Australian news, and some related international items

Will Australia be drawn into a fresh conflict in the Middle East?

Syria missile attack: Will Australia be drawn into a fresh conflict in the Middle East? David Wroe

Is Australia about to be drawn into another military conflict alongside the United States in the Middle East?

Not if, as seems increasingly clear, this was a one-off, punitive strike to deter further chemical attacks on civilians, rather than the start of a longer process to remove Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
We’ve learnt something remarkable about Donald Trump here. The man who has promoted “America first” and shown mostly hard-headed realism on international affairs has abruptly launched a humanitarian intervention.

Trump notably called “on all civilised nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria [and] to end terrorism of all kinds and all types”.

Might he go further and intervene more fully in Syria to remove Assad while brokering some kind of stable peace?

Notwithstanding Trump’s strong words and those of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in the past 24 hours, removing Assad remains just as tangled a proposition as it has at any time in the past couple of years during which it has eluded the international coalition.

To do so without the co-operation of Russia, Assad’s most powerful ally, would mean the US was taking on a major power. That would take a major military intervention requiring air power and ground troops, including Australia’s.

The sheer magnitude of that means it is more likely that the US military action will remain a limited strike to punish Assad over the chemical attack. Trump is finally responding to the crossing of the famous red line that his predecessor had drawn but then failed to enforce. He is saying that he will not hold all the might of the US military on a tight leash when there are such deliberate and cruel provocations.

Russia can tolerate this limited attack on its ally – indeed it may even be so frustrated by this latest chemical attack that it ditches Assad for a new leader from his Alawite tribe who suits Moscow’s purposes. Assad has no viable way to retaliate against the US. Therefore this should not escalate the broader conflict and should not mean an expanded role for Australia.

Apart from anything else, Australia’s legal basis for air strikes against the Islamic State in Syria – defending Iraq at the request of its government – does not extend to attacking the Assad regime.

But this is a complicated conflict with many players, and Trump has just proved himself to be an unpredictable president. Even if it is meant as a limited strike, the X-factor is that someone will decide to hit back somehow – Assad through some indirect means such as attacking Israel, Russia by deliberately conflicting with coalition air forces operating in Syria, or Iran perhaps through its proxy Hezbollah.

If Trump was prepared to act so swiftly and decisively over the chemical attack, he may well do the same again if the other side takes the next step. Then we are in an escalation and Australia would be hard pressed to avoid getting involved.


April 8, 2017 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL

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