BEIRUT

Middle East

Australia won't rule out sending troops to Iraq

U.S. service member volunteers push a completed pallet of food and water to prepare it for loading onto aircraft at a location in Southwest Asia Aug. 11, 2014. (AFP/US Air Force/Senior Airman Colin Cates)

CANBERRA: Australia's prime minister has held open the possibility of sending a combat force to Iraq in addition to military transport aircraft to airlift humanitarian aid to refugees trapped by insurgents in northern mountains, though the defense minister played down the prospect.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters in London after meeting with British officials on the Iraq crisis Tuesday that his government would not rule out taking military action in Iraq.

"The disposition of the Australian government is to provide what assistance we reasonably can to protect people who are at risk not just from the elements - from starvation, from dehydration, from exposure on Mount Sinjar - but also people who are at risk from" Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria fighters, Abbott told reporters.

"Australia should do what it can ... to protect people from potential genocide."

The suggestion that Australian combat troops could return to Iraq was widely attacked by the government's political opponents. Abbott was a minister in a previous conservative government that sent 2,000 combat troops to back the U.S. and British militaries in the 2003 Iraq invasion, triggering Australia's largest protests since the Vietnam War.

But Defense Minister David Johnston Wednesday played down the prospect of an Australian combat force, saying the military had only committed to sending two unarmed C-130 Hercules transport planes for humanitarian aid air drops to begin within two or three days.

"I'm not getting into the rule-in, rule-out guarantee game," Johnston told reporters.

Asked whether the Obama administration ruling out combat troops effectively ruled out Australia from sending forces of its own, Johnston replied, "I think that's a very reasonable conclusion to draw."

"What we have seen is an extreme act of barbarism by a group of terrorists. What the future holds, no one can predict," he said. "The Australian government has signed off on providing humanitarian relief, and that is all."

The Australian planes will work with the U.S. and other international partners to deliver water and supplies to thousands of members of the Yazidi minority trapped on Sinjar Mountain in northwest Iraq.

Under Australia's political system, a prime minister can commit troops to war without asking Parliament. In practice, prime ministers consult with senior ministers and notify the main opposition party before troops are deployed.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten called for consistency from the government on the question of an Australian combat role. He said Abbott had not notified the opposition Labor Party, which opposed the 2003 Iraq War, that Australia intended to send troops to Iraq.

"It would be handy ... if the government could get its ducks in a line and make sure its ministers are saying the same thing so the rest of Australia knows what's going on," Shorten said.

 

Recommended

Advertisement

Comments

Your feedback is important to us!

We invite all our readers to share with us their views and comments about this article.

Disclaimer: Comments submitted by third parties on this site are the sole responsibility of the individual(s) whose content is submitted. The Daily Star accepts no responsibility for the content of comment(s), including, without limitation, any error, omission or inaccuracy therein. Please note that your email address will NOT appear on the site.

Alert: If you are facing problems with posting comments, please note that you must verify your email with Disqus prior to posting a comment. follow this link to make sure your account meets the requirements. (http://bit.ly/vDisqus)

comments powered by Disqus
Summary

Australia's prime minister has held open the possibility of sending a combat force to Iraq in addition to military transport aircraft to airlift humanitarian aid to refugees trapped by insurgents in northern mountains, though the defense minister played down the prospect.

Abbott was a minister in a previous conservative government that sent 2,000 combat troops to back the U.S. and British militaries in the 2003 Iraq invasion, triggering Australia's largest protests since the Vietnam War.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten called for consistency from the government on the question of an Australian combat role. He said Abbott had not notified the opposition Labor Party, which opposed the 2003 Iraq War, that Australia intended to send troops to Iraq.


Advertisement

FOLLOW THIS ARTICLE

Interested in knowing more about this story?

Click here