John Menadue. Don’t add to the disaster.

Sep 4, 2015

The government is considering adding to the disaster in the Middle East by instructing the RAAF to bomb targets in Syria.

Will we ever learn from our past mistakes?

In supporting the US invasion of Iraq, Australia helped trigger the tragedy that is now unfolding. Perhaps a million lives have been lost and refugees are flooding in their millions into adjoining countries and Europe. Our involvement has triggered both ethnic and sectarian conflict. Does Tony Abbott ever stop and think about his role in the Howard Government that helped sow the seeds of this disaster?

In considering the Middle East, Tony Abbott has two clear objectives that have nothing to do with our national interest. The first is to wedge the opposition and make it appear weak on security. He has instructed his private office to look for regular and if possible daily opportunities to highlight security threats. He wants to make the Canning bi-election a khaki election. Secondly he is determined to show that he is the most loyal ally of the US. He even asked the Americans to ask us to step up our role in the Middle East. He is quite unwilling to acknowledge that we are tying ourselves to a country that is perpetually at war. That is putting us at great risk.

The West is not winning the war in the Middle East. The history of foreign intervention in the Middle East is one of loss and ignominy. Just ask the Russians.

There is serious legal doubt about extending our role into Syria. The Saudis, Emirates and Qataris are not contributing to the campaign against IS. Many Saudis privately support and fund IS. Having suffered defeat as a result of the intervention by the US and its allies many Sunni in Iraq now support IS. None of our neighbours in South East Asia is involved.

The commander of our joint operations in the Middle East Vice-Admiral David Johnson has told us that bombing Syria will not be a ‘game changer’

Turkey, one of our ‘allies’ in the area, is playing a double game. Despite its alleged opposition to IS, Turkey has remained a major transit country for foreign fighters, including Australians, to join IS in Syria and Iraq. Turkey helps fund IS through large purchases of oil. Turkey is now conducting aerial strikes on IS in Iraq and Syria, but it is using these strikes against IS as a cover for much heavier aerial attacks on Kurdish positions. It is done to play to the domestic hostility to the Kurds living in Turkey. Yet the Kurds are the most effective military opposition on the ground to IS.

We keep compounding the disaster we triggered in the first place. We cannot undo what we helped create, but we should not make it worse by allowing ourselves to be goaded by IS. Only a diplomatic and political resolution is possible. In any resolution Iran will be a key player.

We would make a much greater contribution to wellbeing if we agreed to take 10,000 people displaced from Syria and provide refuge for them in Australia as we did for Kosovans in 1999.

For an outline of the mess, see the link below to an article in the New York Times by Roger Cohen.  Middle East Zen

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