British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond says New Zealand has been asked to contribute 100 defence personnel to a joint training mission in Iraq with Australia, which would allow Australia to boost its contribution but keep it under 1000.
"Don't under-estimate the importance of a New Zealand contribution," Mr Hammond said in an interview with the Herald during his first visit to Wellington.
"The Australians already have 600-odd people on the ground. They are looking at now engaging a training mission - which they are committed to do - which would need another 400 people and they are desperately keen that a contribution to that 400 is coming from New Zealand so that it's a joint effort keeping the overall Australian contingent below the magic thousand number and showing a joint effort approach.
"I think it is a disproportionate significance, the 100-odd New Zealanders, which is being asked for. It would have a disproportionate impact on the whole operation," he said.
Mr Hammond held talks with Prime Minister John Key and Foreign Minister Murray yesterday but Mr Hammond was more forthcoming about the shape of a possible New Zealand contribution than Mr Key, who told reporters before his caucus meeting yesterday that New Zealand had not yet been asked for a contribution.
Mr Hammond is well versed in Australia's contribution. Not only are they already in Iraq already but he visited Australia before arriving in New Zealand.
Britain has already dedicated eight Tornadoes to take part in air strikes in Iraq, second in number to the United States, and its drones are providing surveillance in Syria and Iraq.
Mr Key has said New Zealand would look at a non-combat training role, behind the wire, and alongside Australia but Labour, New Zealand and the Greens oppose a return to Iraq. A decision is weeks away.
Mr Hammond said he was aware of how "squeamish" the public was about anything that sounded like 'going back to Iraq.
"This is not going back into Iraq, believe me."
But he suggested that any country making a contribution define what it is very specifically and apply a time limit to avoid any risk of 'mission creep.'
"We are very clear and we have been very clear with the Iraqi Government - we the international community - and they are absolutely clear themselves that the only people who can win this fight are the Iraqis."
"It is very much in our interests that they go and do it. There isn't another way frankly of defeating ISIL on the ground.
The problem was that the previous al-Maliki Government had degraded the Iraqi security forces and they required some retraining, restructuring, and re-equipping before they could fight on the ground.
The way it would be done was the same way it was working at the Office Academy in Afghanistan - where New Zealand was also contributing - and that was using the train-the trainer model.
"It's about training the Iraqis to train more Iraqis. It is not about staying there forever to train Iraqis."
ISIL's brand was built on the narrative of military invincibility. They had swept across Iraq, pushed all before them.
"We've halted them with air strikes but we can only push them back with forces on the ground and the only forces on the ground are the Iraqi security forces. So the leverage is huge.
"A relatively small contribution to train an existing army, reorganize them, reinvigorate an existing army to go and do the hard miles on behalf of the international community really and then we can start to turn the tide against ISIL globally."
Mr Hammond also said the Iraqis and the United States was clear that they wanted the mission to be led by English-speaking nations.
"We work well together. We've got good operability. It makes it less complicated. The Iraqis are clear about who they want and who they are not so keen on having."
Who were they not keen on?
"Lots of people," Mr Hammond said. "They are very picky."
He was also emphatic that the ISIS problem would spread a lot further.
"The idea that somehow it's just a problem is Iraq is fanciful. It is much wider than that but defeating it in Iraq is absolutely necessary to turning the narrative."
A military defeat against ISIS is Iraq was necessary action but it was not sufficient to end the threat from militant Islamist terrorism.
"We are going to see this struggle go on. We are going to see it spreading way beyond the Middle East. We are already seeing North Africa, the Magreb, northern Nigeria with Boko Haram."
Significant numbers of Indonesian, Malaysian, and Filipino foreign fighters were in Iraq and Syria. Many had already returned. More would be returning.
"This is going to be a phenomenon across the Islamic world that Muslim countries have to take on and deal with, this challenge essentially to their religion, this corruption of their religion, pedalling this brutal ideology."
