On September 9, Prime Minister Tony Abbott confirmed that Australia will extend its airstrikes in Iraq to ISIS targets in Syria.
This decision had been under consideration for a number of weeks. On August 21, Abbott announced that a “formal request” had been received from the US to join bombing missions in Syria. However, according to a Fairfax Media report on August 26, the driving force for the formal request came from the Prime Minister’s office, not Washington.
Following the PM’s announcement, Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, said that these RAAF aircraft would likely begin operations over eastern Syria within a week.
It can be safely predicted that these bombings, far from “degrading and ultimately destroying ISIS”, will not only cause more civilian casualties, but will also anger the Syrian civilians in these ISIS dominated areas. For the most part, these captive communities loath ISIS, but they also resent being attacked by American and Australian bombs.
Lamentably, Labor leader Bill Shorten has conditionally backed these counterproductive airstrikes in Syria.1
Within the Federal Parliament, only the Greens and Tasmanian Independent MP, Andrew Wilkie, voiced any principled opposition to the PM’s announcement.
Greens leader Richard Di Natale said Australia’s Syrian mission would make a “bad situation worse” and that the bombing would cause more civilian casualties. He said these airstrikes “will ensure that the breeding ground for terrorism, for extremism, for fanaticism continues”.
He added, “(w)hen you don’t have a clear plan, when you don’t have a clear exit strategy, when you don’t know what victory looks like, then what you do is commit Australian lives to a conflict that has no clear end game.”
Andrew Wilkie also condemned the Coalition’s decision. He described the decision as illegal, and emphasised that there was no United Nations mandate.
“The Government’s claim that it will be legal by virtue of collective self-defence [of Iraq] is simply untrue,” he claimed. “In some ways, the decision to bomb Syria is this week’s security deliverable. We were promised a security announcement every week and this week it’s to bomb Syria.”2
For a more detailed analysis of the PM’s announcement, refer to the article by Jon Atkins, ‘Abbott government’s decision to bomb Syria should be revoked’, here.
1. Labor News, ‘Australia to begin airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria’, Labor Herald, Sep 9, 2015.
2. Quoted in Dan Conifer’s report, ‘Greens, Andrew Wilkie lash announcement of ‘illegal’ air strikes over Syria’, ABC News, Sep 9, 2015.