Australia in America’s Third Iraq War

Australia in America’s Third Iraq War by Richard Tanter

Little more than two months after the start of bombing operations, Australia’s new war in Iraq is following the path of its predecessor, a path marked by Australian subordination to American interests, irrelevance to Australian national interests, casual disregard for Iraqi sovereignty and law, increasingly severe restriction of information provided to the Australian public, and an inclination to escalation.

Just as it is America’s, this is Australia’s third war with Iraq in less than 25 years – following on from the Gulf War following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990-1991, and the illegal and destructive invasion and occupation of Iraq between 2003 and 2008. Australia’s 600-strong deployment to Iraq this time is as large as Canada’s, and is exceeded only by the deployments by the United States and Britain.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott welcomed the war with apocalyptic religious imagery, describing the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham as a ‘death cult’ which ‘exults in evil’.1 The real character of the Australian decision to deploy special forces troops and aircraft to the Middle East for the latest phase of the United States Iraq War is best deduced from the Australian Defence Department’s website on the deployment. The last paragraph of thedepartment’s imaginatively uninformative Operation Okra web page advises readers that ‘further information about the international effort to combat the ISIL terrorist threat in Iraq can be found at the U.S. Department of Defense website.’2

In compliance with the mantra of alliance integration, distribution of news about all significant decisions about Australia’s war in Iraq have been handed over to the United States. The incoherence of US strategic policy, together with the inherent military escalation logic of the Iraq-Syria intervention, and the collapse within Australian politics of the capacity to question presumptions of automatic alignment of Australian and US interests, all collude to guarantee outcomes worse than failure.

According to one of the U.S. State Department’s more bizarre statements, Australia is amongst 60 countries that have joined the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL – demonstrating ‘the global and unified nature of this endeavor’.3 Like the Bush-era ‘Coalition of the Willing’, this is a peculiar multilateral structure. Like all of America’s post-Cold War ‘coalitions’ this multilateral formation includes core and peripheral members, with most countries present in name only, and a much smaller number making a visible military contribution. Amongst these, Australia is one of about 15 countries from outside the region collaborating with the United States in the U.S.-led intervention in Iraq precipitated by the summer advances made by the Islamic State insurgency.4

As of the end of November, the United States had carried out 819 air strikes against targets in Iraq, and another 10 countries had carried out 157 strikes.5 The actual number of militarily active countries in the grandly named Global Coalition is unclear, partly because certain Middle Eastern allies of the U.S. prefer that their participation be less than visible to their citizens. Saudi Arabian, United Arab Emirates and Jordanian air force aircraft participated in at least a small number of bombing operations against Syrian targets in late October.6 However, there are no reports of subsequent operations by regional countries, with very few details of those that are known to have taken place.

…. ( A lengthy article worth reading, concludes)
Members of the Special Operations Task Group, advisors and trainers or whatever they may be labelled, are certain to find themselves in combat at some point, and with a high risk of non-combatant Iraqi casualties. Use of diplomatic passports to protect ADF soldiers from Iraqi legal jurisdiction at such points – or from antagonism by those immediately affected – or from the wider Iraqi public, is likely to be politically ineffective and counter-productive.

Indeed the whole approach to the legal basis on which the ADF has been deployed to Iraq, like so much of the American-led war itselfis fundamentally counter-productive, and shows a large measure of disregard, if not contempt, for both Iraqi sovereignty and for the right of Australians to know the basis on which our forces are fighting in foreign wars. 15 December 2014

Read the full article here

See earlier articles on this blog by Richard Tanter


Comments are closed.