Australia's military involvement in Syria is a war of self-defence not a plan to topple the Assad regime

Photo: Getty Images.

Prime minister Tony Abbott has confirmed Australia will extended its involvement in Syria, as part of a continued mission to destroy IS.

As part of a three-pronged strategy RAAF fighter-bombers will begin airstrikes on Syria, $44 million in humanitarian aid will be provided to support agencies such and the UNHCR and the current humanitarian intake will be increased from 13,750 refugees to 25,750, all of whom will be offered permanent Australian visas.

Abbott said the objectives laid out by the government are “important but … achievable” but reiterated that the military’s role in Syria was not to “build a liberal pluralist market democracy overnight in the Middle East”, or topple the dictator Bashar al-Assad.

“That’s been tried and it didn’t magnificently succeed; thus far it has not magnificently succeeded,” he said.

“Do we want Assad gone? Of course we do. Do our military ­operations contribute to that at this time? No, they don’t… the Assad regime is not the kind of government that we could ever support”.

The government’s legal basis for this operation comes under Article 51 of the UN charter which recognises all member states have an inherent right of individual and collective self-defence against armed attack.

RAAF aircraft already operate in Iraqi airspace and so while an invitation was not extended to Australia by the Assad regime the mission can be justified on the basis of Iraq’s self-defence against an Islamic State enemy that has rendered that border meaningless.

Australian bombers will target only Islamic State terrorists, including attacks on IS supply lines and facilities, not forces loyal to Damascus.

“Destroying this death cult is essential,” said the Prime Minister, “not just to ending the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East but also to ending the threat to Australia and the wider world.

“This is a decision that is firmly in Australia’s national interest. It reflects the Government’s steadfast commitment to keeping Australians safe from terrorism, preventing the spread of violent extremism to our shores and responding to a deepening humanitarian crisis.”

The air task group to be sent to the Middle East will includes six F/A-18 Hornet aircraft, a KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport and an E-7A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft.

Airstrikes are expected to begin within days.

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