Words by Rowan Taylor
Tony Abbott has committed Australia to war. On the 14th of September, our Prime Minister announced that 600 military and air force personnel would be sent over to the Middle East to fight the Islamic State, a militant group he denounced as a “death cult.”
Recent conflicts in the Middle East have been unfortunately common. Past and ongoing conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza, Libya, Egypt and Syria have meant that images of the war-torn region are rarely absent from our screens. Likewise, Australia’s involvement in these conflicts is not unheard of. Australian troops only withdrew from Iraq in 2009, and finished withdrawing from Afghanistan at the beginning of this year.
The Prime Minister’s announcement means our military will be back overseas by the end of September.
IS (formerly the Islamic State for Iraq and Syria) is a militant Sunni Jihadist group with similar ideologies and assets to Al-Qaeda. It’s stated aim is to create ‘an Islamic Caliphate’ which encapsulates all Muslims. Since June heavily armed IS troops have successfully captured large parts of Iraq and Syria. Whilst other militant groups in Iraq have generally favoured guerilla warfare, IS has opted for a strategy of military conquest. This has resulted in what BBC correspondent Paul Adams has described as a ‘Whirlwind Jihad’.
The success of their brutally violent methods has worried many. A United Nations Commission found that regular public executions are take place in IS strongholds in Iraq and Syria of both soldiers and civilians. Some of these, including the most recent beheading of British Aid worker, David Haines, have even made our television screens.
But particular concerns are currently for the Kurdish and Christian populations in Iraq. Many members of various minorities have fled before the advance of IS, fearing for their safety. The ensuing humanitarian crisis has been a driving factor behind calls for UN intervention.
US Secretary of State, John Kerry called upon countries around the world to “stop the spread of evil.” Already, he has persuaded 40 countries, including Australia, to provide assist in fighting IS.
Upon farewelling the 600 defence members on the 18th of September, the Prime Minister or Opposition, Leader Bill Shorten both gave their full support of the mission. “In this mission you will have the full support of both the Government and the Opposition. In this mission, we will give you all the support you need,” the PM said.
However, support for Australia’s renewed involvement in Iraq is far from universal.
Greens Leader, Christine Milne has condemned the decision, asking the Senate to pass a Bill requiring Parliamentary debate and approval before more troops can be deployed. The Senator has also raised concerns about the open ended time frame for Australian military commitment. “If we’re going to start, where are we going to end,” she said. “It’s important that the Prime Minister tells us… what we’re going to commit to.”
Concerns have also been raised internationally about the newly established Coalition of Nations. Speaking to the Associated Press in Baghdad, Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi announced that his country neither wanted nor needed ground troops in his country. “Not only is it unnecessary. We don’t want them. We won’t allow them. Full stop.”