Australian news, and some related international items

Will Scott Morrison repeat John Howard’s mistake, and join in military action against Iran?

Acting on Iran has painful shades of joining the US in Iraq The Age, Tony Walker, 1 July 19, Here’s a word of advice to Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Unless he wants to risk a smudge on his reputation of the sort that accompanies John Howard to this day: don’t get involved in conflict with Iran beyond limited naval engagement in a Gulf peace-keeping role.

When we read that Canberra is open to joining an international effort to ratchet up pressure on Iran “in consultation with our allies and partners”, this invites disquieting questions.

If Morrison is talking about involvement in a “global coalition”, as described by the hawkish US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, then he might remind himself of what happened when Australia last lent itself to a so-called “Coalition of the Willing”.

That was 17 years ago in 2002 when John Howard – as one of the “three amigos” with Britain’s Tony Blair and Spain’s Jose Maria Aznar – joined George W. Bush in promoting a disastrous invasion of Iraq.

Only World War II, which absorbed one-third of American GDP, or $4 trillion in today’s dollars, has cost more than the Iraq debacle at $1 trillion (a total $2 trillion if Afghanistan is included).

These are the measurable costs in people, materiel and nation building. Incalculable are the ongoing costs of the destabilisation of the entire Middle East, and the empowerment of Iran…..

In a multi-year assignment in the Middle East I reported the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88); the first Gulf War (1990-1991), in which the US and its allies routed the Iraqi military; and the invasion of Iraq (2003). If I learned anything from those experiences it is that wars are easier to start than to finish. …..

Morrison is surrounded by a weak national security team. The national security committee of cabinet does not include one individual with credible security experience. …….

Morrison might remind himself that Canada’s then-prime minister, Jean Chretien, kept his country out of the Iraq war. The sky did not subsequently fall in on Ottawa.

All this is relevant today given that Morrison found himself last week in the presence over dinner of the two most hawkish members of the Trump administration. Secretary of State Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton both advocated air strikes against Iranian targets in retaliation for suspected Iranian attacks on gulf oil facilities before the President, at the 11th hour, called off military action.

Bolton has been an intemperate advocate of regime change in Tehran. In an interview with The Australian newspaper, Pompeo said Australia had a key role in a “global coalition”. What that means is anyone’s guess.

Morrison would be well advised not to be suckered into joining a counter-punch against Iran. His response to requests for any significant Australian military involvement should be emphatically: No.

July 1, 2019 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international

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