Tony Abbott is cynically trying to use the Syrian refugee crisis as his excuse for extending Australian airstrikes into Syria.
Twelve months ago, Abbott announced Australia would bomb Iraq in Operation Inherent Resolve, and sent 600 troops to lead bombing missions. That mission was extended with another 300 troops in March this year, and has now been extended again.
Abbott has used a formal request from the US Embassy as the reason for extending the war. The Guardian has reported that Abbott actually pushed for the formal request after discussing it in a call he made to President Obama.
The aim of the US and Australian mission in Iraq is to secure stability in their economic and political interests.
The bombing will do nothing to resolve the humanitarian crisis in Syria, it will simply deepen the conflict and lead to more civilian deaths.
The United States has targeted Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, and has even bombed Syrian rebel group the Free Syrian Army deliberately at least once. They are effectively in league with dictator Bashar al-Assad, who has been bombing his own people since they rose up against him in 2011.
But the Assad regime is still responsible for overwhelming majority of the civilians deaths in Syria. It is the only fighting force in Syria with an airforce, bombing civilian areas.
Abbott has stressed Australian bombs won’t target the regime.
Labor is effectively backing the extension of war, with Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek saying, “We do need to have a strong military response”.
Abbott says the bombing is “not just [essential] to ending the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East but also to ending the threat to Australia and the wider world”, continuing his efforts to manufacture a threat of terrorism at home. Yet ironically, the whole experience of the “war on terror” is that it is Western bombing itself that produces terrorism and has fed the rise of groups like ISIS.
The logic of Abbott’s “mission creep” is more war, more bombing, and the creation of more refugees. The Coalition has already committed an extra $750 million to the bombing of Islamic State. That’s money that could go back into education and healthcare, or to resettling a larger number of Syria’s four million refugees.
By Amy Thomas