Sunday, 14 September 2014

Will assisting US forces against IS make Australia safer?

Clive Williams, from ANU (formerly an officer in Australian military intelligence) spoke to ABC News 24 regarding today's announcement of Australian forces to the Middle East:

"In terms of our deployment there: it's not really clear what the FA-18s could do, because the US is actually running out of air targets now because the targets on the ground were mainly vehicles run by IS and most of those have now been destroyed and IS is now really back embedded in the civilian population so air strikes would tend to kill, obviously, civilians as well.

President Obama has ruled out ground combat operations, so that means that if we do deploy military personnel on the ground they'll essentially be involved in training or logistics."

- To what extent was this move to send troops to protect Australia's interests? Is there a direct link to Australia there?

"Well the main aspect of it as usual is coalition politics. I think that the US is clearly looking for support among its allies in the Middle East so it doesn't look like just an American operation. And of course, usually we and the Brits and probably New Zealand will be quite quick to commit ourselves."

- So will this move make it safer for Australia?

"Not really, because it's got the potential to have a blowback effect in Australia, because we've got probably around fifty or sixty people who have been denied passports here who want to go to the Middle East to engage in the opposition in Syria. And we've also got, according to ASIO, something like a hundred active sympathisers for Islamic State and other groups in Australia. So there's a high level of pent up frustration here, and I think that it will now tend to make the Australian government more of a target in Australia."

- And what likely effect will this coalition have on the Islamic State militant group?

"Well, eventually it will have to be dealt with on the ground. At the moment the Iraqi government doesn't have the capability to do that. The Peshmerga or the Kurds don't have the ability to do that either, so the reality is that the Islamic State fighters are much more motivated. What might happen though is there might be a backlash against them in the Sunni areas as there was during the awakening, back during the war that we were involved with before. Because in many areas they're unpopular because of their very strict interpretation of Islam, and that tends to make them unpopular with most people in the areas they occupy."