Prime Minister Tony Abbott has hinted Australia could become involved in resolving the inflamed conflict in Iraq, after Sunni militants from an Al-Qaeda splinter group overran large swaths of the country.
Australia participated in both United States-led invasions of Iraq, which cost the US around $1 trillion and the lives of thousands of service personnel.
US president Barack Obama has indicated the country may launch military action against the militants, and has refused to rule out any options, although it is considered extremely unlikely troops would be dispatched to the country.
Abbott was asked during media interviews whether Australia would support its long-term military ally if it was to pursue military action against the militants, who were pushing towards the Iraqi capital Baghdad.
“We routinely talk to the Americans when situations like this develop. Those sorts of conversations are now happening but there’s been no indication from the Americans at this stage that they would like us to help,’’ Abbott told the Nine Network.
“no one can think that this is just a matter for people on the ground in Iraq,’’ he was quoted as saying. “This is a serious situation. It would be a very serious and critical development for the world generally if a large chunk of Iraq was to fall into the hands of al-Qa’ida-type terrorists.”
It is unlikely either country would send troops to Iraq. Analysts have suggested the US could launch drone strikes, or attacks with manned aircraft. Australia’s contribution could span the gamut from financial assistance to participation in these strikes, however, as Abbott said, no requests have been made by the US, and it is not certain one will be.
In separate interviews Abbott stressed that the conflict could have wide-ranging consequences for the rest of the world, after the war in Syria allowed the terrorists to form a foothold, and stockpiles of weapons and money.
“This would be a humanitarian disaster for the people of Iraq, quite apart from being a very serious problem for the region and the wider world,” he told ABC Radio.
“I want to do what we reasonably can to protect Australian citizens, Australian interests and Australian values, and there is a very strong community of interests and values between the United States and Australia and our other principal allies,” he also told Sky News.
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