Calling ISIL Daesh
Several countries, including Australia and France, have decided to stop using the term Islamic State or ISIL or ISIS but to refer to it as Daesh, an acronym from the Arabic words for ISIL which apparently the jihadi terrorists don't like. Mr Hammond sees little point in him changing the terminology.
"It doesn't matter how many times they say we should be calling D'ASH, if the British press wants to call it ISIL, they'll call it ISIL and so long as they're going to say ISIL, I'm going to say ISIL, because otherwise I'm talking foreign to them. There's no mileage going on the television and using a term which your audience doesn't recognize."
Malaysia and Indonesia
Both Malaysia and Indonesia, democracies with populations of Muslim majorities, could have a special role in fighting ISIS.
Both showed it was possible for Muslims to practice their faith, live in a country that was broadly organized to respect their faith but which were moderate, outward looking nations, part of the international system and able to generate prosperity for their people - " which is something that some of the Muslim countries parts of the Middle East have singularly failed to do."
"But they will be on the front line because they will come under challenge."
United Nations Security Council
Speaking about the Security Council Mr Hammond said Britain had fully supported New Zealand's successful bid for the Security Council - although it wouldn't say so at the time - and had mobilized its diplomatic network in support of it.
He and Mr McCully talked about joint priorities on the council including the peace process in the Middle East after the March 17 election in Israel.
"New Zealand is pretty much at the place where most European countries are at that we absolutely don't want to do anything to destabilize the situation or reduce the chance of reaching peace but we do feel there is a need for an initiative.
" I think we can recognize that the middle of an Israeli election is not probably the time to take it so we're going to have to wait but we can't wait much longer."
He said there were some advantages for smaller countries on the council compared to the Permanent Five (P5).
"Security Council member like New Zealand, smaller countries have the benefit that they don't provoke instant reactions from everybody else when they say something. They have got more permission to speak.
"Smaller countries which have got deep roots of good governance at home, and therefore more bandwidth, are able to get more done than some countries
who join the Security Council and don't have the bandwidth capacity to actually exploit the opportunities that there are to use the Security Council as a platform to deliver things."
Staying in the European Union
Talking about the 2017 referendum on whether Britain will stay in the European Union, Mr Hammond said he was "pretty optimistic" Britain could get a package of significant reforms sufficient for Britain to sign up again.
Asked why so many in Britain wanted leave the EU, he said that for the best part of 15 to 20 years the EU had looked to many British like an organization
"that is more interested in building a super-state and sucking away our national sovereignty than it is interested in completing the single and acting as a focus for economic growth in Europe.
"The British have always been unsentimental about Europe. We were never in the European union because we believed it was a great passion of the British people. We are in the European Union because we want access to the single market. We want to work with our European neighbours to make sure our economies are growing and are creating jobs, wealth and prosperity.
"We have within our grasp a package of reform of the European Union that will see it move decisively away from looking like a union focused on political union with an economic agenda tacked on, and getting back to where its roots originally were, an economic union of member states who are sovereign states, pooling bits of their sovereignty where it makes sense for them to do in order to be effective as a group of nations.
EU - NZ Free trade agreement
Mr Hammond said at press conference that Britain would be "the champion" in the European Union for a free trade agreement between the EU and New Zealand, and later said that while he had conveyed tha to New Zealand and European colleagues privately, he had not said publicly that Britain would be campaigning for it.
He said Britain hugely valued the bilateral relationship with New Zealand.
"We call is soft power. It's about having a network of relationship with countries across the world which are not easily un-done, relationships based on language, on culture, on shared history, on people to people ties, family links.
"Those are very, very robust links. Some Chinese delegation can't come along and offer an alternative even though they might have good trade deals to offer. We place great store on maintaining and strengthening our soft power links around the world."
He said he had heard a message in his talks that some of the visa regime issues challenged the ability of particularly young New Zealanders "to maintain the pattern of contact between Britain and New Zealand that has been traditional"
"I will certainly take that message back."