A declassified report on Australia's involvement in the Iraq war offers a warning as the US looks at Syria

Australian Forces on street patrol in Iraq. Photo: Mohammed Jalil-Pool/ Getty Images.

In 2003, when the Bush administration launched the Iraq invasion in the hunt for weapons of mass destruction, Australia was there as part of the coalition forces, continuing an alliance with the US that dates back to WWII.

And while debate now rages over whether the Iraq war is reduced or actually contributed to the rise of terrorist groups such as ISIS, Australia’s motivations and more for being involved are revealed in a declassified 572-page report, written by a senior scholar at the Directorate of Army Research and Analysis and obtained by Fairfax Media under freedom of information laws.

The report also reveals the lack of authoritative voice Australia had once it had committed to the US.

The Howard government wanted to limit Australia’s contribution following the invasion to the provision of specialists to key positions in a UN mission for Iraq.

“Australia also had a preference for the United Nations to have a large role in the rehabilitation of post-war Iraq,” writes the report’s author Dr Albert Palazzo.

But the Bush administration had other ideas.

“The United States, however, did not share Australia’s enthusiasm for the United Nations having a significant Phase IV [the post-invasion phase] presence. Australian planners were well aware of the Bush administration’s scepticism towards the international body, but hoped to persuade the Bush administration to accept a larger UN role,” the report reads.

The veil has been lifted on other events, such as Operation Baghdad Assist: the first Australian aircraft to land in Baghdad after the invasion.

An RAAF Hercules, which was there to deliver medical supplies to the looted hospitals was merely a “photo opportunity,” according to Australia’s military commander in the Middle East at the time, Brigadier Maurie McNarn, as the medical supplies never left the airport, let alone made it to a hospital.

The declassification of the report comes as Australia’s alliance with the US may again be tested as the US Defence Department considers sending ground troops to Syria to fight the terrorist group ISIS.

The Sydney Morning Herald has more.

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