Tony Abbott Just Laid Down A Four-Point Checklist For Military Intervention In Iraq

Prime Minister Tony Abbott before House of Representatives question time at Parliament House. Photo: Stefan Postles/ Getty

Australia’s involvement in the deteriorating security situation in Iraq is quickly broadening in scope.

After some initial aid drops to the Yazidis, and another drop yesterday to the town of Amerli along with American, British, and French aircraft, Australian forces are now preparing to supply weapons to help the Kurdish regional government in its fight against ISIS.

ISIS is rapidly evolving its strategy on the ground, abandoning its military vehicles and starting to blend in more closely with the civilian population. This complicates any military mission, particularly airstrikes.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott today outlined the criteria for a further escalation of Australian involvement, telling Parliament:

So far, there has been no request for military action itself.

Should such a request come from the Obama administration and supported by the government of Iraq, it would be considered against these criteria:

  • is there a clear and achievable overall objective?
  • Is there a clear and proportionate role for Australian forces?
  • Have all the risks been properly assessed?
  • And is there an overall humanitarian objective in accordance with Australia’s national interests?

Like President Obama, Australia has no intention to commit combat troops on the ground.

But we’re not inclined to stand by in the face of preventable genocide either.

Laying out criteria for a decision is the groundwork for taking one. Ground troops are out for now, but the framework for military intervention is now in place.

So far the opposition has supported the government every step of the way, with the only opposition coming from the Greens, who have objections to Australian involvement what Barack Obama has termed a potential genocide.

Greens Leader Christine Milne said in the Senate that “few people believe that the Prime Minister of Australia has got a strategic plan for Australia’s engagement in Iraq”, adding: “We want to know what the objective is.” She said she wanted to know why the government believed there was “any likelihood of success when there has not been success before from following the United States into these conflicts.”

Abbott’s criteria at least address some of those concerns.

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