Australia commits to combat operations in Middle East

The Australian government yesterday committed six Australian F/A-18F Super Hornet fighter-bombers to indefinite combat missions in Iraq. The Hornets were deployed, along with a refuelling plane and a surveillance aircraft, to a base in the United Arab Emirates more than a week ago. Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s announcement that Australian forces were joining the US-led war was immediately endorsed by Labor Party opposition leader Bill Shorten.

Initial reports indicate that the Australian warplanes will be used to attack the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also known as ISIL, and other militias that control areas of western and northern Iraq. At this stage, they will not be used to bomb targets inside Syria, which is the main focus of US air strikes in the region.

Contained within Abbott’s short statement announcing the combat missions were all the propaganda and lies being used by the Obama administration to justify renewed US military operations inside Iraq and its direct intervention into the three-year Syrian civil war.

“ISIL,” Abbott stated, “has effectively declared war on the world.” He asserted that air strikes in Iraq were an “essentially humanitarian mission… to protect the people of Iraq and ultimately the people of Australia from the murderous rage of the ISIL death cult” and “absolutely in Australia’s national interest.” Claiming ISIS was a threat to Australia, Abbott alleged that 60 Australian citizens were fighting with it in Syria, and that 100 Australians are involved in supporting it financially or in other ways.

Washington’s main target, however, is not ISIS, but the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In September 2013, the previous Australian Labor government was ardently supporting the Obama administration’s plans to launch a massive air war in Syria to assist ISIS and other so-called Syrian “rebels” overthrow Assad. Since 2011, Washington, working through its regional proxies such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, has funnelled money, arms and fighters to anti-Assad forces, with much of it ending up in the hands of ISIS or the Al Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra.

The US and its allies largely turned a blind eye to the atrocities by ISIS and other Sunni Islamists against Syrian soldiers, Assad supporters and the Alawite and Christian minorities. ISIS only began to be portrayed as a threat to US interests when it joined forces with Sunni militias in Iraq against the Shiite-dominated US puppet government in Baghdad. After driving government forces out of areas of western Iraq, ISIS launched an offensive from Syria into Iraq’s north in June to take control of major cities such as Mosul and Tikrit and push south to the outskirts of Baghdad.

Washington has seized on ISIS as the pretext to return military forces to Iraq and to intervene into Syria. While the initial target of air strikes in Syria has been ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, the US objective is to oust Assad and install a puppet regime in Damascus. It is only a matter of time before the US and its allies in the Middle East—Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and now Turkey—attack the Syrian military.

In Iraq, American, British, French and now Australian aircraft are serving as the air force for the Iraqi government and the autonomous Kurdish Regional Government to suppress ISIS and allied Sunni militia. As well as the F/A-18s, the Abbott government has dispatched 200 Army special forces’ commandos to train and advise Iraqi government troops.

To justify Australian involvement in the war, the government and intelligence agencies have manufactured one terror scare after another in the past several weeks. On September 18, over 800 police and Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) agents raided the homes of alleged ISIS supporters across Sydney. Lurid claims filled the media that the operation had thwarted preparations by an ISIS cell to kidnap random people and video them being beheaded. US Secretary of State John Kerry invoked the alleged plot as evidence of ISIS’s global reach to justify US military operations.

In fact, just one person detained in the raids, 22-year-old apprentice motor mechanic Omarjan Azari, has been charged. He is being held without bail on the vague allegation he was “conspiring to act in preparation for, or plan, a terrorist act or acts.” Police admitted following the raids that they had “no information regarding a specific attack, including dates, time or location.”

On September 23, the media published claims that Abdul Numan Haider, a 17-year-old Afghan immigrant who was shot dead after he allegedly attacked two police with a knife, intended to behead the officers in the name of ISIS. All available evidence indicates that far from being a “lone wolf” ISIS terrorist, Haider was an unstable young man who was tipped over the edge after his passport was revoked and police searched his home without a warrant.

The only other allegation of ISIS sympathisers active in Australia has been the arrest of a 23-year-old man for purportedly sending $12,000 to an American citizen who went to Syria to join one of the Islamist militias.

The Abbott government’s deployment of military forces and stoking of fear and paranoia has been facilitated by a compliant media and the bipartisan support of the Labor Party opposition. Labor leader Shorten told a press conference yesterday that ISIS was the “enemy of all us… the enemy of freedom, the enemy of tolerance” and that Australian forces were going to Iraq “in the name of the defenceless and the vulnerable.”

The Greens, while rejecting Australian participation, have not opposed the US-led war as such and lend credence to the US pretext by calling for the curbing of ISIS by other methods. Greens leader Christine Milne simply questioned whether the involvement of Australian forces was in the “national interest.”

Everything has been done by the media and political establishment to confuse and disorientate the population and prevent any expression of the widespread opposition to involvement in yet another neo-colonial US-led war.

The Obama administration issued a statement acknowledging the role that the Abbott government has played in legitimising its war plans. “With these deployments,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told a press conference, “Australia demonstrates its continued leadership and resolve in addressing the urgent and critical security challenges that threaten Australia, its people, and the broader international community.”

The White House comments underscore the degree to which Australian imperialism functions as Washington’s junior partner in all its militarist actions and intrigues, from the Middle East to the confrontational “pivot to Asia” to undermine and destabilise the Chinese regime.