Over the weekend Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced that the Australian Air Force will be sent to Iraq to deliver arms and munitions to Kurdish fighters fighting ISIS.
Abbott said RAAF C-130 Hercules and C-17 Globemaster aircrafts will be sent to the war-torn country “following the successful international humanitarian relief effort air-dropping supplies to the thousands of people stranded on Mount Sinjar”.
The decision almost instantaneously received backlash from opposition leaders, with deputy Greens leader Adam Bandt saying the decision was made so quickly it has people asking “what we’ll be doing next week?”
However Abbott has defended joining the international effort in Iraq, along with the US, Canada, Italy, France and the UK, and told the Nine Network this morning that the governments involvement is “very different” to Australia’s involvement in the Middle East in the past.
“In 2003, there was a campaign in Iraq against the will of the Iraqi government. What’s happening now is an involvement, essentially a humanitarian involvement, and it is at the request of the Americans with the support of the Iraqi government,” he said. “Our aircraft going into the Kurdish parts of Iraq will be landing at Baghdad for customs clearance and all the rest of it and then they will be going on to Erbil.”
The Australian reports the Defence Force Chief Mark Binskin yesterday said “The greater risk here is actually doing nothing to be honest with you,” in response to concerns the munitions would get into the wrong hands.
Abbott has also dismissed speculation that Australian troops would return to the ground in Iraq.
“What President Obama has said all along – and what I say likewise – is that we are ruling out combat troops on the ground,” he told the Nine Network. “There has been no formal request and no decision taken to get further involved in actual military conflict.”
Bandt and Independent MP Andrew Wilkie have called for a full parliamentary debate on military involvement in Iraq.
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