Abbott open to possible Australian assistance in Iraq

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott allowed for potential Australian support in any military action the United States may take in resolving the current conflict in Iraq, during and after a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday.

File photo of Tony Abbott in 2010.
Image: MystifyMe Concert Photography (Troy).

The President had said all options were on the table for dealing with the Al-Qaeda splinter group of Sunni militants who have violently overrun many areas of the war torn county.

A major Al-Qaeda foodhold in Iraq "would be a humanitarian disaster for the people of Iraq, quite apart from being a very serious problem for the region and the wider world" said Abbot to ABC Radio, emphasising the consequences this conflict could have on the already unstable region.

Whilst the United States has not requested Australian aid, Abbott expressed concern the situation could become a problem for Australia and the rest of the world. In remarks to Sky News, he said, "I want to do what we reasonably can to protect Australian citizens, Australian interests and Australian values, and there is a very strong community of interests and values between the United States and Australia and our other principal allies".

Abbott advised this conflict in Iraq would allow terrorist organisations to gain a stronger position globally, as the war in Syria allowed terrorist groups to hoard large amounts of weapons and money.

Abbott's position on this issue in Iraq has been met with criticism from different members of parliament. Opposition leader Bill Shorten warned "Australia always needs to weigh up the use of our highly professional and dedicated soldiers as to whether or not it is in the Australian National interest". Greens leader Christine Milne said Australia should focus efforts on diplomatic solutions through nonviolent action and the United Nations to bring about long-term stability and reconciliation in Iraq.

However Peter Jennings, head of think tank the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, supported Australia's offer of support, though acknowledging Australia could do little as a main player in this conflict. Jennings also advised that providing intelligence via surveillance may be a way for Australia to help in a supporting role.

According to recent information from the Australian federal government's service Smartraveller, at least 90 Australians were on holiday in Iraq despite a no-travel warning for that country.