US readies for war in Iraq

US President Barrack Obama has signalled his intent to support the Iraqi Government against the surging Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Tony Abbott hasn’t ruled out sending Australian troops to help the cause.

The ISIS is trying to redefine the borders between Syria and Iraq from those set by European colonial powers over a century ago, with the aim of creating a strict Sunni-ruled Islamic state. Such a move would destabilise Iraq and threaten neighbouring Iran and Turkey.

In its push to gain power, the ISIS faced little resistance in traditional Sunni areas, however, over the last 24 hours, the force of the Iraqi army, supported by Shiite militia, has helped regain some control over towns and cities. “We have regained the initiative and will not stop at liberating Mosul from [ISIS] terrorists, but all other parts [of Iraq],” said Major-General Qassim al-Moussawi, spokesman for the Iraqi military’s commander-in-chief.

However, amidst reports that ISIS has executed some 1700 captured Iraqi soldiers, with the footage of the alleged slayings being distributed via social media, the conflict is far from over. The US is reviewing military options and has moved an aircraft carrier into the Persian Gulf on Saturday should the insurgents advance on Baghdad and there is a need for swift military action.

Returning home from a 10-day trip, which included meeting with the US President, Tony Abbott has reaffirmed the support he pledged to the US should military action be required, but has said that Australia will carefully consider its options before sending its troops to Iraq. Speaking in Texas before heading home, Mr Abbott said, “As you’d expect the Americans are weighing their options. They’ll speak to us and we’ll talk to them and we’ll see what emerges. Let’s see what emerges, but at the moment, we just need to appreciate just how serious a situation this is.”

Greens leader Christine Milne has hit back at the support offered by Tony Abbott telling The Insiders program that it should be the United Nations taking the lead and not the US dictating military action. “We need to be working within the United Nations. It will not serve Australia’s interests to just follow the United States into Iraq,” she said.

“We do not want to follow the United States blindly as John Howard did, and clearly it didn’t work last time in Iraq and it won’t work this time.

“We need to forge our own way in terms of foreign policy.”

Meanwhile, Australians in Iraq have been advised by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to leave while the airport in Baghdad is still open.



Opinion: Is it our stand to take?

No country should ever take lightly the decision to send its troops to war, but should we even be considering military action in Iraq?

On this I am torn. I think of the men and women who have served their country bravely, some of whom will never come home. It’s only been six months since the last of our troops left Afghanistan, should we be considering sending them overseas into conflict so soon? Sure, protecting their country is what they signed up for, but does fighting a battle in the Middle East over the advance of Sunni extremists qualify as protecting their country? I never used to think so.

And then I am reminded by a dear friend of mine that sometimes taking a stand, even if it doesn’t seem ours to take, can have wider reaching benefits than initially apparent. She quoted this passage from an essay written by Salman Rushdie in 2001:

The fundamentalist seeks to bring down a great deal more than buildings. Such people are against, to offer just a brief list, freedom of speech, a multiparty political system, universal adult suffrage, accountable government, Jews, homosexuals, women’s rights, pluralism, secularism, short skirts, dancing, beardlessness, evolution theory, sex. These are tyrants, not Muslims. (Islam is tough on suicides, who are doomed to repeat their deaths through all eternity. However, there needs to be a thorough examination, by Muslims everywhere, of why it is that the faith they love breeds so many violent mutant strains. If the West needs to understand its Unabombers and McVeighs, Islam needs to face up to its Bin Ladens.)

The United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, has said that we should now define ourselves not only by what we are for, but by what we are against. I would reverse that because in the present instance what we are against is a no-brainer. Suicidist assassins ram aircraft into the World Trade Centre and Pentagon and kill thousands: um, I’m against that. But what are we for? What will we risk our lives to defend? Can we unanimously concur that all the items in the above list – yes, even the short skirts and dancing – are worth dying for?

The fundamentalist believes that we believe in nothing. In his world-view, he has his absolute certainties while we are sunk in sybaritic indulgences. To prove him wrong, we must first know that he is wrong. We must agree on what matters: kissing in public places, bacon sandwiches, disagreement, cutting-edge fashion, literature, generosity, water, a more equitable distribution of the world’s resources, movies, music, freedom of thought, beauty, love. These will be our weapons.

The advance and success of fundamentalists, even when it occurs in a distant country, needs to be stopped. We live in a global age and the ramifications of what happens in the Middle East will be felt the world over. If countries are not strong enough to fight for themselves then we must help them in any way we can. It’s time to take a stand for humanity, for what is right.

Should the decision for foreign intervention in Iraq be made by the US? Or should the UN step in? Would you support any decision to send Australian forces to support the Iraqi Government or should they be left to fend for themselves?

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