JAMES O’NEILL. When will the Australian Opposition and Parliament actually do its job over the Syrian war?

Feb 2, 2018

The US Secretary of Defence, General Mattis, recently announced that the US was intending to create a 30,000 strong “border force” to occupy a portion of northern Syria. This is territory in which the largest group are ethnic Kurds who in the past have been supported by the US, not on any principled basis but because they represented a group that may assist US geopolitical objectives. Those objectives are neither singular nor necessarily consistent. They include the often reiterated claim that the “Assad government must go”, a view echoed until recently by the Australian government; although the latter’s statements on anything related to Syria have been markedly muted.

Given the silence of the government, the equally supine stance of the Labor opposition, the complicity of the main stream media and the complete absence of meaningful parliamentary debate about Australia’s foreign policy misadventures for and on behalf of the fading US imperium, it is difficult to discern quite what the Australian policy actually is. 

Another objective has been the dismemberment of the Syrian state into a number of smaller statelets. This has been a long term Israeli objective, set out for example in the Yinon plan of 1982. It is never easy to distinguish between US and Israeli geopolitical objectives, given the latter’s almost total grip upon US foreign policy, especially as it relates to matters in the Middle East/Southwest Asia region.

Mattis’s announcement reflects a tacit acknowledgement that the US’s primary goal, of replacing Assad with a more compliant client state, has failed. That failure is largely attributable to the militarily effective intervention of Lebanese Hezbollah, Iranian and Russian forces.  The thwarting of US/Israeli objectives in Syria by those three has infuriated both Tel Aviv and Washington’s power brokers. It accounts in no small measure for the ongoing demonization of both Iran and Russia.

In Iran’s case this is represented by the blatant disregard by the United States of the JCPOA agreement signed in July 2015. Not only did the United States not ease the sanctions against Iran, as provided for in the JCPOA, they have imposed further sanctions and continued to place obstacles to the normalization of Iran’s relations with other Western nations and financial institutions such as the SWIFT system. It is also bullying its European allies not to invest in Iran, including but not limited to the imposition of sanctions against European companies or individuals who ignore the Americans’ wishes.

With Russia, the US has similarly waged a non-stop propaganda war alleging, inter alia, Russian interference in the last US presidential election. That this is an entirely evidence free allegation matters not at all to the Western main stream media. That the real interference in the US election came from Obama, the DNC, the Clinton campaign and the FBI, as exposed in recent Congressional revelations, is apparently insufficient to excite the attention of the Western main stream media. For them, a fictional narrative has seemingly replaced an earlier history of endeavouring to accurately inform their readership.

Throughout all of this the Australian government has been strangely silent. Notoriously known for being joined at the hip to US foreign policy initiatives, regardless of their legality or their correspondence to Australian national interests, the surprise advent of the Trump administration with all its chaos and dysfunction has rendered the Canberra foreign policy mandarins adrift without a clear idea as to which US policies they are required to adhere to.

The silence may also reflect, as Alison Broinowski has recently pointed out (www.johnmenadue.com 25 January 2018), an official reluctance to actually inform the Australian public, not only what its actual policies are but the legal, geopolitical and national interest rationale behind them.

This was never clearer than in the studied silence from Canberra of the aforementioned Mattis’s statement about the deployment of US forces to support the purported creation of a 30,000 strong so-called border force. It may be that the complete absence of any legal foundation for such a force, and its capacity to spark a full-scale war involving Turkey, Syria and Russia has caused reservations among the government’s foreign policy advisors.

Given that the real motive behind the latest US policy initiative in Syria is a variation on the original plan to depose the legitimate Syrian government; that the plan manifestly utilizes sundry US-, Saudi- and Israeli-supported terrorist groups; and that the Kurds are being given false expectations and will likely be left to hang out to dry as the policy inevitably fails, the Australian government is right to be cautious.

Given the silence of the government, the equally supine stance of the Labor opposition, the complicity of the msm, and the complete absence of meaningful parliamentary debate about Australia’s foreign policy misadventures for and on behalf of the fading US imperium, it is difficult to discern quite what the Australian policy actually is.

History provides some guidance. As I have documented elsewhere, the initial involvement in Syria by Australian forces in September 2015 was accompanied by lies, obfuscation and a downright refusal to provide the factual and legal basis upon which the decision to join the Syrian war was made. It is nothing short of astonishing that more than two years later Australia’s involvement in an illegal war has not been the subject of either parliamentary debate or official documentation. The recently released DFAT White Paper is a derisory apology for a proper policy analysis or explanation.

The Mattis statement and some other comments by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on the US’s intention to stay in Syria indefinitely is entirely consistent with the US’s approach to international law: if it conflicts with US geopolitical aims then it is simply ignored.

What has added some spice to the US’s implied admission that the original Syrian objectives have been defeated by the Syrian government and its allies, is that the pretence of “fighting terrorism” in its ISIS or any other format has been revealed for the hollow sham it always was. Further, its erstwhile NATO ally Turkey has not only taken extreme umbrage at the latest US policy initiative but has initiated military retaliation in the form of its ironically named Operation Olive Branch.

Turkey has the largest military force in NATO after the US and that it is now openly attacking the US supported Kurdish and Free Syrian Army (sic) forces is a matter of major geopolitical significance. But from Turnbull, Bishop and Payne there is only silence.

The Australian Department of Defence recently announced that it was ceasing military operations in Syria and was withdrawing its F/A18 fighter planes. They were never more than a token force anyway, despite apparent involvement in US operations responsible for the deaths of both Syrian civilians and Syrian soldiers.

The more important role has been played by RAAF E-7A Wedgetail AWAC and KC-30A aircraft, responsible for surveillance, targeting and refuelling on behalf of so-called “Coalition” aircraft. What role, if any, they will continue to play we are not told.

Again, history is a guide. Their most likely role is to continue supporting US air cover which in turn is providing support for their terrorist allies on the ground. The blatant illegality of US actions, and Australia’s role as a party to that illegality and by extension war crimes, is an obvious reason for the partial drip feed of information and the refusal to countenance serious debate.

One wonders when, if ever, our politicians and msm are going to recognise that the geopolitical world is changing rapidly. Unless and until that reality is grasped and appropriate policies formulated in response, Australia is going to continue its role as the ever-faithful lapdog of the United States. The inevitable confrontation with reality will be all the more brutal as a result.

James O’Neill is a Barrister at Law and geopolitical analyst.  He may be contacted at [email protected]

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