Australia has received a direct request from the US to expand its combat air operations against ISIS from Iraq into neighbouring Syria. Prime Minister Tony Abbott confirmed Friday he is considering the move.
“We’re not going to rush a decision, but we will make a decision in the next couple of weeks,” he told reporters in the national capital Canberra. Mr Abbott acknowledged legal differences between carrying out strikes in Iraq compared to Syria, but indicated that would not be a roadblock.
“While there is a little difference between the legalities of air strikes on either side of the border, there’s no difference in the morality,” he said.
“Whether it’s operating in Iraq or Syria it is an absolutely evil movement and in the end, when they don’t respect the border, the question is why should we?”
Mr Abbott pointed out the US has been carrying out air strikes in Syria for many months now. Canada and Britain have indicated they are prepared to join them.
He said Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) planes were already involved in air-to-air refuelling tasks with Coalition planes for strikes in Syria and controlling air space for strikes across the border.
In total, Australia currently contributes six RAAF F/A-18 Hornets, an E-7A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft and a KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) to air operations in the skies above Iraq. On the ground Australian and New Zealand special forces have joined together in a single, unified task group to train the Iraqi army in offensive operations. To date it has to date trained 1600 Iraqi soldiers.
According to the ABC, Mr Abbott went on to reveal “impressionable” young Australians were being stopped at airports “almost every single day” seeking to travel to the Middle East to join IS. It followed confirmation yesterday that seven young Australians were intercepted at Sydney Airport in the past week.
Mr Abbott also warned the consolidation of a terrorist state in eastern Syria and northern Iraq would be “a catastrophe for the world” and “a disaster for Australia”.
“It’s very important Australia play its part in the campaign to disrupt, degrade and ultimately destroy this death cult.”
RAAF warplanes have been bombing IS targets in Iraq since September, but the chairman of Federal Parliament’s intelligence and security committee Dan Tehan said it was time for Australia to step up its commitment.
“We have the world’s greatest humanitarian crisis occurring at the moment in Syria with over 9 million people displaced,” he said.
“They’re raping, they’re murdering, they’re pillaging and we need to stop the foreign fighter flow to the caliphate in Syria.”
As reported by Breitbart News earlier this week, a key ISIS terror commander in Iraq has been killed during a bombing raid by elements of the RAAF. Vice Admiral David Johnston, Australia’s Chief of Joint Operations, made the announcement in an update on RAAF air combat operations in the Middle East.
Follow Simon Kent on Twitter: Follow @SunSimonKent or e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org