflict. Sir Emyr, who was educated at Gwendraeth Grammar School in Carmarthenshire, looks to the history of post-war Europe and the collapse of communism for inspiration.
He said, "I'm a perpetual optimist. What [1989 proved] was the triumph of human spirit, that you cannot forever subjugate, that you need democratic outpourings. Churchill said [democracy is] an imperfect system but it's better than any other system.
"In the end it will emerge and that's what we have to keep pushing for."
Sir Emyr - speaking in Cardiff yesterday at the Solace conference for local government chief executives - was Britain's top representative with Nato and is a strong supporter of multilateral diplomacy. His attitude contrasted …